Saturday, September 3, 2016

Raspberry Cane Session Ale--a full on experiment

A while back, I was reading Larsblog, a fantastic resource on farmhouse brewing written by Lars Garshol and noted an unusual brew he mentioned when taking a tour of yet another Lithuanian farmhouse was brewed with raspberry canes in the mash.  Being as I have plenty of raspberry plants, I immediately wanted to try it as an ingredient.

His notes in the blog post say this:
Laukiniu Aviečiu
A darker beer brewed with raspberry stems. More bitter and astringent, with some odd flavours that must come from the raspberry stems. I've puzzled over this beer. Why raspberry stems? It's such an unusual ingredient. Raspberries, sure. But why the stems? I've never heard of that from anywhere else, ever.
And later in the post he mentions that they were laid on the bottom of the (wooden) mash ton and act as a filter/false bottom.  I chose to use a good handful of first year (mostly), freshly harvested canes which are still green, and left most of the leaves on; none of the canes were cut to more than 18 inches long, or so.  Immediately upon filling my mash ton, I noted a potential issue...raspberry canes float.  It turns out that it wasn't much of an issue--I pushed them to the bottom as I poured the grains in, and and the weight of the saturated grain kept them there; some finagling was needed, but not much.  Btw, translate says the beer name (Laukiniu Aviečiu) means Wild Raspberries.

You can see two bungs at the left.
I originally was going to just add some to my BIAB bag, but ended up deciding (partly because I got ready to brew, and my bag was AWOL) to turn a 5 gallon bucket into a mash ton which could fit in my 5.5 gallon brewpot.  So I decided to drill two, 1/2" holes just above the bottom, and about one inch apart--I figured that two small holes would be less likely to let anything through, while keeping them fairly close would let me tilt the ton to in, setting it up on the lip of my kettle, above the wort.  That is all I used, equipment-wise--mash ton made of a 5 gallon bucket, standard stainless kettle.  If I decide to continue with this style of brewing--at least occasionally--I will need a better ton (wood would be best, of course, but prohibitively expensive for me), and a way to plug the bunghole.

So, onward to my actual recipe.  Because I am making this as a "historic" or "primitive" ale, I chose to keep the malts simple--a couple of standard pale malts, brown malt for colour because historically it would have been difficult to get perfectly pale malt, touch of wheat.  The only non-simple malt was some acid malt, added for my standard ph adjustment.

I decided on the British malts because I wanted something with a bit more maltiness than pilsner or pale, and to help minimize the risk of DMS.  In addition to experimenting with an entirely new ingredient and mash process, I decided I wanted to take the opportunity to work on a true Session ale--low alcohol ales, but maintaining full scale flavour is even more difficult than brewing big beers.   And I like a challenge, blast it.  

My goal with the finished product was to make a small ale which would not have been at all out of place in the middle ages (at least in Lithuania....).

3lb Marris Otter | 55%
1.5lb Golden Promise | 27%
0.5 oz Brown Malt (60srm,ish) | 9%
0.5 German wheat malt | 9%
6oz acid malt

Following the processes outlined in the various farmhouse ale articles, I mashed hot--aiming for a strike temp of 74* Celsius.  That particular choice was also made to maximize body--since this is a session ale, I do /not/ want it to finish dry.

Again, following the standard processes and reading a number of articles on historical brewing, I decided to make it as a raw ale; partly because I wanted to get as close as I can to authentic, with my materials, and partly for historical reasons.  The logic being that it would cost money (in the form of energy, if nothing else) to do an hour long boil or more.  Now, this could be gotten around by using the brewhouse as a sauna (not sure how hygenic this is...) so you get more than one use out of the fire, or even (theoretically) doing a boil over the main hearth.

Since there is no boil, there is no chance for the hops to isomerize.  Which means that it will be low bitterness--probably good, since I suspect the raspberry stalks and leaves have a fair amount of tannins, which would clash...and I still don't care for bitter, anyways.  While I could have left the hops out completely (even though hops have been a common addition since the mid-1400s or earlier) and made a gruit, I didn't want to add yet another set of new ingredients (someday...) to an already experimental brew.  So I decided on styrian golding leaf hops--a fairly classic continental variety with English roots, which is one of my personal favourites--added to the "boil"; i.e. to the hot wort while it cools enough to be siphoned into my carboy.
A number of hop pieces, as well as oil pockets, made it into the carboy; I do not believe it matters in the slightest.  They will settle out after fermentation.

I would like to note that I was bad, and did not sparge as I should have--I tried full volume, which is fine, except I didn't account for the wort left in the grains (at normal levels, compared to BIAB, which can be squeezed out). Next time, I will.

The yeast choice is being...difficult.  While my preference would be to use my wild strain from last year--I think the flavours would work quite nicely--I don't want to have to wait 6+ months to ensure fermentation is complete.  So I figure I have a couple of choices based on what I happen to have on hand; dry saison yeast, which could take it too low in FG; AW4 wine yeast, which is probably my favourite choice, especially since I want to see how it performs again in a wort; or the farmhouse classic (if kviek isn't available)...bread yeast.  I ended up deciding on the wine yeast, because it should add some body, as well as subtle flavours; next time I use this process I will go with a saison yeast (and a non-session grist) since high attenuation and peppery flavours aren't uncommon for the farmhouse ales (or I might blend the two...).  As for the bread yeast, I should note that American bread yeast would not be the same as that sold in the Baltics.

9-2-16; Started: OG and volume are right about on.  OG 1.035.  Pitched AW4 wine yeast, direct.  Flavour of the wort is quite nice--I could drink it as is; malty, with a touch of hop flavour and a bare hint of bitterness.  Not very sweet at all (go figure.  Disclaimer that I just rinsed with a very sweet liqueur); I'm looking forwards to seeing what it tastes like when done.  I do plan to bottle (mostly in larger format), but with very low levels of carbonation--aiming for 1 volume, if that; just enough for modern palate and to get a slight head, while keeping well within cask levels, if not those for the most traditional (served immediately) raw ales.

9-3-16; And we have fermentation, with a thin layer of bubbles, including several large, glassy ones.  Not the norm for ales, but Lars shows a vaguely similar in one of his posts.  Does it include a wine-like strain, or is it from the wort being unboiled?  I don't remember getting a similar layer the last time I used this yeast in a beer.


9-10-16; Very green, with a distinctly sulfurous aroma--doesn't show in taste, though.  FG was 1.020, and flavour fairly nice.  Bottled with 0.5oz of white sugar, in large format bottles.

Raw Ale:

Raspberry Cane Ale:

Session Ales:

© John Frey, 2016. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material.  The recipes and other contents therein may not be used for any commercial purposes.

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