Terroir is a fascinating thing. New Zealand white wines (chiefly Sauvignon Blanc) have gained worldwide attention for exhibiting exciting flavors and aromas (e.g., lime-zest and gooseberry) not produced when the same grapes are grown in Europe or the Americas. It is intriguing that New Zealand grown hops like Motueka (originally called Belgian Saaz) and Nelson Sauvin (related to Cluster by way of Smoothcone) have gained popularity for aromatics described with many of the same terms!
While shopping for beer a few months ago, I tried a sample of Fernlands Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (from Marlborough, NZ). The idea immediately struck me to add the wine's citrusy flavors to a hoppy/tart/funky saison. In addition to a yeast blend harvested from ‘Merican Saison, I pitched Wyeast’s Lactobacillus brevis. Given the heightened IBUs I wasn’t expecting sharp acidity, but I wanted some tartness to enhance the grapefruit and lime.
This was far from my first time combining wine to beer, for example a variant of my first Pizza Port Mo’ Betta Bretta clone was mixed with cherries rehydrated in Pinot Noir, a Russian River Temptation clone with Chardonnay, and my trials blending Oud Beersel Gueuze with Maison Trimbach Riesling. The quality of wine you can procure is usually better than the wine grapes you can source locally, and if nothing else combining them is a much simpler task. Mixing wine into a batch of commercial beer isn’t allowed (which is why breweries tend to turn to wine barrels and grapes); you have to appreciate the legal freedom homebrewing allows! When the base saison was finished dry hopping, I blended a sample with measured amounts of the wine for evaluation. I could have stood for adding more than 750 mL (~4.3% of the batch) of wine to the keg, I should have bought two bottles!
Some Brett strains are capable of freeing aromatic aglycones found in hops, fruit, and spices which are attached to sugars in molecules called glycosides. I have a few mentions of this in American Sour Beers, but the section about hop glycosides was dropped because more comprehensive/specific research is underway:
Certain strains of Brettanomyces (those that produce the enzyme β-glucosidase) have the ability to release aromatic aglycone compounds by splitting the glycosides provided by hops. Very few Saccharomyces strains can release aglycone, and those that do at a much lower rate than Brettanomyces.1
The amount of glycosides in hops varies widely by varietal, but the only extensive research into the actual amounts is the proprietary information contained in studies by Miller Brewing. Miller Brewing treated an extraction of hops with β-glucosidase and subsequently used a gas chromatograph to detect “benzaldehyde (almond, maraschino cherry), vanillin (vanilla), raspberry ketone, geraniol (floral, rose), linalool (floral), phenylacetaldehyde (honey, floral), and many other primary alcohols, ketones, and aldehydes which are also aromatic.”2 Methyl salicylate (wintergreen, minty, spicy) is another aglycone which has been shown to be released by the enzymatic action of Brett.3Citations:
1. Luk Daenen, Daan Saison, Femke Sterckx, Freddy R. Delvaux, Hubert Verachtert and Guy Derdelinckx, “Screening and evaluation of the glucoside hydrolase activity in Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces brewing yeasts.”
2. Beer Sensory Science “Glycosides:The Hidden Flavors.”
3. Luk Daenen, “Use of beta-glucosidase activity for flavour enhancement in specialty beers.”
The New Zealand saison is keg conditioning to boost the Brett activity without extended aging that might compromise the vibrant hop aroma. The second runnings from it were turned into a Berliner weisse that will be receiving some citrus, most likely lemon, eventually. More on that batch later!
New Zealan' Saison
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 16.50
Anticipated OG: 1.062
Anticipated SRM: 2.4
Anticipated IBU: 37.7
Brewhouse Efficiency: 77 % (w/ parti-gyle)
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes
66.7% - 11.00 lbs. Rahr Pilsener
33.3% - 5.50 lbs. Wheat Malt
1.38 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 2.70% AA) @ Mash Hop
1.00 oz. Rakau (Pellet, 11.00% AA) @ 30 min.
2.00 oz. Motueka (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Motueka (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
2.00 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
The Yeast Bay Saison Blend
White Labs WLP644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. Trois
Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. CB2 (Jason Rodriguez isolate)
Wyeast L5223-PC Lactobacillus brevis
Profile: Washington, DC
Sacch I - 90 min @ 148 F
Sacch II - 15 min @ 155 F (decoction)
7/26/14 Made a 1L starter (50 g DME, Wyeast nutrient, chilled to 112F, put on stir-plate on low) with Wyeast L. brevis (two weeks from manufacture). Strong activity by the next morning, already a bit tart. "Some even benefit, for example L. brevis yields 50% more cells when aerated." - ASB
Added 3 g of CaCl and 1 tsp of 10% phosphoric acid to the mash (along with a couple handfuls of rice hulls. Same treatment for the 170 F sparge water.
Parti-gyle batch sparge.
Swapped wort back and forth to achieve 7.25 gallons @ 1.052, and 5.5 gallons at 1.034.
New Zealand Saison with first runnings - L. brevis, and saison/Brett blend from keg, loads of NZ hops, New Zealand Sauv Blanc. Pre-dilution OG = 1.070. Added 0 min hops and allowed to steep for 20 minutes before chilling. 8 g of 88% lactic acid. Added 1/2 gallon of distilled water (cold) to help it chill the rest of the way at the same time as the keg dregs (~6 hours after pitching the Lacto). Left at 65F to ferment
Lemon Berliner - Brought just to a boil, added yeast nutrient, chilled to 85F, pitched Lacto, added 7.5 g of 88% lactic acid (aiming for 4.5 pH), left at 65F to ferment. OG 1.030. L. brevis and Saison Brett dregs for the first 24 hours - activity by 12 hours, then US-05 (11 g, not rehydrated) (down to 1.024 at that point).
7/30/14 Both batches moved to ~75F ambient after three days to ensure complete fermentation.
8/7/14 Dry hopped saison portion.
8/17/14 Kegged the saison (1.008, 87% AA, 7.1% ABV. Light acidity, nice hop aroma) with ~750 ml of Fernlands 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and 3.5 oz of table sugar. Flushed keg twice before and after filling. Left at ambient basement to condition for a couple weeks before tapping. 7.3% ABV including the wine.
10/29/14 Tasting notes. Not much I'd change, delicious blend of citrus and funk, from the hops, wine, and Brett.