Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fresh-Hop Spelt Saison with Paul Key

It's wonderful to be out in the Northwest, so close to the hop fields, where every year we get to brew up a special batch (or three) of fresh-hop beer. Paul Key, my fellow homebrewer-geek, had a nice harvest of Fuggle and Columbus hops growing in his front yard right here in Portland. He was able to knock out a couple of fresh-hop IPA's, and I pitched the idea of getting together for some kind of fresh-hop saison. We kicked around some ideas and came up with this: A pale, moderately strong saison, with about 30% raw spelt in the mash (inspired by Brasserie Blaugies' Saison D'epeautre), moderate-high IBU's for the style at an estimated 30+ IBU, and brewed with a blend of commercial saison yeasts. I certainly have high hopes for it, as the spelt mash had a unique character, and the fresh hops, all added at knock-out, had an intense citrus-orange-spice pungency.

We picked most of the hops while working on a long step-infusion mash, with a protein rest. We didn't have much info on spelt as a grain, which we just bought from Whole Foods, but we assumed that because it was a type of wheat, that it would probably have a similar gelatinization point. Wheat gelatinizes at regular mash sacharification temperatures, so if spelt is the same, that means you don't need a "cereal mash" which would incorporate boiling the spelt to gelatinize it prior to adding it to the mash. I have seen a good deal of internet homebrew recipes with raw spelt that call for a cereal mash, and I don't see how it's necessary. Anything I found online suggested that it gelatinizes at similar temperatures to wheat. Anyway, we actually did an iodine starch-conversion test after our sach rest to make sure we had fully converted the mash, and it showed that we got good conversion.

Runoff was aided by some rice hulls, but we had no problems with a stuck mash whatsoever. Probably could have gotten away without them but it's always good insurance.

We bittered with pelletized hops to keep the IBU's somewhat predictable, and used a boatload of fresh hops at knockout only. These sat in the mash for 20 minutes during "whirlpool", and then an additional 25 minutes while we transfered through the heat exchanger. I think this provides a really nice hop profile and it's very close to what happens in a professional brewery.
We lost quite a bit of wort from the hops, which we forgot to consider when designing the recipe, but I don't think we could have done much about it anyway. Based on our kettle size, we made the biggest batch we could. Sometimes it is just better to collect less wort than do tricky stuff to increase the volume, and neither Paul or I are ever hurting for beer to drink. It's OK to have a smaller yield sometimes.

We decided to go with a saison yeast blend for this beer, which is the first time I have tried blending saison yeasts right off the bat. But both Paul and I have come up really frustrated with the Dupont yeast as a sole fermenter in the past, so this blend will be worth trying in a few beers. We decided to pitch both the "Dupont" strain and the "French Saison" strain, with twice as much Dupont yeast. The fermentation was started rather cool and ramped to 80 over a few days, a good compromise between the French strain which produces plenty of character at cooler temps, and the Dupont yeast which can't seem to finish out if it drops below 85 degrees. The French saison yeast will definitely help attenuate the beer faster when the Dupont yeast slows to a crawl in the last 1/3rd of fermentation.

On a side note, the French Saison yeast has been a bit bothersome for me in the past too, it definitely has its own problems. I have noticed that it tends to dry a beer out almost excessively, so that if there are any tannins from grain extraction at all, it tends to accentuate them and leave an annoying tannic astringency in the beer. We tried to alleviate that with a good dose of calcium to the mash and the sparge water, which should keep the pH low and avoid extracting any harsh tannins in the first place. I think that should help.

Well, I'm looking forward to tasting this beer and using the blend in at least one other brew. If you brewed any interesting fresh hop beers, feel free to brag about them in the comments. Cheers!

BeerSmith Recipe Printout -
Recipe: Fresh-hop Spelt Saison

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 gal
Boil Size: 13.50 gal
OG: 1.056 SG
F.G. 1.006
Estimated Color: 3.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 24.1 IBUs
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
15 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Canada (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 66.7 %
7 lbs Spelt - Raw (1.0 SRM) Grain 2 31.1 %
8.0 oz Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM) Adjunct 3 2.2 %
74.00 g Delta [4.50 %] - Boil 90.0 min Hop 4 24.1 IBUs
1.0 pkg Belgian Saison (Wyeast Labs #3724) [124. Yeast 5 -
1.0 pkg French Saison (Wyeast Labs #3711) [50.28 Yeast 6 -

-Used Paul's mash kettle w/ false bottom for mash and boil too-----

Water additions: 4 gr. Gyspum, 4 gr. CaCl to mash, same to sparge
8 gallons mash water, mash in to 126 for 20 min
Add heat & stir for 15 minutes to 147, rest 20 min
Add heat and bring to 155 over 7 minutes, rest 30 min
Bring up to 168 over 20 min

Sparge with 9 gallons at 168 over 40 min
collect 13.5

boil 90 min, additions as noted
yeast nutrient/whirlfloc at 10 min
Knock-out fresh hops:
1 lb. Fuggle
2.25 lb. Columbus

Steep 20 min while setting up.
run off probably 25 minutes, lost track.
maybe lost extra gallon from hops, about 9 gallons in fermenter, plus .5 gallon starter
chill to 70
pitch starter and oxygenate 2 minutes
Fermented at 68-70 for first 24 hours
Ramped to 80 by day 3
Keg carbonated after hitting terminal gravity

Yeast starter:
Very fresh Dupont pack: 90% Viability
Older 3711 pack: 55% Viability
Both into a 2L stirplate starter, should give approx 2:1 ratio


Paul! said...

I can't help but notice how "farm house-ey" your brew shed looks in all the pictures, well done.

Anonymous said...

now thats a beer I like the look of, farm housy and hoppy. Will be brewing some similar beers to this myself as the wheat harvest get a little closer on my folks farm. I've also purchased a hop back and plan to make some hoppy saisons

Kyle said...

Interesting stuff; hadn't ready about using spelt before. I'll be checking back here to see how it turned out.

bumpskier said...

Really happy to see your willingness to use the Spelt. I actually found it malted for my saison this year. But I know I will never get it again. I figured I would have to do a cereal mash as well, but I can't imagine that small farmhouse brewery in Belgium does a cereal mash when brewing the D'Epeautre. Please be sure to post your results.
I have cheap access to raw spelt all day long. I just haven't had the courage to use it yet.

Thank you again,

Seanywonton said...

I'll try to get a tasting post up in the next few days. Basically though, the brew came out very well. I think if you have a source for good quality unmalted spelt, you can use it as we did with no problems at all.

andrewtheshaw said...

Just came across your blog...Nice to see a fellow southeast PDX brewer! Nice write-ups and info on your recipes. I tend to get lazy and only add ingredients when I do the same. Perhaps I need to get a little more motiviated!


MAF said...

Very interesting to read about another Spelt Saison being brewed. I did one recently, using flaked spelt and other malts. It won a competition and was upscaled at a micro brewery. See blog post on