Monday, 3 November 2014

Brew Day: Buckwheat Saison

Like spelt, I usually have some buckwheat groats on hand for baking and other purposes, and I've been meaning to use some in a beer for quite some time.  I finally got round to using some in the grist for a saison I brewed this weekend.  The immediate cause of this brew day was reading about a beer I'll probably never get to try, the Blaugies/Hill Farmstead collaboration Le Sarrasin.  It sounded pretty delicious, and since I'm using the Blaugies strain anyway at the moment, now seemed a good time to try to brew something along the same lines.

The grist was very straight-forward.  The Hill Farmstead page mentioned using 30% spelt, so I followed suit, making up the rest with pilsner and a small amount of 6-row to help with conversion.  I crushed and boiled the groats into a thick and goopy porridge, then added this back to the main mash as I took it through the steps described in Farmhouse Ales: 113°F, 131°F, 144°F, 154°F.  The final wort was hazy and had a slightly silky mouthfeel---perhaps a sign that there were unconverted starches, though I was actually a little over my predicted O.G.  I'm not particularly worried if there is some starch in the wort, as it will provide food for the LAB during secondary fermentation.

I'd originally planned to use a blend of Sterling and Crystal for the hopping, but at the last moment I decided to use up some 2012 Amarillo pellets in place of the Crystal.  They gave the wort a really nice floral character that I hope carries over into the final beer.  Since I'm going to sour this beer I kept the bitterness fairly low, and added the final hops as the wort was cooling.

Primary fermentation will be done by Wyeast 3726.  I have a year old lambic brewed with ECY20 that I'm hoping to transfer onto some fresh fruit in the next few weeks.  I'm a little concerned about how its going to taste, since it has more headspace than many of my aging beers and I've had to move the carboy around a few times, all of which might have increased the oxygen in the beer and encouraged acetobacter.  Assuming the beer is fine, I'll use whatever doesn't get transferred onto the fruit to inoculate this saison in secondary---it probably won't be more than a 500ml or so.  If the beer tastes vinegary, I'll inoculate with dregs.  I may also add some white wine and oak, depending on how it tastes after primary.

It will be interesting to see how this beer ages.  Apparently buckwheat has a significant amount of caprylic acid in it.  Since this fatty acid is associated with various off-flavours in beer (goaty ones presumably), it would generally be undesirable.  But brettanomyces should be able to convert the acid into the ester ethyl caprylate, which is described in Wild Brews as "Waxy, Wine, Floral, Fruity, Pineapple, Apricot, Banana, Pear, Brandy".  That would blend pretty well with the flavours I am hoping for in this beer, though when Michael Tonsemeire tried something along the same lines he didn't get much of this character.  I'm planning to age this one for a few months before bottling, so time will tell.


Measured O.G: 1.044
Measured F.G:

Mash: Farmhouse Ales step-mash.


74.5% Pilsner
29.0% Buckwheat Groats
6.5% 6-Row


Hallertau (US)        60              9.4  IBUs     (10g@4.7%)
Sterling                    20              6.6  IBUs     (15g@6.6%)
Amarillo                  20              5.0  IBUs     (10g@7.5%)

Sterling                     0               0.6  IBUs     (15g@6.6%)
Amarillo                   0               0.0  IBUs     (15g@7.5%)


Wyeast  3726

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