Thursday, July 12, 2018

Buckwheat Saison with Cashmere Hops

Shaking the wort to introduce oxygen.The Bootleg Biology isolated version of my house Brett-saison culture is available for the next few days, so I decided to hustle to write this post featuring my OG blend... especially because after I just quit my day job of the last 12 years with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Gotta get that yeast money until Sapwood Cellars is up and running!

I'm a bad microbe owner. I don't do well when I have to keep a culture going with regular feedings. Whether it was kombucha, ginger beer plant, or sourdough eventually whatever the yeast or bacteria it ends up in the fridge, ignored until I toss it. My house saison culture was getting close, having sat in a growler for nearly seven months since the Juniper-El Dorado Saison. Luckily, years of neglect and mistreatment have selected for only the hardiest bugs...

Wort from the buckwheat saison... a bit gray.This batch was a bit of a cupboard raid. I had two bags of Arrowhead Mills buckwheat flour that I impulse-bought on sale. A few years ago, I brewed a sour amber ale with buckwheat (milled and pre-boiled) with good results. Buckwheat contains caprylic acid, which there is some chance Brett converts to pineapple-scented ethyl caprylate. It also seems to have the same beer-darkening effect as oats when I left this batch exposed to the air (despite much lower oxidation-catylizing manganese - 1.3 mg/100g vs. 4.3 mg for oats). On the mouthfeel-side, the two contain a similar amount of beta glucans according to this study.

I didn't love the "whole wheat dishwater" gray color of the wort, but it looks great now that it is finished!

I also had a pound of Cashmere hops in the freezer untouched from my last bulk order. They are a relatively recent hybrid of Cascade and Northern Brewer. They seemed like a potential candidate for a NEIPA hop-blend, with positive descriptors of tropical, citrus (including lemongrass), peach, and coconut. I've enjoyed several hop-forward beers with this blend (e.g. New Zealan' Saison). So I added a large dose at flame-out as the sole hop addition.

Despite pitching the yeast directly from the fridge (to avoid gushing), the they woke up in a hurry. By the next day the head was thick enough that it looked more like bread dough than beer. Even if you don't need the culture immediately, clearly it can handle a few months in your fridge!

I decided to leave half the batch as is (currently naturally conditioning in the keg) while the Cashmere dry-hopped half is on tap force-carbonated.

Indian-Subcontinent Saison

Smell – Nice blend of citrusy top-notes plus earthy base from the buckwheat and saison yeast. I don’t get coconut specifically from the hops, but there is richness to the aroma. At less than a month old the Brett isn’t bold, but it doesn't smell completely clean.

Appearance – GLOWING. The ultra-pale base really lets the light into the hazy body. Anti-gravity head retention.

Taste – Grapefruit, melon, faint spices, and a hint of pancake batter. Slight bitterness from the whirlpool addition, no real acidity. The yeast pepperiness isn't as strong as a classic saison, which is one of the things that makes this culture work well with fruitier hops. Not as dry as saisons (including this blend) usually are, not sure if that is poor conversion of the flour or unhealthy yeast.

Mouthfeel - Saisons around 5% ABV are often thin, but thanks to the high FG and the beta glucans from the buckwheat this one has some of the softness of a NEIPA. The carbonation is still a little low, which contributes to that impression as well. That will likely change with more time on gas.

Drinkability & Notes – Saturated with a diverse array of flavors and aromas. Despite the haphazard construction it all actually works. The yeast is subtle enough not to get in the way, and interesting enough to connect the hops and grain. The bigger body makes me forget it is a session beer... especially next to the 2.2% and 1.9% ABV beers on tap now. I'll have to try Cashmere in a cleaner base beer, but a great first impression!

Changes for Next Time – I’ll be interested to taste the non-dry hopped half with more time warm to develop fermentation character. Hopefully the Brett doesn't generate too much carbonation while it is sitting warm. I might go back to whole buckwheat next time to see if that removes some of the "raw" grain notes.

The finished Buckwheat Saison with Cashmere hops.


Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 2.8
IBU: 31.2
OG: 1.047
FG: 1.010
ABV: 5.0%
Final pH: 4.42
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 mins

87.8% - 18 lbs Briess Pilsen Malt
12.2 % - 2.5  lbs Arrowhead Mills Buckwheat Flour

Mash In - 45 min @ 150F

Whole Batch
8.00 oz Cashmere (Pellets 8.50 % AA) - 30 min Steep/Whirlpool Hop

Half Batch
3.00 oz Cashmere (Pellets 8.50 % AA) - Dry Hop @ Day 3

10.00 g Calcium Chloride @ Mash
10.00 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) @ Mash


3.00 tsp Phosphoric Acid 10% @ Mash
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient  @ 10 mins
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 min

Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend

Brewed 6/16/18

All DC tap water, carbon filtered. Wort looked a little gray and gloppy thanks to the buckwheat initially. Cleaned up pretty nicely with the boil.

Chilled to 75F, shook to aerate, pitched decanted house saison blend straight from the fridge (harvested seven months earlier... from the juniper El Dorado saison).

Left at 75F ambient to ferment.

6/19/18 Dry hopped half.

6/30/18 Kegged at 1.010. Force carbed for the dry hopped half, 2.5 oz of table sugar for the non-dry hopped half.

Nice looking head!

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sweedld said...


Buckwheat is a very interesting pseudocereal for brewing beer. The Japanese are the biggest consumers of buckwheat and freshly made Soba noodles are a delicacy eaten all over Japan. The noodle makers will insist on using the freshly harvested buckwheat and mill it quickly before each batch of noodles is made by hand. In Japan the soba flour is made with various proportion of the hulls removed to satisfy each noodle makers desire for a stronger or milder buckwheat taste. The Anson Mills flour was probably completely dehulled. And also not very fresh if it was on sale. Buckwheat flour is considered old in Japan when it is a week since milled and sifted. Japanese Soba makers often have their very own stone grinding Soba mill right in the noodle shop to keep the flour as fresh as possible.

If you decide to revisit buckwheat brewing, consider sourcing a freshly harvested batch of whole buckwheat and milling or cracking it yourself. Buckwheat oxidizes in air much faster than wheat flours and the lipids also oxidize to produce bitter flavors that are not desirable.I have heard of other brewers sprouting the buckwheat seeds and malting them to make an all buckwheat grain beer without barley or wheat. Because buckwheat is 18% protein by weight it will produce haze unless settled out over a long time.

Tim Houston said...

A few years ago I read about the Antwerp beer called Seefbier here:

and took a stab at making it. I couldn't find a recipe online, so I just went with a pale malt base, and added about a pound each of wheat malt, oatmeal, and buckwheat kasha, which my grocery store sells with other Jewish foods. Kasha is just cracked buckwheat. I boiled the buckwheat and oats before adding to the mash since I've read you need to do that with non-gelatinized grains. I think I used mild amounts of Saaz and fermented with T58 yeast.

I couldn't hazard a guess what specifically the buckwheat added among all the other grains, but it certainly didn't hurt. It was a nice light, easy drinking summer Belgianish beer.

Unknown said...

It's like you're inside my mind when you're coming up with recipes! Big fan of Cashmere as of late - I did a Brett pale ale with Bootleg's Funk Weapon 2 and all Cashmere and I got a ton of melon and citrus rind out of it, which was really intense when layered with the Brett's heavy pineapple aromatics. I've been planning a buckwheat grisette, too, so I will probably lean on this recipe when I get around to it!

Unknown said...

Any thoughts on when you use Phosphoric Acid vs Lactic Acid to lower the pH of the mash?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

No real intention one way or another, I don't taste a difference in light usage. There is a bigger risk that lactate will become above-threshold, so phosphoric is a better default. Some lactic may be beneficial for Brett to produce the ester ethyl lactate.

Unknown said...

So, is the buckwheat flour handled differently than you the cracked grain from your previous work? Does the flour go straight into the mash, or do you have to gelatinize that as well?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I added the buckwheat flour directly to the mash. Pre=boiling with extra water would guarantee great conversion, but the small particle size makes gelatinization in the mash feasible.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Mike!