Monday, May 9, 2011

Buckwheat Sour Amber Ale Recipe

Buckwheat has oddly triangular grains.Barley provides the bulk of the fermentables for just about every beer style (even "wheat beers" are often close to 50% barley malt).  The other grains commonly included in beer fall into two categories: those that contribute flavor and body (oats and rye), and those that lighten flavor and body (corn and rice).  While those six grains cover (guessing here) 99.9% of the beers brewed in America and Europe there are a few other grains that are used sporadically: spelt (I recently sampled a spelt wine from SixPoint's Mad Scientist series), sorgum (used mostly for gluten-free beers), amaranth, and today's subject, buckwheat (which isn't technically a grain biologically, but I'll use the term anyway).

The only exposure most people have to buckwheat is in pancakes, but it is also toasted and sold as kasha (especially popular in Russia).  The flavor is in the same general category as rye; it is a bit more rustic, grainy, and flavorful than the routinely used grains.  Part of that character derives from buckwheat's caprylic acid content (capr- comes from the Latin for goat, so you can guess what flavor it adds).  The great thing about some "off" tasting fatty acids is that they provide appealing aromas after Brettanomyces combines them with a molecule of ethanol to form an ester.  In this case I'm hoping the Brett will create ethyl caprylate, an ester which Wild Brews describes as "Waxy, Wine, Floral, Fruity, Pineapple, Apricot, Banana, Pear, Brandy".

A 6 quart pot was barely big enough to hold the two pounds of buckwheat and water.I bought two pounds of whole (hulled) buckwheat from the bulk bins at the local COOP (all those fatty acids oxidize quickly, so freshness counts).  I ran it through my mill and then boiled it with a generous amount of water to gelatinize the starches.  The rest of the grain bill was inspired by Russian River's Supplication.  The bulk of the grist is comprised of German pils and Vienna, with unfermentables from crystal 40, and color from Carafa Special III.   Once the buckwheat porridge was thick and gooey, after 15 minutes of boiling, I added it to the main mash along with enough hot water to boost the temperature from the protein rest up into the saccharification range.  The first runnings had an odd viscosity that looked almost identical to the ropy "sickness" that our Sour Red experienced, but by the end of the boil it seemed like normal wort.

I used a lower conversion temperature to test how well a lower level of unfermentables would work with Jolly Pumpkin bottle dregs, which tend to be more viable/aggressive than those from other breweries (since their beers are mashed cool and bottled young).  Hopefully this beer will be ready to bottle by next winter, but I'll wait for the gravity to stabilize before doing anything with it.  Eventually it will be interesting to compare this beer to our Dark Saison #3, which was brewed with a small amount of buckwheat honey (that provided an earthy, farmyard aroma when the beer was young).

Chilling the wort post boil.
Buckwheat Sour Amber

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.44
Anticipated OG: 1.056
Anticipated SRM: 14.5
Anticipated IBU: 17.4
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

48.1% - 5.50 lbs. German Pilsener
21.9% - 2.50 lbs. German Vienna Malt
17.5% - 2.00 lbs. Raw Buckwheat
10.9% - 1.25 lbs. Crystal 40L
1.6% - 0.19 lbs. Carafa Special III

1.00 oz. Styrian Goldings (Pellet, 4.75% AA) @ 60 min.

0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.

SafBrew T-58 Specialty Ale
Jolly Pumpkin Dregs

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Protein Rest 15 min @ 125 F
Sacch Rest 45 min @ 149 F

Brewed 3/6/11

Ground grains and whole/raw buckwheat separately.

Mashed in the grain while I boiled the buckwheat for 15 min. Added the buckwheat (really gloppy) and stabilized at 140, then added 180 degree water to get the mash temp up.

Slow sparge, even with a few handfuls of rice hulls. After 90 minutes 7.5 gallons of 1.048 runnings had been collected.

Chilled to 70. Shook to aerate, pitched T-58 without rehydrating. Dregs from a 9 month old bottle of Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca and a 6 month old La Parcela. Left at 64 F ambient to start fermenting.

Good fermentation after 12 hours, threatening to blow-off after 24.  Visible fermentation ceased after 3 days.

4/21/11 Racked to secondary, down to 1.012.  Already nicely tart, pretty fruity/yeasty still though.  Took a bit longer than I intended to get around to it.  No oak added yet.

5/31/11 Added .75 oz of Meyer's Rum soaked American oak cubes.

10/15/11 Blended some, racked 1 gallon onto 1 lb of sour cherries, and bottled the remaining 2.25 gallons with 1 5/8 oz cane sugar.

1/29/12 Solid beer, complex funky nose, bright acidity, overall very pleased. Sadly the tropical notes from the Brett/buckwheat have not emerged, although maybe it will will extended aging?

4/20/12 Bottled the gallon that was on cherries with .7 oz of table sugar and a small amount of rehydrated champagne yeast.

2/28/13 Tasting of the cherry portion, the fruit really covers up the funk. Balanced, drinkable, fun, but not exciting.

Vinnie on Supplication:

There is a good amount of C40-Crystal, around 10%, we also get color from Vienna Malt, it is about 15 or 20% of the grain bill and also we use Carafa 3 Special malt from Weyermann (sp) to get color, this leaves a cleaner flavor but the special B and chocolate will certainly work.

We ferment in the primary with Abbey 530 Yeast and remove the yeast post fermentation and hit the beer with Brett and the cherries (25 pounds to a 60 gallon wine barrel) in the wine barrel and let it sit for 2 months. After that we add the bacteria and more Brett, it normally ages for 12 months in the barrel.


Chad Yakobson said...

Very clever with the assumption for ethyl carpylate production! I found high levels in pure culture fermentations and associate it with most of the fruity characteristics found in Brett beers.


DA Beers said...

I'm interested to hear your results. I used T-58 with brett B once before and got a ton of odd smokey esters that completely ruined a beer for me.

Mike said...

I've experimented with Buckwheat a couple of times, and it came out pretty-much what I was aiming for - a blonde "chick" ale for Xmas (S Hemisphere, so hot weather); nice fruity, quite sweet (too sweet for my preference) and popular with the masses. First brew was simply with raw Buckwheat (though unhulled, it didn't seem to have much effect on colour), which had a nice, subtle sour note to it, too.

I tried another brew where I malted the Buckwheat first. Malting didn't seem to make much difference.

Planning to run it again next week with toasted Buckwheat (home toasted) and several recipe changes. It's interesting stuff, Buckwheat!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Interesting, I'll have to give it a try in a non-sour beer to see how it does.

Brewtoomuch said...

Any update on this beer. How did it turn out?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That's the problem with these sour beers, won't be much of an update until the beer is ready to bottle in another 6 months or so. Last taste I had the beer was headed in the right direction was a light tartness and some nice toasty malt flavors.

xfbbx said...

So, any tropical notes creep up yet or is it still too early to tell?
Also, how did the cherry 1/2 work out?

All in all, how much do you think the Buckwheat influenced the flavor of this beer?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I really like the way this beer turned out, but it doesn't taste distinctly different than many beers fermented with Jolly Pumpkin dregs. Cherry portion is good, I should probably do a writeup on it soon.

Gus said...


Reviving a really old post, what is the yield of buckwheat? Say someone wanted to add it into beersmith and see what to shoot for. I'm looking to make a low gravity, rustic saison with OG of about 1.044ish. 6# Pale malt, .5# 6-row and 2# buckwheat. What would that add gravity wise to a beer? Mainly just so I can know what to look for in repeating a recipe.

Thanks man!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Impossible to tell from experience (I used 1.034 for calculation). The internet says buckwheat is about 80% carbohydrates, which would confirm that the potential is around 1.034.

Amos said...


Could you point me towards some sources for the statement about caprylic acid levels in buckwheat? I've been doing a bit of research into its chemical composition, but while I've found several sources that mention that it has a higher percentage of fatty acids than wheat, most things I've read don't mention caprylic or octanoic acid, but rather palmitic, oleic, linolic. Best I've found is a whole food label that lists it in the nutritional infomation. Thanks!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

For anything like this Google Scholar is your friend: Processing of a Top Fermented Beer Brewed from 100% Buckwheat Malt with Sensory and Analytical Characterisation 

Unknown said...

I’m throwing this out there - hoping this may be seen, there’s not a ton of info on using buckwheat in the mash out there. I found papers that say the gelatinzation temp is in the 158-180 range. If you just mill buckwheat groats and mash along with the rest of the barley grain bill at 158, are you theoretically gelatinizing the buckwheat and simultaneously have saccharification going on? I am using 2.5 lbs in a NEIPA tomorrow, and am debating skipping the cereal mash since the gelatinization temp is high, and I can just mash on the high end (158-160) as I was planning anyways. Think this would work?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Often gelatinization temperatures are listed for pure starch. This doesn't necessarily correspond to what happens when you add milled grain to the mash because the proteins and larger particle size slow the progress of the water. You'll get some conversion adding raw buckwheat as described, but I'd suggest milling is fine as you can and extending the mash to 90 minutes. Pre-cooking is the best way to guarantee conversion, but it is a hassle. I have a couple pounds of buckwheat flour I'm planning to brew with soon, adding directly to the mash.