Intro to Brewing Beer: Beer Alternatives (Pt. 8 of 8)

By Chris Lindsey


Not into beer but still want to ferment something?

There are other beverages you can make at home – wine, fruit wine, mead (honey wine), cider, and perry (like cider but made from pears). If you want to go non-alcoholic you can make your own soda or root beer. Amongst the fermented beverages beer is the most technically complex. Wine, cider, mead, etc can be made in your kitchen with a minimal amount of equipment. However, beer takes the least amount of time before it’s ready to drink. Wine and the others typically will need 6 months or more to mature.

Mead is a favorite “other” fermented beverage for homebrewers. It’s quite simple to make – just add honey to water, stir, and add yeast. There are a lot of details related to yeast nutrients and pH that are good to know but not necessary. The details are similar to winemaking. Mead has unique flavors and aromas that come from the honey. Honey is basically condensed nectar, so the mead will have a color and aroma very similar to the flower and fruit. For me, the most interesting aspect about mead is all the variants you can make by adding fruit, spice, wood, or other fermentables like grape or apple juice. I’ve tasted meads made with chipotles, prickly pears, toasted oak chips, rose petals, and chocolate. They were all unlike anything I’ve tasted before. With all of the possibilities for variation it’s theoretically possible to make mead for the rest of your life and never make the same thing twice.

Wine, fruit wine, cider, and perry are all made in a similar fashion – basically add yeast to the fruit juice. I haven’t made any of these types of beverages so I won’t comment at length. From what I’ve read and heard the most important aspect is finding a good source of the juice. Look for pasteurized juice at farmer’s markets, or look into ways of making your own. This is a great way to take advantage of your local area, as the best juice will be the fresh stuff from nearby farms.

Homemade soda is a great option if you’re looking for something simple and non-alcoholic. You can make it in your kitchen in less than an hour using whatever ingredients you fancy. You might need some additional equipment and supplies for sanitizing and bottling, but all of that equipment can be found at your local homebrew store or online. The internet has plenty of recipes, and there’s a new book out by Andrew Schloss that has lots of recipes and techniques for homemade soda. If you think soda would be boring, consider that a homemade lemon basil soda was the hit of my homebrew club’s summer party last year. We discovered that it blended very well with a few beers and meads.

Part 1: Why I Brew Beer
Part 2: 4 Common Questions
Part 3: Step-by-Step Guide To Getting Started
Part 4: Extract or All-Grain
Part 5: Five Keys to Consistency
Part 6: Bottling or Kegging
Part 7: My Best Brewing Resources
Part 8: You are here. Awesome!


Legal Stuff: Of course, we should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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