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Photos via Instagram/ashharrell
Photos via Instagram/ashharrell
Astoria resident Ashley Harrell makes her own beer at home.

Astoria resident Ashley Harrell, who grew up in northern California, remembers making beer and wine with her father at a young age.

So it’s not surprising that years later, she has decided to continue the tradition in her Queens apartment. The artist, singer and actress brews her own beer in her spare time. Harrell started the project about a year ago, volunteering at Big aLICe Brewing to learn more about the craft.

“I just had been wanting to try it for a really long time and decided that I was just going to throw myself into it,” she said.

As an artist, Harrell said she considers brewing beer an art form.

“I’m an artist, singer and an actress and I don’t think people realize how creative home brewing can actually be,” she said. “I feel like it’s an extension of me as an artist. It’s almost like painting. I think it can be a real art form.”

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There are two ways to brew beer. Brewers can either start with a liquid extract or use the all-grain method. Though using the extract is simpler, Harrell employs the more difficult method.

She starts with freshly milled malted barley that is combined with hot water to extract the sugars. Hops are added to the sugar and water mixture and boiled. After the mixture cools, yeast is added. The liquid sits for a couple of weeks to allow the yeast to “eat” the sugar, create carbonation and ultimately make beer.

One of the most interesting beers Harrell has made is inspired by a breakfast item that most New Yorkers love.

“Living in New York, everyone is pretty familiar with an everything bagel and it’s my favorite indulgent breakfast,” she said. “I always wanted to make it into a beer.”

Harrell used a “grain profile that reflected the breadiness of a bagel” and spice from her own cabinet including poppy seed, sesame seed, caraway, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.

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She has also created a beer called Sour Flower, a sour ale that includes hibiscus and rose hips with Japanese hops. For the upcoming summer season, Harrell made a blueberry sage mead.

Calling brewing “the next frontier,” Harrell plans to move back to northern California and open Merriweather Brewing, a brewing company, performance space and place where interested parties can learn about brewing.

“I would like it to be a place that’s not just a brewery,” she said. “People can learn about how to brew and other sort of crafty fun activities, learning how to plant a garden, beekeeping, soap making or how to reuse the spent grain. That’s something that’s super important to me, the sustainability of brewing and what you can do with all the grains.”

Harrell said that the plan is still in its early stages and she’ll need to secure funding for her project. In the meantime, she enjoys living in Astoria in a “magical building” surrounded by friends and in a neighborhood where “the restaurants are great” and the breweries are plentiful.

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