Brewing up a Spiced Farmhouse Ale
Fall is fast approaching and we’re getting in the swing of brewing up some seasonal beers. Our focus the past year has been brewing farmhouse ales, and we ended up deciding on brewing up a spiced farmhouse ale to allow us to further study the complexities of this style. We’re against brewing a pumpkin beer, but we wanted something fitting for fall and into winter. Two years ago, while visiting Munich at Christmastime, the drink of choice (when not drinking beer) was Glühwein, or wine made with mulling spices. Mulling Spices invoke memories of winter in Germany, wandering Christmas Markets and sipping hot wine. That’s where the idea of this spiced farmhouse came in, a beer that is refreshing – yet reminiscent of time spent in Munich. This is a beer that, we hope, will last through the holidays.
This beer took our standard golden ale recipe, a 60/40 split of Pilsner Malt and White Wheat, and added all the spices used for mulling – allspice, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, and dried orange peel. These ingredients were all added into the boil once we hit flameout, to imitate the effect of an ultra-late hop addition. The goal was to draw as much aroma from the spices as possible, without adding any extra bitterness and astringency.
We fermented this beer using a French Saison yeast strain at high temperatures, as we wanted to get all of that funky and estery character of the yeast to shine. These yeast strains work best at higher temperatures, as it allows the character of the yeast to develop rapidly. Luckily, the summer has proven hot enough that no temperature control was needed to ensure that fermentation hit the temperature we hoped it would. Right out the door this beer was fermenting at 74º and rose to 76º naturally over the course of the first day of fermentation. This beer, during primary fermentation, went a little bit slower than expected – with the bulk of primary fermentation taking over a week to complete. With fermentation slowing down drastically, it proved the right time to pull a test sample.
On September 2nd, we had the first taste of the beer. While not completely finished with fermentation, it was enough to get an understanding of the beer. The French saison yeast really complements the spice mixture. On the nose, it has wafting aromas of clove and allspice – it invoked a sense of warmth. The beer has a super delicate body – but it’s got a nice blend of the spice mixture. What really helped this beer was the fermentation temperature – allowing the peppery esters of the yeast to shine and let the spice mixture’s blend become the focal point. The beer, while almost ready, is not fully finished.
We had a bunch of fresh peaches and decided that this beer would be excellent with them. On September 4th, we cut up 10 pounds of peaches, filled a fermenter with them, and then transferred the beer from its primary fermentation vessel into this new one. After transfer was completed we took the dregs, from a bottle of Allagash Farm To Face, and poured them in to the beer. With two pounds of peaches per gallon, our hope is this peaches will become a strong presence in the beer.