How to Brew Beer: Growing Barley, Making Beer and Moonshine

John and Sally Seymour provide a guide on how to brew beer from scratch, including growing barley, malting, and distilling the leftovers into moonshine.

| July/August 1975

  • Distilling homemade beer leftovers into moonshine
    How to brew your own beer, including growing barley, malting, home brewing, distilling, and malt vinegar.

  • Distilling homemade beer leftovers into moonshine

Note: All content here excerpted with permission from Farming for Self-Sufficiency: Independence on a 5-Acre Farm by John and Sally Seymour. Copyright 1973. 

Ah, the vicissitudes of time. Two years ago, when there were NO currently relevant small-scale-farming introductory handbooks available, many of us welcomed the publication of Richard Langer's Grow !t! with open arms. Now that we're all older and more experienced, however, some folks find it increasingly easy to criticize that breakthrough beginner's guide (see the Feedback sections of MOTHER EARTH NEWS NOS. 23, 24 and 25). Which brings us to another breakthrough book that is just as important (probably more so) now as Grow !t! was two years ago and which may well come up for its share of criticism in another 24 months or so. Be that as it may, John and Sally Deymour's record of 18 successful years on a shirttail-sized homestead in England is important now and should offer welcome encouragement to today's back-to-the-landers both real and imaginary. I started serializing the book in my NO. 25 issue and I'm sure that many readers will want a personal copy for their home libraries. — MOTHER.

I view the tea drinking as a destroyer of health,
an enfeebler of the frame, an engenderer of effeminacy and
laziness, a debaucher of youth and maker of misery for old age

WILLIAM COBBETT: Cottage Economy  

And nowadays we get people worrying themselves about a little pot. But whether we agree with Cobbett about the evils of tea or not (he thought the clatter of the tea tackle was the short road to the brothel and the gallows!) we must agree with him as to the wholesomeness of good beer brewed from good malt, made from good barley, flavoured with good hops, and fermented with good yeast. What could be more 'natural' than that?

How to Brew Beer


And so to grow the good barley — the basis of it all. Barley is traditionally grown after the root break, and in the days of High Farming after roots had been fed off to folded sheep, and the latter had trodden the ground and enriched it with their manure. On the light lands of Norfolk the effect of sheep used thus was termed the 'Golden Hoof'. The very finest malting barley, however, is that grown after another white straw crop, when the ground is not too rich in nitrogen, and the barley therefore richer in starch and not so rich in protein, for it is the starch content that makes the beer. Barley will grow well on much lighter land than wheat demands, and in wetter climates. It is much faster growing than wheat and I have seen barley sown in May in England give a good crop. You can, in England, grow winter, barley in the same way as winter wheat; but most barley is spring-sown: usually in February or March. The preparation of the land is much the same as for wheat, except that the tilth should be much finer and the last ploughing not too deep: four inches is enough. If you drill it you need two to three bushels to the acre (one to one and a half hundredweight); if you broadcast it about a bushel more. Very often you will probably undersow the barley with 'seeds' (grass and clover seed) for a subsequent ley. After sowing it must be harrowed of course, and rolling helps. If the land is very rich in nitrogen a dressing of phosphate and potash will counterbalance this, make for earlier ripening, and give a better 'malting sample'. If the land is poor add to this a hundredweight to the acre of nitrogen, if you can afford it and have no ideological objections. But the organic farmer will say to this: well, the land shouldn't be poor.



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