A Home Brewer’s Personal Journey Through His Craft – Part 27
Brewing with Nonstandard Ingredients
100 bottles of beer on the wall, 100 bottles of beer, take some down and pass ’em around…10 more bottles of beer on the wall!
That’s where we are, the final 10 bottles. I sincerely apologize for having abandoned y’all on the trail for so long, but I have returned to continue our journey. I even brought a little trail mix for your enjoyment.
Nuts and seeds and weeds?
Whatever could that mean?
Well I am talking about brewing with nonstandard ingredients in beer. We have previously used various spices, fruits, and chilies; now we are going to expand upon that a bit. Historically, there have been many different herbs and flowers used to flavor beer. Such as bayberry, myrtle, birch bark, chamomile, ginseng, heather, sassafras, and sage; just to name a few. Some once popular beer flavorings have since been determined to be toxic.
It just has, over the decades and centuries, come down to hops being the most common in modern day brewing.
So, I am going to present to you four different brews, each using different combinations of nuts, seeds, and weeds, or herbs if you prefer; and, of course, we are still using hops as well. The first of these was inspired by Bristol Brewing’s Cheyenne Cañon Piñon Nut Brown. This is one of their Community Ales which benefit various organizations in and around Colorado Springs. This particular brew benefits The Friends of Cheyenne Cañon, a conservation group which works to conserve the Cheyenne Cañon recreational area.
Piñon Nut Brown
- 7 lbs light DME
- 1 lb Demerara sugar
- 10 oz 77L American crystal malt
- 7 oz chocolate malt
- 1 lb Roasted Pinon Nuts
- 1 oz Simcoe whole cone hops (60 min)
- 1 oz Chinook whole cone hops (60 min)
- 1 oz Chinook whole cone hops (30 min)
- 1 oz Simcoe whole cone hops (10 min)
- UCCS 1028 Olde English ale yeast
- Priming: ½ cup corn sugar & ½ cup DME
This is an original extract with specialty grains recipe inspired by the Bristol brew but not necessarily based on it.
Piñon nuts are also known as pine nuts.
Roast the Nuts
Roast the shelled piñon nuts for 20 minutes at 350°F, checking and stirring every 5 minutes. Nuts should begin to brown.
Steep the milled grains in a grain bag in 3 gallons of cold water and heat just to boiling. Remove from heat and remove grains and let drain back into kettle. Add the DME and Demerara and bring to boil. Add 1 oz Chinook and 1 oz Simcoe in hop bags and pinon nuts in a grain bag, boil for 30 minutes and then add 1 oz Chinook and boil for 20 minutes. Finally add 1 oz Simcoe and boil for last 10 minutes. Total boil time: 60 minutes.
Remove hops and nuts and let drain back into kettle. Cool the wort and pour into fermenter with yeast. OG was 1.060.
After 8 days, rack to secondary and bottle after another 9 days. FG was 1.016 for an ABV of about 6%.
This beer had a bit of a sharp bitterness with a nutty dryness. Color was a very nice reddish brown. Very nice brew and compared well with Bristol version.
Well there you have the nuts, now lets move on to the seeds.
The next brew was also somewhat inspired by the Bristol Piñon Nut, but in a different way. One day at work at Bristol I was munching on a bag of sunflower seeds and thinking about the Piñon Nut, which the brewers were brewing that day. And I thought, “Has anyone ever made a beer with sunflower seeds?”
I asked the Bristol brewers if they had ever heard of anyone brewing with sunflower seeds. No. I asked brewers from other breweries and other home brewers. No. So, I decided I would blaze the trail on this one. I gave it some thought and decided Sunflower Wheat sounded just right.
- 7.5 lbs American White Wheat malt
- 3 lbs American 2-row malt
- 1 lb German Light Munich malt
- 1 lb American 10L Crystal malt
- 2 lb Wildflower honey
- 1 lb Roasted Raw Sunflower seeds
- 1 tsp Irish Moss (10 min)
- 1 oz Home Grown Brewers Gold whole cone hops (60 min)
- 1 oz Home Grown Santiam whole cone hops (60 min)
- 1 oz Home Grown Brewers Gold whole cone hops (30 min)
- .75 oz Home Grown Santiam whole cone hops (10 min)
- .75 oz Home Grown whole cone hop blend* (10 min steep)
- UCCS 1010 American Wheat yeast
- Priming: 1/3 cup corn sugar & 1/3 cup DME & 1/3 cup honey
*Hop blend is hops which I salvaged after a hail storm knocked them off the vines. It is primarily a mix of Brewers Gold, Santiam, Perle, Willamette, and small amount of various others.
Preparing the Seeds
Use only shelled, raw, unsalted sunflower seeds. Roast 1 lb for 30 minutes at 350°F, checking and stirring every five minutes. Seeds began to brown.
Crush seeds in grain mill to break the thin hull on each seed. Aroma from warm seeds as they were being crushed was amazing.
This is a step infusion mash. Heat 9 quarts water to 100°F and add all milled grains, stir well and cover and let mash for 30 minutes. Heat to 122°F by adding 1 gallon 140°F water and applying heat. Cover and mash for 20 minutes. Heat to 145°F and cover and mash for 60 minutes. Total mash time is 2 hours.
Lauter and sparge with 145°F sparge water and collect 7 gallons of wort. Bring to boil and continue boiling for 30 minutes.
Add honey and sunflower seeds in a grain bag and return to boil. Add hops and Irish Moss at times indicated for an additional 60 minute boil; total boil time 90 minutes.
Remove from heat and add hop blend for a 10 minute steep, then remove all hop and grain bags before cooling and pour into fermenter with yeast. OG was 1.072
This wort had a unique aroma, not bad, just different than all previous brews.
An Oil Slick!
After 2 weeks in the primary and 2 weeks in the secondary, it was ready to bottle. It was interesting in that after the fermentation settled down in the primary, there were puddles of sunflower oil floating on top of the wort. It was fairly easy to rack to secondary and avoid picking up any of the oil slick. FG was 1.010 for an ABV of approximately 8.2%.
This turned out to be one of the best wheat beers I have ever tried. It had a typical cloudy orange color and the banana-clove esters were subtle. The sunflower seeds came through as a nutty dry flavor, primarily in the finish. It was an excellent brew.
Moving on to our next brew we are staying with seeds but this time more in the form of seeds normally used as spices. Pumpernickel Stout is an original recipe based on a couple of recipes from various sources. I am trying to duplicate the spicy nutty dark flavor of pumpernickel rye bread in a beer.
- 8 lb British two row pale malt
- 2 lb Rye malt
- 1 ½ lb American Red Wheat malt
- ½ lb American White Wheat malt
- 1 ½ lb British Chocolate malt
- 1 ½ lb American 120L crystal malt
- ½ lb British Black patent malt
- 10 oz American Roasted barley
- 12 oz flaked Maize
- 4 oz rice hulls
- 1 cup Organic blackstrap molasses
- 1 Tbsp caraway seeds (5 min boil)
- 1 Tbsp black peppercorns (5 min boil)
- 1 Tbsp green peppercorns (5 min boil)
- 1 tsp caraway seeds (secondary)
- 1 tsp black peppercorns (secondary)
- 1 tsp green peppercorns (secondary)
- 2 oz Homegrown Brewers Gold whole cone hops (60 min)
- 1 oz Homegrown Willamette whole cone hops (10 min)
- 1 tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
- 2 tsp gypsum
- UCCS 1028 Olde English Ale Yeast
- Priming: ½ cup corn sugar and ½ cup DME
Avoiding a Stuck Mash
Heat 4 gallons cold water treated with gypsum to 164°F. Mash in all milled malts, barley, maize, and rice hulls. The rice hulls are used to keep the rye and maize from thickening up and causing a stuck mash.
Stabilize temperature at 152°F, cover and let mash for 75 minutes. Raise temperature to 160°F and transfer to lauter-tun and sparge with 170°F water. Collect 7 gallons of wort, bring to boil and add Brewers Gold, boil for 45 minutes. Add Irish Moss, boil for 5 minutes, add molasses and Willamette, boil for 5 minutes, add 1 Tbsp each of crushed caraway and peppercorns, and boil for final 5 minutes of 60 minute boil. Remove from heat and cool before pouring into fermenter with yeast. OG was 1.070.
After 4 days of primary fermentation which began very vigorously, rack to secondary with 1 tsp each of crushed caraway and peppercorns. Intermediate gravity was 1.021. It was bottled after 3 weeks in the secondary. FG was 1.020 for about 6.8% ABV.
This came out very good, dark roasted malt flavor with a subtle spiciness from the rye and peppercorns. The caraway was very subtle but was there if you knew to look for it. The carbonation was very low with a thin creamy brown head. After aging a bit the pepper and caraway became stronger but it never developed the caraway aroma I had hoped for. Overall, it was a very good stout.
OK, enough of nuts and seeds, lets move on to weeds. More specifically, lemongrass, which is a grassy herb with a subtle lemon flavor which I had seen suggested as a beer flavoring somewhere. I decided this should go in a lager instead of ale. I decided on a German light lager known as Helles. Helles is German for light. It is similar to Pilsner but tends to be a little heavier in body than Pilsner. It also does not necessarily contain Pilsner malt.
- 11 lb 2 row pale Malt
- ½ lb American Carapils malt
- ½ lb German Light Munich Malt
- ½ lb German 2.5L light crystal malt
- 1 oz Vanguard hop pellets (60 min)
- 1 oz Hallertau Hersbrucker hop pellets (30 min)
- 1 oz Hallertau Hersbrucker hop pellets (15 min)
- 1 tablet WhirlFloc (15 min)
- .36 oz dried lemongrass stalks (5 min plus 10 min steep)
- .18 oz dried lemongrass stalks (dry hop secondary)
- UCCS 2305 Munich Lager yeast
- Priming: 2/3 cup corn sugar and 1/3 cup DME
This is a standard single infusion mash. Heat 16 quarts of water to 170°F and mash in the milled grains. The temperature dropped to 156°F. The target was 153°F but this is close enough. Cover and let mash for 60 minutes and then lauter and sparge with 180°F water. Collect 6 gallons of wort and bring to boil adding hops at times indicated for a total 60 minute boil. Add the Whirlfloc tablet for the final 15 minutes and .36 oz lemongrass for the final 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and let step for 10 minutes before removing hops and lemongrass.
Whirlfloc is a new form of fining which comes in tablet form. I believe it contains powdered Irish Moss or perhaps just the active ingredient in the moss, carrageen. The tablet fizzes away in the wort like an Alka-Seltzer tablet and seems to settle out the debris faster than the moss.
The amount of lemongrass was defined by the contents of the spice jar found in the spice section of the grocery store. One jar, net weight .18 oz, so two jars were used in the boil.
After removing the hops and lemongrass, cool the wort and pour into fermenter with yeast. OG was 1.056.
After 5 days in the primary, rack to secondary fermenter and add the final jar, .18 oz, of lemongrass. Intermediate gravity was 1.012 for about 6% ABV.
After 14 days in secondary, prime and bottle. FG was 1.010 for about 6.2% ABV. I did not let this lager at cold temperature. It just conditioned at cellar temp like all my beers. It finished slightly darker than a pilsner but chill haze made it look like a hefe. The flavor was herbal and lemony with a slightly heavy body. The lemongrass came through just like a dry hop at the finish would. It made a very interesting and refreshing summer time brew. The relatively high ABV was not really apparent.
Well, as promised, there are four beers using non-standard ingredients, nuts, seeds, and weeds. But wait…
What is this growing along the trail? It looks like a fungus. I believe it may be a mushroom. No, not the magic kind, but some very tasty looking Chanterelle mushrooms. I believe we could probably make a beer with these as well. No, really, yes we can!
In his book, Radical Brewing, Randy Mosher writes about the history of beer and many unusual methods and ingredients, past and present. He also shares many recipes replicating many historical and unusual beers. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in beer and home brewing. I just knew I had to make the following recipe the moment I read it and his description of the beer, “an ethereal fruitiness, delicate and complex.” I made a few changes just because I always want to put my own personal twist on everything. Since fresh Chanterelles are nearly impossible to find here, I had to settle for dried.
Nirvana Chanterelle Ale
- 12 lb American 2 row malt
- 1.5 lb Munich malt
- 1.5 lb wheat malt
- .5 lb dark Munich malt
- 1 oz Czech Sladek hop pellets (90 min)
- 1.5 oz Czech Sladek hop pellets (30 min)
- 1.5 oz Czech Sladek hop pellets (10 min)
- ½ tsp Irish Moss (10 min)
- .5 oz Czech Sladek hop pellets (end of boil)
- .5 oz Cascade hop pellets (end of boil)
- 1 oz dried Chanterelle mushrooms
- 1 pint Vodka
- UCCS 1214 Belgian Abbey Ale yeast
- Priming: 2/3 cup corn sugar and 1/3 cup DME
Get Them Mushrooms Drunk!
Start by crumbling up the dried chanterelles and soaking them in the vodka in a sealed container. This will be added to the beer at bottling.
This is a step infusion mash. Heat 16 quarts water to 124°F and mash in the milled grains. Stabilize temperature at 113°F, cover and let mash for 30 minutes. Raise heat to 145°F and mash for 30 minutes. Increase heat again to 155°F and mash for final 45 minutes. Raise heat to 170°F and mash out, lauter and sparge with 170°F water. Collect 7 gallons of wort.
Bring to boil and add hops at times indicated for a total 90 minute boil. Cool the wort.
Due to the large amount of hop debris I decided to try to do a whirlpool to separate some of the hops from the wort. Vigorously stir the cooled wort in a constant circular motion. This will concentrate the hop debris in the center of the kettle. Instead of just pouring the wort into the fermenter, siphon it from the bottom edge of the kettle. I do not know how well this worked as there was still a lot of debris going into the carboy, but there was a lot left behind in the kettle as well. Pitch the yeast. OG was 1.078, target was 1.083, close enough.
After 4 days of vigorous activity it settled down and was ready to rack to a secondary. Intermediate gravity was 1.020 for about 7.5% ABV.
Add the Mushrooms at Bottling
After 10 days in the secondary it was ready to bottle. I racked the beer into the bottling bucket and took a gravity reading before adding vodka/mushroom extract, 1.020, no change. Strain the vodka through a coffee filter to remove the mushroom bits and pour it into the bucket. A gravity reading taken now showed minimal change to 1.019. I called the ABV 7.5%.
I let it bottle condition for 3 weeks before trying one. Oh my God! Orgasmic!
It is really that good; a little darker than a Belgian Golden with just a hint of haziness. The flavor is obviously Belgian without being too strong. Ethereal is a perfect description, slightly earthy, woodsy, with an unidentifiable subtle fruitiness. This was awesome! Very Excellent!
So, there we have five beers using non-standard ingredients, nuts and seeds and weeds and fungi!
That leaves us with only five more until the end of the journey. Oh my! We are almost dry!
Keep on Brewin’
To be continued…
References: Randy Mosher, Radical Brewing, copyright 2004