Belgian Saison with wild yeast

I had a friend and fellow homebrewer (Matt Spaanem) over while I was brewing up a Saison for our Pinot Noir Barrell Solera club project.  He brought me some of his wild yeast that he had harvested from honey to use in that brew.  Here is his blog where he talks about his foray into harvesting wild yeasts from many different sources.  Matt Spaanem’s wild yeast blog

The yeast he brought me is his Abbey Strain.  His description of the yeast is as follows.  “Abbey Strain – This strain was initially collected from unpasteurized honey from my neighbor’s hives here in Washougal, WA. This strain is amazing, producing fruity bubblegum flavors it tastes just like a Belgian abbey yeast, it also has a fairly high tolerance, producing a beer with nearly 12% ABV. It’s also pretty highly attenuative. Subsequent local yeast harvests indicate that this yeast is the dominant wild strain in my neighborhood.”

This article isn’t actually about that strain of yeast though.  I’ll save that for a future story on our Solera Project.  This article is about my desire to harvest yeast from my property to use in a beer.  Matt is an expert at this kind of thing and he was more than happy to assist me.  Since I was brewing a 10 gallon batch of beer for the Solera Project, I had a ready source of freshly boiled wort to make a starter with.  We took a tour around my small piece of property (12,000 sq. ft.) and decided on the Lavender Bush in my wife’s water garden.

Lavendar Bush

We cut a 5 inch branch off that had 10 small flowers on it and threw it into my Erlenmeyer Flask which contained 1500 ml of cooled wort.  It was starting to form a little foam and by day three, it looked like this.

Lavendar yeast

Notice that it has sanitized aluminum foil on top of it.  The stir plate is “not” running at this point.  When harvesting wild yeast like this, you also have all of the other wild microbes in there.  Those microbes thrive on oxygen, so if the stir plate is running, it’s introducing oxygen (which is bad).  Without oxygen, you’re giving the yeast that is present the best chance at out-competing those wild microbes.

Once it had fermented out, I put it in my refrigerator and let it settle out.  Two weeks later I had a brew day, but didn’t use that yeast, as I was brewing up a new recipe of mine that needed a London Ale style of yeast.  However, two weeks later I had another brew day, where I could take advantage of that wild Lavender Yeast.  I was brewing two batches on this day, back to back.  A long day, but fun!  I pulled the wild Lavender yeast out and poured off most of the now clear beer on the top and left it sit, until I had some fresh wort for it.

I started my first batch, which was a ginger/cinnamon spice beer, based on great leaks brewings “Christmas Ale”, which you can read about at the link.  Once my boil had started, I pulled off 1500 ml of wort and let it cool down in my refrigerator.  Once it was down to 75F, I pour it on top of my Lavender Yeast in the Erlenmeyer Flask and turned on the stir plate.  It wouldn’t be needed for another four hours.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of it, but it was developing one heck of a Krausen!  I definitely had very active and very healthy yeast!

I then brewed up a basic Belgian Saison.  I pretty much used the recipe from Jamil Zainasheff’s and John Palmers book, “Brewing Classic Styles”.  Here is the recipe I used.  Belgian Saison with Lavendar Yeast

After getting the first beer in the fermenter going, I started on the Saison and eventually, I got it into the fermenter and gave it 25 minutes of oxygen with my aquarium pump set up and then pitched the Lavender yeast. I brewed this Wild Lavender Saison on September 26th, 2015, so it’s been in the primary now for 11 days.  I just tasted a small sample of it and I’m tasting a little bit of bubblegum.  Still a little sweet too and the airlock is still bubbling slowly.  I haven’t taken a gravity reading on it, so I’m not sure how much further it needs to go, but I’ll just have to show some patience with it.  What I can say by the taste is “It’s Beer Yeast!!”.  I’m really happy with how it tastes.  It seems to be an Abbey Style Strain, similar to Matt’s Abbey Strain.

I kept the fermentation temperature neutral on this at about 66F to 68F throughout the first 11 days.  I think I’ll kick the temperature up to about 72F on it now to let it finish out and clean up after itself.  When it’s time to bring the temperature back down (probably down to about 65F or less (I’ll first rack it to a secondary) and then harvest my new wild yeast from the primary.

That will allow me to make more wild Saisons and eventually have enough wild Lavendar yeast to share with my friends!

I’ll post a tasting of this beer and the final gravities, ABV’s, etc. at a later date.

Check back and keep on brewin’!


Roll Over in the Grave Tootsie Roll Stout

The recipe>>>   Roll over in the grave tootsie roll stout

This beer was brewed on July 27th, 2013.  I’m down to the last few pints.  It was in bottles for about two years and wasn’t carbonating.  16.5% ABV will definitely stress out the yeast.  Actually, even flat the beer is something to behold.

I finally gave up and decided to use the questionable practice of carefully opening the bottles and pouring them into my bottling bucket, followed by racking them into one of my corny kegs.  The first two bottles I opened were carbonated!  Wow!  The third bottle wasn’t, so I just went ahead and opened 24 bottles and kegged them.

Tasting Notes (kegged version):

Appearance:  Jet black beer.  With a substantial 1-1/2 to 2 inch deep long-lasting creamy and chocolaty colored tan head, that takes a full five minutes to dissipate down to a thin 1/8″  covering.  The high viscosity of the beer, along with the alcohol leaves behind long lasting legs and foam that coat the top of the glass through the entire consumption of the beer. 



Aroma:  Strong roasted aroma with the hint of rich chocolate. I’m also detecting toffee, alcohol, fruity (almost raison-like), date, prune, but no hop.  Very complex aroma that bounces from chocolate, to dark fruit, to alcohol and back again.

Flavor:  Smooth roastiness (not bitter or grainy at all), tootsie roll, coffee, raisons, with the high alcohol well hidden.  Sweet, but not too cloying, though I think it is too sweet.  The sweetness does loiter at the back of the tongue after swallowing.  The hop flavor is completely hidden by the intense maltiness of the beer, despite the 84.2 IBU’s.  The starting gravity of 1.139 definitely overwhelms the hop bitterness. 

Mouthfeel:  Smooth and creamy!  This is a thick viscous beer.  It is too syrupy for the style, and needs to be dialed down a notch or two.  Despite the lingering huge tan head, the carbonation is on the lower side.  Not bubbly or fizzy at all.  It almost tastes like a beer on a nitro tap, but it’s not.

Drinkability and Notes:  This is definitely a sipping type of beer.  I drink it out of small sample glasses for good reason.  It’s a very dangerous beer.  The more you drink of it, the better it tastes.  However, that is probably due to the fact that the alcohol is taking over the senses.  I drink 4 ounce samples at a time, which means it takes a long time to get through a keg of this stuff.  It’s a great after dinner type of drink, which could be used in place of a cordial, such as Grand Marnier.  I have a soft spot for Frangelico Liquor on the rocks after a good steak dinner.  This would fill the bill nicely, in place of the Frangelico.

Hard Cider

I’m looking for ideas for a hard cider.  I’ll be getting 5 gallons at an upcoming cider press event.  I haven’t made cider yet, but I understand the process quite well.  I’m thinking of making the five gallons, using EC-1118 yeast and at the end of fermentation, splitting it into separate one gallon fermenters and then adding something to four of them and leaving one plain.

So far, I’m considering the following ideas.

  • brown sugar and raisons
  • cranberry
  • make one with 1/2 gallon of pear juice and 1/2 gallon of cider
  • ginger and clove

I’m still brainstorming.  If you have any thoughts, please reply with them.