Monday, November 1, 2010

Scandinavian Gruit Kvass Recipe

Nathan clearly thinks HSA is a myth.After Nathan and I brewed East End's recipe for Kvass, we decided to crank out a couple more kvasses with recipes of our own design. The first was inspired by a sample of Menno & Jens (a gruit that had a unique flavor that was smokey, tart, and herbal) a collaboration between the two Scandinavian breweries (Haandbryggeriet and De Molen).

Nathan took the standard kvass recipe and morphed it into a complex Scandinavian gruit.  The smoke character came from three pounds of Weyermann rauchmalt, a sizable addition for a beer that barely topped 4% ABV.  For winter spicing we added blue spruce (for evergreen aromatics) and elderberries (for dried fruit character).  The sourness was provided by Lactobacillus resident in the dried bread yeast working unconstrained by hops.

This was the first batch of beer I have brewed that was devoid of hops.  While today beer and hops are culturally (and in some cases legally) synonyms, this has not always been the case.  For centuries political and religious institutions required the use of gruit (a secret spice blend often containing mugwort, yarrow, marsh rosemary among others) both as a counterpoint to the sweet malt (beers were often far less attenuated than today) and as a way to tax/control brewing.  Hops became the dominant seasoning for beers only about 500 years ago, as a result of their ability to add bitterness as well as inhibit lactic acid producing bacteria.

If only they hired hand models for adding things to the boil...Our method of incorporating the bread (by soaking it overnight in 190 degree water, pureeing it with a stick blender, and then adding it to the boil) was identical to our previous batch of kvass, but this time we used a loaf of pumpernickel bread in place of the standard seeded rye.  We hoped the darker bread would be a better complement for a slightly stronger beer intended for fall/winter drinking.

The results were intriguing, one of the most flavorful low alcohol beers I have tried.  Granted the beer is still young, but it turned out a bit smokier and not as sprucey as we intended.

Scandinavian Kvass

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.50
Anticipated OG: 1.040
Anticipated SRM: 11.9
Anticipated IBU: 0.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

40.0% - 3.00 lbs. Maris Otter
40.0% - 3.00 lbs. Rauchmalt (Bamberg Smoked)
6.7% - 0.50 lbs. Rye Malt
6.7% - 0.50 lbs. Brown Malt
6.7% - 0.50 lbs. Crystal Rye

5 g Blue Spruce @ 30 min
20 g Dried Elderberries @ 0 min

Red Star Bread Yeast

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest 60 min @ 152

Brewed 9/24/10 with Nathan and Devin

1 gallon of pumpernickel bread puree (1 loaf) added before the start of the boil.

5 grams spruce at 30

20 grams dried elderberries lightly crushed at flameout

Pitched 1 gram of rehydrated Red Star bread yeast once the wort was cool. 

Left in Nathan's basement ~75 degrees to ferment.

FG 1.010

10/08/11 Turned out well, powerful smoke (mingling with the spruce) and as predicted bread yeast and no hops made for a tart beer.


Seanywonton said...

Did the pumpernickel loaf have caraway seeds? Just curious. I can't seem to develop a love for caraway no matter how hard I try! it's just something that I try to avoid eating at all costs.

But... a little in a beer might come off as less dominating than whole seeds on a slice of bread.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

No caraway in the bread for this one, just a bit of molasses and carafa special for color. You may want to avoid kvass #3, a pumpernickel porter primed with caraway infused molasses.

yk said...

Sounds interesting, why not use dried elderflowers?

Keep up the good work,

Your readers from Israel :)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

You certainly could use elderflowers. We were going for something more wintery, flowers seem like they would be the way to go for a warmer weather brew (although I haven’t used them).

HolzBrew said...

Very cool brew. Keep up the adventures in fermentation!

Gustav said...

As a Norwegian homebrewer I would like to comment on the "Scandinavian" part of this story.

First of all, De Molen is a Dutch, not a Scandinavian, brweery. This is also where the gruit tradition comes from.

Norwegian traditional beer (a tradition that is almost extinct) normally uses a lot of juniper, which might be better than spruce for a spicy evergreen note. It certainly goes well with some beer styles, at least the sometimes very smokey traditional beers of Norway.

When it comes to the choice of yeast, I know some brewers use baker's yeast, but I would have guessed that to be more of a remnant from times when baker's yeast was the only yeast easily available for home brewers. In Norway it has only been used for beers that are intended for consumption within weeks, not as a controlled way to sour the beer.

Information on the traditional Scandinavian brews are hard to find in the native languages, and even more difficult in English. This blogpost is a good starting point:

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Gustav, thanks for the input. This recipe certainly wasn’t intended to be a recreation of any actual beer, it was more a product of inspiration from the two folk beers (kvass and gruit). Juniper certainly would have been a good choice, but we didn’t want to go the Sahti route fully.

Thanks for the link, I’ll have to give it a read tonight.

Unknown said...

Just wondering...since the stale bread is being added to the kettle and boiled, how exactly do the Lactobacilli enter into it?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Bread yeast isn't dried in the near-sterile conditions of yeast destined for beer or wine. As a result there is usually a small amount of wild yeast and bacteria present. In a beer without hops like this one, Lactobacillus can reproduce very quickly. You could certainly use a sourdough culture, or pitch additional Lacto if desired.