Wednesday, January 4, 2012

American Farmhouse Currant Dark Saison

The wine soaked oak and dried currants.
I like the idea of seasonal beers that are always similar, but never the same. For the last four falls a few friends and I have brewed dark funky saisons with dried fruit. Each year we keep the basic concept the same, but change the ingredients and methods to suit the dried fruit we select.

After previously using raisins, dates, and figs we decided that currants were the next logical choice. Dried currants have a flavor similar to raisins, but it is slightly more acidic with winey complexities. While there are "cassis" lambics flavored with fresh (or juiced) currants, I think the best example of their use is dried in Russian River's Consecration. Recently I went to a tasting at a friend's house where we opened five bottlings, and while each one was interesting in its own way the 001 had the perfect balance of acidity, Cabernet Sauvignon, tobacco, and dark fruit (too bad it was my last bottle).

For the malt bill of this year's dark saison we used a base of Vienna to give it more bready/toasty flavors than previous batches. Rather than getting all of the dark color from dehusked roasted malts in the mash, I made a cold extraction with roasted barley first processed in coffee grinder. I mixed a half pound with 20 ounces of water, although I probably would use a quart the next time. After sitting overnight at room temperature I strained it through a tea strainer (my initial attempt with a paper coffee filter quickly became clogged). We added the resulting 10 ounces of syrupy jet-black extract to the kettle at the start of the boil.

Appropriate since roasted barley was historically used to cut coffee.Fermentation was a mix of saison strains and Bretts. This was my first time using White Labs WLP670 American Farmhouse which includes a mutated version of Brett bruxellensis from The Lost Abbey. I missed the initial release last summer, but Brandon (who writes the excellent sour beer blog Embrace the Funk) was kind enough to send me a slurry he had saved (the strain will be available again as a year round release for 2012). Alex and I also pitched Wyeast Brett bruxellensis and Farmhouse Ale to complete the fermentation team. For once we did not add bacteria, so while this beer will be funky it will not have the sourness that the previous batches did.

For the first three dark saisons in this series we pureed the dried fruit and added it to the end of the boil, but this time Alex and I decided to wait until secondary to preserve more of its flavor. As these currants were coated in oil (from the feel of them) I gave them a quick rinse in Star-San followed by filtered water to remove the head destroying lipids.

For oak a fellow homebrewer (Tom, who also hooked me up with a bottle of Surly Five) sent me a few slices of an oak stave that had been in a red wine for some time. Even the smallest one, at 1.75 oz, was a bit more than I usually add, but since it had already had a good deal of its character extracted and had relatively low surface area I decided to risk over-oaking. I am also planning on adding some citrus zest when the beer is closer to bottling, but that will depend on the flavor.

Alex stirring his mash tun.
We are starting to run out of dried fruits to use in dark saisons, so if anyone has a suggestion please post a comment. I think maybe even prunes would be a good choice...?

Dark Saison IV
Recipe Specifics
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 10.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 25.00
Anticipated OG: 1.067
Anticipated SRM: 29.3
Anticipated IBU: 22.4
Brewhouse Efficiency: 77 %
Wort Boil Time: 80 Minutes

Grain
-------
92.0% 23.00 lbs. Vienna Malt
2.0% 0.50 lbs. American Chocolate Malt
2.0% 0.50 lbs. Carafa Special II
2.0% 0.50 lbs. Special B Malt
2.0% 0.50 lbs. Roasted Barley

The aging beer with currants and oak floating.Hops
-------
0.75 oz. Warrior (Pellet, 16.00% AA) @ 75 min.

Yeast
-----
WYeast 3726 Farmhouse Ale
White Labs 670 American Farmhouse
Wyeast 5112 Brettanomyces bruxellensis

Water Profile
----------------
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
-----------------
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 159 F

Notes
-----
Brewed 12/17/11 with Alex.

Used spring water for the mash and sparge.

One week earlier had made a cold extraction with the roasted barley and one pint of water. Filtered after 18 hours at room temperature, rinsed with a few more ounces, and saved in the fridge. Added to the start of the boil.

Chilled to 70 F. Aerated with ~45 seconds of pure O2. Pitched my five gallons with 375 ml of loose slurry from the acid malt saison, 75 ml of dense slurry from WLP670 American Farmhouse, and half a package of Wyeast Brett B.

Good fermentation by the next morning at 64 F ambient in a large bucket fermentor. Never produced much krausen. Left the lid on lightly to mimic the low pressure of open fermentation.

12/27/11 Racked to secondary with 27 oz of dried currants (first rinsed with Star-San and then filtered water) and a long chunk of oak from a wine stave (1.75 oz).

2/7/12 Already had enough oak character (tannins especially), racked off of currants and oak stave. It would have been nice to let the currants ferment longer, but at 6 weeks they should have given up most of their flavor.

7/21/12 Bottled with 3.25 oz of table sugar and 1 g of Primere Cuvee yeast rehydated.

2/6/13 Tasting notes, nice contribution from the currants and oak. The cold steeping worked to prevent an acrid flavor.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

How about prunes, acai, cranberries, elderberries, blackberries..... Glad to hear white labs is bringing back the blend. I was a bit dopey and didn't save a slurry.

Eric said...

Curious to how fine you grind the roasted barley. I've tried "capping the mash" to darken up a beer, but didn't use enough grain (just 2 ounces) to see much of a difference. Interested in different techniques.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Elderberries would certainly be fun if I can find a good source. My problem with some of the weirder berries (goji for example) is how much they cost.

The grind on the dark grain was really fine, similar to what you would for a pot of french press coffee.

Ken said...

Dried cherries sounds like an obvious choice to me...

Señor Brew™ said...

I think we use the exact same cooler as a mash tun, right down to the color:

http://noblesquarebrewing.blogspot.com/2011/01/brew-stand.html

mc said...

I second the cherries, maybe a mix of them? Also, maybe Wyeast Lambicus for some additional cherry flavor...

Flobo said...

goji (as you mentioned -- cost prohibitive), blueberries & blackberries. The dried verieties of these are all excellent (and more cost effective).

Anonymous said...

Hi!

I also came to think of cranberries. They would certainly provide som tartness and also add an american twist to the beer. I know that, in Sweden, cranberries come in dried form, but to my knowledge we dont have them growing domestically (we do however have plenty of their cousin lingonberry). Thank you for a great blog, I never miss a post.

/Rasmus

Hokiebrewer said...

Or go the opposite direction and use dried pineapple/papaya/mango and dryhop with Amarillo and Simcoe before bottling...

Anonymous said...

prunes or fresh plums or black currant would be cool

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I think the tropical fruits and big American hops would work well in a pale saison, but I think it might clash with the darker base.

Cranberries or cherries (and the other berries) could work well at lower levels I think. We don't want the fruit to dominate the character of the beer, which is why we've been sticking to the more subtle fruits (there aren't many great fruit-forward saisons).

A.B.rx said...

Definitely agree with the cherries. What about apricots? They seem to be pretty prevalent and inexpensive.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

If I recall correctly, DFH ApriHop was originally brewed with dried apricots, rehydrated in hot water. Seems like another one of those fruits that could blend beautifully with some hops in a pale saison. For a dark funky saison I want a fruit that will add to that character without getting too assertive. That said, I liked The Bruery and Cigar City collaborative ISO:FT which had enough guava to lighten an overly stodgy base beer (Marrón Acidifié).

Anonymous said...

Although it's not dried. I diced up a fresh Buddha's hand and preserved it this weekend. Man, it has citrus characters but you can see why it is more often used in perfumes. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Snozberries!

Jeffrey Crane said...

I have a bunch of elderberries that I could donate for all the great advice over the years. (Plus I've been meaning to send you some bottles)

The only problem is that they are currently frozen, but I would be happy to try to dry them myself. Any advice on drying berries?

About the Oak Stave. Are you using the whole oak stave or is the outside layer somehow cut off? And any special cleaning?

romantic bed and breakfasts said...

Thanks for sharing. Currants are really beneficial for the health. Following are the benefits of currants:

Anti-Inflammatory Action
Reduces the effects of arthritis
Powerful Anti-oxidant Action
Maybe help prevent cancer

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Thanks for the offer Jeffery, but the next batch won't be for another year, so we won't be dealing with the fruit until closer to then. I assume a food dehydrator would work if you want to dry the berries for your own use.

The stave was actually a piece of wood aged fully submerged in wine (similar to the spirals a lot of brewers seem to be using). So there is no outside part as there would be on a stave from an actual barrel.

Glad to hear the currants will turn this batch into a health tonic, the anti-oxidants should allow for more graceful aging as well.

Jay said...

Consider Pomegranate. Moderately expensive fresh fruit (or maybe not compared to Goji?), but you can buy dried pomegranate fairly cheap on the internet. Strong taste that could withstand a dark beer and complement when used in moderation.

Brandon said...

Chokeberries?

Alex said...

Yo... you mention cassis (black currants) in your post but those look like Zante currants to me, which are actually a type of tiny grape and not in the Ribes genus (cassis, red currants, gooseberries, etc.) They should taste sharply acidic, tannic, and have a curious cough syrup-like backbone.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Interesting, I was uncertain exactly what type of currants they were. Russian River uses Zante, but I was unaware they were not true currants. Thanks for the clarification. They were rather acidic and raisin like, but that tannic.

Alex said...

If the resulting concoction isn't deep purple, I'd bet that they're Zante. Although they're abundant in Europe, cultivation of currants was banned in the US in the early 1900s and then later relegated to state authority so they're only now starting to turn up again. As a former Massachusetts resident, I can vouch for the quality of the currants from Bug Hill Farms, in Ashfield, which is quite near Valley Malt of Hadley. It'd be worth calling to inquire about the season in spring if you're interested in sourcing some, as it is always over far too quickly.

I've been brewing and home-fermenting all kinds of stuff for only a little longer than I've been reading your blog, by the way, and it's been a wonderful source of motivation. I'm staying in Bangladesh for the year, so if you have any ideas for tropical fruits send them my way. I think starfruit would marry a pale ale perfectly, and I may be able to find them on the cheap. Please continue to keep us informed on your culinary and zymurlogical (that can't possibly be a word) ventures!

Anonymous said...

I've done dried cherries and liked the results. If you want to do pomagranate you can look at middle eastern markets for a syrup. I have some that will be going in a dark Belgian sour soon.

Duffbowl said...

It's saison season here, and the question about what fruit has given me an idea - something indigenous to Australia. Not much use to you, sorry.

Anonymous said...

I'm considering making a similar saison, but I plan to do a quick lacto souring first (sour wort for a few days then boil). I know you aren't too impressed with this method, but I think a saison with so much else going on it might be worth a try. What do you think?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I didn't mind the eventual result of the "sour worting" but it took considerable time to age to where I enjoyed it. I think a hint of tartness could enhance a beer like this, although I would go for a softer dark malt character. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Why coffee grinder instead of milling for the roasted barley? And how did you like the cold steeping results? Were you just trying to get color? I was thinking about trying cold steeping for a russian imperial stout, but I'm a little worried about not getting all of the flavor out of the grain... would you recommend upping the amount of dark grains used if I cold steep?

Also, did you add any brewing salts to the boil to compensate when you added your roasted barley cold extration?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The finer you get the grind the better/faster the extraction is. The issue with grinding normally is tannin extraction from the husk and lautering ability, but with heavily roasted grains this is not an issue.

I don't think this is a good method for something you want to be sharply roasty like an RIS, but it could be used to boost the character if you are worried about overdoing it. If you do go this route I would certainly up the roasted grains and then add to taste.

No water adjustments on this one, since it was post-mash I wasn't worried about pH. Especially for a beer like this a bit of acidity isn't a bad thing.

gordsellar said...

I'm really late to this comment thread (got here researching something else), but I would recommend omija berries. They're an Asian berry, used in tea mostly, and they have a distinctive flavor. the "o" in omija is for "5" because the berries are supposed to have five "flavors": sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy. However, to me the flavor is just, well, distinctive and complex but, if used sparingly, not so overpowering.

I added some of the tea mix to a Kolsch I made with my students, and it came out really nice. (Fresh, the berries can also be used to cure the most amazing-tasting bacon.)

I'd be happy to post you a bag of some dried omija berries, assuming I can find one, but I'd need an address. If you're interested, let me know!

gordsellar said...

(Or your a Korean market over there might have some, possibly: this is the berry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schisandra_chinensis

and the tea, in its Korean form:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omija_hwachae

)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I've actually had a couple people suggest schisandra. Seems like a fun one to try. We're having trouble tracking down quince for our Dark Saison 5, maybe the Asian berry is a option to take it in another direction. I know Brian from Stillwater has added them to a couple of beers.

RJ said...

another dried dark fruit suggestion (quite late, I know): tamarind.

Shawn McBride said...

how many oz of Zante Currants did you use to a 10 gallon batch? I think your notes say 27oz but was that per 5 gallon carboy or total to the 10 gallon of finished beer.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

This batch was split with Alex, the 27 oz of currants were just for my half (i.e., ~5 gallons). Sorry that wasn't clearer.

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