Dandelion mixed fermentation saison recipe and brewday - Brain Sparging on Brewing


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January 21, 2023

Dandelion mixed fermentation saison recipe and brewday

Dandelions have a long history with the making of alcoholic beverages from all sorts of beers to wines, spirits, meads and mumms. Most people think of dandelions as pesky weeds but their aggressive proliferation and growth are exactly why they served as a food and beverage ingredient for so much of human history. Dandelions seems to have fallen out of favor as an ingredient in beer and other alcoholic beverages sometime in the nineteenth century as industrial beer and wine production ramped up and the breadth of beer and wine styles narrowed considerably. Today dandelions barely exist as an ingredient in beer at all and almost exclusively within the saison/farmhouse style. I can't say for sure any modern saison predates the dandelion-filled Fantome Pissenlit but that beer surely inspired, especially with its discussion in Phil Markowski's Farmhouse Ales,  most or all of the dandelion saisons that exist today. Dandelion saisons have become a staple of saison homebrewing so I guess it's my turn to give it a go.

The great thing about using dandelions as an ingredient is unless you have an immaculate lawn you probably have a nice crop growing in your yard or a nearby yard every spring. I certainly do not have an immaculate lawn so I had an absolutely wonderful crop of dandelions this spring. I plucked as many dandelions as I could over a couple weekends while avoiding the bees also competing for the flowers. I stuffed them in a bag in the freezer until I was ready to brew this saison.

Designing the mixed fermentation dandelion saison recipe

To be honest, I don't really know what dandelion flowers are supposed to taste like in a beer. Fantome Pissenlit, like most Fantome beers, is so unusual and full of mystery that it's hard to point out what is the dandelion and what is, well, who really knows what. You would expect a floral taste but most reviews for Pissenlit and other dandelion beers mention a honey flavor. Smelling these dandelions they smell a little like honey. 

Working on the idea that these dandelions will bring a light honey flavor to the saison. I want to taste the flowers as much as I can so I want to keep the recipe minimal and let the flowers and my mixed culture do all the heavy lifting. So this recipe is a basic pilsner malt and wheat grain bill with just a little noble-ish hopping to round out the beer. 

Most people seem to find it important to carefully remove all of the greenery around the flowers because dandelion greens are rather bitter. That seems somewhat unnecessary only to turn around and add hops to put bitterness into the beer. I pulled out all the stems but left the green backing to the flowers in place and adjusted the hop bittering addition accordingly. 

I'm not sure whether dandelions extract different flavors at different temperatures or time periods. (Lavender, for example, is floral with brief contact with high heat but if added at the beginning of the boil will develop cinnamon-like flavor.) I opted for steeping at 180F while the beer cools. Most people seem to do a very late addition and this is my usual approach to adding herbs and spices to beer.

To let the dandelion shine, the rest of the recipe is simple and gets out of the way. Pilsner malt and unmalted wheat form the grainbill while a light does of late addition hops will add flavor without dominating the beer. All of it will get a long relaxing fermentation with my house mixed saison culture. This culture needs a long, relaxing fermentation so I probably won't have a sense of whether the beer is something I want to brew again until the next potential dandelion harvest. 

Dandelion saison recipe

Batch Size: 1 gallon       
Est. ABV: 6.1%       
Est. IBU 39 (?)       
Est. OG: 1.059       
Est. FG: 1.013       
Est. SRM: 3.9       
Expected Efficiency: 72%       
Grain BillPounds Ounces SRM Pct. Grist
Pilsner malt2 4 2 100.00%
Water Profileppm      
Bru'n Water Yellow Bitter       
PH: 5.3       
Water Additions    Mash Sparge
Gypsum    .3g .5g
Epsom Salt    .3g .4g
Canning Salt      .1g
Baking Soda       
Calcium Chloride    .2g .3g
Pickling Lime       
Lactic Acid    .3ml  
Mash ScheduleStep Temp.   Step Time  
Single Infusion Batch Sparge       
Mash volume: 2.8qt       
Sparge volume: 0.96 gal       
Infuse 2.81 qt at 167F150   75  
Sparge 0.96 gal180      
Boil ScheduleVolume Unit Time IBU
60 minute boil       
Cascade [5.5%]0.25 oz 60 39
Mt. Hood [6%]0.4 oz 0 0
Dandelion flowers4.5 oz 0 0
Fermentation Schedule# Days Temp.    
Yeast: mixed saison culture       
1l starter       
Pitch at 70F200 70    
Bottle with 4oz table sugar to 3 vol100 70   

Brewday and Fermentation Notes

Brewed 11.15.20.

First runnings: 1.087
Preboil gravity: 1.059
Preboil volume: 1.3 gal
Mash efficiency: 93.8%

Postboil gravity: 1.065
Postboil volume: 
Brewhouse efficiency:

This simple recipe produced a simple brewday. After adding the flowers I added water to top up to the volume lost from all that vegetal matter.

Wow this is a terrible photo

The initial aroma of the dandelions (plus Mt. Hood hops) is intensely herbal which may reflect the volume of green material left on the flowers. As the flowers steeped a sweet floral flavor emerged. 

Tasting Notes

Completely forgot to finish this post...tasting it on 1.21.23. 

Appearance: Straw yellow pours with aggressive snow white foam. The foam is short lived; within a few minutes the beer has zero head. As the foam recedes the beer becomes opaque with a fizzy surface. 

Aroma: Bitter greens, marjoram, blueberry, carrot seed, slight honey in the background. Very much dandelion aroma. No grain aroma present.

Flavor: Very similar to the aroma--herbal and fruity. Bitter greens, lemon pith, blueberry, tangerine, hay, carrot seed, honey, grass, dandelion floral. Hint of barnyard-y funk in the background. Slight cracker taste towards the end is the only real note of grain. No clearly detectible hop flavors. Aftertaste is a battle between floral, brett funk and bitter greens. There is a bitterness to the beer but it is more upfront than typical hop bitterness. Beer is moderately sweet which plays into the floral and fruit notes. Acts as a nice counterbalance to the green flavors. 

Moutheel: Medium bodied with an oily texture at the front of the tongue. Lingers with some heaviness on the tongue. The more I drink the more bitterness also lingers as a prickliness across the front half of the tongue.

Overall: This is one of the most unusual beers I've ever had. It's very dandelion-y but not heavily floral. It's good but not a beer to sit down and guzzle all day. The texture is kinda weird and my least favorite part of the beer. My mixed saison culture is an interesting mix but works with all these flavors going on. It's responsible for the blueberry and funky flavors. It's surprisingly sweet for a beer with brett going on three years, but maybe that is more flavor impression than residual sugar. I can't say this is a beer I'm quick to rebrew but it was a fun experiment and satisfied a curiosity. 

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