Friday, January 24, 2014

Tasting Notes: Helianthus

 Helianthus is a pretty straightforward beer by design so I could get a decent idea on what the ingredient could add to my Farmhouse Saisons. Even by itself, along with some Pilsner of course, it seems to add a really nice layer of graininess and aide in head retention to the beer, not unlike using Wheat or Spelt but has its own unique character. It was deffinitely a pain to "crush" the seeds, and next time I hope I can come up with a better method, but there will certainly be a next time. I can see this pairing really well with a spring time Saison with a subtle fruity Brett Strain, some Citra, and maybe some Dandelions in the boil to play up the earthiness...wheels are spinning. Anyway, here are my brief thoughts on a unique session beer that I quite enjoy.


As you can see in the photo above this beer has cleared up nicely in the keg for 6 weeks, it was very hazy when it was young which was fine. Poured from the tap with a dense pillowy bright white head that lasts forever it seems. Straw yellow color, with fine tiny bubble shooting up from the bottom of the glass rapidly. After each sip there is a definitive line of lacing to show that it takes no more then 4-5 sips to finish a glass of this thirst quencher.

Nose is floral with some spice and slightly phenolic, different then most Saisons I brew probably due to the EKGs that I don't normally use. Behind floral notes and pepper is a very interesting grainy aroma, slightly it reminds me a bit of some of the beers I haver had that were brewed with Spelt but milder. 
Previously mentioned lacing.

Thin body, prickly carbonation, peppery spice on the tip of the tongue with some earthy hop presence. Finishes with more peppery spice and then off the palate, very session-able and refreshing.

The nose reminds me a lot of some of the well known Belgian blondes, it actually reminds me alot of Brasserie de la Senne's Taras Boulba. Which might make sense why I enjoy it so much as I love Taras Boulba. Right when I smelled the beer for the first time it brought me back to my trip to Brussels sipping De La Senne at Moeder Lambic, one of the best bars in the world if you ask me.

This beer is really refreshing, I enjoy it quite a bit, I could change things next time but I think with a beer this delicate it could be vastly different. I am looking forward to using the Sunflower Seeds again, hopefully this spring. I think I can call this experiment a success.


  1. Hey AotR! I love the blog and am happy to be joining the online community finally, getting out of my shell to ask the more expert folks like you some questions and blogging about it. Probably will hear from me again - I admire your work greatly :) My questions are, did you have any issues with the oils from sunflower seeds? I see from the photos and your description that it didn't kill the head... Was worried that it might lead to a slightly oily brew, but was this a problem? But then again, sunflower seeds aren't entirely that oily. The other question is, I'm not sure I completely grasped what the sunflowers contributed to the taste and aroma - would you be able to discern and pick out exactly what it tastes like and is it something very different?

    I'm about to brew a roasted pumpkin seed and cranberry porter with a malt bill based on that of Mikkeller's Texas and Mexas Ranger porters (both amazing -- avocado leaves and black beans in Mexas come through!!) And I love the head on those beers, just would like to know how to retain it with oily seeds in the mash and the boil/secondary.

    I'm super intrigued by CMC malting sunflower seeds, amazing!! Inspiring, and here in Sweden one can find amazing flax seed at a great price, I'm thinking of malting some organic seeds and brewing a flax saison... Perhaps with a bit of Gotland smoked malt and some Swedish hop varieties for that ultra farmhouse feel but from my own home :)

    Thanks a lot for brilliant posts!

    1. Thanks for the positive feed back FYS, I'm glad youre enjoying the blog! The topic of oils in the Sunflower seed has come up a few times but I didn't experience any issues with oils killing the body/head on the beer (as you noted and can see in the photos). Quite the opposite actually, the beer poured with a rocky head, and despite a fairly dry beer it retained some body due to the Sunflowers.

      As far as the contributions to the beer the Sunflower seeds aided in head retention and body, not unlike using wheat/spelt/rye/oats but also added a nice grainy note to the malt character.

      That Pumpkin Seed cranberry Porter sounds lovely! I say go for it, maybe brew a smaller 3 gallon batch as a test to see if the oil from the seeds creates a problem. But the only way to know for sure is to test it out. Good luck, cheers!