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The Yin and Yang of Beer – Shoestring Herbalist

The Yin And Yang Of Beer – Shoestring Herbalist

My beer needed balance. I like bitter beer but only when I am in the mood. Today was not my day for bitter. All I had in the refrigerator was leftover IPA from the 6 pack I bought for weekend. I figured it would be hot so a heavy dose of hops in my brew would be just the ticket for the camping trip.

Now the weather was cooler. This was typical for Pacific Northwest summer weather. It’s hot one day and rainy the next. I wanted a beer but not a bitter one. I wanted one with balance. I needed a little Yang for my Yin.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yin is sour, bitter and salty. Yang is sweet and pungent.  Yin is cold. Yang is hot. Balancing them is instinctive for most of us. When the weather heats up, hoppy beers sound great. When the weather cools down, sweeter, dark beers fit the bill. Today the weather was mild. I needed a Yin/Yang balance.

Normally, I would toss a slice of citrus in my beer to sweeten it up. Lemon, lime or orange are my favorites. I did not have either of those on hand. Do I drive to the store? Hmm. I had just interviewed a baker who specialized in locavore cooking. 99% of her ingredients were from 100 miles of the bakery. Driving to store to get a fruit grown south of the border just seemed wrong.

I walked into the back garden to collect the eggs from the coop. One the way, I noticed that the lemon balm under the apple tree had not bloomed yet. Lemon balm. Not a citrus but it has a citrus taste. This could be a terrible mistake but I had to try it.

I broke the top 6 leaves of the lemon balm off in my hand and crushed it between my fingers. This was my attempt at muddling. It released the scent from the broken glands deep inside the cell walls of the leaf. It smelled lovely.

I popped the lemon balm into a glass and poured the beer over the top of it. It foamed up more than normal. I waited a bit and poured the rest. One sip and I was sold. Perfect.

The flavor was just what I was looking for. In some beers, citrus dominates the flavor of beer. I am not a fan of fruit-flavored beers in general and this preserved the bite of the hops with the mild sweetness of the lemon balm. I had the satisfaction of drinking an Oregon beer with locally grown lemon balm. No wasted gas. It was a true Yin/Yang moment. Enlightenment in a glass.

Sue Sierralupe

Sue Sierralupé is a Certified Master Herbalist, Master Gardener and Sustainable Landscape Specialist. She is the clinic manager and lead herbalist at Occupy Medical clinic. Sue is author of The Pocket Herbal: Medicinal Plants that Changed the World and co-author of The Practical Herbalist Herbal Folios series. Follow her blog at Herbalism Manifesto for commentary on herbs, parenting, nutrition and a whole lot more.


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