Annibeersary 3: Sir Etch-a-sketch

Back in August we had the chance to go to Denver and visit The Source. In the River North district you can find Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project nestled inside The Source.  They make some wonderful funky and sour beers. In fact Chad Yakobson, the owner/brewer of Crooked Stave wrote his dissertation on Brettanomyces. The Brettanomyces project is probably more than most people need to read on Brett but a fantastic resource. The effort from that clearly shows in the beers from Crooked Stave. 

While we tried just about everything on tap and a few bottles, Surette really stood out and we brought a few bottles home with us. After reading over the Brettanomyces Project, and reviewing a few lectures Chad gave, we decided to try and spin up the dregs from Surette. Surette is fermented with a blend of BSI B. Drie, CMY001, Orval's B. Brux, and ECY B. custersianus then barrel aged. We didn't entirely know what to expect from this, but 2 bottles of dregs and 500ml of wort started fermenting pretty fast. We stepped this up over five days. 

Deciding what to make to celebrate another year together always  tends to be interesting. We were hoping to use some of our own hops, though they were a little burned out from summer. Luckily our friend Jeff gave us a sample of his homegrown cascade. 

Sir Etch-a-Sketch

9lb pils

3lb white wheat

½ lb aromatic

1lb acid malt


1oz warrior 60min

1oz cascade 20min (leaf)

.9oz centenial 5min (homegrown)

Surette Culture


20min acid rest at 120

60 min sacch at 153

mash out 164

OG: 1.070

FG: 1.003

ABV: 8.8%

Pitched starter 10/28/15


Test 11/15/15: measured 1.009 Slight acidity, fairly dry, smells very bretty, tastes balanced little bit of lemon but very reminiscent of avery twenty two before dry hopping.


12/20/15: FG: 1.003 abv 8.8 Full flavored, nice malt base but mainly lemony flavored. Not overly acidic but well balanced.

1/10/16: added 2oz cascade for dry hopping while cold crashing.

This beer was brewed at the end of October and left to mature (slightly forgotten about) until the beginning of January. It was never trying to be Surette, but it turned out great! It has a bright hop nose with a hint of acidity. It isn't super sour but has a little acidity to it, hops up front but has a refreshing lemon character a bit of a dry wheat finish. It gets a little more fruity as it warms up. I think the dry hopping really rounded out the aroma and paired well with the slight lemon tartness. This is easily the best beer I think we have ever made. I almost feel bad that we got snowed in with it and I might drink the entire keg by myself. 


Lavender Saison: Universally Popular Panty-Dropper

One of our most successful beers this year was a Lavender Saison recipe that we brewed twice. We had to brew it twice, because the first batch went so quickly. It was the first keg we've had that went from full at the beginning of a party to kicked before the party was over. Its universal popularity surprised me. Everyone loved it: men, women, people who like beer, people who don't. We served it two ways at our Oktoberfest party: straight up or mixed with lemon sparkling soda as part of a lavender-lemon shandy/radler. This is a beer we even received a thank you note about after the party! I don't think I've ever brewed a more popular beer. 

Before we brewed this beer, Evan and I had a long debate about how to flavor the beer with lavender. We were torn between using tinctures or adding the lavender to the boil or a mix of both. We were concerned about getting too much lavender flavor and having the beer taste soapy. It seemed like it was going to be a hit or miss beer experiment, and we would be lucky if the end result was remotely appetizing. The original plan was to use lavender we grew ourselves, but our container garden was not productive enough for that, so we instead bought culinary french lavender off of amazon. I think this was the right choice. The french lavender was far more fragrant than the lavender in our garden. 

Culinary French Lavender 

Culinary French Lavender 

We changed the recipes slightly between the first and second brews. The first brew had more lavender added to the boil, while the second one had half the amount of lavender, but added lemon zest to the boil. This resulted in a more subdued beer. Still delicious, but not as good for shandies as the lavender flavor got lost in all the lemon. I preferred the original recipe, which you can see below as Lavender Saison. 

Lavender Saison

9 lbs Pilsner

3 lbs Wheat

1 oz Cascade @ 60 min

.5 oz Hersbrucker @ 30 min

1 oz Willamette @ 5 min

1/2oz of lavender at end of boil


Mash in @ 120, 20 min protein rest

150 for 60 min mash out

Boil for 60


OG: 1.056

FG: 1.009

Calculated ABV: 6.17%

Lavender Saison Ingredients 

Lavender Saison Ingredients 

Lemon Lavender Saison

9 lbs Pilsner

3 lbs Wheat

1 oz Styrian Goldings @ 60 min

.5 oz Hersbrucker @ 30 min

1 oz Willamette @ 5 min

.25 oz lavender and zest of 2 lemons at flame out


Mash in @ 120, 20 min protein rest

150 for 60 min mash out

Boil for 60


OG: 1.064

FG: 1.009

Calculated ABV: 7.2%

All in all, our experience brewing with lavender was great. I'm excited to experiment with more floral flavors and herbs in future beers. High on my list of flavors to experiment with is violet. During our recent trip to Austin, Texas, I had some great cocktails utilizing violet liquors and fell in love with the flavor. Look for more fun floral recipes in 2016! 

Life Changing Beers

Please excuse my terrible handwriting

Please excuse my terrible handwriting

Brooklyn Brewery makes a saison featuring Sorachi Ace, which knocked my socks off when I first had it. I think it was a turning point from liking "really hoppy beers" to "this hop has this characteristic and flavor depending on how you use it". I decided after that beer I would make my own single hop beer, but not a clone of brooklyn's sorachi ace. Thus the first Tiger Blood IPA was made. 

Tiger Blood IPA

6lbs Briess DME Gold

.5lb CaraMunich 60

1lb Cara-pils dextrine malt

1oz Sorachi Ace whole flower hops 60min

.5 oz Sorachi Ace whole hops 30min

1oz Sorachi Ace pellet hops 5min

.5oz whole cone hops dry hop

WLP090 san diego super yeast



The second "tiger blood IPA" was my 50 shades of greyskull IPA that was continuously hopped with sorachi ace. I shared that recipe in our first post but here it is again:

50 Shades of Greyskull IPA

13 oz sorachi ace hops leaf, 1 oz every 6 min, 3 oz dry hop

10 lbs 2-row or other base malt (extract: 6 lbs light dry extract)

1 lb cara munich

1 lb carapils

San Diego Super Yeast WLP090 

OG: 1.065

ABV: 6.7 - 7%

WARNING: Making and sharing that beer may have life changing consequences. 

Those consequences are the point of this story. I haven't made anything with sorachi ace in the past three years, until recently. In those past three years I have learned a lot about brewing, traveled half way around the world doing beer research, and met my match. 

If I am out in the yard brewing when Lisa comes home it is nothing out of the ordinary. Apparently me messing with my camera and taking a bunch of pictures isn't out of the ordinary either.  A few weeks back I brewed a single hopped saison. All sorachi ace up to IPA levels. 

A few weeks before brewing, I designed and ordered a ring. Towards the end of July, with some support from the International Space Station and a very bright almost blue moon, I proposed and she said yes! And with that the beer had a name: Tiger Blood III: The Propose ale

The international Space Station

a well brewed plan

First pour

This beer is meant to be more balanced, unlike the 2nd. Saison III has always been a great preforming yeast for us and it was a cool experiment to harvest it from one of our old bottles. It is a fruit forward yeast that I think works well with this type and amount of hops. Hopefully everyone at the engagement party enjoys it. 

Tiger Blood III: The Propose Ale

WLP585 Saison III

2 campden tablets, 9 gal of water

2tsp gypsum

5 lbs pilsner

5lbs munich

mash 150 for an hour 4 gal, then 1 at 30 to keep temp

Mash out 4 gal 165

.5oz sorachi ace FWH

.5oz sorachi ace 40"

1oz  sorachi ace 10"

1oz sorachi ace 5"

1oz full flower hop dry hop 4-5 days


FG: 1.004

ABV: 5.6

Large format sorachi ace on left, propose ale middle, 12 oz bottle right

It had been a while since I picked up Brooklyn Brewery's sorachi ace. They have started releasing 4 packs of 12 oz bottles in addition to the corked large format. The corked bottle mentions that it is refermented with champagne yeast. The 12 oz bottles don't say anything about champagne yeast. Comparing the two: the large format is much more Belgian but also very sweet. The smaller bottles are much more bitter and upfront hoppy. Both exhibit the sorachi ace hop well, but they are different beers.  

Saison Found

Between professional exams and writing a book, it has been a very busy month for us. Unfortunately the blog had to suffer through a bit of silence, but we are still here and brewing.

In our last post we talked about wanting to use a yeast we had lost, White Lab's Saison III. Since that post, we have made a miraculous discovery! What once was lost was found. During a trip to Lisa's parents' house Memorial Day weekend, we were fortunate to discover the last remaining bottle of our Pumpkin Saison from the previous season. This was the last beer we made with Saison III before our unfortunate yeast bank accident. We lucked out as the beer was forgotten about in a fridge, awaiting our return. 

A note about our Pumpkin Saison: For our October 2014 pumpkin beer, we drastically changed our pumpkin beer recipe for an experiment of sorts. Typically, we would make a dark ale with the standard spice blend that people have come to expect in pumpkin beers. But after reading an article which questioned whether "pumpkin" beer was a misnomer, when the tastes of most pumpkin beers are so focused on the cinnamon/nutmeg/allspice/clove/mace/cardamom/ginger/brown sugar/vanilla flavor profiles, we decided to go a different route. We came up with a pumpkin beer recipe designed to enhance the flavor of the pumpkin. We decided a saison would be appropriate, due to the clean yeast character. We went with dark Belgian and chocolate malts for the base to give the beer a rich character without adding the brown sugar, vanilla or spices. The resulting beer was not entirely successfully. When we mashed initially, the resulting wort smelled delicious, like pumpkin muffins, and we were really excited. But when we took it a step further and added more pumpkin during the boil, it got weird. The resulting beer was a bit too starchy and did not have a long shelf life. Next time we will probably nix the pumpkin addition during the boil to see if we can get a resulting beer that tastes as good as the wort initially smelled. 

Pumpkin Saison (2014)

  • 6.8lbs munich
  • 1lb pale chocolate
  • .5lb special b
  • .5lb aromatic
  • .5lb caramunich
  • 1lb biscuit
  • 1lb crystal 60
  • .5lb flaked oats (quaker)
  • 1oz Czech Saaz 3.6%AA 60
  • 1oz German Tettnang 2.4%AA 30

Mashed around 154 for an hour with 3 cans (45oz) pumpkin, use rice hulls or expect a stuck sparge

Adding 29 oz (large can) pumpkin last 15 of boil

OG: 1.049 FG: 1.008
ABV: 5.4

With great excitement over our discovery, we packaged the bottle with care and transported it safely back to our house, where we started culturing up the dregs of yeast on the stir plate. Starting with around 500ml of 1.030 wort, we later stepped it up to a little over 1L after seeing solid activity about 36 hours after pitching. After chilling and decanting the yeast, we banked three separate tubes of saison III. Success! 

As we continue on into summer and saison brewing season, Lisa has been tending our garden between studying and running around. This year is the first year we have tried our hand at a container garden on the patio. We picked a number of herbs and spices for the garden that will be great in cocktails, particularly lavender. Since our tiny garden is booming, we decided we should probably brew something with it. Why not a lavender saison?! This will also be an interesting brew, because it will be our first time brewing with a tincture. 

Saison Found

  • 8 lbs Pilsner
  • 2 lbs Wheat
  • 1 lb 2 row/munich
  • 1oz Magnum/apollo for 60
  • .5oz Cascade for 20
  • 1oz Cascade for 5
  • Lavender tincture


Saison Season Starter

A few years back now, Lisa and I built a mash tun and broke it in with a saison. The recipe was simple and it turned out fantastic. I attribute most of its success to WLP585 Saison III. A white labs platinum strain that pumps out consistently great beer. We had a sample in our yeast bank that I had planned to use for a saison to take on our camping trip next month, but my plans were trampled when I found the bottle of it had exploded in our fridge. Not sure how or why, but it was completely lost. 

While stocking up on supplies I was pleasantly surprised to see white labs purepitch packets in the wild. For the uninitiated, these packets are made from the larger container that the yeast was grown in so that it never is transferred and reduces the risk of contamination. 

Since I cannot repeat our original saison recipe at this time, I decided to go with something new. From the original recipe I took the malt bill, simple 10 and 2 of pilsner and 2-row. For the start of the season I wanted something to stand out but still be drinkable, apollo hops to balance out the very pale malt backbone and east kent goldings with a bit more apollo at the end for flavor and aroma. Saison II (WLP566) should give it a neutral yeast character but we'll see if its as "clean" as saison III used to be for us. 

I look away for two seconds and my first half of the mash boiled over. Not as bad as when a full kettle of wort boils over. This was a good way and slightly messy way to start off saison season. I will bide my time until wlp585 comes back on the market with this batch and another batch with the wlp565 soon enough. 


A Saison For Camping

5 gallon batch, 90 min boil

10lbs Pilsner

2 lbs 2-row

.75oz apollo at 60

.25oz apollo at 5

1oz EKG at 5

Mash at 152-155 for an hour, batch sparge. 

WLP566 Saison II

Primary for two weeks, first three days low around 68-70 if you can, then raise temp as desired.

Cold crash and keg to take camping

OG: 1.053


The start of sour beers


A few years back my brother and I made a trip out to California to visit our cousin. Our cousin decided to ruin us forever with the introduction to Russian River. We had heard of the beers and the brewery before, very few people haven't, but the brewery floored us. There was nothing like this beer near where we lived, especially the line of sours. I picked up a few bottles from Russian River and a few other breweries in the area before flying back to the east coast. 

Back on the east coast, Lisa and I brewed a nice golden saison that finished up in primary. Before kegging I separated a gallon to inoculate with dregs from Almanac Farmer's Reserve 3. This small batch sat in a closet for a while, mostly forgotten about  which is a major part of the souring process. Out of sight and out of mind makes the sour beer less painful to wait for while the magic happens. Just make sure your airlocks stay full.

I reached out to Almanac to ask them about making one of the most tart beers I had the pleasure of drinking, Jesse Friedman responded:

The yeast character comes from a cocktail of wild bugs, using lactobacillus, pedio, brett and brewers yeast. We had several different strains in different barrels that we blended together to make the final product.

It won’t be quite the same, but if you wanted to try to make something like it at home, this would be a good starting point:


- Jesse

The way I framed my question I only asked about yeast. I had read Michael Tonsmeire's blog, The Mad Fermentationist, before and knew a bit about mixed fermentation for sour beers. I should have asked more about their souring process, as that is typically more important than the yeast used to make the base beer. This email was from 2013, in 2014 Tonsmeire published American Sour Beers which I highly recommend reading if you are going to start making sour beers.

This first sour beer of ours sat for 6 months before being sampled and bottled. It was completely different than the clean counterpart it originated from. Lighter in body and more effervescent with just enough acidity to give it a little tart edge. Those notes were from the first month or two after bottling, 6 months later the brett has taken over and its transformed again with more earthy tones not present before. 


Living on the opposite coast from Russian River makes it a little difficult to procure their beers in an easy way. Brewing challenges are fun and definitely interesting. The start of my sour pipeline began with a clone of Russian River's Consecration. This was a proper 5 gallon batch instead of a single gallon.  It had to endure a cramped tiny apartment with little temperature control, a mid summer move, and even more time to reach its desired flavor profile. 



It took almost a year and a half grain to bottle, but it was certainly worth it. Russian River's has a much more assertive sour bite where as mine was a little more mellow and not nearly as carbonated. If and when I brew this again I think I will add specific bugs instead of waiting on Roeselare to finally get around to souring. 

The continuation of the sour pipeline began as left over wort turned experiment. We created what I call "The Intergalactic Mother Funk." It was a few left over vials from the fridge as well as dregs from almost every sour beer we've had over the past year or so. Inspired by Sam Adams barrel room program, this new house culture has become the engine of the sour funk program. We have a few beers going now from this process which I will cover later when Volume 1: Variations on Red finishes carbonating and gets reviewed.

Saison du Sexy

Simple saison great as it is and a fantastic base for souring

10lbs pils

2lbs 2 row

1 oz st golding (celeian) 60min

1oz willamette 2 min

Belgian saison III WLP585



OG: 1.05

FG: 1.004

Abv: 6