Friday, May 6, 2016


I wanted to try something a bit different, and figured I'd go back to something I'd considered last year.  I still haven't been able to find DogFish Head Sah'tea in the stores, so I thought I'd take a shot at making one of my own.

From the Sah'tea page at the DogFish Head web site:

...the beer is fermented with a German weizen yeast. In addition to juniper berries foraged from the Finnish countryside, Sah'tea is flavored with black tea.

I've got a copy of Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing, and there's a recipe on pg. 244 for a Finnish Sahti.  I'm using something of a variant of that recipe, going with a partial mash, but I wanted to get an idea of how to go about adding juniper berries to the recipe, and in what amount.  I've been doing research on the subject and what I've found is that there are some resources available on the Internet that both praise and condemn the use of juniper berries in beer, but few that include recipes or proportions.  The recipe in the book calls for 1 oz of crushed berries in a 5 gal batch, and juniper branches are included in the mash.  I'm not going to include the branches in this attempt, but I may in future attempts.  I have a juniper bush in my front yard and snipping off a few small branches to include in the boil might not be a bad addition.

For this first attempt, I'm going to got with crushed berries, added to the last 10 min of the boil, in a muslin bag.  I'll do a gentle crushing using a mortar and pestle, and I don't want little bits and pieces of the berries floating around in my beer; the muslin bag will take care of that.

Brew Day: 6 May 2016

Partial Mash:
9 oz Briess Rye Malt
3 oz Crystal Rye Malt
1.5 oz Carapils

Boil (60 min):
1.6 lb Munich LME (@ 60 min)
3 oz table sugar (@ 60 min)

Hops: 10 g German Perle, AA: 8.4% (FWH)

Additions: 10 g Juniper berries (crushed), black tea (@ 10 min, remained in the wort during cooling)

Yeast:  WLP380 (wanted to go with something that imparts less banana, more clove)

*I followed my usual process for the partial mash, cooling the wort, and pitching the yeast.

Addendum, 7 May: Going through my normal morning routine, I checked in on the beer; the yeast was pitched about 13 hrs ago.  It's bubbling quite nicely; there's a bit of blow-off in the blow-off bottle, but not a lot, and the bubbles rising in the fermenter are as many as the stars in the sky.  ;-)

I will say that the beer is a bit more brown than I would have like, but that's a result of the LME and crystal rye.  We'll see how the combination of additions works on the flavor, but the next attempt at this may be more along the lines of an all-grain brew.

Addendum, 8 May: Checked in on the beer this morning, found that the blow-off bottle was completely overflowing, and was glad that I'd put paper towels underneath it.  I replaced the blow-off bottle with a new one (I use spent Gatorade bottles), and was able to see the flow of bubbles; they were small, a little over  second apart, but there was a steady flow.  Now, I'll just let the beer sit and let the yeast keep doing it's thing.  I'll likely put an airlock on the fermenter in about a week, and I'm looking at bottling either the 18th or maybe the 20th.

Addendum, 12 May: My wife had one of the hefeweizens I made with the WLP380 yeast, and she really likes it...a lot!  She opened it and poured it into a glass, and I could smell the banana from across the room.  As such, I'm wondering if the juniper berries and tea will overwhelm the banana esters, or after a couple of weeks of sitting, the reverse will be true.

What I may need to do with the next attempt at this brew is try the K-97 yeast.  I know that the description from the DFH site says "weizen" yeast, which is "wheat" in German.  The K-97 is described to be a German ale yeast, so that may be the way to go.

Right now, I'm somewhat on the fence regarding other changes.  Part of me says, "...make documented, atomic changes...", but the Marine in me says, "...make BOLD dope changes!!" It might be best if, when tasting this brew, the banana is overpowering to just change the yeast used, and nothing else.

Addendum, 21 May: Bottled today, before heading out to an anniversary dinner with my lovely bride!  Got a full six-pack, plus two repurposed soda bottles worth of beer.  During the transfer, the beer had a bit of banana aroma already; I didn't try it because I wanted it all in the bottles.  It will be interesting to try this one in 2-3 weeks.

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