Nothing prepares us for the holiday season quite like these chilly, early winter nights, a nice warm fire to cozy up to, and a broad of hallucinogen-addicted Vikings, on a rampage through England, killing thousands upon thousands. Well the latter, at least, is where I take my inspiration for my latest homebrewing endeavor. Gotlandsdricka, as it is called, or “drink of the good land” is thought to be the beverage of choice for many Viking hoards, including the Great Heathen Army. It is said this beer originated on the present day Island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, today a part of Sweden, and many brewers (mostly homebrewers) still brew local variations of this beer on a regular basis.
Gotlandsricka is a combination of flavors that by all standards are pretty intense individually, let alone in conjunction with one another. In keeping with tradition, smoked malt makes up a good portion of this beer, as smoking malt was likely the only means of kilning malts back in the good ol’ days. Now, team this with the potent scent and taste of juniper, and you have a vague idea of this brews make-up. According to Michael Jackson, the Beer Hunter, this beer was often boiled for hours, three or more, which gave it a prominent rich, sweet, caramelized character. Not only long boils, but also honey was frequently added after primary fermentation started to slow down. This was used to combat “spoilage,” and prolonged the life of the beer. Adding the honey would essentially kick the yeast back into action, and restart fermentation, preventing many beer-spoiling microbes from taking a foothold.
For my version of this lovely, lovely beverage, I “sourced” juniper from a neighbor. Not sure if they have realized it yet. But, I placed maybe a pound of juniper boughs into my HLT, and basically just left them there as I heated up all of my water throughout the brew day. My base is Rauchmalt from BestMalz, which I had some of lying around. In addition, I added some Oak-smoked wheat, and Crystal Rye to help give a bit of that caramelized character, since I had no intention of boiling for three hours. As for the honey… well, I added some. Just as I noticed primary was starting to die down, I added the honey to kick it back up again.
Recipe Specifications -------------------------- Batch size: 6.00 gal Estimated OG: 1.043 SG Estimated Color: 6.9 SRM Estimated IBU: 20.2 IBUs Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 % Est Mash Efficiency: 78.0 % Ingredients: ------------ Amt Name Type # %/IBU 7.00 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash 60.0 mins Water Agent 1 - 4 lbs Smoked (BestMälz) (3.0 SRM) Grain 2 42.1 % 2 lbs 8.0 oz Oak-Smoked Wheat (Weyermann) (2.0 SRM) Grain 3 26.3 % 1 lbs 8.0 oz Rye, Flaked (2.0 SRM) Grain 4 15.8 % 8.0 oz Crystal Rye Malt (Thomas Fawcett) (80.0 Grain 5 5.3 % 3.00 Items Juniper Boughs (Mash 0.0 mins) Herb 6 - 0.75 oz Sterling [7.00 %] - First Wort 60.0 min Hop 7 20.2 IBUs 1.0 pkg Wallonian Farmhouse (Yeast Bay #) [50.2 Yeast 8 - 1 lbs Honey (1.0 SRM) Sugar 9 10.5 % 1.00 oz Juniper Berries (Secondary 5.0 days) Herb 10 - Mash Schedule: Saison Step Mash - revised Total Grain Weight: 9 lbs 8.0 oz ---------------------------- Name Description Step Temperat Step Time Acid Rest Add 9.50 qt of water at 104.6 F 100.0 F 20 min Sacchar Add 9.00 qt of water at 211.4 F 150.0 F 60 min Sparge: Batch sparge with 3 steps (Drain mash tun , 2.45gal, 2.45gal) of 168.0 F water Notes: ------ Nov 13, 2014: Brew day! All went pretty smooth, considering it was the first "cold" day of the year, and I was freezing my ass off. O.G. was low, 1.035, as expected because the honey had not yet been added. It was amazing how much the Juniper came through in the aroma of, well, everything! The whole brew session smelled like Juniper, which I really didn't mind. Nov 16, 2014: 17 oz of Wildflower Honey (from Germany) added to fermented, and fermentation promptly took off again. Kind of amazing how much color came from only a few oz of Crystal Rye. Dec 2, 2014: Bottled half of the batch with 76g dextrose for (hopefully) 2.8 vol CO2. The other half of the batch I racked onto approx 2 lbs of thawed peaches, which were given to me fresh a couple months ago from a friend. My inspiration for racking a smoked beer onto peaches came from Basic Brewing Video. Will update further when there is something to update.
Tasting Notes: Dec 14, 2014:
Well, it has been in the bottle now for not quite two weeks. I just got impatient to try this thing, so here we go…
Appearance: A dark golden hue, not quite red with a white head that lasts a few minutes. Slightly cloudy, but a lot more clear than I had anticipated, what with using essentially a bunch of tree branches in this beer.
Smell: Juniper pretty much dominates the aroma here. Slightly fruity, maybe from the Rauch Malt, but there is a definite kick of Juniper to the nostesticles… that’s supposed to be a good thing.
Taste: The taste follows the aroma to a point. There is definitely Juniper on the back end, but this beer starts with a slight fruity, smokey flavor. I want to say there is a hint of character from the honey, but I may be imagining that because I know there was some honey used.
Mouthfeel: At first, I was a little worried it was thin, but after sitting here, letting it warm up a bit, it has a decent body for a beer that finished at a SG 1.004, light, but not thin or watery.
Overall: Compared to my attempt of this beer last year, this one is much much more approachable. Smoke in the flavor is there, but by no means so intense that you can only handle a sip or two. Now, the Juniper seems to be the dominant character overall, I will be interested to see how these two flavors meld with a little age. This beer is only 12 days old, after-all.