Category Archives: Tasting

Tasting Notes: Sakura Wine


Well, the sakura wine came out. The sweet blushy pink was lost in the fermentation process, and while I was tempted to pink it up again with an adjunct, I also decided I wasn’t actually that invested. Since it was a comparatively low-alcohol wine, and since the flavoring involved was so light, it didn’t seem like a good candidate for aging. Just went right ahead and bottled it up and let it sit for a bit and busted it out on a nice cool evening after a warm late-spring day.

So! Did it suck?


Yeah. It sucked. It tasted like cheap floral deodorant smells. A worthy experiment but not something I’m going to mess with again. The mild acidity was appropriate, the dryness was appropriate, the body was kinda lacking. More or less happy with the recipe overall, with the unfortunate caveat that it was formulated to complement something that makes a sucky wine. Oh well. Win some, lose some.


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I Like to Gruit Gruit (recipe and tasting notes)

Super-quick history lesson: gruit is unhopped beer, and nearly all beer used to be unhopped. Hops became the standard brewing herb for a complicated mess of reasons involving religion, taxes, public health, the rise of commercial vs home brewing, and more taxes. Hops are also very easy to grow in mass quantities and are both pleasingly bitter and antiseptic, a handy one-plant equivalent to the herbal mix that does the same thing in gruit. So there you go.

So why make gruit when you can get hops? BECAUSE IT TASTES AWESOME. It is delicious in its own right. This stuff wasn’t the default state of beer for hundreds of years for nothing.

Here’s my recipe. It’s very, VERY flexible and pretty much any part of it can be tweaked to your taste.

I Like to Gruit Gruit

6lbs DME. That’s it. The type is entirely up to you, I used half pils, half wheat. Make a gruit porter or something. Do it.
1/2 tsp grains of paradise – 20 min
2 oz. yarrow flowers, leaves, stems (fresh) – 10 min
6 oz. mugwort (dried) – 10 min
8 oz. mint leaves, stems, maybe some bugs (fresh) – add at flameout for about 3-5 minutes steeping.
Champagne yeast, why the hell not.

Still got a 60 minute boil here, get your 3 gallons going and do what comes naturally. You can spend some of the time picking bugs off the mint or you can say screw it. Once the boil’s done you get to strain a frankly alarming amount of yard waste out of your wort (and have a fascinatingly bitter and herbal brandywort), top it off with cold water to 5 gal, cool and pitch yeast.

When you bottle it a month later, it might look a little something like this.


Liquid sun, my friends. The yarrow gives it a little extra yellow tint. @#$%$ beautiful.

Tasting notes: Yes, you need all that mint if you want to be able to taste it in the finished product. Mint will boil off, ferment off, and age out. You could probably use twice the mint. As it is, it’s a mild harmonious note in a slightly woody, complicated herbal bitterness. The champagne yeast is better at fermenting sucrose and fructose (fruit sugar) than maltose (barley sugar) so it leaves some sweetness in the beer and makes for a fairly low alcohol content. This is a real farmhouse brew, easy to drink a lot of and still be fine to get useful stuff done. I got pretty much what I was aiming for with this one and I LOVE it.

If you want some more recipes, has some. They are by no means a complete or definitive list. The herbal mix in a gruit is a lot like chili recipes: variable and exquisitely attuned to the cook’s personal taste. Mess around a little. Heed the ape: it’s your bucket, and you can put whatever you want in it.

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Firhti Bottling Day and Tasting Notes

The moment of truth for this fir beer experiment! Will it be godawful or great?


…whatever, I’m just going to kill the suspense right off and say that I love this beer. Flat out love it. As of bottling day it’s an unqualified success; we’ll see how bottle conditioning goes but Pseudomalainen is not giving me much motivation to let it sit around. I would like you to take a moment to look at my firhti.  LOOK AT IT. IT’S BEAUTIFUL.


As a little bit of a digression, I just popped champagne yeast into the wort without having much idea about the difference that would make. Do, then research: it’s the Way of the Ape. There seems to have been a shift in the conventional wisdom on how champagne yeast and beer work out. As of a couple of years ago, there was a very rough consensus that using champagne yeast would make for an unpalatably dry beer, and that its primary use in beermaking was as a secondary fermentation to keep really big beers chugging along on their way to 12-15% ABV. More recently, I’ve seen more people saying that champagne yeast ferments the hell out of sucrose, glucose, and fructose, but isn’t as good at digesting maltose (one of the primary sugars in malt, thus in wort), and therefore giving a kinda paradoxical result–sweeter beer.

I can now weigh in on this. Champagne yeast DOES make a sweeter beer. This firhti has a very gentle sweetness and a similarly gentle tartness, which is likely a combination of the rye, the champagne yeast’s influence, and the resiny tang of the fir. The fir itself is not overpowering–funny thing is, it’s not even especially prominent! Mostly it shows up as a resinous note in the finish and a freshly herbal, long-lasting aftertaste. There’s also a really nice edge of funk. Ingestion testing* suggests something in the neighborhood of 6% ABV (the ape has no actual idea, as her hydrometer is still in its original packaging and will stay there like a naughty puppy).

I seem to have stumbled upon a very well-balanced recipe with this first attempt and gotten lucky with environmental conditions for fermenting (i.e. the weather has hovered around 60-65F of its own free will this whole time). I’m in love with the funk and the resin in the same place. THIS IS A GOOD BEER.

Anybody with access to a fir tree should consider rigging up a batch of this. I think you’ll like it too.





* Ingestion testing is about as scientific as it sounds. In short: I had one.

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