Tag Archives: brew

Cyser Stout

I’ve been slacking on posting, not brewing: summer brought in a rad heather ale for which I’ve completely lost the recipe, two different batches of plum wine more or less based on the September 23rd Massacre. One of the two carboys of that batch contains 32 lbs of plums and 14 lbs of sugar. #@!$%!# phenomenal.

More recently I’ve gotten this cyser-stout thing in the bucket. I don’t know if this is a thing that people do and I just wasn’t able to find any record of it, or if it’s just a freestyle clusterfuck from beginning to end, but I’ve been wanting to make a hybrid cider-beer for a couple of years now. I’ve had some really excellent hopped ciders but I wanted more of a roasted-apple flavor, so I rigged up a modestly hoppy stout recipe. This recipe is exceptionally well-suited to a partial malt technique; it’s got the fermentables of a full 5-gal batch but keeping the liquid volume down is crucial to leave room for the 3 gallons of cider.

Here’s the stout recipe:

9 lb DME light
1 lb caramel malt
1 lb carafa/black
2oz Warrior hops (60 min)
1 oz Amarillo hops (15 min)
1 oz Cascade/Chinook/Centennial (your choice) (5 min)

Do the usual with mashing and sparging the black/carafa, then top up to about 2.5 gallons for the boil and, again, conduct yourself in the appropriate and accustomed manner for 60 minutes. Rejoice. Strain the wort into your fermenter, save a few tablespoons for a brandywort, and the stout portion of your cyser stout is complete. Alternately, you can top it off with cold water and make a totally acceptable basic stout with the yeast of your choice.

If, on the other hand, you want to kick out the same jam I did, you top it off with 3 gallons of no-preservative cider, cool, and pitch. I’m lucky enough to live pretty close to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula–these same orchards grow heirloom apples for some of Washington’s best damn cideries and what do you know, they’ll sell that stuff to anybody who walks up. (Thanks Annaka!) Trader Joes also sells an excellent preservative-free spiced cider. I used two gallons of orchard cider and one TJ. I wish I could remember what yeasts I used, but the specifics escape me at this point: a packet of dry ale yeast and a packet of dry wine yeast. Not champagne yeast. Use whatever you like best, this recipe’s all over the place anyway. I trust you.

Let me know how it turns out if you try this. It’s been fermenting for a couple of weeks and probably still has another to go before bottling day. The airlock smells amazing.

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Finn time: Sima recipe

Gotta poke my head up here out of the haystack of late-year business and holiday things, most of them pleasant. Hi!

I’ve got the ingredients for the Great Matriarch’s Dire Stout just sitting and waiting for me to have an evening without a party or somesuch. Got a nice Zapap lauter tun waiting for January’s firhti (SCREW THE JUNIPER, EVERYTHING IS FIR NOW). But I wanted to share some plans I’ve got for the New Year’s Eve party brew.

I’m talking about sima!

Sima is a traditional Finn farmhouse thing; it’s low-alcohol, refreshing, and fast to make out of super simple ingredients. Mostly it sits in an uncovered pot in the corner of the kitchen taking care of itself while the pasties and whatnot get made. The recipe I’ll be using comes from the Pelkie Schools’ Reunion Cookbook, very kindly given to me by Lynn and Jack Lehto; I’ve found a few other recipes that vary in some minor details which I’ll address in a sec. (Pelkie School as in Pelkie, Michigan UP. Beautiful. And full of people who damn well know about Finn farmhouse things. Do not trifle with the UP.)

Here’s the recipe for a one-gallon batch of sima, transcribed verbatim:

4 quarts water

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/8 cup white sugar

2 lemons washed and thinly sliced

1/8 tsp dry yeast

1 tablespoon raisins

Heat water to boiling and stir in the brown sugar and 1c white sugar. Add the lemon slices. Cool to lukewarm and transfer liquid to a non-metallic container. Add yeast and stir. (Do not add the yeast until the liquid has cooled. Place a few drops on your wrist and if it feels neither hot or cold it is the right temperature.) Let the mixture stand overnight or at least 8-10 hours in a warm place. There should be tiny bubbles around the edge of the liquid after this length of time. Sterilize 8 pint bottles, or 4 quart bottles, or a 1 gal jar and place 1-2 tsp of sugar per quart of liquid into each container/s as well as 3-4 raisins. Strain the liquid and pour into the container/s. Seal and let stand at room temperature until the raisins have risen to the top of the bottle. This tells you that the sima has fermented enough and is ready to drink. In winter this may take 2 days or more: in summer 8 hours. Chill and store in the refrigerator.

So there you have it! The variations I found were primarily in the details of how to prepare the lemons and which fermentable sugar to use. Honey would be very suitable as a straight substitution, and so would malt extract. According to this handy ratio, you’d need about a pound of LME or 0.6 pounds of DME. This is an old, inexact, very forgiving recipe. Experiment! As for the lemons, some recipes recommended that you peel the fruit, remove and discard the pith, and slice the flesh–using both peel and flesh in the boil. I like bitter things so I’m using the whole fruit including the pith, but go with what you like. This is also a recipe that is very friendly to herbal additions like mint, ginger, lavender, or marjoram.

All accounts agree on the fact that sima should be drunk young. It’s supposed to be slightly fizzy and still have enough residual sugar to be somewhat sweet, with a fresh lemon tartness. It’s not supposed to be an intoxicant, either–it’s something to have when the weather is hot, or to refresh your mouth when you’re eating rich party food, or when you’ve had enough booze but still want a glassful of something interesting.

Maybe I’ll experiment with it to see what happens if you age it, or if you bump up the fermentables, but that’s basically light lemon citromel or lemon wine and that’s nothing new.

I’ll post some photos of the process and the results in due course, but since it only takes a couple of days to finish I can afford to procrastinate a bit longer. Bless those wily Finns, for they have devised a brew perfect for people with tons of other stuff to do.

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Forest Mead of Endor

Hey all! Let’s kick this off in proper nerdy style. This is my first mead ever, and it’s got trees in it. Specifically, fir trees. I’ve been reading a lot about spruce and juniper ales and sahti and suchlike lately–but I live in Seattle and if there’s one thing we’ve got all over the place, it’s fir. There’s a bunch across the street from me. There’s one twenty feet from the door of the brewshop I like. All this delicious tree standing around for free and LIKE I’M EVEN GOING TO CONSIDER NOT BREWING WITH THAT.

Resiny trees bittering a brew is nothing new–I’d be surprised if the base recipe I used here hasn’t been a base recipe for a thousand years or more. The Imperial presence, however, is all me. First, the recipe:


1 gallon water

3 oz fir tips (snip the last couple of inches of new growth off a branch. You could use even more fir than I did, too.)

3 lbs honey, I used wildflower but whatever

(optional) essential oil mix: 7 drops wintergreen, 5 drops clove, 3 drops anise

1/2 packet wine yeast

Boil fir tips in water for 30-45 minutes, until the water is a nice pale green and the needles are a gross off-brown. Strain, and add honey to hot fir tea. Stir to dissolve. Add essential oils while it’s cooling, and prep the yeast, and once it’s cool bung it all into the fermenter. Wait. Wait a good long time.

I got my batch started two weeks ago, so here’s some action shots.

Naturally I’ve tasted it, and it’s coming along great–there’s a ton of honey in it so the result will be fairly sweet. The essential oils are meant to duplicate sarsaparilla bark, which I didn’t have on hand. I think steeping any of the actual spices (i.e. anise, wintergreen, or cloves) with the fir tea would give similar results. Or hell, real sarsaparilla bark. Or citrus peel. That sounds really good, actually, I think I’ll try that next time.

Combined with the fir resinousness and the honey sweetness, the Forest Mead of Endor tastes a whole lot like…really really good old-fashioned root beer. Just astringent enough to avoid being cloying with a growing alcohol bite. I can’t wait for this one to finish!

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