In 2016 after I read Pascal Baudar’s The New Wildcrafted Cuisine, I believed the author was doing some of the most interesting and inventive work in the culinary world. With his new book, The Wildcrafting Brewer: Creating Unique Drinks and Boozy Concoctions from Nature’s Ingredients, I have to add that he’s now doing some of the most interesting and inventive work in the beverage world, too.
Having followed his work for several years, I remain in constant awe of Baudar. His various culinary inventions and how they come about shows not only a deep understanding of foraging and wild food, but also an inexhaustible inventiveness with what he finds. In his previous book, I loved the recipes for cooking various meats in “forest floor” or his many imaginative butters, cheeses or pickles. As a home winemaker and fermenter myself, I was particularly taken by the infusions and other beverages he discussed in that work. So when I learned he was expanding those small snippets into a book, I was intrigued.
The Wildcrafting Brewer did not disappoint.
First, I appreciate the simple utility of this book—if you are not a fermentation master, don’t sweat it. The Wildcrafting Brewer will still work for you. In fact, I believe this book provides a great place to break into the world of home brewing, in general. The equipment Baudar prescribes most people already possess, which allows you to wade into the world of home brewing slowly with low investment in case you find it’s not your thing.
The pages are peppered with simple explanations of important concepts, such as dry hopping and how carbonation works, that you can digest it quickly. Baudar lays out the basics of fermentation, how to collect wild yeast and ratios for how to calculate alcohol levels simply. You can then apply those concepts to almost any beverage idea you have. If you want to elevate your home brewing, this book will do that, but if you’ve never brewed before, The Wildcrafting Brewer is an excellent place to begin. It’s not just a walk through the mind of a mad foraging scientist. Rather, it renders generally complex subjects such as the making of wine, beer, soda and mead into something fun and accessible.
Are there nonalcoholic beverages included? Yes, but not many. Obviously, given the title, this is not a book geared toward nondrinkers, though that isn’t to say nondrinkers couldn’t take Baudar’s concepts and adapt them to their own tastes. Baudar gives a lot of information about foraging and using wild ingredients. He talks about infusions and syrups. Add any of that to his methods for creating carbonation without alcoholic fermentation, and nondrinkers could quickly have a large arsenal of sodas and fun drinks for any time of the year.
Ultimately, this book is for people who like to experiment in the kitchen and enjoy a good home brew. It’s for folks who love new flavors, wild food, foraging, walking through the woods and creating something completely novel. To that last point, I think perhaps Baudar’s greatest talent—visible in this book, his last book, his Instagram account and most everything he does—is that he generates a whole new way of looking at cuisine and equips the reader with the exact tools they need to join him in exploring it.