· By Georgia Pearson
Japanese Knotweed: Friend or Foe?
Mention Japanese Knotweed and you're likely to trigger unlucky homeowners up and down the country. First introduced in the 1800s as an ornamental plant, knotweed quickly thrived - much to the distress of anyone in ownership of a smooth piece of driveway or load bearing wall. Structured like bamboo, knotweed is expert at punching through infrastructure to an alarming degree: it'll devalue your home by thousands if it's found in the vicinity.
Also like bamboo, if handled with care it can be reimagined as a delicious and interesting ingredient - the Japanese have been onto this for centuries. If you can't beat the problem, eat the problem!
Enter Silo, led by zero waste wizard Douglas McMaster and sister business to Crate. In 2022 the pioneering restaurant launched a series of Invasive Species Dinners, the next of which is being realised in early June. Japanese Knotweed (AKA Donkey Rhubarb), notorious for its invasiveness, will be prepared on the grill as a starter course, releasing it's rhubarb-like sweet yet tart, mildly earthy flavour into the London diner's consciousness. Downstairs at Crate, this got us thinking...could it be a beer? A sour perhaps?
Fast forward to Spring 2023 and that thought is coming to fruition. We enlisted Douglas' network of foragers who led us to an organic Knotweed source on the South Coast. We brought 80kgs of it out of the environment (following strict precautions to not spread its rhizomes), processed it, and now we're on to the brewing. For this part we're handing over to Crate Brewery alumni Mark Pether, just over the canal from our bar in Hackney Wick.
Our new Japanese Knotweed Sour will be refreshing, slightly tart and perfect for Spring and Summer. It combines the bright flavours like fresh rhubarb with the earthy and floral notes of Japanese Knotweed. We're confident that this beer will be a hit with our customers and start a conversation about alternative uses of invasive species!
Still need convincing? We're launching our Silo collab Japanese Knotweed Sour in the taproom soon - look out for the launch on our What's On page and come by for a taster!