Brewing & Cider Making

photo of blueberry sour ale

Karen's Wild Ales

I have been brewing and fermenting raw materials most of my life. In 40 years of making herbal medicines, botanical body care products, artisanal cheese, bread, sauerkraut, pickled and smoked fish and meat, wine, pottery and sculpture, the process has become pure alchemy. While I dabbled with beer in the 1980's, I became serious in 2009 when many of us were bitten by the taste for Belgian Farmhouse Ales.

Reasons to Homebrew

While I love a balanced IPA, Pils, or Stout, I found no point in brewing them - there are too many great and affordable examples out there already today. For the time, cost, and effort involved in brewing a few of cases of IPA, I'd rather be hiking or making art and getting beer from my local brewery.

Belgian Farmhouse, Trappist, and Lambic ales such as Cantillon, Orval, Duvel, Saison Dupont, Rochfort are a different story. These imported beers are expensive in the USA, and quality varies due to shipping and storage conditions. In 2009, there were just a few American breweries producing these beers and today, in 2016, there are hundreds! The brewers who have most inspired me are Chad Yacobson at Crooked Stave; Michael Tonsmeire, the Mad Fermentationist; Gabe Fletcher at Anchorage; Ron Jeffries at Jolly Pumpkin; Jason Yester at Trinity; Nate Walter formerly at McKenzie's, now at Free Will; John Stemler at Free Will; Dr. Lambic at The Sour Beer Blog; and my friends and teachers from the Berks County Homebrew Club especially Matt Vardjan, Colin Presby, Mike Kuhns, Matt Kennedy, and Joe Moran.

photo of Karen's Wild Ales collaboration with Hidden River Brewing
Potter's Field, a collaboration with Hidden River Brewing. Released March, 2020

My Homebrewed Beers:
Alive and Unfiltered

Karen's Wild Ales are artisanally crafted in the tradition of the Belgian Farmhouse where it's all about the yeast. Simple grain bills, subtle hopping and months of aging allow the yeasts to shine in all of their floral, spicy and funky glory. I am also working on the brave new world of ceramic fermentation.

Barley field in Slovakia
Summer Barley ready for harvest at a friend’s farm in ‎⁨the Zemianske Sady region of southwest Slovakia.

Varieties of Beer and Cider

Karen's Wild Ales
  • Sour Saison with Wildberries

    This is my Rustic Saison base beer soured on pounds of fresh, wild raspberries with an extra dose of lactobacillus and pediococcus. Bright, light, tart and refreshing.5.5% ABV.

  • Farmhouse Gold- American Wild Ale

    With a base of pilsner and vienna malts, these ales are mixed fermentation, or in some cases 100% Brettanomyces. Strange, beguiling, and ever-evolving, these brews offer complex flavors and aromas from barnyard funk to citrus and peaches. 7.5% ABV.

  • Classic Saison

    Combination of fruity and spicy flavors supported by a soft malt character, a low to moderate alcohol presence and characteristic dry finish. Pilsner and wheat malts; noble hops. 6.5-7.5% ABV.Enter description text here.

  • Strong Golden Ale

    Classic marriage of fruit and spice with a soft malt character. Moderately bitter, very dry finish, highly carbonated. Pilsner and wheat malts; noble hops 7-8% ABV.

  • Rustic Saison

    Like the true farmhouse ales of old Belgium this beer features a varied grain bill of barley, wheat, rye, and oats. Subtle oak and dry hopping give this session ale a very complex flavor. Mixed fermentation with brett, lactobacillicus and pediococus make a refreshing, tart, and refined finish. 5% ABV.

  • Naturally Fermented Cider

    Making cider is one of the easiest and most enjoyable of fermentation processes. Every October, I obtain apple juice from orchards in Berks County, PA. I build character into this somewhat bland juice by pressing wild crab apples and other herbs and fruit. Most is naturally fermented but sometimes I use cider or Saison yeast. Recent vintages include Blueberry Cider, Cider with Rose, Lavender and Hops and Wild Persimmon Cider. Join me for Hard Cider Making Class every fall.

Berks County Homebrew Club
A little excess enthusiasm at a presentation to Berks County Homebrew Club

Home Brewing

As a business person, I saw a potential nitch in providing Wild and Sour Ales for the local market of eastern PA. In 2009, I began home brewing these beers with a joyful obsession. In 2011, I sold Karen's Botanicals (manufacturer of organic, plant-based body care products) and exchanged the herbs, flowers and roots in my kettle for barley malt and hops. In 2011, I began to enter and win homebrewing contests and to develop commercial aspirations. After many years of looking for property to establish a true farmhouse brewery, I finally decided to continue on as a homebrewer. I like brewing the same beers over and over dialing in subtle variables for my line of American Wild and Sour Ales. I love collaborating with commercial brewers and sharing my beer with others. I find it wonderful today that everyone seems to be engaging in spontaneous fermentation via the route of sourdough bread making. Hooray for our tiny microbial friends, the wild yeast and bacteria responsible for fermentation.

The Art

To consider, then gather the clay for the body of a pot, the grains for the grist of a beer, the plants and oils for the formula of a cream, to meld them then in flame and time, the hops as handles, spice as glaze, and always above and beneath, the creative, procreative force, the spirit that defines its being as life force, as art, as yeast, as the divine.

Brewing Art

Brewing News, Articles & Information

Brewing Wild and Sour Farmhouse Ales

Brewing Wild and Sour Farmhouse Ales

Join Karen’s Wild Ales and learn how to brew wild and sour…

Hard Cider Brewing Class

Hard Cider Brewing Class

This class is available for private and group scheduling, at any time…

For the Love of Homebrew

For the Love of Homebrew

In 2011, I sold Karen’s Botanicals, a plant-based herbal products company and…

Potter’s Field: A collaboration with Hidden River Brewing

Potter’s Field: A collaboration with Hidden River Brewing

Even though there are no new posts here, I have been busy…

Bottle Conditioning with Brettanomyces

Bottle Conditioning with Brettanomyces

Here are notes from my presentation “Bottle Conditioning with Brettanomyces” given to…

Brewing Wild and Sour Ales 101 with Karen

Brewing Wild and Sour Ales 101 with Karen

Here are notes from my presentation “Brewing Wild and Sour Ales 101”…


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Serving the greater Philadelphia and Reading, PA regions

All photos courtesy of Karen

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