Sourdough Kvass

I’ve recently been experimenting with making sourdough breads. Now, while I haven’t perfected it to the point of blogging (hopefully that will come soon) I have made some tasty product. However, for every one success, there are probably three failures. Personally, I hate wasting food, especially failed cooking experiments. While I was pondering what to do with the bread besides trying to compost it, I remembered the relatively obscure Russian beer kvass.

FullSizeRender_1Classically, a kvass is a low alcohol beer brewed from old rye bread. The bread is mashed and the resulting slurry is fermented and consumed in a thick, often lumpy, smoothie. In more modern variations, the bread is separated from the sugary liquid and then the resulting wort is fermented. Being low in alcohol and before the time of “modern” brewing, it is likely that kvass developed a level of sourness after only a few days. It makes sense that a sour dough bread, having had lactobacillus already sour the mix, would be a perfect choice for a more modern take on the classic Kavas.

In order to extract as much sugar from the wheat as possible, I mashed with a bit of brewers malt just to make sure that the enzyme level was high enough. I had relatively poor control over the mash temperature so the temp ranged from the mid 150s to the low 140s. After an hour I did a quick sparge and then squeezed the brewing bag to extract a fair amount of liquid. I then boiled for an hour with a single bittering hop addition.

FullSizeRender.jpgI wanted to take this one step further. Since this beer is about as far from Reinheitsgebot as you can get, a bit of experimentation was in order. I chose to make this beer into an herbal beer, adding thyme and basil to complement the bready characteristics. I wanted the beer to remind the drinker of bread sticks and salad (sounds a bit weird, but its a combo that has worked for Olive Garden for years). Going above and beyond I wanted to see what this beer tasted like in both a “clean” and “soured” form. One gallon went to a clean German wheat fermentation, the other went onto some jolly pumpkin dregs I had kicking around the house.

Recipe: San-Fran Kvass

Weird… Yah, Tasty… depends on who you ask. The clan version is very pleasant, with a freshly baked bread flavor and a hint of herbs on the finish. It only has a mild level of sourness, just enough to give a slight twang on the tongue. Overall, it is dry and refreshing, perfect after a day under the sun! The sour beer will be ready in a few months and will hopefully be drinkable. This modern take on a Russian kvass brings together San Francisco sour dough flavors with a nice basil and thyme backbone. At such a low, ABV this is a good session beverage which has a sour tang without the need to mess with sour bugs…. unless you want to.

Recipe: 2 Gallons

OG: 1.036 —- FG: 1.000 —- ABV: 4.73%

  • FullSizeRender2.5 Lb Sour Dough Bread
  • 0.5 Lb Brewer’s Malt
  • 10 g Tradition
  • 10 Basil Leaves
  • 3 Sprigs Thyme

1 Gallon with Wyeast 3056

1 Gallon with Jolly Pumpkin Dregs

Historic IPA

Recipe: Historic IPA

This beer is my attempt to recreate a historic IPA. It is based on an article from Craft Beer & Brewing. The excessive level of hops and long aging should help to define the character of this beer as well as give it an extra level of complexity. Brett should give interesting aromatics and change the perception of the hops slowly over time. It is a bit of a risk bottling this beer considering the highly unpredictable nature of brettanomyces but it will allow the beer to age and go through flavor and aroma changes that should be fun to observe.

OG: 1.066 —- FG: 1.0?? —- ABV: ?.?%

  Recipe (5 gallons):

  • 14 lb Marris Otter
  • 3 oz East Kent Goldings – 60 min
  • 1 oz East Kent Goldings – 10 Min
  • 2 oz East Kent Goldings – Secondary for 14 Days
  • 2 oz East Kent Goldings – Tertiary for 7 Days

Yeast: Wyeast 1203 (Burton IPA Blend) & WLP645 (Brettanomyces Claussenii)

Mashed at 150 for 75 minutes. Boiled for 65 minutes. Fermented at 68 F for 2 weeks. Brewed 1/29/16 with 68% efficiency. Racked to Secondary 2/13/16 and added a vial of WLP645. Dry hopped 3/6/16 with 2 oz EKG. Racked to Tertiary 3/20/16. Dry hopped 4/4/16 with 2 oz EKG and 2 oz American Oak soaked in Vodka. Bottled 4/14/16.


Tasting Note 10/24/2017: it’s almost a year and a half old and in my opinion coming into its own. In the early days it was very hop forward and relatively clean. Now hops and Malt blend in the background (amazing that there are still hop notes after all this time). It has a strong estery-funky nose with clean barnyard and maybe some leather. Tastes great with a initial lactic sourness without any acetic quality. Fruity notes, not too much hop bite, very well balanced. Apearance… speaks for itself.

Book Review: Prost!

Prost!

Author: Horst D. Dornbusch

Rating 9/10

Prost!This book is a wonderful primer on the rich history of German beer and brewing. Dornbusch takes us on an adventure spanning 3000 years, from the brewers of the fertile crescent all the way to modern German brew masters. It is a great book for anyone who loves both interesting history and well crafted beer. History truly comes alive as you flip through the pages of this outstanding history book.

In the beginning, Dornbusch describes the origins of brewing, starting with the first accidental batch of homebrew. He then explains the progression of brewing in the ancient world, explaining the socioeconomic impact that beer has had throughout time. We learn how inseparably tied the bakery and the brewery were and what a huge impact beer played in the lives of every day people. He then marches forward, discussing the role of the church and the state as they battled for supremacy over what could reasonably be described as the most important beverage of their existence. The book weaves through time, highlighting various landmarks in German brewing history.

Towards the end of the book, Dornbusch tells us about the evolution of modern German beer styles. We learn about the rivalry between the Cologne Kölsch and the Dortmunder Alt beer, along with many other fun and unique facts about the beers we know and love today. It gives the drinker a whole new perspective when they discover the history inside of their beer stein.  Some of the beers covered include: Hefeweisse, Dunkel, Alt, Kölsch, Pilsner, Helles, and many others.

As a huge beer nerd and a general lover of history, I could not put this book down. Not only is the information interesting, but the writing style is very entertaining with a definite element of the author’s pleasant personality coming through in every page. The only flaw to this book is the flow of information, which seems to skip around through various points in time. To the author’s credit, he does an excellent job making a cohesive tale out of a chaotic history. Overall it is an excellent read and I would recommend it to anyone who loves brewing history.

Tincture Brewing

IMG_2866First off, what is a tincture? A tincture is simply an infusion of a spice or herb in an alcoholic solution. Traditionally these were used for medical purposes, extracting and preserving the healing properties of herbs and spices for use at a later time. A happy extension of this practice is the infused alcohol which we enjoy in cocktails (think rosemary infused vodka martini or the infamous Jägermeister). For our purposes as brewers, we can use these tinctures to improve our homebrew. Tinctures allow a quick, precise, and relatively easy way of adding a unique and exciting boost of flavor to your beer.

Advantages of Tinctures

Tinctures provide the home brewer with a number of distinct advantages over simply adding the flavoring agents to the beer. Firstly, tinctures allow for a precise amount of control over the amount of flavor added. When added at the end of fermentation or before bottling, the brewer can add small amounts of a tincture and taste the beer with each addition. This prevents the risk of adding too much or too little flavor and can cater the taste exactly to your personal preferences.

The next great advantage is the reduced risk of infection. While many herbs and spices, hops included, have inherent antimicrobial properties, there are still some which may harbor bacteria. By soaking your flavor addition in an alcoholic solution, you are significantly reducing the chances of a rogue microbe getting into your beer. The alcohol not only extracts flavor but sanitizes at the same time.

The final great advantage is the shorter time frame associated with tinctures. This is especially true when working with oak. When aging on oak, the time required for full extraction can be along the lines of months to even years. On the other hand, you can make an oak tincture (with either vodka or bourbon) and have it ready for addition within 2 weeks time. While it is true that this can take away from some of the complexity associated with oak, its time advantage can definitely outweigh this disadvantage.

What Spices/Herbs to Use

Any spice or herb can be used as a tincture. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the flavor of your tincture should compliment the beer you put it in. While sage may be delicious in a saison or Belgian wit, its flavors may clash with a malty porter. I’ve outlined a number of spices/herbs you may want to try, and the beers that they could go very well with.

  • Sage: With a fresh yet potent aroma, sage screams out spring. It makes an excellent addition to saisons and Belgian wits but I would recommend using it with a light hand as it’s flavor can get overpowering very quickly.
  • Rosemary: This is one of my favorite herbs and it lends itself very well to beer. I personally enjoy using rosemary in my saisons, but I could see it being an excellent addition to a Belgian golden ale or possibly even a dry cream ale.
  • Mugwort: Said to ward off evil spirits and promote vivid dreams, this unique herb possess a sage like aroma and intense bittering potential. This is one of the ancient bittering herbs used for gruits. Try it today ind rich porters or northern English brown ales.
  • Heather: This herb is common to the Scottish highlands and was commonly used in old school scotch ales. With the high taxes associated with hops (usually grown in more southern climates) the Scotts often turned to this bitter herb to mellow out the malt in their beers. Heather possesses floral and earthy notes. Try adding a tincture of heather to your next scotch ale.
  • Cinnamon: This favorite spice can be found in almost every pantry across America. Obviously cinnamon imparts a cinnamon type flavor, but what many people don’t realize is that cinnamon lends a unique spicy heat to the beers it is put in. You could experiment by adding just a dash to your next stout or English mild. I’ve had a great deal of success adding cinnamon to Irish Red ales.
  • Vanilla: We all know vanilla from various experiments in baking. Its flavors go very well in stouts, particularly milk stouts. For something a bit beyond the pale, you could try adding this to a blond or cream ale. If you want to try an example of this, Forgotten Boardwalk’s Funnel Cake Ale is a Cream Ale brewed with lactose sugar and vanilla.
  • Cocoa Nibs: Cocoa nibs are just dried and fermented cocoa beans. They lend a rich chocolate flavor to your beer. For a pure chocolate flavor, add these to a neutral spirit such as vodka. For something a bit more extraordinary, you could add them to either rum or bourbon. Stouts would be the classic beer to add this tincture to but Triptych Brewery’s Golden Oatie adds coffee and cocao nibs to their blond ale with very unique results.
  • Pumpkin Spice Mix: The types of beer that you could put this mix into are endless. My personal favorite style is a rich and malty amber, but I have put it in stouts and saisons as well with varying levels of success.
  • Gingerbread Mix: I generally like putting this mix in brown ales but it really could go into anything. Check out the recipe below for my Gingerbread Beer Recipe.
  • Winter Spice Mix: Generally consists of allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger but other permutations are more than possible. I have heard of cardamom being used as well as mint. Generally this mix is associated with very full bodied malty beers. You could try them in an old ale, a stout, or a porter

How to Make a Tincture

IMG_2863

While this is not the only method of making a tincture, it is a great starting point for the newbie willing to experiment. The following pictures are from an experimental green tea tincture I decided to make.

Clean Equipment Step 1: Start by thoroughly washing your container. While sanitation is not essential for this process, it is important to make sure there is no dirt which could lead to off flavors in your tincture. As far as choice of container, I personally like using canning jars. In regard to size, I would recommend either 4 oz or 8 oz jars. They are large enough to provide almost any size tincture, but small enough to easily fit into any space for storage.

Add Spice/Herb to JarStep 2: Add your spice or herb to the mason jar. For wet herbs, I would recommend shredding them lightly to increase surface aria and release some of the essential oils. The amount that you use is completely your prerogative and is a matter of personal choice. At this point, it would be hard to go overboard with the amount since you will essentially be diluting this mixture later.

Step 3: Add the alcohol to the jar. Make sure that the spirits are completely covering the spice.

IMG_2873

Store the TinctureStep 4: Store the tincture in a dark place. The warmer the location, the faster the extraction will occur. Every few days give the jar a shake to mix the herb/spice and disperse the flavor. After 2 weeks, the tincture will be fully extracted. Longer wait time will only increase the potency. A combination of tasting and trial and error will let you know when its finished extracting.

Straining TincturesStep 5: Once you have decided that your tincture is finished extracting its time to take the extract off of the herb/spice. There are a number of ways to do this. One is to purchase a fine mesh bag and squeeze until all of the tincture is separated from the left over gloop. Another way is to use plain old coffee filters. While less efficient than a mesh bag, coffee filter’s convenience and price point makes them a reasonable alternative. Store in a cool dark location. Shelf life should be good for several months before flavors begin to diminish.


Recipe: Gingerbread Brown Ale

This beer is the perfect winter brew, combining the rich malt of an English brown ale with the warm spice of gingerbread. This makes an excellent gift to family or friends for the holidays. Although the spice diminishes slightly as the beer ages, the flavor still gives the beer a unique twist.

Gingerbread BrownOG: 1.060 —- FG: 1.015 —- ABV: 5.9%

  • 6.6 Lb Gold LME
  • 0.5 Lb Carapils
  • 0.5 Lb Crystal 80
  • 0.5 Lb Biscuit
  • 0.5 Lb Chocolate
  • 0.5 Lb Marris Otter
  • 3/4 oz (East Kent Golding) – 60 min
  • 3/4 oz (East Kent Golding) – 20 min
  • 8 g (Gingerbread Spice Mix) – Flameout
  • Gingerbread Spice Tincture to Taste

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 (London Ale III)

Notes: Gingerbread Spice Mixture as Follows (2 Part Cinnamon : 2 Part Ground Ginger : 1 Part All Spice : 1 Part Clove : 1 Part Nutmeg)

Next time I will consider dialing back on the darker malts in order to balance the profile and make the beer a bit lighter in both body and color.


Resources

Gratzer

When I first heard of an all Polish beer, I was like… I have to make this. Since that time, I’ve done a fair amount of research and have crafted 2 versions of this classic brew. Each time I brewed it, I felt a bit closer to my Polish ancestors. With the smokey smells filling my apartment on brew day, I could almost imagine myself going back in time to visit those ancient Polish brewers.

Gratzer is an “ancient” style of beer, originally brewed in Poland in the 15th century. It consists of a grain bill of 100% oak smoked wheat, giving it a totally unique flavor, and a middle of the road hop bitterness, lending some aggression to balance out the softer wheat profile. This style of beer was almost lost during the turn of the century when the last commercial gratzer brewery closed its doors. Thankfully, this fantastic and unique beer has recently begun a revival in the craft beer industry

My first time making this beer taught me a lot of things. First, a 100% wheat beer needs rice hulls or you will get a stuck sparge. Also, unless you treat it right, wheat has a very low diastatic power, so you will not be able to get as much bang for your buck pound wise compared to 2-row or Pilsner malts. Finally, smoke flavor is very variable in how it presents in beer. In some styles a little can go a long way, but in others even a huge grist of smoked malt can give a subtle flavor.

That being said, gratzer is a a fun and reasonably easy style that can be brewed both as a full strength or a session beer. For my first gratzer, I went with a 50-50 ratio of smoked malt to wheat malt, but I thought that the smoke was just a bit too subtle. On this second round, I tried a 100% Oak Smoked Malt Grain bill. The result is a slap your face silly smokey oaky aroma and a pungent yet satisfying smoked taste. Despite the very low gravity of this beer the wheat gives this beer a good backbone.

OG: 1.024 — FG: 1.004 — ABV: 2.5%

Recipe:

  • 7 lb Oaked Smoked Wheat
  • 1.5 oz Hallertauer at 90 minutes
  • .5 oz Hallertauer at 15 minutes

Yeast: Wyeast 1007  (German Ale)

Mashed at 150 for 90 minutes; Boil was approximately 2.5 hours

Fermented at 64 for 3 weeks


References