I’ve been interested in adding fruit to my brewing, but with only one fermenter, I can’t commit to a long aging period. This has focused my attention into quicker fruiting methods, such as using pomegranate molasses. While at the Cambridge Beer Festival, I had a beer spiked with beet root, which got me thinking about vegetables in beer. Around the same time I spotted some vibrant stalks of rhubarb at the market and happened to come across this recipe for rhubarb syrup. I couldn’t ask for a more appealing confluence of inspirations – I had to seek out this tart vegetable to try brewing with it.
I’ve been baking more bread lately, and most often I will make my dough ala Jim Lahey’s no-knead method with a 24-hour fermentation that develops the gluten and contributes full flavor. However, sometimes I won’t be able to bake bread 24 hours after I assemble the dough and require quicker turnaround. One trick for faking the flavor of a well-fermented bread is to use another fermented product: beer! And I have had plenty of beer on hand that I was in no rush to drink (namely the peanut porter).
After a healthy fermentation with repitched yeast from my pomegranate saison, something seemed to go a bit agly with my honey saison. The beer that went into the bottles tasted like the same as my pomegranate saison before priming, but the beer that came out was changed. It developed more acidity, and I thought I spotted small pellicles in some of the bottles. I tried to snap a photo, but (fortunately) those brown glass bottles are very effective at blocking light.
Yesterday Joshua Bernstein, author of the recently released The Complete Beer Course, brought about 25 beer geeks, homebrewers, and curious travelers to my apartment to sample some homebrew and pick my brain. Besides making some cool cash, it was also exciting to get to share my beers with many people all at once who were interested in discussing it and noting what they tasted and enjoyed.
September is peak harvest for honey in many apiaries, and in my continuing quest for Autumn flavors that aren’t pumpkin, my mind now bears upon this ingredient. The recipe is for a simple saison, similar to my Saison du Pom, but instead of pomegranate molasses as an adjunct, I’ll be using honey. Also, to keep the beer from drying out too far and to boost the honey flavor, I’ve also added some honey malt to the grist.
After tasting my pomegranate saison at bottling, I was a bit concerned with whether or not it would have any fruit character. There was nothing in the beer to suggest fruit at the time, so I decided to prime with more pomegranate molasses. I simply calculated the amount of priming sugar I would need, and then multiplied it by the ratio of the total mass of molasses to the mass of sugar (i.e. according to the nutritional facts there is is x grams of sugar in y grams of molasses). I didn’t get a chance to taste it until I was serving it at a New York City Homebrewers’ Guild meeting. The priming method completely transformed the beer.
Pomegranate season seems like it’s been gone for far too long. With so many varieties of berries readily available during the hot months, it’s been getting hard to keep that delicious fruit off of my mind. It wasn’t long before I started to wonder if anyone is brewing with it. With the warm weather and pomegranate’s natural sweetness and slight tartness, a saison balancing refreshment with savory acidity and tartness seemed like a very good idea indeed.