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Old 11-19-2012, 04:09 PM   #1
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Default Beer Connoisseur article on traditional Lithuanian brewing. No-boil + hop tea?

It's not online that I know of, but Beer Connoisseur has an article on the ancient and secretive world of traditional Lithuanian farmhouse beer. It was light on technical details, but there were two interesting things: 1) One of the styles involves making spent grain bread then crumbling it back up into the wort, pre-fermentation. The author described the resulting flavor as "torrefaction." 2) No boil + hop tea seems to be the order of the day.

I found the latter very interesting. I had wondered if it was a viable technique, but he made it sound like they were all doing it over there. No one on this forum has admitted to trying it...yet, so I was wondering if anyone here had any insight on this method. The article said that the beer, of course, comes out very malty and with a lot of earthy flavors and strange aftertastes, but some of that has to be due to the yeast (wild yeast cultured for decades!). Has anyone here had any experience with rustic Lithuanian brewing or any of these methods?

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Old 12-24-2012, 09:04 PM   #2
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I read that article and was wondering it myself. Getting nowhere on the Google front - just Berliner recipes, and that's not what I'm going for.

My wife has Lithuanian heritage, and I thought this might be a nice surprise for her.

I'm thinking you would still have to mash at temperature, right? I don't see conversion happening cold. So maybe you still mash, but get it down to temperature directly after and add the hop tea and yeast.

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Old 03-13-2013, 09:50 AM   #3
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I am Lithuanian, and helped Beer Connoisseur with their trip to Lithuanian beer country. A couple of insights you might find useful.

As for grain bread beer, it's called "Keptinis" and it is mentioned as a style in some old books. The bread is made not from spent grain, but from mash dough, then baked in loafs, crumbled and filtered by pretty much the same traditional filtering method as in other farmhouse beers (see below), before fermenting.

As for no-boil + hop tea process, it was and still is quite common way of producing local farmhouse beers by traditional homebrewers and small brewers alike, but the methods vary, as the process would be changed/evolved by every brewer in his family. There was a study/survey of existing brewing procedures published by a Lithuanian ethnologist before WWII, where there seemed to be a lot of variations. Of course, the basics are the same. I have tried no-boil beer from at least four commercial brewer(ie)s who are still producing beer in such manner (namely, A. Grigonis, A. Udrienė, J. Morkūnas, Kurklių bravoras), and several non-commercial brewers in Lithuania North.

In short, the grains are mashed and then filtered through a combination of wooden chips, hay bed and/or branches, and sometimes hops. Different sources of those materials would impart certain flavors to the final product.

After this, the hop tea is added, wort cooled and the yeast (most often brewers yeast, but sometimes even baking yeast could be used) pitched. The fermentation temps vary widely across regions, families and yeasts used. A few times I was surprised to hear about fermentation temps as high as human body temp (37 Celsius). I was brewing traditional beer with a friend from that region, and he chose to use exactly this temperature as this is what the brewers in his family were always using.

As you can imagine, such fermentation is rigorous, happens quickly and imparts more aggressive flavors. Not yet completely fermented, so called "green beer" or "young beer" would be racked into wooden barrels, closed tightly and kept cool - during this process the beer would finish fermenting, get some condition and "start walking" (the pressure built by fermentation would sometimes even break the barrels). There's a different story, art and folclore about dispensing and consuming a beer from those barrels.

Generally, there were two groups of beers - for fast consumption, and for keeping. The fast beers could be drank already a week after racking, and the keeping ones could be matured for months, maybe longer, in cold places - cellars, water wells, dug in ground and so on.

Hope this helps.

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Old 03-13-2013, 12:04 PM   #4
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This is great, thanks marsav!

So if I were to try to approximate one of these farmhouse beers, what commercially available White Labs or Wyeast yeast could I use? Any idea the amount of IBUs in them? Which grains can I buy to approximate, as well?

Sorry for all the questions, I'm just excited someone with some knowledge responded to the thread.

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Old 03-13-2013, 10:01 PM   #5
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Hey bdkelly - for your approximations, you could use heat tolerant and either neutral, yeasty or mildly spicy profile yeasts. I know that some brewers in the area are using Fermentis Safbrew S-33/Edme yeast which is a very popular general purpose ale yeast tolerant to wide range of temps. I guess other British ale yeasts should do the job, too. For S-33, I saw WLP005, Wyeast 1187 mentioned on this same board as substitutes.

On the other hand, seeking to imitate funkier versions of Lithuanian farmhouse ales, I think you could try some less pronounced Belgian or French farmhouse/saison/biere de garde strains, especially with the lower FG.

Local brewers mostly use local lager/pilsner malts which have a very toasted character - if you can get your hands on Czech or German malts, they are next best fit.

As for hops, I would say the majority of Lithuanian farmhouse beers are not too bitter and a good balance is prefered - even though there are many exceptions to this rule. It's difficult to say about the amounts as hop tea doesn't have the same absorption rate as wort. I would say flavor perception is often at 25-35 IBU or lower. Some brewers still use local wild or cultured hops, but the majority just use any available German and Czech hops (Hallertauer Traditional and Tettnager are quite popular).

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Old 03-13-2013, 10:09 PM   #6
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marsav, would you happen to have a mash dough bread recipe?

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Old 03-13-2013, 10:40 PM   #7
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Again, this is awesome, thanks marsav! In my head, I was using pilsner malt and saison yeast, but it's good to know that I can use S-33, and that others are using it.

Mongrel, in my research, I found this thread: http://www.alaus.info/forumas/alus-s...us-mieste.html

Roughly translated through translate.google.com, you come up with this for the bread recipe:

5 kg pale malt
1 kg rye malt
1 kg amber
1 kg Vienna
0.2 kg of sugar

From what I can gather, he mixed it all with hot water until it was wet and formed loaves, then put them in the oven. He has no idea what temperature his oven is, but said he left them in for about two hours, checking on them periodically and removing them when they turned brown.

Then he used about 1.75 oz. of Northern Brewer in a hop tea (mentioning it wasn't bitter enough for him) and use Brewferm Top yeast.

I think I'm going to try just doing the mash version before the bread version. How does this look for a recipe?

Assuming 65% brewhouse efficiency, 5.25 gallon batch size
9.5 lbs Pilsner
1.5 lbs Amber
1.5 lbs Munich
.5 lbs Flaked Barley

Should be about 1.059 SG, 7.9 SRM. I have both Hallertauer and Tettnanger on hand, so I can decide on that and research a bit more on how to prepare a hop tea - I'm thinking pouring boiling water over hops in a french press. Then filtering through wood chips or hay.

Thoughts?

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Old 03-14-2013, 12:44 AM   #8
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On second thought, I think I'll boil the hops separately for 10 - 20 minutes. It seems like you'd get better utilization that way. Or possibly draining off some wort at the end of the mash and using that to boil the hops in and add it back.

marsav, any insight on the hop tea?

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Old 03-14-2013, 06:07 AM   #9
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@bdkelly - that seems like a fairly good recipe based on the description of "Keptinis" brewing process from another book on Lithuanian fermented beverages. The translation is accurate enough. I have the original book, but not at hand. By re-reading the thread, and recalling my own experience of trying to replicate Keptinis, here come a few more tips - that should help Mongrel as well:

1) the mash dough is made from mixing hot water with ground grains, probably a very thick dough. If you can form loafs, you can do that and bake as such, if it's too thin, you can bake in trays like in the pictures of that thread

2) while baking, the edges will caramelize and that's necessary but probably it shouldn't burn too black. Different brewers would bake it to a different degree of caramelization, and that would impact both resulting colour and flavor - plenty of space for experimentation. Not sure about temperatures, but it's quite likely originally the brewers were using the same ovens that were normally purpose-built for bread - so the temps can be similar too.

3) after baking, crumble the bread, add some hops, hot water and mash for long hours. For me it sounds like most of the conversion should happen during initial phase of baking, and later the enzymes are killed by high temps, but that's what our ancestors were doing - they didn't know much about chemistry, but maybe they liked the resulting flavors, or had some other beliefs about that

4) filter, add hop tea, cool, pitch. You are right for the hop tea - it has to be boiled, the bitterness and preservative qualites were more important than aroma. I think I read that sometimes hop tea was even added to mash, and then wort filtered as usual.

As for grains, the post mentions (probably a quote from the book) that long time ago, the grain bill was mainly based on local bromus grain malt, while barley and oats would constitute only a small part of the bill.

I started thinking I have to get back to that book and go to the market to fetch some bromus

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Old 03-14-2013, 09:43 AM   #10
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And subbing this too!

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