Sassy Saaz: A Kamut Grain-Based Beer

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A few months ago, I tried my hand at beer. Theoretically, brewing beer should be easy. After all, how did we first discover the very processes of fermenting grains to produce a bubbly liquid that is the most-widely consumed alcoholic beverage today? Sure, after a few thousand years, the recipe has improved, but still. Since it should be relatively easy, you would think there would be a recipe for grains found in a grocery store. But, I’ve searched long and hard for a recipe using kamut (also known as khorasan) berries, but there’s no such person that has written about using kamut berries and one type of hop, also known as a SMaSH (single malt, single hop) beer. Thus, I’ve decided to write this post. Since these grains aren’t well-known, I’ve decided to introduce them in this next paragraph, and my recipe for beer follows.

Kamut is the brand name for khorasan wheat, and most likely originated in Mesopotamia. It is a notable grain because it has even more protein and delicious compounds compared to it’s trendy sister grain, Quinoa. And, it is grown organically in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Montana. If you’d like to read more, click here: http://www.kamut.com. I’m not sure why the foodies in Portland haven’t caught on to this supergrain–although maybe they have and I’m just oblivious.

For my very first beer I decided to sprout and malt my own grains. Although I didn’t grow my own hops (that would take much more time, and I couldn’t wait that long), the hops I used were most likely produced in the Yakima Valley, which is where I’ve been spending this summer. I purchased the hops from a homebrew store in Oregon. I used Saaz hops which are generally used in pilsners and have earthy, herbal and floral overtones (ychhops.com). Now that I know more about hops and the various varieties, I probably would have chosen to use Mosaic or Simcoe for a more flavorful hop flavor in my beer.

Here’s the recipe; it’s a long time coming. As usual, the recipe makes 1 gallon. Enjoy!

All Ingredients

2.5 lb malted kamut berries

0.5 oz Saaz hops

1/2 package of 11g Danstar Nottingham Ale Dry Yeast

1.5 tbsp honey (for bottling)

 

Malting

2 cups kamut berries, soaked, sprouted, dehydrated, and roasted

4 cups kamut berries, soaked, sprouted, and roasted

First, I soaked 2 cups of kamut berries for 8 hours and sprouted them for three days in a mason jar with a screen on top. I rinsed them twice a day and kept a cloth over the jar to reduce light exposure and slow the formation of green leaves. This part is crucial to brewing because the sprouting process produces the enzymes that will convert the carbohydrates into sugars. Additionally, I could have done this part more scientifically by measuring how long the roots and shoots were but I only realized that after the fact. After they were sprouted, I dried these berries in a dehydrator. I decided this part of the process was not worth all the work for the next batch of sprouted berries but I do believe that in the long run, it did contribute to the overall flavor of the beer. I also noticed that when I ground up these berries, they were a lighter color inside and had less of a roasted caramel flavor. Once they were dried, I roasted them for 30 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees F. This added to the flavor and color of the finished beer.

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For the 4 cups of kamut berries, I soaked and sprouted them for the same amount of time. Then, I roasted them for 1 hour at 350 degrees F to ensure they were fully dried, stirring approximately every 15 minutes. After they cooled, I combined both of the kamut grains. Then, I took off all the roots and shoots of the sprouts by agitating them in a mesh strainer and stirring them around. This method was very effective and I was only left with the grains: in total, 2.5 lbs malted kamut berries.

Then, I waited about a week. This was both because I didn’t have time to brew my beer that week and also because I read somewhere that you should let them sit for a bit after malting to release any undesirable flavors. The morning of my brew day, I crushed the malted grains in my Ninja food processor–nothing fancy for the job. I made an effort to track down a grain mill and other possible methods to crush the grains but I ultimately ended up using my food processor. I made sure most of them were cracked so that there was more surface area for the sugars to be extracted. All in all, this was a very loud process and should be done during the day if you live in an apartment complex.

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Brewing

Time to brew! This next step was quite intimidating to me, and it didn’t help that the book I had was pretending to be oh so laid back about brewing beer and claimed it would all fall into place. Which, looking back on this day, was true but I could have used more guidance and reassurance from him. Many homebrewers have used this book (The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian), and I understand why he approaches brewing in that way but I would appreciate at least a little concern for the beer I’m about to make.  I later realized I needed to just learn the basics of brewing and go from there, not getting caught up in the little details. The Kitchn has a great “Brew School” blog that helped me understand the basics, and ultimately I took most of my methodology from their posts. Here it is for reference. There are some great tips in there for first time homebrewers and their ingredients are commonly-found at homebrew stores.

Alright, no excuses–time to brew the beer!

The Mash

First, I preheated the oven for at 200 F and turned the oven off after 5 minutes of it being at 200 F. Then, I heated 3 quarts of water up to 160 F and added the 2.5lbs of crushed malted kamut grains, stirring to ensure all the grains were submerged. I took the temperature immediately after and placed it in the oven to keep it at a steady temperature of 150 F. Every 15 minutes, I made sure it was at approximately 150 F. If it was too low, I put it on the stove for a bit to warm it up and then returned it to the oven. I did this for an hour, making sure the temperature was between 148-152 F to be sure the enzymes convert all the starches into sugars, which will help feed the yeasts in a bit. After 1 hour and 15 minutes, I strained the wort out (sugar water extracted from the kamut berries, on right in picture below) and ran water over the spent grains (on left) to get all the sugars off.

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The Boil

Next, I put the wort back on the stove and brought it to a rolling boil. After 10 minutes, the “hot break” was supposed to happen. This means that big bubbles of boiling wort start breaking through the foam layer. The hot break happened much too soon for me, so I prolonged it by spraying water on the foam so it didn’t overflow. Partly because I was trying to follow the recipe and partly because I figured it was important. Then, I added 0.5 ounces of Saaz hops, in flower form, and boiled it for 30 minutes. Most breweries have a much longer boil, but for some reason I decided to have a 30-minute boil. Saaz hops aren’t particularly bitter, so it made sense to have a shorter boil. To get more flavor out of the hops, I should have ground up the hops in my food processor (next time I will). Finally, I strained the hops out and cooled the wort down within 20 minutes by placing the pot in an ice bath in my sink. This step is critical to some people, and other brewers don’t care as much. I cooled it down so I could add the yeast sooner, and to reduce the possibility of undesirable bacteria finding its way into my beer.

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Fermentation

After the wort was cooled, I added the yeast. I bought Danstar Nottingham Ale Dry Yeast (11g) on Amazon and activated it by adding half the packet to about a 1/2 cup of water, stirred it, and waited 5 minutes. After that, I added the cooled wort and yeast solution to a gallon carboy (fermenter) and filled it up the rest of the way with water. I shouldn’t have filled it up with water (nonetheless NOT sterile water…), but I was wanting more beer than I had wort. So, I ended up with a lower ABV (alcohol by volume). So, learn from my mistakes: if you ever make beer….don’t add water to the carboy to top it off!

Next, I put the airlock on and waited two weeks. It stayed in my apartment which was an almost constant 68 degree F. 17439044_1425782880829246_5491181272086609920_n(1)

Right before I ended up bottling it, I took a peek and this is what I saw:

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For the untrained eye, that may look like a wonderful safehaven for some migroorganisms. For me, I thought my beer was ruined and figured it would probably kill me if I drank it (or maybe something less extreme, but still). After doing research, I concluded that it had been contaminated by me not being extremely careful not to introduce any bad bacteria or yeasts through not properly sanitized equipment or wort. I do remember a few instances which could have led to this, so the moral is to strive to be more sanitary. The good news is that this contamination won’t kill the drinkers of this fine beverage and the bacteria and yeasts may have imparted some undesirable flavors into the beer. Since noone has ever made kamut beer to my knowledge, I am going with the thought that the flavors I taste are not from these microorganisms and were meant to be there, whether it was contaminated or not. I should note though, that 99% of the time these contaminated beers don’t taste good to the average person.

*Side note…this is partly how breweries make sour beer. If you live in the Pacific Northwest or are a sour aficionado, you may have heard of de Garde Brewing, a brewery that specializes in wild fermented-sour beers at the Oregon Coast in Tillamook, OR. Similar concept, but they actually want the off, sour flavors in their beer.

Bottling

After 2 weeks, the beer was ready to be bottled. So, what better way to celebrate the end of the first fermentation of my beer than with a bottling party? I invited friends over to see my setup and to help make labels for all the bottles of beer I was about to have, and to name it. I decided on Sassy Saaz which was fitting because there was a lot of sass and Saaz hops packed into this beer.

I took  the airlock off and siphoned it from the carboy to a pan, making sure to keep the spent yeast separate. Then, I added 1.5 tbsp honey to the mixture, mixing thoroughly (with a clean spoon). Next, I sterilized bottles with hot water and let them cool. Last, I siphoned the beer into the bottles. Bottling is easy and fun, especially with friends that help make the labels.

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After the bottling party, I had to wait another two weeks. This secondary fermentation allows the yeast to continue digesting sugar (in the form of honey) and instead of releasing the CO2, it is forced to turn into bubbles, which results in natural carbonation. After the beer was done, we got to taste it!

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Description

Sassy Saaz: a toasted caramel amber ale with subtle hints of honey.

Critique

At the time that I drank it, I didn’t know how to describe beers very well. Sure, I still don’t but I do have more experience with various types of beer and I’m working on identifying the aromas. I still have one bottle that I’ll open in the near future and I am hoping the flavors evolve more. Specifically, I tasted a metallic undertone and I’m not sure if that was from the malt, wild bacteria or yeast, or the metal pan I used to incorporate the honey before bottling. Nevertheless, I made beer from scratch, and that’s a damn gratifying thing to do.

Cheers!

 

Hoppy Mead

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Oh my goodness, do hops even belong in mead?! Why yes, it turns out many meaderies are  adding this flower to honey wines, with great success. I’ve had a couple different hopped meads from various meaderies and I found them to be a refreshing combination of beer and mead.

Now, some people call it hopped mead but I like to call it hoppy–I mean, hoppy or hopped? Hopped mead sounds fancier but I’m not always about class–so I’ll call it hoppy mead.

On a more horticultural note…

Luckily if the bees all disappear, we will still have hops–to produce the cones we utilize for beer flavor, pollination is not necessary. But zero bees = zero mead = NO HOPPY MEAD. So really, we do need bees in the future (in case you were wondering about that).

Now for the recipe…

For this recipe, I used whole hops, purchased from a homebrew store in Eugene, Oregon. From there, I packed the hops in my bag and took them back to Laramie and made two different types of hopped mead from that 1 ounce (I still have another ounce of a different kind–that trial is still to come). I didn’t know anything about hops until recently, so I had to read up on this odd plant–I mean, who thought to put these green flowers into a fermented beverage? I think I can speak for most people, that we’re eternally happy (hoppy?)  that person did some hundred years ago.

I have two recipes below–Hoppy Mead #1 was pretty bitter at first but with age it got better. Hoppy Mead #2 was more flowery, and exactly what I was hoping for. Stay tuned for more hoppy meads to come!

Hoppy Mead #1

0.5 oz Ahtanum hops, boiled for 15 min ~1 gallon of water

2 lb honey

1 tsp Covee wine yeast*

40 raisins

(water)

Boil the hops in water for ~15 minutes to release the acids and essential oils. After 15 minutes, strain out the hops. I found that my large strainer didn’t keep the seeds out, so I strained it again with a smaller strainer (don’t fret if you can’t get all the particles out–it’ll work out just fine). Let cool to room temperature.

Mix yeast with a cup of the cooled tea and a spoonful of honey. Let sit for 5 minutes, to make sure your yeast is alive and well. If it is, you’ll see bubbles forming.

Add all honey to a 1 gallon glass container** (I use the growlers that you buy fancy apple cider in), the yeast mixture, raisins, and gradually pour the rest of the tea in, swirling the gallon container around so the honey is incorporated. Fill the container, saving about 1.5in of headspace. If necessary, add more water.

Next, put your airlock in place and set it up (put water in the top)***. Put a cloth around the growler so light doesn’t get in, and place it in a spot where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much.

Now, the boring part. Wait for around 4 weeks, and then bottle it. For this particular batch, I waited 40 days. I ended up not having time to bottle it after 4 weeks, and so I just waited until I had time. I’ve found mead is very forgiving in this way.

Bottling: as always, make sure your jars/bottles/vessels are sterile! Boiling water is your friend. Now, the first time I tried siphoning  mead out of the growler and into bottles, I used straws taped together.. As you may be thinking to yourself, this is not ideal! After watching a few youtube videos,  I quickly realized straws just weren’t going to cut it. I found that clear plastic piping is quite cheap at ACE Hardware–so invest the few dollars in that stuff and you won’t be disappointed.

Siphoning is one of the best parts of making mead. You have the first taste of the mead as you suck up liquid to establish a pressure gradient, and sometimes it doesn’t taste amazing but then you have to think to yourself, “I’m drinking this out of a tube. When does anything taste good out of a tube?” And then you pour a glass, and you realize it’s alllll good.

I generally wait a week or two to drink the mead I just bottle, but go ahead and start drinking it whenever you like. Cheers!

*I haven’t found many differences in wine yeasts, so I would use whatever is easiest to get.

**Make sure to sterilize your container. I find that the easiest way to do this is to pour boiling water in,put the cap on and swirl it around for about a minute.Be sure to get all of the container–all your hard work will go to waste if you find unwanted microbes colonizing your hoppy mead!

***Sterilize your airlock, too! I like to boil it in a pot of water and then let it air-dry. Three-piece airlocks are much easier to clean, even though they aren’t as fun to watch as your mead ferments–but they are definitely worth it.

 

Hoppy Mead #2 (Or what my friends call, “What Beer Should Taste Like”)

1 lb honey

1 tsp Covee wine yeast

40 raisins

Water

0.5 oz Ahtanum hops

This recipe is very similar to Hoppy Mead #1, but I didn’t boil the hops. I fermented the honey, yeast, raisins, and water with the airlock for ~4.5 weeks and then added 0.5 oz hops. I had to take out some of the plain mead (Oh darn!) to make room for the hops. After a week of room-temperature steeping, I bottled it, and it tastes great just a few days later.

 

A nontraditional twist on sauerkraut and sausage

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I wrote this first blog post for another sustainability-minded blog here: http://greenbrowngold.weebly.com/  I’ve also added it below so, you know, it looks like I actually do things.

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The kitchen is a place I wander around in, whether I’m hungry, waiting for something to cook or I just don’t know what to do with myself. Now more than ever, I go to the kitchen to relieve built-up stress from day to day things. I also love to experiment. In school, I find there aren’t too many ways to go about completing an assignment or taking notes in class, and so my creative outlet is the kitchen.

I like to think I’m not obsessed with food, I just like making things from scratch. I mean, can you fully appreciate a meal if you don’t understand how many hours went into the creation before you? If anything, I probably just embarrass myself with how often I like to bring up my favorite cooking blog ( https://smittenkitchen.com/ I will talk about it every chance I get). For real, though—check it out next time you’re looking for a recipe. That said, I really do appreciate the time it takes to make a dish. Sure, this sometimes takes much longer than I want, but I do find great joy in the process.

When I moved into a house my sophomore year of college, I started cooking for myself and making different foods. I had doubts about what ingredients I would be able to find in Laramie, but if you’re up for a challenge, you will probably be able to find what you need or something similar.

In the past few years, I got interested in fermentation. One of the great things about fermented vegetables is that their shelf-life is longer than if you just left them in the fridge, and that means you don’t have to go to the store quite as much in the dead of winter. All you really need is a jar and time. Here is a great recipe to follow: http://www.killerpickles.com/klassic-kraut/ One of my favorite variations is to add a few leaves of kale, curry powder and red pepper flakes to the mix.

I was vegetarian for about 8 years, and veggie sausages were a special treat. Even though I eat meat occasionally, I still have a mainly vegetarian diet, so I got excited when I found this recipe: http://www.isachandra.com/2012/01/vegan_sausage/ (this blog has a bunch of other great seitan, or “fake meat,” recipes on it if you are interested). Once you try this recipe, you might never go back to store-bought meat alternatives. For one, it’s much cheaper. Big Hollow Food Co-op in Laramie sells vital wheat gluten for a little over $7 a bag and you can make at least 16 sausages out of it! What a deal. Second, you can add whatever seasonings you like—honey, hot sauce, lemon, curry powder—and it’s hard to mess them up.

So, I know it can be a daunting task to start making things from scratch right away. But, it doesn’t have to be! Start with something you like to eat. Look up a recipe for it, see how it’s made, and make it. Many recipes say you must have certain kitchen supplies but more often than not, you don’t really need all the fancy kitchenware. Other recipes might give you alternatives as well.

Besides saving money, making food from scratch has many other benefits. I find that making food helps me recharge mentally after a particularly hectic day. Being in control of what goes into the food I eat, I find I am more mindful when eating. If I know how much butter goes into a scone, I probably won’t eat as many, and I’ll savor it more. You can also choose what goes in—if you have problems with certain foods, you can make it to your liking. Lastly, I’ve found that the more food I make from scratch, the less food I waste. You can always stray away from the recipe to add in the wilted spinach in your fridge you really didn’t want to eat raw.