I titled this series “Inspiring Recipes” for a few reasons, the main reason was to get useful information to you but the biggest reason was to inspire with technique & passion from people I look up to. As we socially distance and change our daily lives it is important not to emotionally distance from what is important and what makes us…well us. I am very pleased to present this philosophy and recipe from my buddy Tim Clifford of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales located in Capitola, CA. The elegant- approachable – complex – simplicity of SARA beers are a harmony of understanding what works in their process. I hope you enjoy and really take in Tim’s words.
Embrace The Mixed Fermentation
Words By Tim Clifford
Hey! I didn’t see that you were here with me! Well now that you are, let me share some things I’ve learned along my brewing journey that may be of use to you, my friends.
I was fortunate enough to be asked by Brandon Jones to submit an original recipe for Embrace the Funk. It’s an honor to be sharing with all of you in this unprecedented time, where the world seems incapable of righting itself. Thank you all for being here with me.
It’s super cool to think about beer again on a smaller scale like the way I learned many moons ago. Rather than give y’all the standard recipe format, I’m going to talk a bit and hope by the end of my talking, you’ll be able to create something at home of mixed fermentation you’ll be proud to pour with your friends, when sharing a beer doesn’t have potentially dire health consequences.
Yes, you’ll have to read the whole thing. Yes, there will be no clear outline or quick way through this. Like me, you are going to have to read everything and slog through things that may seem over your head or seem way too facile. I promise that something good will happen for you, though, if you take the time to hear me out and really apply yourself.
Beer is super easy to make. Let’s make that point very clear. Really great beer, though, is a different story and that isn’t the point of this small treatise. So, let’s focus on making good, solid, consistent beer first. You gotta walk before you run, not unlike a certain handsome twin(s) we all know from Denmark. Hi boys!
My assumption is that you aren’t a novice brewer. You at least have a few all-grain batches under your belt. Perhaps you are a very accomplished brewer looking for new techniques or little gems to push your beer even further down the road of awesome. Both will benefit from what is written here.
Note: everything IS really in these words. Please don’t contact me for further details, analysis, or extra hints or discussion. It’s all right here. The tattoo world has a wonderful saying: “Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.” That holds true here, too. Praise, however, is always welcomed, friends! Also, I love you, but please share your results with your friends and family. I’m swimming in beer, friends. I made that fruitful decision for myself years ago.
I don’t really care what kind of system or equipment you have. It could be the most sophisticated RIMS system(are those still cool these days?), or a very basic hobbled-together set of ugly, repurposed materials that ain’t pretty to look at. Both will get the job done and neither are a badge of brewing prowess.
Ok, so equipment doesn’t really matter, right? Well, I lied. There are two minor investments you can make RIGHT NOW that will take swill and turn it into liquid gold! Buy yourself a 5000ml Erlenmeyer flask and a small oxygen stone. Figure out on your own how to use them. They are your new, or already-established, best friends.
Good beer starts with basic brewing science. Hell, terrible beer and world class beer are based entirely around basic brewing science, for that matter Bone up on your chops, friends. Books, those beautifully bound objects of time immemorial hold all the truth you’ll ever need. Read everything bound. Don’t trust a goddamn thing you hear from people online. They aren’t your friends. They are merely boastful pontificators of pure crap. Log out, walk away, and go to the library.
Ok! So now you are a well-informed, learned, homework-doing brewer! Congratulations! Start a brewery! No, don’t. It’s harder than it looks. For now, focus on making simple, delicious beer from the best ingredients you can acquire. Good is just great!
Do I still have your attention, friends? Because I’m starting to get to the really, really good, good stuff!
If equipment doesn’t matter and basic brewing science is all you need, then why am I writing? Because I have a few tricks up my old weathered sleeves. Keep up and you might learn a thing or two, kid.
Brewing good beer is no different than preparing a big family meal. By that I mean, that if you try to be spontaneous and just whip something together, you are going to make Uncle Charlie very disappointed he took a day off from the horse track just to mingle with you simpletons. So, plan ahead. You’ll be “brewing” or “doing brew stuff” every day leading into brew day.
You have all your ingredients and it’s Tuesday and you are set to brew on Saturday. What’s first? A yeast starter, of course! So get that going with some dme, but only use 1500ml of your 5000ml flask’s capacity. Two days later, decant and this time add 3000ml of dme. Swirl that shit daily to introduce a bit of oxygen and get those fat, gluttonous yeast cells back in the ring. They have lots of fighting to do, kind of like that hotdog-eating champion, Joey Chestnut.
It’s first light on Saturday morning, yawn!, and you have a cup of coffee in one hand and your phone in the other. Put your phone away. You won’t need it. Presumably you are heating strike water you’ve at least ran through a charcoal filter. You can enjoy your cup of joe while you wait for it to come to temperature.
Visualize your mash. You’ll be using 1.25qts of brewing liquor to every pound of grain you’ll be using in the mash. You’ll be targeting a solid 152 degree mash temp and that shit better be adjusted to a proper ph. Porridge doesn’t make itself, friends!
Huh? Figure it out. Remember…science. Ain’t nobody going to hold your hand drowning in that swamp. You are all alone. Read. Read again. Every little thing matters. Don’t get discouraged. Zen and chaos.
The mash? Oops. Wasn’t that the point of this little tome? Absolutely, friends. Check it out.
The Recipe! The holy grail of brewing! That thing that brewers worship more than their shiny stainless-steel symbols of male virility! That thing folks hide in safes, use legal means to protect, and guard like my little man, Higgins, with a steak bone.
Sorry to burst your bubble, friends. But recipes are bullshit! I don’t mean that standardized measurements of ingredients in ratio to batch size and desired outcome are useless. Exactly the opposite, actually. I just mean that any one single recipe isn’t inherently better than others if it’s built around sound brewing science for a particular style. Lots of paths to good beer, friends!
The problem with recipes is that, frankly, they are most often terribly inadequate. There are so many minutiae to brewing good beer, that getting caught up in any one path is shortsighted. Well, then, how the fuck are we going to know what ingredients to use?
Let me digress. I make a lot of Saison. It’s the style that really got me motivated to try my hand at contributing to the canon. Those beers, the way they smell, their balance, their obvious authenticity, made me the brewer I am today. So, let’s talk about how to think about building a Saison of real character. Here come the secrets!
There are no secrets. Saison is just another beer style. Perhaps more elastic in terms of how it can be characterized, but a very simple beer style to brew well at home, on a farm, or in an industrial warehouse a half mile from the beach.
What color is our Saison, friends? Pale yellow? Gold? How about a little of both? Yes, let’s do that. So, base malt. You can use basic two-row and/or you can use Pilsner malt. Either way, and in whatever ratio, it will compromise 88% of your grist. It could also compromise 77% of your grist. At 66% it’s getting into Grisette territory, or perhaps lambic, but both of those are beyond the purview of this discussion. So 88%.
Now you need something rustic up in the mix. You know, your wheatys, your ryezies, your speltzers, your quinoawowzas. Pick one, shit pick ‘em all, but for this little doodad let’s go with 8% of at least one of the risticos!
Finally we need something a little gritty, right friends? Something that screams “I’m a 19th century farmer trying to make use of everything I grow because for fucks sake I must.” You’re right, I’m thinking oaties too! Let’s throw 10% of those flaked beauties into le pot and get mashing!
Chill, math guy, I know those numbers added up to more than 100%. Keep your brewer’s imagination honed and consider the ratios, the ingredients, the simplicity. Oats aren’t terribly fermentable, so really throwing a few extra handfuls in doesn’t really throw off the numbers, math be damned. Oats lend an intangible to these beers. Use them liberally, even if it’s illogical. The point is that this mixture will work, but if it is making you mad, bruh, just take out some base malt. Or add some more rustics! It’s all a very easy game, that thing we call a mash. Trust me.
What about the hoppies? Well some dudes use American and New Zealand hops well in Saison (Hi Shauny! Hi Jeanie!), but I’m a continental hop kinda guy myself when it comes to the farmhousies. If you must buy American, go with Vinnie’s favorite from years ago, the mighty and ever-dwindling Sterling. It’s a solid Saaz-like hop, and buying it helps the economy. IBU’s are garbage, but depending on your water source and so many factors, consider a mere 15 bittering units for your first addition. And pellets, friends, no bonus points for doing it the hard way.
Your boil MUST be 90 minutes long!!! Not true, but that is my preferred length. Hops, usually in equal amounts, go in at 60 and 10 minutes left in the boil. People put a lot of stock in mixing varieties of hops in various recipes. I’ve never been particularly impressed with that notion, it’s one more variable potentially standing in the way of achieving goodness, and its easier to just open one bag and use it throughout. Give it a shot! I promise it’ll work, and it won’t need an acronym to be smashing! Or shing!
Ok. We have reached the true magic core of this entire discussion. Still with me, friends? It’s time for the yeast!!!
Here, come close, I’ll tell you exactly what to do. Ready? USE THE DuPONT STRAIN!!! Obviously. Not a secret. THE Saison of saisons, of course you trust and pay homage to the masters. But what about temp, Tim? Shouldn’t I ferment super high to produce a bunch of fusel alcohol notes and shitty esters? Obviously not. Take care of your wort/beer. Keep it cool. Shoot for 68F. Really? Yes, really. Basic brewing science and processes, friends.
So you’ve pitched your beautifully healthy yeast after decanting off the majority of the weird dme beer (you did remember to chill it in advance of the day to create some separation, right?), well PITCH then, just after you’ve oxygenated the fuck out it. Put a wet towel around the fermenter, or be a show off and have more advanced temperature control, and let that baby rip! Then go pay attention to your person. They both respect and loathe your brewing. Give them some attention. It’s Saturday.
Dupont is a magical yeast, but it plays tricks on brewers. It’s a 95% attenuator, and does 90% of that fairly quickly, even at these cooler temperatures. That last 5%, though, doesn’t come quick, and I forgive those that consider the beer finished after seemingly normal stasis, albeit mistakenly.
All beer needs time, even the freshest ones. And that’s a great thing for us because this is a mixed fermentation beer. Thought I forgot, right? I didn’t. I’m just playing for the big reveal!
You might want to be fancy and either build a multiple strain and bacteria culture, or, really worse, pitch some coveted bottle dregs. But I firmly believe that is a mistake. Best to pitch a single strain of the big bad Brett that is reliable. Of course you should build a healthy starter in advance of the big day. And, yes, you should eschew oxygen at this point.
Pick a letter, any letter. I prefer C and don’t mess around with White Labs, or anyone producing yeast in their lab. No, sir, I look elsewhere. Old school is the best school, so go with the other campus.
People make a big fuss about transferring beers off yeast, and at home, to an entirely different vessel. No need unless you want that yeast for another Saisony. I’ll assume for now you want to focus on this beer alone, so don’t bother messing with the beer and just pitch, kid, pitch!
But how do I know when it’s done? It isn’t bubbling, must be finished. Ahh! There’s a funky mold growing on top, am I going to die if I drink this? Yeah, right. Keep reading. And waiting.
Eventually you’ll need to use your senses, as in sensory, to figure out when to package. A hydrometer will multiple readings that indicate stasis also helps. If it tastes like shit, it is. Dump it, read this again, know that your cleaning practices are suspect, and brew it again.
But if it tastes good, then great! Terminal gravity should be no higher than 1.002. I add 1 oz. of dextrose per gallon to the mix and bottle in thick glass bottles. You can go cork, or, Jesus, cork and cap, but I’m a simple guy and love a simple black bottle cap. No, you do not need to sanitize them if they have come from a new bag or one opened and stored properly. Fight me!
The rest of the ordeal is yet to come. The waiting is the hardest part! Tom Petty was absolutely right. But, nevertheless, waiting is what you are going to do.
Picture this: you’ve suffered through this rambling diatribe, but were inspired enough to give my methods, Science’s methods mixed with a wee dram of abstract expressionism, a full effort. It’s EXACTLY 90 days since you bottled, and you know right now is the freaking magic! Stemmed glass at the ready, you pop that cap and, voila!, that beautiful pale, golden hue pours intensely, beautiful lace and legs everywhere all at once! Old dogs can teach new tricks. Woof woof!
So, was it worth it, friends? Did you take away anything of substance, or is my style too flakey and Santa Cruz for you? Either way, I had fun. Just remember beer is simple and simple beer is best. Unfiltered, unfined, I bid you all happy brewing! Thanks for being here with me.