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The Astrology of Brewing

This idea of astrology having anything to do with the brewing of alcohol might sound a little strange.  Heck, it might sound downright ridiculous. 

You may have noticed that, even as a peripherally pagany witchy "woo-woo" type of site that i run here, i don't generally write a lot about astrology.  There are two main reasons for this:

A) I just don't really know a lot about it, and certainly not enough to feel qualified enough to write about it, and

B) I personally believe that about 75% of it useless bunk that is a waste of valuable brain cells i could be using to learn about other, more immediately useful sorts of things.

That said, there is the 25% that i do believe genuinely affects us.  Most of this 25% is based in pretty solid science, and the rest is based in pretty solid experience.  I don't think there's much room to deny the scientific side of astrology.  The moon in particular affects nearly every aspect of life on earth.  Most notably, it controls the tides, and it has a significant impact on our fragile human emotional state.  (Ask any hospital employee or police officer if the full moon doesn't make the crazy come out in people!)  I think there's a fair amount of evidence for the shifting of the other nearby planets to have subtle but sometimes significant effects on us.  I don't know so much about the outer planets and whether they are able to influence us from so far away, but i do know that in my own life, at least, poor little devalued Pluto does indeed seem to have an impact on what's going on with me.

For thousands of years, the moon, its phases, and its position in the night sky have had an influence on human affairs and practices, particularly in the agricultural sector.  Now, whether this actually affects the plants themselves and how they grow, or if it affects the humans who are sowing them or tending to them, who in turn affect the things we cultivate is not for me to say.

The most basic of farming rules regarding moon phases is simple:
  • First quarter, plant long/tall crops.
  • Second quarter, plant full/bushy crops; harvest things that need to ripen further.
  • Third quarter, plant root crops; harvest crops.
  • Fourth quarter, do not plant or harvest anything.
Now, on  the business of moon signs, things are a little trickier.  Again, i'm not the expert in astrology, but the general theory, very over-simplified, is:
  • Plant during earth and water signs.
  • Harvest during air and fire signs.
Of course astrology, like many other aspects of the occult and anyone who has taken my Tarot 101 class can tell you, is like an onion with as many layers as you want to read into it.  We can talk about cardinal, mutable, and fixed signs; we can talk about planetary influences; heck, we can talk about agricultural qabbalism if you want.  So what does this have to do with my new batch of homebrew?

I've found, through much experimentation, that beer (as well as other types of brews, though beer most immediately, perhaps because it is just one lunar cycle away from being ready to drink) definitely seems to follow the above rules to some extent.  In particular:
  • First quarter, brew pale ales, light (in color) beers, beers that are more bitter or high-gravity.
  • Second quarter, brew beers with strong or intricate flavors, medium or red ales, sweeter brews.
  • Third quarter, brew lagers, stouts, porters, and other very dark or dense beers.
  • Fourth quarter, you'll be lucky if your fermentation doesn't stall out.
This is, i'm afraid, in contradiction to some astrology sites i've looked at which list the best times for brewing as being in the third and fourth quarter, only during water signs, except for wine, which should be made in Taurus, but never with an aspect to Saturn or Mars... that's getting a little out of my realm.  Water and earth signs, with the guidelines above, have served me well.

Now the above applies to the actual brewing of the beer (or cider, wine, &c).  Bottling and priming are and entirely different matter.  Of course, we don't have a huge amount of control over this, either.  If you brew during the right period, your bottling is likely to happen some 10 - 15 days later, depending on your recipe, so it's not as easy to control the whole process.  Still, I've found that bottling during a water or air sign is beneficial.  The two times i've bottled during an earth sign, my beer came out nearly flat, and that was particularly surprising to me since the second time it happened i used quite a bit more priming sugar that i was actually supposed to.  Sigh.

One day i would love to be able to do a truly scientific study of this field - brew the same type of beer under exactly the same variables of temperature, water source, materials, etc. - and see if we get any different results; unfortunately i don't know of a sound way to test this.  You couldn't test them all at once, since some would have aged longer than others, and your particular tastes may vary slightly from day to day.  I guess the only real scientific test would be to make about 48 different beers and drink one of each every cycle for 48 cycles, which doesn't sound too healthy or feasible.