Thursday, August 18, 2016

Dandy Lion Saison Tasting

Do you even forage bro? No really do you? I have a desire to learn, because for the life of me I haven't been able to find any decent areas nearby to forage for ingredients to put in my beers. This is entirely due to my lack of education on foraging, I really just dont know where to start in my area and what even to look for! I've been interested in this topic for some time, but just haven't found anywhere I can gather info and set out with confidence. Hopefully I can educate myself by way of the two super exciting upcoming books on the topic, Homebrewer's Almanac and Brewing Local, are released. I realize this stuff isn't rocket science, but I need some guidance before I go out and sticking some weird fungus/plant/fruit in my beers. 

Look no further than what Scratch Brewing (the source of Homebrewer's Almanac) and Fonta Flora are doing with their beers if your interest in foraging for beer ingredients hasn't yet been piqued. I'm just so enamored with the idea or brewing beers, mostly Saison, with the foraged ingredients locally sourced. It really jives with the old school mentality that a lot of modern Farmhouse Breweries are getting back to, beer of your surroundings if you will. I don't throw a lot of weird shit into the kettle, but maybe I should start, this guy does and his beers seem to turn out ok.

Earlier this spring I brewed my first real foraged ingredient beer, my daughter and I ventured deep into the wilderness to pick a bunch of dandelions off my neighbor's weed filled lawns. The terrain was brutal, but the couple hundred feet that my daughter and I trekked proved fruitful. Ok, so maybe I need to be a little more adventurous with our foraging hikes, give me a break, I'm a newb. Not everyone can scale mountains and find wild blueberries like Brian Hall from Brouwerij Chugach, I'm mad jelly.

So the dandelion beer, it didn't even turn out that great, but I think that happened for an interesting reason other than the dandelions I picked. As you can see in the photo the beer is a beautiful straw yellow color with a frothy white head and high carbonation level. The aromas pouring out of the glass are earthy, floral, and I know my perception is skewed but I swear it smells like dandelion leaves. So in that respect I think it was a success. But the beer comes across as relatively sweet, something that surprised me since it finished at 1.002 but also not surprising as 10% Honey Malt did have me a little nervous. The Honey malt comes through a way too strong, and cuts into the fermentation character, which admittedly is light as I never maxed the fermentation out above 75F. Due to the mild fermentation, there are no spice notes to speak of, something that would help to cut the honey malt sweetness a little bit.

The body on this beer silky smooth, something I was trying to get by way of a lot of wheat and a high chloride content then you might expect in a saison water profile. I have found in my barrel aged saison's that the high chlorides, much like in the NEPA's, keeps these dry beers from being very astringent in the finish. But with this beer, due to the tame fermentation character and the stronger than desired Honey malt character it just doesnt work. I think maybe it might be better to does the finished beer with calcium chloride to counterattack an overly dry astringency then build the water upfront, since you know I can't take it out. The beer is not bad by any stretch, it is just not what I targeted exactly, and due to the malt sweetness and mild fermentation character it's a bit outside of the "Saison" style.

My process for the dandelion's worked out very well, I wasn't totally sure what to expect from them but the aromas I got from the earthy hops and the leaves are very enticing. When I brew this beer next year, I won't waste my time deflowering the weed and just pop the heads off and get them right into the whirlpool. This keg here isn't my favorite, but the silky body and honey malt sweetness will work really well as a blending beer when I need to cut some acidity or build some body so all is not lost, and it is actually quite drinkable. Next up, I need to find some honeysuckles, not a clue what I am going to get from those either. Anyway, foraging, and beers made with foraged ingredients, both need work, or just dont use 10% Honey Malt in your Saisons? IDK.


  1. Nice experiment. I recently brewed my first saison, no herbs nor spices. I wonder what was your fermentation schedule on this beer.

    What about adding some sugar next time for a thinner body?

    1. Could add sugar, but the beer dried out significantly already. I think the heavy handed Honey Malt was the biggest culprit here, just added too much sweetness and body in the end.

  2. i've recently become interested in foraging for ingredients also. Best thing we did was took a foraging class a few weeks ago by a local expert (Green Deene of I've got plans to to split a saison over a few different ingredients (1 gallon secondaries) and one of those variants is Elderries (which are in season now) and maybe BeautyBerries which are also in season. It's amazing what's out there when you know what to look for.

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  4. Thinking of trying a dandelion beer since they're "in season". Two questions if you have time for a quick answer.

    1. I'd like to do more of a table saison (3.5-4%). Any thought on the rate of dandelion use and how the flavour hold or would it overpower without a stronger alcohol present.

    2. Honey malt lower obviously. 5% or so?

    Thanks in advance Ed...I know you're busy these days.

    1. I think actually a small table beer would be absolutely perfect with Dandelions. In my experience you need much more dandelion than you think, but I would imagine in a smaller beer they could stand out a bit more. As far as ratios go its kind of hard for me to gauge, but I would just target filling a 5 gallon bucket about halfway with dandelion heads hopefully target 2.5lbs for 5 gallons. I had nearly 1.5lbs and found it a little light.

      2-3% Honey malt would be perfect.