Here at the Hotel, the Saison style is one of the things we like to drink. Be it a simple Saison, a Grisette, or as a base for a Grape Ale, a Brett Beer, or a Sour beer. Flexible and adaptable, probably like the folks that worked the fields and consumed them.
The history of Saison is closely linked to the fields of cultivation and rural work, beer was drunk as sustenance or as fuel to help in the hard work. It’s a style with a loose definition, and it was typical to make the beer with the malt that was available at the farm, at any given time of the year.
The history of this beer also starts on farms, but in this case, in Lithuanian farms. The Baltic countries, like Scandinavia, are rich in beer tradition. Secular traditions, yet still mostly unknown to the typical consumer, despite the contribution of recent years, mainly by Lars Marius Garshol, to make them known to the world. Even with all the digitalization of information these days, this tradition remains removed from the beer guides dominated by the Western world, which still struggles to understand culture and language, mixed with a traditional distancing from a former Russian territory. Winter memories come to mind, of a winter spent on farms somewhere in the middle of the Baltic forest, sipping Valmiermuiža directly from the barrel and alternating between 80ºC saunas and lakes close to being frozen.
But let’s come back to the present. In a time when there is so much talk about the female presence in beer (and thankfully so!), time to make known this legend of the Baltics. We present you Aldona Udriené, the Lithuanian queen of Farmhouse Beers, brewer and owner of Jovaru Alus, which has existed since the 19th century.
Here the rules for making beer are more dictated by a tradition that is over 140 years old, than by the “Kunzes” of this life. If Ms. Aldona’s more than 70 years were not enough to justify it, her beer and life experience explain why this is so (the woman survived a gas explosion and more …). The brewing method has been around since the time of her grandparents and is maintained with tenacity, although evolution has caught up and changed some of the initial methods. So it has to be, otherwise this brewery would no longer exist. Here they still do open fermentation using their own house yeast – from a local forest, cultivated and buried in jars down in the earth to preserve or covered with straw and sawdust. Mutated over the years, it now begins to reach the world after being kindly transferred to a commercial laboratory.
We took advantage of it and returned to this corner bathed by the Atlantic, to pay homage to this tradition and to the Woman who insists on maintaining it. We decided to use Ms. Aldona’s bugs for this beer and what better style to do it than a Saison.
For the malt bill, no need to complicate things. Base malt divided between Pale and Wheat malt, a bit of Spelt, plus a touch of Rye to spice things up and Oats to give creaminess and some body to the beer. It wasn’t what was at hand, like in the farms, because today there is easy access to malt, but almost.
For the boil, 90 minutes to precipitate proteins, Columbus hops at the beginning for bitterness. At 5 minutes before the end an improbable combo of Saaz and Vic Secret, which in a small dose, make a sparkle. In the end, two branches of Rosemary caught nearby. Not quite the same as a few juniper branches from the Lithuanian and Norwegian raw ales, but let’s say it’s our Portuguese touch to this. After all, a Saison must have some characteristics of the place where it is made.
For fermentation, of course, Omega’s Jovaru Lithuanian farmhouse. The plan is to make this beer a Solera project, where each batch we remove a part of the already fermented beer and bottle it, always leaving a few liters behind in the fermenter. We make new beer and pour it directly into the rest of the liquid in the fermenter.
The strain that ferments this beer belongs to that category of gluttonous bug that likes hot temperatures. It ferments quickly at 32º C and makes a mess of any fermenter and fermentation chamber that are caught unaware, as it happened with us.
At the end of the first day we were already in this state. Thank you very much Aldona, the cleaning guy thanks you too.
Jovaru Witnesses (Saison)
Total Cereal: 5,03 kg.
Original Gravity: 1.051
Boil Time: 90 minutes
35% – 1,76 kg. Extra Pale Ale Malt
35% – 1,76 kg. Wheat
15% – 0,75 kg. Spelt
10% – 0,50 kg. Oats
5% – 0,25 kg. Rye
8 gr. Columbus (pellet, ~14% AA) @ 60 min.
35 gr. Vic Secret (pellet, ~15,5% AA) @ 5 min.
20 gr. Saaz (pellet, ~3,75% AA) @ 5 min.
2 Rosemary branches at boil off. Blessing the kettle.
Omega OLY-033 Jovaru Lithuanian Farmhouse
SO4 to Cl Ratio: 2.1
Saccharification – 60 min. @ 66ºC
Mash Out – 10 min @ 76ºC
pH@15 min 5.23