March 8, 2017

Just the Tip -- Mixed Fermentation Saison with Fir Tips

Here's another rummage-around-the-house foraging beer. In December I helped my wife and her family pick out a Christmas tree. As we were unloading it from the car I noticed all the young tips at the end of the branches. I pulled one off and rubbed it between my fingers. It has that citrusy aroma one expects in the greener, bushier tips on a spruce or fir tree but also the woody, spruce-like aroma of the wood. Reminded me a lot of chinook hops. I immediately thought, "I could put this in beer." After unwrapping gifts on Christmas I asked if I could trim off all the tips for beer. I was approved and hacked up the tree. After trimming as much of the tips as I could without knocking off ornaments I ended up with approximately half an ounce of fir tips.

I settled on shoving these fir tips into a mixed fermentation saison. Initially I resisted the idea of treating another saison as a dumping ground for weird ingredients but a couple reasons justified the decision. First, I need to further explore my mixed farmhouse culture and this is a good opportunity to see how it plays with other flavors. Second, that woods/citrus/resin flavor is not entirely out of place for the style, especially within the realm of the more unusual Fantome offerings. Additionally, later on that day I visited my parents who it turns out grow Meyer lemons and gave me a large bag. I want to brew another saison with the lemons and blend at least some of each of these beers. (More on the Meyer lemon beer in another post.) 

Designing the Saison with Fir Tips recipe

Normally spruce tips or fir tree tips are harvested for beer in the spring when they are bushy and green with a flavor that leans more citrus than woodsy. I get that this is the "wrong" way to do this. This is purely an experiment for the sake of experimenting. I smelled the tips on the Christmas tree, liked what I smelled and decided to see what happens. 

I want the recipe to be fairly basic so the fir tips do not fight too many other flavors. The grain bill is a very simple 75% pale malt/25% unmalted wheat grist. Hops are minimal with a charge of Opal in the whirlpool with the fir tips. Opal has a earthy flavor that I expect will round out the fir tips just a little. My initial run with this mixed saison culture is very fruity in an overripe berry flavor. I'm not entirely sure how that will mix with the fir tips but it's just a gallon of beer. If it sucks it can flush out my kitchen sink drain. 


Details
Batch Size: 1.1 gallon
Est. ABV: 5.0%
Est. IBU: 26
Est. OG: 1.054
Est. FG: 1.016
Est. SRM: 3.6
Grain BillPoundsOuncesSRMPct. Grist
Pale malt112277.80%
Unmalted wheat8222.20%
Water Profileppm
Bru'n Water Yellow Bitter Profile
PH: 5.3
Calcium50
Magnesium10
Sodium5
Sulfate110
Chloride45
Bicarbonate-102
Water AdditionsMashSparge
Gypsum0.5g0.2g
Epsom Salt0.5g00.2g
Canning Salt0.1g
Baking Soda
Calcium Chloride0.3g0.1g
Chalk
Pickling Lime
Lactic Acid0.6ml
Mash ScheduleStep Temp.Step Time
Single decoction with cereal mash
Mash volume: 1.125 gal
Sparge volume: 0.5 gal
Boil wheat with 1.5 qt water21230
Add remaining water and bring to
infusion temperature
Infuse 1.125 gallons at 158F146F45
Decoct 27 oz and boil15
Return to mash156F30
Sparge 0.50 gal at 190F
Boil ScheduleVolumeUnitTimeIBU
60 minute boil
Belma [12%]0.13oz6026.5
Opal [6.5%]0.1ozWhirlpool0
Fir tips0.5ozWhirlpool0
Fermentation Schedule# DaysTemp.
Yeast: Saison AF
Pitch 100ml
Pitch at 70F9070F
Bottle to 3.5 vol CO2 with 1.6oz sugar

Brewday & Fermentation Notes

Brewed 12.28.16

First runnings: 1.0578
Pre-boil gravity: 1.045
Volume: 1.5 gallons
Mash efficiency: 82%

Post-boil gravity: 1.050
Post-boil volume: 1 gallon
Efficiency: 68%

Added water at end of boil--approximately 1/4 gallon to get up to one gallon post-boil.

1.26.17: After what seemed like a month of fermentation things appear to have tapered off. A slight taste is the emergence of the fruity yeast profile with what I assume is the fir tips in a herbal, forest-y flavor that is far less aggressive than pre-fermentation. Very oily and slightly tongue numbing--hope that is excess oils pulled from sampling from the top of the beer.

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