Jun 28 2016

Saison – Nørwegian Farmhøuse with Sigmund’s Voss Kveik

The devil in marketing is that it can convince you that you need something that you have never previously heard of, or ever dreamed that you needed. I’m not drawing a straight parallel between, say, the Zune and Sigmund’s Voss Kveik, but I think the drive to grab the next, hot thing either plays to your early adopter personality, or you are the type who is happy to let other people test the latest, shiny thing.

As a home brewer, there’s not a lot of downside to trying the latest yeast, hop or adjunct. If things go horribly wrong, you are only out 5 gallons and you’ve learned something. Perhaps only that being an early adopter is a roll of the dice.

When The Yeast Bay announced that they had isolated a single strain of saccharomyces cerevisiae from a Norwegian farmhouse blend, I knew I needed this thing in my life. I also did not have a keg to share at Homebrew Con in Baltimore, and this was an interesting experiment to bring to Club Night.

The kveik, that was supplied by Sigmund Gjernes who does the Lars Garshol blog, is a Norwegian word for “yeast” and refers to, at least in this scenario, yeast is reused for generations and generations in Norwegian farmhouse brewing. The yeast is traditionally captured on these interesting and intricate rings that are covered in the yeast and then hung on a wall to wait for the next batch of beer.

Kveik Yeast Ring

Kveik Yeast Ring picture stolen from http://www.garshol.priv.no/blog/291.html 

The beer is made from pilsner malt, saaz hops and water infused with juniper branches, and the kveik is added to ferment. My understanding of the kveik was that is a faster fermenter that throws some spice and orange peel flavors and aromas, while keeping the phenolics and fusel alcohol low despite higher fermentation temperatures.

(For a deeper understanding of this, check out Sigmund’s Voss Kveik post about his brew day, and Milk the Funk Wiki for Kveik.)

I ordered this yeast and planned out a recipe and brew day that mostly mirrored a traditional saison. The reason for this was I wanted to get a good understanding of the yeast before adding traditional flavors like juniper. And I would be using a juniper berry tincture, instead of branches, to make the spice easy to add before kegging. The story behind Norwegian farmhouse beers is very interesting, but this was to be just an initial test of the yeast. 

Yeast Bay Sigmund's Voss Kveik

Yeast Bay Sigmund’s Voss Kveik

I built up a 2000ml yeast starter in the traditional way and added it after I had crashed the wort down to 70F. The starting gravity was 1.061 (15 Plato) and I aerated and pitched the yeast planning for it to free rise naturally. In order to understand if it did suppress phenols and fusel alcohol, I needed it to run hot.

Within 10 days, the gravity dropped from a 1.061 to 1.005 (7.4% ABV). I had a few weeks before the batch needed to be kegged, so I let it remain in primary for a little longer. Between the 10th and 20th days of primary, it dropped another 4 points to a final gravity of 1.001. Great attenuation, but more saison-like in terms of speed for fermentation to terminal.

Nørwegian Farmhøuse

Nørwegian Farmhøuse

The final beer, before the tincture, was low in phenols and perceived alcohol despite reaching the mid 80s in fermentation temperatures. There was some spice in the way of a light pepper, but very restrained if you expected saison levels of spice. I sensed a hint of the orange peel, but it was more lemon-like to my tastes and subdued citrus brightness.

Norwegian Farmhouse

Dark Norwegian Farmhouse picture

I added a tincture of juniper berries at bottling to give it a hint of what I thought a traditional Norwegian farmhouse beer would be, but I kept that light so as to not overpower the spice and lemon of the base beer.

All and all, I was impressed with the subtlety of the beer despite the high fermentation temperature and delicateness of the yeast driven flavors and aromas. I have heard others mention that this yeast would be great for IPAs, and I can’t disagree. The dryness and clarity of the final beer would benefit the style and the citrus flavors would support big, bright American hops.

The Nørwegian Farmhøuse (my apologies for abusing the “ø” for my amusement) was poured during Club Night and promptly kicked before 9pm. It got solid feedback and obviously big interest from the crowd. Even drinkers who said they don’t like juniper found it refreshing and easy to drink. Perhaps too easy.

I hope to reuse the yeast for an American IPA, at Belgian yeast temperatures, in the coming weeks. I’ll report back about how that went.



The recipe I used is below.

Nørwegian Farmhøuse – Voss – 2016

OG: 1.061 (3/26/16)
        1.005 (4/5/16)
FG: 1.001 (4/16/16)

12 lbs Golden Promise
0.5 White Wheat
0.5 Flaked Wheat
1 lb Cane Sugar

Mash: 149F

0.5 Magnum pellets 13.1% AA (60 min)
1.0 Czech Saaz pellets 2.6% AA (10 min)
1.0 Czech Saaz pellets 2.6% AA (0 min)

Wyeast yeast nutrient

Yeast Bay Sigmund’s Voss Kveik

Juniper tincture made and dosed at bottling

Kegged and brought to HomebrewCon 2016


Dec 27 2010

Northern Brown Ale with Black Japonica Rice – Rice Burner

So the latest of my strange ideas was to make a beer with rice. This is far from unusual since the macrobreweries in the U.S. use rice all the time to make beer. It thins the body of the beer and boosts the alcohol level, and leaves the beer as tasteless as it always was.

What I wanted to do was to work with some strange rice, but I really had no idea which rice or what style I wanted to make either.  I was happy to let the rice that I chose dictate that.

So I started out by cooking up a few pounds of different rice to see what flavors and aromas they gave me. The basmati rice was very interesting and it gave me a mild popcorn note. I cooked up some wild rice, too, (which apparently isn’t rice at all but various types of grass) and I liked that, as well. Much of the rice I cooked ended up tasting like nothing at all but starch.

The one that stood out for me, though, was the black japonica rice.  It looked cool (ok, that wasn’t really as factor) and it gave you a nice, subtle nutty flavor. I thought that would go well in a Northern Brown ale. Then I was off.

The black japonica is easy to grab at most good grocery stores and I decided to use 2 pounds of it in a 5 gallon batch.

Per the instructions on the package, I cooked the rice for 50 minutes. It turned the water a very vibrant purple color that I wished I had captured on film. I think it would be a cool experiment to use this rice again in a pale beer where the purple could dominate.

I rounded out the grains with Maris Otter, Pale Chocolate, 40L Crystal, roasted barley and victory malt.

In case you thought you were too old for Spin Art, don’t worry as you can still do it with your grain mill:

The brew day went very smoothly and uneventfully. I mashed the 2 pounds of rice in with the rest of the grains and held them all at 152° Fahrenheit for 60 minutes. (If you cooked the rice in advance or if you cooked and immediately poured it straight into the mash, be prepared for the rice to have an effect on your mash temp. Plan accordingly.) I didn’t use rice hulls and had no problems with the sparge.  My OG was 1.060 and I pitched a big starter of Nottingham yeast on the cooled wort, and it was fermenting pretty powerfully at 68° less than 12 hours later.

I’ll update this post once I get it bottled and I get to try the black japonica brown ale. So far, it is darker than I had anticipated since I didn’t expect the purple coloring that was contributed by the rice, but that is a minor cosmetic thing. It seems a bit roastier than expected too, but that has me thinking about faux-barrel aging some of this batch. Perhaps bottling 3 gallons as is, and then putting 1 gallon on rum-oak and another gallon on something stranger. Perhaps cognac-oak.  We’ll see….

The recipe:

Northern Brown Ale with Black Japonica Rice

Starting Gravity: 1.060 (12/18/10)

Mash (65 minutes ~154°)
8 lb Maris Otter
1 lb Victory Malt
0.75 lb Munich Malt
0.50 lb Crystal 40L
0.25 lb Pale Chocolate Malt
2 lb Black Japonica Rice (Cooked for 50 minutes, then added to mash)

Boil (60 min)
1.5 oz Kent Goldings (4.5% AA) Pellet Hops (60 min)               
0.5 oz Kent Goldings (4.5% AA) Pellet Hops (5 min)                  

Primary (68º F)  
2 Packets Danstar Nottingham, Rehydrated and starter made


Sep 27 2009

Homebrewed Spiced Sweet Potato Ale – Bad Yama Jama

So, I swore off brewing pumpkin beers a few years ago.

It’s a perfectly fine beer to brew, but I’ve brewed them twice over the last few years (once with real pumpkin and spices, and once with just the spices) and that was enough.  But weird ideas and challenges change everything.  Like brewing with sweet potatoes.

Well, the original plan was to brew with yams, but it was difficult to find yams locally, so I grabbed some North Carolina sweet potatoes.  (BTW – Yams and sweet potatoes are not even distantly related.  Good. To. Know. But that didn’t stop me from naming it “Bad Yama Jama”.) 

As far as pumpkin beers go, what’s really important are the spices.  The pumpkin doesn’t really add any flavor to the beer and only a small amount of fermentables.  As long as you brew a good beer and then throw allspice into it, TA-DA you will have a pumpkin beer.  The idea, this time, was to use something unusual in the mash and put a twist on pumpkin ales. 

There isn’t much information out there about brewing with sweet potatoes, so I just made it up as I went along.  First, I bought four pounds of NC ‘taters and I cooked them in the oven for 90 minutes at 350 degrees. 

Sweet Potato Ale - Out of the Oven

Once they were nice, soft, and juicy, I skinned them and crushed them up for the mash.

 Sweet Potatoes


Sweet Potato Ale - Sweet Potato Mash

I was assuming that the smashed up sweet potatoes would give me the nastiest stuck mash ever, but they were relatively easy to use.  I put the 4 pounds of sweet potatoes in 10 pounds of grain, and I really don’t think the whole thing would have become messy unless I had used about 10 pounds of potatoes.   I held the whole thing at 152 degrees for 90 minutes in the hope that that would be long enough to convert some of the spuds into something fermentable.

Sweet Potato Ale - Sweet Potatoes in the Mash

The boil was straight forward, and I added some of the spice in at flame out.  It is really easy to go over the top with spices and it is impossible to take them back out.  So, I just used a ¼ of a teaspoon of nutmeg, allspice and ginger and one cinnamon stick.  That won’t be enough, but the tweaking of the spices happens after fermentation when I make a tea of the spices and add them to taste.

The key to this kind of beer still lies, in my opinion, in the spicing.  The sweet potatoes didn’t add that much in the way of fermentables that I can uncover as my efficiency rates were not much higher than I would have expected without the potatoes.  Perhaps, at tasting, I will find an improvement in mouthfeel.  And, if I do, it could just be psychological.   

I haven’t bottled this one yet, but I probably will within the next week.  It was a fun and creative experiment, but I need to double the amount of sweet potato to make this one stretch my brewing skills.   And I doubt I’ll do that again soon.  Well, until I get another absurd idea.

For giggles, here was the recipe.  (The mish-mash of hops was because I was using leftovers.)

Bad Yama Jama – (Spiced Sweet Potato Ale)

Starting Gravity: 1.050 (9/7/09) Days @ 68º F
Final Gravity: 1.010 (9/23/09)
5.23% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation: 79.31
Real Attenuation: 64.36

Mash (@152º 90 min)
11 lb Maris Otter
0.5 lb Crystal 40
0.5 lb Crystal 105
0.25 Special B Malt
0.25 Melanoidin Malt
4 lbs NC Sweet Potatoes (Baked for 90 minutes at 350 degrees, peeled and mashed)

Boil (60 minute boil)
0.25 Hallertauer Pellets (3.7 AA) (60 min)
0.20 EK Goldings Pellets (4.75 AA) (60 min)
0.33 Horizon Pellets (10.9 AA) (60 min)
0.25 Nugget Leaves (Homegrown) (12.0 AA) (60 min)

Spices at flame out:
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/8 tsp Nutmeg (ground)

1 tablet Whirlfloc (Boil – 15 min.)
½ tsp Brewer’s Choice Wyeast Nutrient Blend (Boil – 10 min.)

Primary (68º F)

Safale S-04 English Ale

Spices made in tea and added to Primary after fermentation:
1/2 tsp Allspice (ground)
1/8 tsp Ginger (ground)
1/8 tsp Nutmeg (ground)


Jun 22 2009

Homebrewed Coconut Curry Hefeweizen Review

I like to occasionally brew beers with usual ingredients.  I’ve done ancho pepper ambers, chai milk stouts and I’ve done an oyster stout, with raw oysters added during the last 10 minutes of the boil, to name a few.  They’ve all been interesting and one batch away from being tweaked into something very good.  Even with that track record, I think I scared a few people when I announced that I was going to make a Coconut Curry Hefeweizen. 

In my defense, it wasn’t my original idea.  Charlie Papazain had a recipe for this in The Homebrewer’s Companion, which I bought back in 1997.  I saw that recipe, with those absurd ingredients, and it has been isomerizing in the back of my head for 12 years.  Finally, I was crazy enough to try to make it, and the ingredients came together in a way that made it feel like a beer of destiny.  I had friend in Thailand who sent me Kaffir leaves, and I hit up the Indian supermarket for the stranger spices.  The recipe was scaled down from a 5 gallon to a 3 gallon batch, and I divided the spice into a quarter of what it should have been.  (If there is anything I’ve learned from spiced beers, divide what you think you need in half and then only use half of that.  You are better off with ¼ of what you think you need and then making a spiced tea at bottling than having a beer that tastes like potpourri.)

The brew day went well, but the taste and aroma of the spices were overwhelming at the end of fermentation.  That left me with a decision: dump it or brew an unspiced batch and blend the two.   I did another 3 gallons of hefe and then blended the two.   A previous blog post covers the scheming up of the Coconut Curry Hefeweizen.

Well, how did it turn out?  I have to man up and take the good brews with the bad, right?

Coconut Curry Hefe -

The head on the Coconut Curry Hefeweizen is big and airy.  Not dense or creamy at all, and it dissipates quickly.  The color is that of aged oranges with patches of brown in the deeper parts of the glass.  Despite the amount of floating junk that went into the wort (lime leaves, unsweetened coconut flakes, etc.), it remains as clear as a normal hefeweizen.  Perhaps a bit clearer, but that is faint praise.

The nose is a big fist of ginger and fenugreek.  The lime leaves creep into the background with gentle citrus and herbal notes, but they are completely overshadowed by the ginger.  The body is thin as a result of the honey I add to the boil.

The taste of this beer is pleasant.  At first.  There is an obvious curry flavor that is interesting, but not multi-dimensional.  There are earthy notes with a subdued maltiness and well-balanced bitterness.  But then the cayenne pepper kicks in and seizes around your neck with a slight burning.  That is where this one surprises and overwhelms you a little.  That heat greatly reduces the drinkability of the brew and doesn’t give you a reprieve if you are matching it with spicy foods.  The coconut, which you would think would balance this, is non-existant.

All and all, it is not as bad as I expected after brewing the first 3 gallons, but it still has some balance issues.  If I brewed this again, and I don’t have plans to do so anytime soon, I would greatly reduce the amount of fresh grated ginger and I might omit the cayenne completely.  I would use more coconut, too, and add it a little later in the boil. 

When I took this to a homebrew club meeting the other night, it faired pretty well.  There were a few brewers who hated it and thought it was undrinkable (which I completely get), but the majority thought it was not bad and really interesting.  But I think we homebrewers also award each other points for originality and ballsiness.  This one might have skated by on those alone.

The Coconut Curry Hefeweizen was a failed experiment, but not a bad beer.  If you have a question about the recipe, send me a note.  (I won’t post it to the site since, although I made some tweaks, it is still Charlie’s recipe and in one of his books.)  After tasing the final product, this one has been named “Bombay the Hard Way.”

Bombay the Hard Way

What is the next weird beer?  I don’t know.  I’ve been threatening an Old Bay Lager, but that is just a joke among friends.

Or is it?