beer, cider, wine and more from your home kitchen


Limoncello, a few ways

Limoncello, a few ways

Is there any fruit that feels more like a sunbeam, than a lemon? Limoncello, the happy yellow essence of perfect lemons, is one of those universally welcome gifts. It’s equally good as a digestif after long summer meals with friends, or as a cheer-me-up in […]

Orange blossom liqueur (or lemon or lime or…)

Orange blossom liqueur (or lemon or lime or…)

Citrus trees are weird dudes. Wired for reproduction, they are unlike almost any other plant in that they’ll always put more energy into flowering and fruiting than growing. Even when they’re tiny and should *absolutely* be working on putting on leaves, citrus trees will stuff […]

Bushland Barleywine

Bushland Barleywine

I’m relatively new to beer making, and in fact beer drinking. So it surprised me to find that the ones I love best aren’t the refreshing pale ales that most closely resemble the lagers of my youth; or even fruity fresh IPAs; but huge, mellow, malt bombs.

Give me your English barleywines, your doppelbocks, your massive winter beers and a big leather couch.

(I’m still working on the couch. Mine is just surviving until my kids can be trusted with actual furniture.)

This braggot, a hybrid of mead and beer, is massive, rich, caramel-malty, and lightly bittered with a clean hop (Magnum) that for the most part lets other ingredients be the star. It’s based on a recipe called ‘Valhalla’, from Greg Foley at the Crestone Brewing Company, but uses a simpler grain bill with ingredients from closer to home: rich Voodoo malt from the Riverina and caramel-spicy banksia honey from the Australian bushland.

I’ve been meaning to put some of my beer recipes up on this site for a while, but the beer making process I use is a little weird. I hope that the following recipe will make sense to brewers armed with the following information:

  • I brew in a bag, using a 10L stockpot and a 7.5L measuring stick. I start with around 8L in the pot, and top up to 7.5L with boiled water, at sparge and at the end of the boil.
  • I do a primary fermentation in a well sealed 10L bucket. If a secondary is required, and I would recommend it with this monster of a beer, I rack to a glass jug.
  • I estimate efficiency at 72%.

I’ve listed percentages below, so you can adapt this recipe for your own system.

Bushland Barleywine

For a 7.5L/2 gallon batch. 1.112OG, 35 IBUs, 15%ABV (!)


  • 1.75kg pale ale malt [46.7% of fermentables]
  • 500g Voyager Voodoo Malt [13.3% of fermentables]
  • 8.5g Magnum hops (12% alpha acids)
  • 1.5kg honey: I used banksia [40% of fermentables]
  • Whirlfloc (1/4 tablet)
  • Safale US-04, one full packet
  • Yeast nutrient (follow packet directions)

Brewing notes:

  • Mash at 65C for one hour
  • Sparge and boil for 60m, adding Magnum at 60m, and whirlfloc at 10m.
  • Cool and pitch rehydrated yeast. Ferment cool, and add honey in three or four small additions starting on around day four or five. Add nutrient additions with the honey.

Best aged at least six months, and ideally a year.

Potion of Heroism Metheglyn

Potion of Heroism Metheglyn

I love good produce and take recipe creation pretty seriously. But as the great Arlo Guthrie once said, “I know I’m supposed to be singing. But you can’t always do what you’re supposed to do.” Sometimes you have to be silly. Noodling around on the […]

Tasting the Carrot Whiskey

Tasting the Carrot Whiskey

A year and a half has gone by since I made my experimental batch of carrot whiskey. Time to taste! The batch took a long, long (long) time to stop fermenting. I don’t really know what these carrots added in terms of fermentables, and the […]



A bit more than a year ago now, I posted the start of an experiment on adding body to country wines. To recap:

What’s the best way, among the many weird and wonderful home methods out there, to add a bit of body and fullness to a country wine?

I made three batches of peach wine, all exactly the same save this variable: one with the water from simmered bananas, one with grape concentrate, and one with no addition. I bottled half of this latter batch with glycerine, for a total of four different wines).

Once cleared, the wines were stabilised and back-sweetened very slightly for an off-dry wine (75g of sugar in solution to 5L of wine).

Three jugs of wine
The three wines in secondary: the colours are quite markedly different. However the colour differences carried through only slightly into the end product

One year on, the wines have not only been made, and aged, they’ve been thoroughly tasted at several gatherings and by a range of both experienced and inexperienced tasters.

The verdict? Use the banana infusion. I’m now considering this my standard addition for all stone fruit wines from peach to mango to plum. It’s not only cheap and easy, it performed significantly better than any other addition or nil addition over a number of variables, leading to improved body, flavour and, surprisingly, aroma.

Tasting notes were remarkably consistent across groups and levels of experience. From least good to best:

  1. No addition. A thin and acidic wine with hard-to-find aroma. Could have been a drinkable wine with a higher sugar addition, but not a great one.
  2. Glycerine addition. Very, very similar to the no-addition wine. Only some tasters were able to tell them apart at all.
  3. Grape concentrate. This was the darkest wine, visually distinguishable from the others. The aroma was higher than no addition or glycerin addition, and the concentrate did add smoothness to the body. However for the considerable expense, not worth it.*
  4. Banana water. The body in this wine was dead on for a light white grape wine, but the real shocker was how much more aromatic the wine was. Peach aroma was noticeably present (a direct contrast to the no-addition wine and a significant step up from the grape concentrate). The flavour carried through nicely too.

If you’re worried about a banana flavour, don’t be. The most interesting thing about this experiment was the extent to which the banana bumped up all of the aspects of the peach.

The verdict is simple… I’ll be stashing brown bananas in the freezer.

*Cheap grape juice concentrate for regular drinking isn’t available in Australia, so this had to be bought at a winemaking store for $15, enough for three batches. If you’re in the US and don’t want to bother with bananas, for sure use it.

Why enter competitions?

Why enter competitions?

If I haven’t shown you my competition trophies… well, let’s be honest, that’s highly unlikely. I’m quite obnoxious about it. My parents are very proud. The folks at work are usually happy to celebrate a win with a glass or two of homemade mead. Telling […]

Ice Cider

Ice Cider

So, friends, I’ve been on a bit of a high. This Monday night, I found out that I won best cider, best mead, best novice, and best brewer (tied), at the Victorian amateur brewing championships (Vicbrew). That means that three of my creations are going […]

Meet the Peach Santa

Meet the Peach Santa

Are you one of those people?

… who lives for the first stone fruit, for cherries around your ears and dark red plums and too many apricots (not that that’s a thing)?

… who buys a peach from every shop all through summer: hoping, tasting, being disappointed. Walking away with (variously passive aggressive) mutterings like Peaches These Days Are Not What They Used to Be?

….who remembers that one plum Mum and Dad used to grow, and wishes you could taste it again?

If that sounds like you, I’d like to introduce you to the farmer my eldest daughter calls ‘The Fruit Santa‘, AKA ‘Mummy’s Fren Ant‘, aka Ant Wilson from Tellurian Fruit Gardens. Ant is an excellent human being, a dedicated Warrior for Good Fruit, and one of few people I’ve ever met who might be able to sustain a conversation on peach varieties for longer than I can. (We’ve never actually managed to find out).

Ant has taken over stewardship of a diverse orchard, and started a ‘CSA’ or ‘Community Supported Agriculture’ system to make the heritage fruit tree farm ecologically and socially sustainable into the future. What that means for our family is a weekly delivery of fruit, whatever is good on the farm. Alongside that delivery comes a story: what the birds are trying to eat, how to cook the new plum we haven’t seen before, what it’s like to try to net acres of trees on a hot day.

a variety or ripe plums in a box
Late summer box full of plums, from blood plums to old fashioned greengages

A CSA, if you’ve not met one before, is essentially buying a share in a farm for a season. When a CSA is working well, the farmer knows they will have enough money to live on and keep working the farm, and the members know they will have whatever is delicious, all season long. We share in Ant’s trials and his triumphs: we curse thieving kangaroos from afar; we thrill with joy when he lets us know he’s bringing us a riotous crop of rich plums and golden yellow peaches – or that there are extra cherries this week.

Starting with the first Empress and Earlat cherries (I can’t wait, they are so close!); ending in blood plums, pears and sweet-tart Pink Lady apples, there’s often enough in our big box to make fruit wines, beers and liqueurs (and ice creams, crumbles and jam, too!). In short, it’s the best ways I know for those of us who are city-bound, to eat well while sustaining farmers like Ant who are working – in many cases, fighting – to keep their farms and heritage varieties afloat.

What’s your favourite fruit memory?

‘In my mind’s eye, I can still see the little blue plastic bowls that my mum used to serve fruit salad in when I was a toddler. It’s a memory that reminds me of a happy childhood.’

What drew you to farming?

‘I felt disempowered by a food system that was shrouded in mystery and that I could not participate in or have ownership over. I wanted to better understand where my food comes from, and to prove to myself that it can be grown ethically.’

Could you tell us a little bit about your farm?

Tellurian Fruit Gardens is a certified organic fruit orchard situated at the foot of Leanganook (Mt Alexander). We sell our fruit mostly through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and accredited farmers’ markets, plus our farm shop and ‘pick-your-own’ days during summer school holidays and some wholesale. We are a member of the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op.’

Blossoms in the morning sun: could anything be happier?

What do you enjoy most about your life now?

‘Feeling truly embedded in my local environment and living most of my life outside. I also love how much food (and even services) I get through a barter economy!’

What’s the hardest thing about what you do?

‘Not judging myself too harshly. It’s challenging not to be too critical of my produce and I often stress about whether all my CSA members and other customers are satisfied. I have to remind myself that I’m a good farmer, doing the best I can to produce nutritious and tasty food in ethical and ecologically-sound ways.’

What’s one thing you wish your customers (or potential customers) knew?

‘That buying food directly from a grower builds ‘food sovereignty’ and is key in addressing human, animal and environmental injustices worldwide (e.g climate change). Also, that shopping at supermarkets is the antithesis of this. I’m excited that many of the people that eat my fruit already know this (probably because I bang on about it!).’

What do you most like to drink, and when?

‘I love drinking my own kombucha and jun because it’s way better than the commercial stuff, I enjoy my own homemade plum wine because it was the first (successful) wine I made, and I also love drinking the various alcoholic beverages that I get from Anne in exchange for fruit! So good.’

Ant Wilson on his tractor inspecting peach trees

What’s the mark of a perfect piece of stone fruit?

‘It’s different for every variety and is also very subjective. Some people like sweet, some like sour, some like soft and others firm. Different varieties lend themselves to different tastes but personally I like them soft and sweet.

My mouth waters when I see a heritage variety peach (like ‘Wiggins’) with a few little bruises because I know it’s going to be bursting with juice and flavour. It’s actually quite challenging to sell fruit that is ready to eat at the point of sale. Most often it will need further ripening (or else to be handled very gently).’

How can people get the best out of the fruit they buy from you?

‘Through our CSA of course! You get a weekly share of the farm’s produce and there’s loads of benefits to the eater, the farmer and the community. CSA is more than the food. It’s a solidarity economy based on a set of guiding principles that strengthens communities and makes farms more resilient.’

Do you have a favourite recipe to share?

‘I have a sweet tooth so I love to pop a jar of preserved apricots and pour them into an oven dish. I then mix about 3/4 cups of flour, 3/4 cups of almond meal, 1 cup oats, 200g melted butter (which is probably way too much), 3/4 cup honey (you can use sugar but I prefer honey because I can get it locally and it gives a richer taste) in a bowl, pour it on top and bake uncovered for 40mins. Hot fruit crumble on a cold winters’ night – sometimes it’s good to be bad!’

Personally, I love to make Peach Grappa from Ant’s mid season yellow peaches. Here’s the recipe: and if you’re nowhere near Ant, why not have a look for a dedicated fruit farmer near you? I guarantee your booze, and your summer eating, will be better for it.

“If you can peel them, they’re not kumquats”: How to choose and use kumquats

“If you can peel them, they’re not kumquats”: How to choose and use kumquats

…That decade or more past Keats’s span makes me an older not a wiser man, who knows that it’s too late for dying young, but since youth leaves some sweetnesses unsung, he’s granted days and kumquats to express Man’s Being ripened by his Nothingness… ‘A Kumquat for John Keats’, by […]

homebrewed sake:  tasting the sake

homebrewed sake: tasting the sake

This is part eight of a series on making sake at home, part one is here. If you haven’t picked it up from my posts, by now, let me be blunt… Making rice into alcohol is easy. Making sense of sake making is hard. There are […]