Sunday, July 24, 2016

Norweigian Farmhouse Ale (Maltøl) - Smoke, Juniper, and Kveik

Ive been sitting on this idea for about 6 months now, but only recently was I able to source the yeast and the Juniper to brew these beers.  I'm not sure how I came across his blog but in the middle of winter I found a really cool site about Norwegian Farmhouse beers and other Eastern European brewing.  It was there that I first learned about the extremely interesting brewing traditions of Norway.

Juniper soaking in cold water
I immediately knew that I would have to try this style (if it can be called that) for myself. The hardest part has been sourcing the yeast of which there are only two suppliers and both tend to be sold out.  If I was going to brew up a more traditional version I also had to find a good source of Juniper (juniperus communis), which at first I struggled with, even though I live in one of the few areas of the States that are in its range.  Eventually I enlisted the help of a Forester that I know who brought me to a small stand within a mile of my house! (If you pick this yourself bring gloves it is some prickly stuff)

 To be honest the general outline of what a traditional beer is like kinda scares me, its smokey, full of a massive dose of juniper, and the yeast is pitched really warm (39-43C aka 102-109F).  While the original thing that piqued my interest was the was the flavor profile of the yeast, especially the supposed orange flavor it gives off.  So I decided that I would do two separate beers with the yeast, one more traditionally inspired with smoke malt, juniper water, and a warm pitch, while the other beer would be much more like the Belgian Table beers I brew (unmalted grains and a 65-70F fermentation range).  This should give me two very contrasting beers, one that I know will be very drinkable (Table beer style) and one that will be very unique, unlike anything else I have made before, while allowing me to test the range of this yeast.

Juniper in the Mashtun

The traditional inspired beer requires the use of Juniper tips in both the brewing water and the mashtun.  I was initially unsure how I was going to soak all the water in juniper (I really wanted to avoid coating everything in juniper oil) so I decided on ramping the temps up of all my mash water and soaking juniper in the water till it dropped to the required temp for mashin/mashout.  I also decided against soaking my sparge water in juniper, mostly to avoid the oils in my HLT and heating element and because I'm a bit leary of too much Juniper in this beer having never brewed with it before. Before using the juniper I soaked it in cool water for about 30 minutes to clean any junk off of it.  Then in the heated water it went for a soaking until the temp dropped just right.  I also layers 2 branches in the bottom of my tun, which kinda became a nightmare when I went to mix everything (dealing with dough balls) so Id suggest avoiding this approach.

Einkorn and Oats
The malt bill for each beer ended up quite different. The table beer inspired version had a base of pilsner, some unmalted einkorn, and a small dose of oats. While the table beer version was very simple, the traditionally inspired ale combined Bamberg smoked malt, victory malt, oats, and NW pale malt in an effort to produce something toasty and slightly smokey to balance the juniper. The one common thread between them was the oats, which I used in both beers because they were said to be common though not necessary in a traditional ale, and in the past I've really liked what a touch of oats adds to a very light beer.

One thing I found very interesting about the yeast was how exceptionally fast it floc's.  I have never seen anything quite like it, even WY1964 pales in comparison to the thick chunky peanut-butter like consistency of this yeast once it settles out of suspension.


Malt Bill
Table Beer Style
Traditional Style: Maltøl
Amt (lbs)TypeAmt (lbs)Type
7.0Pilsner (Castle)4.0NW Pale (GW)
0.5Flaked Oats1.0Victory
--0.5Flake Oats
Amt (oz)TypeTime (min)Amt (oz)TypeTime (min)
0.50First Gold (8.9%)600.75First Gold (8.9%)75
1.0First Gold (8.9%)10---
Mash Schedule
TempRatioTime (min)TempRatioTime (min)
Fermentation Specs
YeastPitch TempFerm TempYeastPitch TempFerm Temp
Voss Kveik85F65-95FVoss Kveik65F70±2F
5.5 galOG10456.0 galOG1048
7.0 gal boilFG-7.5 gal boilFG-
Misc: 0.6g CaSO4 and 1.5g NaCl were added to the mash of each beer along with 2-3mL of 88% lactic acid; Yeast starter was grown over the course of 3-4wks on a stir plate, total volume of 12L was used;  Traditional beer used Juniper soaked water (raise temp of strike/mash/etc water by ~20F and allow to sit and soak until correct water temp was achieved)


Wilby Jackson said...

Very cool. Looking forward to reading the tasting notes.

Bryan Canavan said...

How'd this turn out? I'd be very interested in hearing the esters produced by this strain. I'm a lover of all things farmhouse and this is pretty much the only commercially available farmhouse strain I don't have. From research, it seemed too similar (if not exactly the same) as Omega Yeast's Hothead.

I get a distinct orange and mixed berry flavor from Hothead, sound similar?

Anonymous said...

How did this turn out in the end anyway?

Hank said...

Hey Ryan! Are you shure you used Juniperus communis? I was also looking for some Juniper but used just juniper berries in the end because the tree i found looked like yours and i wasn't sure which species it was. Could have been Juniperus virginiana.

Juniperus communis should look like this: (Leaves should be spiky like fir needles)

Ryan said...


I noticed that difference myself before I used the juniper and asked the forester I work with who originally identified the juniper for me. He said that what I was using was Juniper commnunis var alpina, that pic you linked looks like commnunis var communis, which unfortunately I couldnt get my hands on

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