This time last year, intrigued by reading several blogs, especially Larsblog, we decided to brew our first beer fermenting with kveik yeast. If this name doesn’t ring a bell, you can read our entry about brewing a vossaøl, a Norwegian farmhouse ale, emulating a traditional method. You should be able to find a lot of information about kveik there.
First of all, let me clarify one thing. As you can see in the entry about the brewing of this beer, we split the wort in two. Each of them was fermented at slightly different range of temperatures, one of them at 30ºC-35ºC (86ºF-95ºF) and the other at 25ºC-30ºC (77ºF-86ºF). Once we tasted both beers, we weren’t able to find any differences between them, both were pretty similar beers at least for our palate. We even performed a triangle test with a friend and none of us was able to identify the unique sample. Taken this into account, the following characteristics should apply to both beers fermented at different range of temperatures.
Regarding appearance, although in picture above with juniper bushes the beer looks a little more dark and quite hazy, the thing is that this beer was light golden in color and more or less clear. Haziness in the picture was probably due to yeast in the bottom of the bottle and beer mixing due to movement. Below you can see another picture from the day we made the triangle test, so you can compare.
After brewing the beer, we contacted Lars Marius Garshol to tell him about our experience and he told us that it was too clear compared with traditional examples, since those are usually amber in colour and that this was probably due to the boil time. Although we boiled for three hours, in this type of beer is not unusual to boil for four hours or more. In addition to this, since lautering takes quite a bit, some parts of wort are boiled form even 6-7 hours. According to Lars, this extra boil time is what justifies the difference in colour.
The leading role in aroma is without a doubt for juniper, with pine and citric notes. These citric notes, along some orange could also be due to the kveik yeast, according to what we had previously read about it, although we can’t be sure. No signs of malt here.
It has a low-medium body and high carbonation, with a very dry finish, almost champagne like, what makes it a very refreshing and easy to drink beer… if it wasn’t because of the powerful flavour of juniper, that predominates even more than in aroma. This flavour is something you either love it or hate it. It is a very characteristic flavour, a mix of pine, resin and citric notes, with a gin-like bitterness. When we brewed it we wonder if the amount of juniper was too much, and once we had finished all the bottles we can say that happened to be true. If we brew this recipe again we’ll lower the amount of juniper for sure. But there’s more, some malt shows timidly and some orangey notes are also appreciable, maybe related to the kveiv yeast. One thing I would like to point out is that, despite the high temperatures of fermentation, there are no defects or off-flavours of any kind, confirming us that this type of yeast are something special.
A lot of people was able to taste this beer, with mixed reactions. Some people liked it and others couldn’t even finish the beer. I personally didn’t dislike it. Even with the strong juniper flavour, which faded out with time, I drank quite a few bottles of this beer quite happy. The fact that it was very dry and easy to drink helped with that.
Without a doubt, brewing this vossaøl following a traditional method was a great experience. Brewing beer like they do in other parts of the world always contribute to broaden our knowledge about beer. We don’t know if we will brew a beer with this method again, since it takes a lot of time, but you never know.
On a final note, the best two things we got from this experience. First one, now we are more interested in working with kveik yeast than ever, particularly with no commercial strains, since those are purified strains. We would like to work with original strains, the same that they keep using in farms in Norway, which usually have more than one strain (some of them even some type of bacteria) and consequently contribute more complex characteristics to beer. And second, juniper. We had learn a lesson on how to use juniper in beer, especially about the amount to use. I think that on an adequate proportion can impart a lot of good things to several styles of beer.