Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Fresh Juniper Saison with El Dorado

Eastern Red Cedar tea.I really enjoy beers brewed with local ingredients, but local grains and hops have never been at the top of that list. In both cases local usually doesn't mean fresher, higher quality, or more variety. Often the opposite is true, and for double the price. Conversely, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs are naturally advantaged over their nonlocal competition. They are at their best immediately after harvest and include varieties not suitable for shipping. Buying fresh in these cases is often less than the shelf-stable versions (although that means more processing for the brewer).

For this batch of rye saison I opted for a blend of hops and grains from around the world, paired with freshly harvested juniper (Eastern Red Cedar) from my backyard. This was my second batch using trimmings from that tree, after the more traditional Summer Kveik earlier in the year. The other half of this batch went on to be a rye pale ale, dry-hopped with Galaxy and I didn't want juniper in that beer. To avoid splitting the boil I added the juniper as a tea, rather than directly to the mash or wort.

I wanted a more complex and substantial malt backbone to counter the aromatic hops and juniper, so pale malt and rye made sense. Big quality-of-life upgrade from my old Barley Crusher to my new Monster Mill 2Pro-SL. Not far from this saison brewed a few years ago, but with spelt flour replacing the wheat malt. Fermentation was carried out by my house saison culture.

It was also my first batch using the Genesis Fementer that Brewcraft USA sent for me to try out. It features a pre-santized bag to ferment the wort in. It made clean up easy, but I found the bag annoying to work with otherwise. It took some effort to get it fluffed up enough to get the tubing down into it for run-off. I also found it difficult to see where my auto-siphon was for racking. In the past all of my fermentors had either been clear (glass and plastic carboys) or had a wide opening to allow me to see down into the fermentor to know when to tilt or stop to avoid sucking up trub.

This batch also has my second video, a bit abbreviated compared to the first and with slightly better audio thanks to a new microphone!

Fresh Juniper Saison

Dry-Hopped Brett Saison with Fresh Juniper.Smell – Nice mixture of generic American-hop-fruitiness and saison yeast pepper. Mild Brett-pineapple, but still fresh. Juniper comes across more naturally piney, no big apricot as I’ve tasted in a few beers brewed with boil-addition Eastern Red Cedar. Maybe has to do with an interaction with the malt? Seasonal flavor-change?

Appearance – Nearly flawless saison; glowing gold with a luscious white head. Leaves rings of sticky lacing with each sip.

Taste – The hops and juniper meld beautifully, reinforcing each other. Slight maltiness in the finish, thanks to the rye malt. Juniper comes out most in the finish, especially towards the bottom of the glass. Woody, green, not like toasted oak (no vanilla or toasted nuts).

Mouthfeel – The extra proteins and beta glucans from the rye and spelt combine to provide some substance to the body. Carbonation is a little low, would have been fun bottled. At first it had sort of a resiny harshness to the finish, thankfully that has dropped out.

Drinkability & Notes – Weird, but not too weird. Surprisingly drinkable with a good balance of hops, herbs, and funk.

Changes for Next Time – Would like to try it with juniper in the mash/boil to see how it changes the expression.

Monster Mill 2Pro-SL on the left, Barley Crusher on the right.Recipe

Batch Size: 5.75 gal
SRM: 3.6
IBU: 36.3
OG: 1.053
FG: 1.008
ABV: 5.9%
Final pH: 4.12
Brewhouse Efficiency: 79%
Boil Time: 60 mins

68.2% - 7.5 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
22.7% - 2.5 lbs Weyermann Rye Malt
9.1% - 1 lbs Arrowhead Mills Spelt Flour

Mash In - 60 min @ 154F

1.50 oz Amarillo (Pellets, 6.00% AA) @ 30 min Whirlpool
1.50 oz Citra (Pellets, 9.00% AA) @ 30 min Whirlpool
1.50 oz Simcoe (Pellets, 10.00% AA) @ 30 min Whirlpool
0.50 oz Galaxy (Pellets, 11.00% AA) @ 30 min Whirlpool
2.00 oz El Dorado (Pellets, 15.00% AA) Dry Hop

7.00 g Calcium Chloride
5.00 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
1.50 tsp 88% Lactic Acid


1 Pint Juniper Tea:
    1 gallon of Water
    40 g Eastern Red Cedar @ 60 mins
    40 g Eastern Red Cedar @ 30 mins
    40 g Eastern Red Cedar @ 10 mins
    40 g Eastern Red Cedar @ 0 mins

Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend

All DC Filtered water for mash and sparge. Mash pH 5.29 at mash temp. Collected 6.75 gallons of 1.050 runnings. 1 gallon of distilled water added pre-boil reduced gravity to 1.045.

For the juniper infusion, brought a gallon of water to a boil with 40 g of Eastern Red Cedar. Boiled for 60 minutes with 40 additional grams at 30, 10, and flame-out. Allowed to chill naturally with the juniper still in there. Added 2 cups to the saison half (~25% of the resulting amber liquid).

Amarillo/Citra/Simcoe in the boil was all 2014. Galaxy was 2016.

Saison with my house culture, directly from fridge (honey saison).

Left both at 68F to ferment.

11/26/17 Dry hopped the saison with El Dorado. Still in primary. Warmed to mid-70s ambient.

12/7/17 Kegged the Saison and started force carbonation in kegerator.

I get a commission if you buy something after clicking the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Adventures in Homebrewing/Great Fermentations!


  1. Love your work, I have read every single recipe you have made. Wish I was in the US so I could come and try some of your creations when you finally get your brewery open!

  2. If you ever do find an excuse to get over for a visit, let me know!

  3. Looks great! The video tasting notes are a great addition to the blog. The other improvement you have made that I appreciate as a reader is combining the story, brew day notes, and tasting notes all in one post.

    You mentioned this would have been fun bottled. Considering the context I'm assuming you're referring to higher carbonation you could achieve in the bottle... I have a similar carbonation issue with kegs where I cannot dial it in on a specific beer since I use one regulator and a 3 way manifold. I bring it up because I'm currently keg conditioning a brett saison for a couple months based on comments you and others have made that brett expression is more significant under pressure from bottling. Have you had success keg conditioning to achieve similar results to bottles?

  4. Hi Mike ,
    I would like to know your feedback/comments in regards of you new mill..
    I'm planning to buy a new one and the Monster mills 2pro looks like a good option.

    Do you use only a drill to move the rollers ? or do you need a 1HP Motor?

    Thanks for sharing.


  5. Have you tried using berries from the Eastern red cedar? I used them in a winter warmer - they provided a nice mix of resin, blueberry and black pepper. Paired them with sage and lavender. Curious to try the sprigs as you have! As always, inspiring blog posts.

  6. I'm running it with a drill without issues. The motor would be nice if you were using it frequently or wanted a really consistent speed (and thus crush). No complaints so far, but I have only used it twice. Hoping their claims of being tested up to 200,000 lbs means this is a buy it for (homebrew) life.

    My tree never seems to grow the berries, or if it does I haven't noticed them. Either way I haven't used them. We have sage and lavender plants that are overgrowing, so I wouldn't mind trying something. Using the lavender early in the boil on a dark saison eventually after trying a couple beers brewed with it that had a cherry-tone.

  7. Tavo - yes it was a comment about the carbonation, as well as an interest in what more time would do for the Brett-juniper fusion. You can achieve higher carbonation initially with keg conditioning, but as you serve CO2 will leave the beer to pressurize the head space. If your lines aren't long enough you'll get foamy pours as well. Best of luck!

  8. Excellent content and videos! You make me wish I enjoyed funky sour beers.

  9. This one has captured my interest as I live in the hamlet of Cedar Grove (appropriately named). I've heard of brewing with juniper but honestly never equated it to Eastern Red Cedar. My wife will undoubtedly conclude I've completely lost my mind when I start boiling cedar twigs in the kitchen. Thanks for the inspiration.

  10. Hi Mike, what does the spelt add from a flavor and body perspective? I enjoy the rustic and husky flavors some saisons have (like a raw grain flavor) and have wondered if alternative grains could bring that out in a beer. Thanks
    P.S. just moved to Portland, you coming to NHC? Trying to get Pete Jones out here

  11. Spelt is similar to wheat. Certainly adds protein to help body, and likely added some of those doughy notes I got. I think MFB Pils has a bit of that husky flavor, not as clean as the German and American versions of Pilsner.

    No NHC for me this year, hopefully we'll be brewing at Sapwood Cellars by then!

  12. Were you selective in your harvest from the Cedar? (new growth, older growth, which season?) I noticed some small branches in your photo is why I ask. I am on the opposite coast and this peaked my curiosity for trying Western Red Cedar in a similar beer.

  13. I went for mostly the green/small branches. When I brewed a juniper beer with Right Proper, they used some larger branches. It resulted in a woodier flavor, unsurprisingly. I harvested when I was brewing, but the flavor does likely change with the seasons.

    That said, Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) isn't in the same genus as Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)! I can't speak to the safety of Western Red Cedar in brewing.

  14. Sounds very tasty, I want to do an evergreen infused saison but might go with sprucetips as they are all around my house... BTW have you used flaked spelt instead of flour ever? I use a pound or so of the flaked spelt in a 5G batch of Saison and folks dig it... Wonder if the flour makes a different contribution? Cheers!