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-   -   GF Brewing with Chestnuts (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f164/gf-brewing-chestnuts-157826/)

mattinboston 01-18-2010 07:41 PM

GF Brewing with Chestnuts
After discovering that I had a pretty severe gluten intolerance six months ago I went into a little mini-depression on the realization this news meant that I could no longer safely consume one of the little indulgences that I enjoyed most in this world: wonderful, malty craft and home brews! In fact, when I learned my fate wrt gluten I had a nice lemon summer ale (aka a gluten bomb) in primary. Yikes..... (at least the guests will be taken care of for a while)

I spent a few weeks tasting all of the commercially-available gluten free brews I could find (Bards, Red Bridge, Greene's, St. Peter's). All of them were drinkable in my opinion (Bards and St. Peter's were my favs), but none really met what I preferred in a beer... plus I just wanted more control over the situation. I wanted the freedom that we have as homebrewers: consuming beer styles limited only to our imaginations!

So I took a dive into research mode... Gluten free brewing is obviously still in its infancy and it seemed everyone was focused on one grain: sorghum, but had the same complaints about beer made from it... that it had a bit of a funny citrus-ish aftertaste.

My first beer was purely sorghum-based and I thought it was certainly drinkable... but it had the telltale citrus-like aftertaste of sorghum and just didn't taste or seem that interesting to be honest. Over the coming few months I tried a few different types of homebrews sans gluten... all based on sorghum, but including different grains like Millet and Buckwheat. None really were even drinkable to be honest!...

Then from a google search I stumbled upon a a list of grains that also included other things like nuts and had a starch profile (and nutritional info) alongside in the same spreadsheet. I think it was used for substituting ingredients in baking, but I happened to glance at the line for chestnuts just below that of malted barley and - wallah - a similar makeup!

So I started mixing up google search terms to see if anyone (anywhere in the world) used chestnuts in beer brewing. I found chestnuts mixed in with barley in beers in france and brazil, which was encouraging, but it wasn't until I found an article by "bella online" about a little chestnut grower in the pacific northwest experimenting with chestnuts to make gluten-free beer (http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art38250.asp) that I started to really get excited. Although the article only included a base recipe to make mead, the grower's website included a rudimentary recipe for a base chestnut beer (http://www.chestnuttrails.com/pages/about-beer). Perfect.

Since reading that recipe I've made 4 beers from the chestnut chips Lee Williams sells at trail's end and 3 have far surpassed in beer-like flavor and quality any GF commercial beers I've had (one was too thin and bitter to keep ).

To date I've made an APA, IIPA, and have an American Cream Ale in primary as of this writing. I'm planning to try a lager next... and have chestnut chips on hand with variable toastings for several more batches of beer. I've used a little bit of sorghum and some corn sugar in all of my chestnut beers to increase gravity and I've put some other grains in to steep as well (namely buckwheat).

I will followup to this post in a few days with some rough recipes that I've used in the hopes that some more experienced brewers here can improve on them or work to make divergent styles. In the meantime I hope this long-winded post can help get some of you beer minds out there thinking about this new ingredient for beer making. I didn't want to lift info from Lee's website, so please go check that out (http://www.chestnuttrails.com/pages/about-beer) and come back and tell us what you think.

Chestnuts are a bit expensive...... but for me to again have beers that taste like, well, beer they're a bargain.


Lcasanova 01-19-2010 01:20 AM

Nice, I knew I had seen a chestnut beer somewhere. When I saw the price of the chestnut chips, however, I was a little put off.

Are you using the same method they describe in the link you posted?

mattinboston 01-19-2010 01:55 AM


Originally Posted by lcasanova (Post 1819914)
Nice, I knew I had seen a chestnut beer somewhere. When I saw the price of the chestnut chips, however, I was a little put off.

Are you using the same method they describe in the link you posted?

Yeah the chips are pricey unfortunately. I've been trying to find a less expensive source to no avail so far...

I'm using pretty much the same method, but I've been experimenting with the temperatures of the water steeping the chestnuts... and I was thinking of trying a "triple decoction" (sp?) mash with them... though I'm still not quite sure what that style of mashing is! I read somewhere that might be a good technique when working with nut starches, but again have yet to try it.

I'm getting pretty good conversions with a 12 hour soak starting with 150 degree water and returning to 150 degrees for an hour before starting to steep the specialty gf grains. The amylase enzyme helps I'm sure! I wish I was a scientist so I understood more of the underlying process...

I'll put my whole technique + recipe up for tweaking/suggestions in a few days when I can get back to my brew notes...

Gonoles10 01-25-2010 03:56 PM

Chestnut IPA
Hey, just stumbled onto your post while researching Chestnut beer. I too have the gluten problem (actually not eating any grains at all). I also found the trails end recipe this morning and have been searching for some type of IPA recipe using chestnuts. It sounds like you have one.If you don't mind sharing your recipes, I would greatly appreciate it. I will most likely be using honey instead of the corn suagar as called for in the trails end recipe. So, I guess I can't just use my home made all grain system as normal (more beer 1550 clone) and mash and sparge as usual? Appreciate any help you can give. Man, if I can get a chestnut IPA going, I will be stoked!!:mug:

mattinboston 01-26-2010 01:00 AM

Hey man... glad to have you on board. The only thing I ask is for you to post any mods to this recipe to help improve it... other than that, here goes. This is a work in progress. It's a double, or imperial IPA. It might even have too much hop, even for me, so I encourage you to scale it back or sub as needed.

5 gal recipe...

5 lbs medium roast chestnut chips
5 lbs corn sugar
2 lbs white sorghum syrup
8 oz Columbus hops
Whirlfloc tab
Safale us-05 yeast

following the trails end recipe I steeped the chestnuts for 12 hours starting with 150 degrees with 1 tblspoon amylase enzyme (I've tried other things since, but hesitate to sub those methods untried on this beer). After the 12 hours I brought it to 160 degrees for 30 mins then sparged.

I removed chips then added some water to compensate.

Bring to boil then add the corn sugar and sorghum.

Add 3 oz Columbus hop pellets

Boil 30 mins

Add 1 oz Columbus mid-hops

Boil 15 mins

Add Whirlfloc tab

Add 3 oz Columbus hops continuously for 15 mins while reducing temp to below boiling

Chill, add water and yeast (sorry I was too dumb to remember to take OG on this batch - was just playing it by feel! dumb dumb dumb)...

Dry Hop after 1 week in primary (possibly too soon) with 1 oz Columbus or Cascade (tried both)

Big big hoppy beer. Sure I made some mistakes... but I could not stop drinking this beer! I've made some other styles since, but this was still my favorite chestnut GF beer by far!

mattinboston 01-26-2010 01:15 AM

One more thing... I've been thinking... I've made 5 or 6 batches now with the chestnuts and all have had at least a bit of sorghum. However, I'm thinking that I'm not really sure the sorghum is adding much other than off flavors. I think my next batch will not have sorghum in it. Just thought I'd share that since you're intending to go no grains at all......

I've been toying with a chestnut/agave nectar beer to eliminate the sorghum and the corn sugar all together... Will let you know if I give that a go.


Gonoles10 01-26-2010 02:22 PM

Cant wait to try it. I'm a hop head myself so I might stick with your hopping schedule for the first run and see how it goes. I'm not real big on corn sugar, so I will probably substitute honey for it. I will have to do some research to see how much honey to sub for the corn sugar. I will try it without the sorghum as well and let you know how it goes. I will probably order the nuts today and should be ready to go when they get here. Woohoo!

mattinboston 01-26-2010 02:48 PM

Good luck - let me know how it goes. I think you'll be pleased with the complexity and character... I was.

FWIW I just kegged a chestnut american cream ale that uses Lee's lightly roasted chestnut chips rather than the medium roasting. It tastes strikingly similar to a wheat beer, which is funny because it doesn't have anything like wheat in it!

These chestnuts are flexible. I have 5lbs of dark toasted chips that I'm thinking about making into a black lager in fact (my first chestnut lager)...

I'm starting to think you could just sub chestnut chips for malt into about any recipe, though I think the conversion is lower so the addition of some fermentables might be necessary.

Gonoles10 02-01-2010 01:56 PM

The chestnuts arrived! I still need to tie up a few loose ends and get my recipe straight before I get started. One of my favorite recipes is "Tongue Splitter" from Northern Brewer. Here is a link:


Do you think I could just substitute chestnuts for the grain and get a good beer? I know I talked about using honey as an extra fermentable but honestly I've never done it and am unsure of the results.

Gonoles10 02-05-2010 02:54 AM

Chestnut IPA
Alright, here is my plan, feel free to critique it as I am not a rocket scientist. I plan on doing the Northern Brewer "Tongue Splitter" recipe as listed above, but will substitute 20 pounds of chestnut chips (1/2 medium roast, and 1/2 light roast) and 5 lbs of honey for the fermentables. I think that will get me close to 1.05 to 1.06 starting gravity. What do you think?

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