Ever weed your garden and then decide to make a beer? This is my second attempt at a dandelion beer using flowers picked out of my yard. The first was last year using my blend of saison yeasts and Brettanomyces species…it was a big hit but the dandelion character was rather subtle. I added about 2.5 ounces of dandelion to 5 gallons of wort for about 10 minutes then removed them by scooping them out of the boil with a strainer. It was a best guess, the beer turned out to be a little grassy with slight dandelion character. I didn’t have a recipe to go on, even though I have tasted two separate beers that use dandelion. Vera Mae from Hill Farmstead and Fantôme Pissenlit, both beers I like, but they must use much much more dandelion.

This year I wanted to make this beer again but go bigger. There were a few things I really liked about the original and a few that I want to change. The yeast character was perfect the first time.

Batch # 2014.10

5 Gallon Batch
Brew date: May 3rd, 2014 (National Homebrew Day!!!!)
Bottling date: August 5th, 2014 (24 750ml Champagne style bottles)
OG: 1.055
FG: 1.005
ABV: 6.5% (estimated)
SRM:  6 L (estimated)
IBU: 10 IBU (calculated)

Grain-bill:
8 lbs of 2-row
1 lb of Honey malt
1 lb of wheat

When I made this beer last year, I threw in some leftover honey malt and loved how it tasted. This time I went up to 10% of the grist with it. The wort smells like honey and the wort is definitely darker than the standard saison wort I make over and over again. Almost brown in the fermenter. I assume it will lighten up but end up darker than previous beers.

Mash Conditions:
Beer was mashed with 5 gallons of water for 60 minutes at 153° F. Some grain clogged the outlet to the valve at the bottom (never happened before…) so I had to pour the mash out into a pot and unclog the port. Vorlauf on about a gallon of the wort to clarify and knock out the grain particles. Batch sparge with another 5 gallons at 170° F. About 9 gallons was collected.

Brewing Procedure:
Beer was brought to a boil quickly and held there for about 70 minutes. No boil additions other than the hops or flowers.

Hop Schedule (and flower):
1 ounce of Czech Saaz at 45 minutes

5 ounces of Dandelion flower heads (some previously frozen some picked that day) added in a hop bag 10 minutes before flame out. Bag was left in the beer during chilling, removed before racking into the fermenter. The frozen flowers had a strong vegetal aroma, like collard greens…so that’s curious. Perhaps fresh picked is the way to go with these, although I won’t know that until I taste it.

Fermentation Conditions:
This received the yeast cake (the whole thing) from the Hibiscus brett saison that was brewed a few week previous. The fermenter with the Hibiscus was drained into a keg and the wort from this beer was added via siphon to the fermenter immediate after. I agitated the fermenter to break up the yeast cake. Just over 5 gallons was transferred. The fermentation took off in a matter of hours. Nice high krausen after a day…aggressively chugging along.

Notes:
There are a few things to note with this beer that I did different (procedurally) than previous beers. The biggest being I vorlaufed this beer…a lot. The outlet to the valve was clogged when I went to drain the mash, so I poured the entire contents of the mash tun into the pot, unclogged the valve and poured them back. Chunks of grain ran out of the valve for the first gallon at least. After that it cleared up a lot. I did the same vorlauf for the batch sparge. I noticed a drastic increase in the clarity of the beer after…it was really clear. So that settles that, vorlauf every beer now. I am not sure why I stopped doing it to begin with…complacency? Laziness? I’m back now.

Beer was transferred to a 5 gallon corny keg to clean up for an addition couple of months of fermentation. It was bottled out of the keg using a bottling gun after priming sugar was added to 3 CO2 volumes. I cup of table sugar was added to the beer, the keg was purged with CO2 and aggitated for 15 minutes to allow all the sugar into solution. Beer was bottled in 750 ml champagne style brown bottles (think Bruery) and allowed to carbonated at room temperature (75 F) for three weeks.

Tasting Notes:

Dandelion Saison
Dandelion Saison

Beer is dark amber but not really brown, mildly hazy but mostly clear on the corners. Carbonation is lower than expected (might not be done carbonating totally) but it is steady, tiny bubbles, forms a tight white head of small bubbles, lots of lacing on the glass. Decent retention.

Aroma is sweet, honey, brett, some grassiness…mostly honey and brett.

Beer is light in body, finishes nicely dry, pretty effervescent in the mouth, no bitterness or aftertaste at all. Brett c shines through on this beer the most followed by this residual sort of honey flavor, it does sort of taste like someone added honey to this beer. Mild nuttiness and some minor flower contributions. There’s the disappointment. Not enough dandelions for the second year in a row.

Overall, this is a fine beer. The Brett c character goes great with the honey malt and the small amounts of flowers that creep through are the right flavor for this beer. I just wish the flowers were the start, instead the honey malt appears to be.

Possible improvements (for future batches):

Well, the honey malt shines through nicely, as well as the Brett c. I think Brett b would go well in this beer. I have a Brett b beer conditioning in the bottle currently so maybe that will be up on the blog in a few weeks. That beer is interesting (and might have a dandelion in it as well). I guess my biggest thing with this beer now is MORE FLOWERS. I am now thinking that in addition the flower heads I should include the roots as well, if I can get them. I need more grassy, floral character coming through overall. I guess I’ll shoot for a pound or more in the next iteration. I like this beer and I’m glad I have a year’s supply of it but I just need more of that thing that makes it special, more of that flower note. This beer is an annual for me now and I will brew it again next year with as many stupid flowers as I can find.

Upcoming brews:

There is a lot of brewing happening right now and there is a lot of beer in fermenters right now. The collaboration beer I made in Chicago is finally in bottles carbonating, it should be ready in a week or two. I’m going to wait on posting that one until I get a bottle of version that was brewed in Chicago to taste side-by-side. In the keg, ready to be written up is the Cascade Belgo Brown Saison with Dupont yeast. This beer was repeated almost identically with the Blaugies yeast again. Speaking of Blaugies yeast, there is a Chinook Rye saison in the fermenters right now as well as a version of the Galaxy saison with acidulated malt, both fermented with the Blaugies yeast….those write ups will be up soon. A few other things also coming up.I brewed a beer with a new organism to add to that suite of posts, this time a distant relative of Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces. That should be up in a little bit. So lots of stuff coming up.

“If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn.” –Andrew V. Mason

Dandelions
Weeds? I guess so.
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9 thoughts on “Recipe #20: Dandelion Saison (Batch #2014.10)

  1. I remember reading somewhere about a dandelion wine. I can’t recall the exact amount of flowers they used, but it was definitely in the pounds region. I remember them commenting it took two of them all day in a large field. Granted, the wine was essentially sugar, water, and dandelions, so you might not need so many, but I suppose it at least gives you an idea of magnitude. I wonder if you might try dry-dandelioning? Dunno about contamination issues at that point though…
    – Dennis, Life Fermented Blog

    1. Yeah, dandelion wine is pounds per gallon. I think I might try for 2-5 pounds next year…even though that will require a lot of harvesting. Still a good beer.

      1. I wonder if you wouldn’t be better off using a wit or kolsch as a base? Might be too delicate to come through like you would want in any reasonable quantity in a saison. Or maybe the brett is metabolizing some of the flavor compounds?

  2. Have you tried making a dandelion tea and then blending with a small quantity of beer to figure out the ratio you’d like? I was also thinking perhaps the boil was not the time to be adding them – I thought flowers were more commonly added as a “dry hop” or as a tea.

    1. Good suggestions. I was afraid of “dry hopping” with dandelions, I figured they are covered in a lot of bacteria and other things but maybe they should be added at flameout. Both last year and this year are good beers and you can taste them but they just aren’t as strong tasting as I hoped.

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