A HOME BREWER’S PERSONAL JOURNEY THROUGH HIS CRAFT – Part 34 – Ethiopian T’ej
Yes, loyal followers, I have finally created a new edition of this epic chronicle. Read on to learn of a completely different kind of brew. Is it beer? Is it mead? Well, it is both. It is Ethiopian T’ej.
As you know, I have always been drawn to creating new and unique versions of the established styles. Experimenting with different flavors or implementing old time methods into new beers. I also enjoy sampling new beers that pique my interest when browsing the cooler at the liquor store. Sometimes, I am driven to replicate or at least take a clue from a particularly interesting brew. This is one of those…
I had recently sampled a unique creation from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Miles Davis Bitches Brew, named for the landmark, ground-breaking, jazz-fusion album of 1970. The bottle label features the album cover artwork. This brew is an amalgam of two styles, Imperial Stout and Ethiopian T’ej. T’ej is a honey wine or mead brewed in many households and huts in Ethiopia. It is flavored with various parts (leaves, twigs, roots) of the Gesho plant, a buckthorn indigenous to the area. Gesho is commonly referred to as Ethiopian Hops although it has no taxonomical relationship to hops.
So, I set out to brew a clone of the Bitches Brew. I decided to call it Rastaman Stout after the Rastafarian movement which traces its roots to Ethiopia. It was easy to source some Gesho from Brundo Ethiopian Spices via Amazon.com. They carry Gesho Entchet, which is dried stems and twigs, and Gesho Kitel, dried leaves. I ordered some of both for this brew.
And, there is another ingredient central to the Rastafarian beliefs…Ganja! The roots of this brew are in Ethiopia, which is what inspired the name; which made me think of the cannabis connection; which, I thought, made this a perfect candidate for another experiment with a canna-brew. This stout is made with no hops…zero, nada, none…just the Gesho and Ganja. You may recall, this is not my first foray into creating a beer with marijuana as an ingredient. And yes, I live in Colorado, so it is legal. Refer back to my post, Strange Brew, from June, 2015.
I had previously brewed a beer called Bitch’s Brew. It was a more conventional oatmeal stout. Refer back to Part 8 for info on that brew.
Back to the Brew
The Bitches Brew is produced using three threads of stout and one thread of T’ej, each brewed separately and blended. I chose to make mine as a single combined brew using ingredients from each thread. I also took some hints from the Ethiopian T’ej recipe in Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head. Along with the honey for the T’ej, I added sorghum syrup. Sorghum is a grass similar to sugar cane also native to Africa just like Gesho. And, just because I had some I wanted to use, malted buckwheat. Oh, yes…and the ganja!
- 3 lb (1 quart) honey
- 3 lb (1 quart) sorghum
- 8 lb 2-row pale malt
- 4 lb malted buckwheat
- 2 lb C-120
- 8 oz black patent malt
- 8 oz chocolate malt
- 8 oz roasted barley
- 8 oz midnight wheat
- 1 tsp Amylase Enzyme
- 1.2 oz Homegrown marijuana buds (Ganga – second boil)
- 8.8 oz Ethiopian hop leaves – (Gesho Kitel – second boil)
- 8 oz Ethiopian hop stems – (Gesho Entchet – secondary)
- 1 Whirlfloc tablet (15 min)
- UCCS 720 Sweet Mead yeast
- Priming: 1/2 cup honey & 1/3 cup DME
Step by Step
Heat 18 quarts 166°F strike water for 152°F mash-in. Mash with Amylase Enzyme for 60 minutes. Raise to 170°F mash-out and sparge with 170°F water. Collect 3 gallons of wort. Wort was very sweet and syrupy. Continue sparging and collect another 4 gallons for the next brew, Little Rastaman. Yes, we are gonna do a small!
Bring the 3 gallons wort to boil and at the same time bring another 2 gallons of water to boil in another pot. Add Gesho leaves and Ganja to second pot. Return to boil and simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Strain into 1st kettle.
Bring combined kettle to boil and stir in honey and sorghum. Return to boil, add Whirlfloc and boil for 15 minutes. Cool wort and pitch yeast. OG 1.088
Primary fermentation for 9 days. Became very vigorous and some bubbled out through the lock on day 2.
Rack to secondary for 14 days on Gesho Entchet.
FG 1.024 for 8.6 ABV. Bottled in 22 oz. Bombers.
This took about six weeks to develop a proper carbonation level but, was worth the wait. Really excellent with a full-bodied, smooth silky mouthfeel. I struggled to come up with words to describe it. Tasted like beer but decidedly different. Obviously, no hops, a bit herbal, a bit floral, some woodsy flavor, with some hints of chocolate and molasses. The brew was very dark but, not really roasty. Although the brew was sweet tasting, the aroma was sweeter. This brew was really an enigma…just like Rastaman himself.
This was really excellent. I didn’t even miss the hops. And how did the marijuana work out in this brew? I do not think there was any THC in it. Perhaps extraction method was inefficient or the Ganga was just weak.
How did Rastaman measure up against Bitches Brew? The ABV was similar, 8.6 vs 9.0. My Rastaman was a bit sweeter and less roasty than the Bitches Brew. Both were very good but, and its probably pride talking, I liked mine better!
What About That Small?
This is bit more conventional brew. It has hops and no Gesho or Ganja, just a bunch of adjunct sugars.
- 4 gallons wort from Rastaman Stout
- 1 lb Light DME
- 1.5 lb Organic brown sugar
- 1/2 oz homegrown Brewers Gold hops (60 min)
- 3/4 oz Summit hop pellets (15 min)
- 1 oz Vanguard hop pellets (15 min)
- 1 oz Vanguard hop pellets (10 min)
- 1 Whirlfloc tablet (15 min)
- 11 g Lallemand Dry-97 West Coast yeast
- Priming: ¼ cup corn sugar & ¼ cup DME
Step by Step
Bring wort to boil. Add DME and brown sugar. Return to boil and add hops and Whirlfloc with times indicated for a total 60 minute boil, then cool and pitch re-hydrated yeast.
Added the second ounce of Vanguard after smelling the boil. Seemed it needed more hops.
I’m really not sure why, but I did not strain out the hops. I let the primary fermentation continue with the hops. I was lucky it did not get overly active as the hops could have plugged the lock and made a real mess of this.
OG 1.070. Really not so small.
After 9 days in the primary it was ready to rack to the secondary. Intermediate gravity 1.018 for about 7% ABV. Was really difficult to rack as the hops I had neglected to strain out kept plugging the siphon. Flavor was very roasty, bitter and hoppy. Really kind of nondescript, for a stout.
Was ready to bottle after 10 days in the secondary. Never got any sign of activity and has cleared very well. FG 1.018 so, we stayed at 7% ABV.
Dark, rich and roasty with strong hop bitterness but not much flavor or aroma from the hops. Very good stout with a lot of roast flavor and just enough hop but, more would have been better. Really kind of mellow for 7%. Very black. Hard to believe it was a small.
I wondered after these brews what a more traditional T’ej would be like. So, I decided to brew the Ethiopian T’ej recipe in Sam’s Extreme Brewing. So, this is not a re-make of the Rastaman Stout. It is more of a pre-make. Since I just cannot leave well enough alone, I tweaked the recipe a little bit by increasing the honey by one pound, substituting 3.3 lb LME with 3 lb DME and adding the wheat DME. This is technically a braggot, mead brewed with grain malt. (Read all about mead in Part 31 of this journey) Again, no hops, and this time, no Ganja.
- 9 lb honey
- 3 lb light DME
- 1 lb wheat DME
- 8.8 oz Ethiopian hop leaves – Gesho Kitel
- 10 oz Ethiopian hop stems – Gesho Entchet (secondary)
- UCCS 720 Sweet Mead yeast
- Priming: 6 oz honey
Step by Step
Soak Gesho Kitel in 16 quarts (15.1 L) cold water and slowly bring to boil. Stir in all DME until fully dissolved, return to boil and stir in honey. Remove from heat when it begins to boil again. Strain out Gesho, cool wort and pitch yeast.
Primary fermentation for 9 days. Secondary fermentation for 9 days on Gesho Entchet. OG 1.092 for about 9.5% ABV.
Like the Rastaman, this took six weeks to reach an adequate carbonation level which continued to improve to champagne level after about three months. It retained a hefe-like cloudiness which never completely settled out. Fairly light body with a honey aroma. Sweet with malt, honey, and woodsy herbal flavors. Really, a very nice mead with the unique flavor of the Gesho.
Ethiopian T’ej proved to be a very worthwhile experiment. A great base to build on for future brews and another trick in the home brew backpack.
That’s It…For Now
That’s three more brews down. Where are we now? Somewhere over 100 and still counting. Keep on Brewin’