Estonian Experiment

This week’s brew is the place where nostalgia meets curiosity meets circumstance…

Nearly 30 years ago, my wife and I had the (mostly) good fortune to help chaperone a school trip to the then Soviet Union. The most interesting place, and the one I remember best, was Tallin, Estonia – yes, it was still under Soviet domination but there was a definite air of “we’re not really like the rest of them”… a very European/Scandinavian city, in my view. While there, I did get the opportunity to try a local beer of sorts, more or less like a Finnish Sahti (which I also got to try for the first time a couple days later, in Helsinki, on our way home…) – a smoky, rye-influenced pale ale with a definite “evergreen” aroma and tang… I never wrote down the name of the brew, and it passed into a file in the back of my brain…

Fast forward about 25 years – looking for a recipe online to make another attempt at my own Sahti (0 for 4 at that point, I was…) I encountered the name “Koduõlu”  – the description sounded a lot like the beer I remembered from Tallin… further research, a sketch of a recipe, but I couldn’t seem to find the right yeast and I never got around to brewing it.

Within the last year, we at the Lebanon Brew Shop have started carrying yeast cultures from The Yeast Bay – among which is one called “Sigmund’s Voss Kveik” – well, I try just about every new hop, malt, yeast etc. that I carry so I wanted to figure out the best way to feature this yeast in a brew – turns out to be a northern Scandinavian/Baltic farmhouse yeast – single strain of Saccharomyces – and lo and behold, one of the recipes online associated with it was a Koduõlu… I modified the recipe I found slightly to reflect more of what I remembered from my tasting way back in ’88, and am, so far, pleased with what it has begun to resemble…

Koduõlu  (3 gallons, all-grain)


  • 5 lbs. Schill Kölsch malt
  • 1 lb. Caramel Rye malt
  • 1 lb. oak-smoked wheat malt
  • 10 – 12 thin juniper branches (fresh-cut)
  • 1 tbsp. Columbus hop pellets (14.5% aa)
  • Yeast Bay Sigmund’s Voss Kveik yeast
  • 1/2 cup corn sugar (for priming)
  • 1/4 cup dried juniper berries (optional)


Boil 1 cup water, add Columbus hop pellets. Set aside.

Crush and mash malt (7 lbs.) in 18 quarts of water at 155°F for 90 minutes.

Add juniper branches to bottom of lauter tun and pour mash on top. Let settle 10 minutes, then runoff. Recirculate the first 6 or 7 quarts – it will be very cloudy.

The original recipe, and what I read about this beer, indicate it is not boiled. I couldn’t deal with that so I did bring it to a boil for 5 minutes to at least pasteurize it. After boil, add the hop tea.

Chill to 75°F, pitch yeast.

Ferment at 65° for 7 – 10 days, rack to secondary. Bottle after 10 – 15 days, priming with corn sugar. If you desire more “evergreen”, steep the juniper berries in the water you boil for the priming sugar… Drink fresh.

OG: 1072



Weird beer and a burst of energy

It’s 10° outside in the midst of a(nother) Nor’easter. Best thing I can think of to do today is brew. So brew I did. I’ve been wanting recently to try an Apple Ale – not just an apple-flavored ale but a dry, pale ale with a definite apple flavor/aroma and no “fake” apple sweetness… My friend Bill at Oddball Brewing got me a taste of their “Anniversary Ale” which was a Belgian Tripel finished with Brett – the Brett did not give it any funkiness, just dried out the finish. So as that light bulb came on, I combined it with the Apple concept and, being a Newton on my mother’s side, considered the gravity of the idea (see what I did there?)… Blame the snow, cabin fever, whatever…

Anyway, this is Sir Isaac’s Dry Apple Ale.

Sir Isaac’s Dry Apple Ale (3 gallons, all grain)


  • 5.5  lbs. Weyermann’s Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 1/2 lb. Swaen Light crystal malt (15°L)
  • 1 oz. Calypso hop pellets (13.8% aa)
  • 1 can (12 oz.) frozen apple juice concentrate
  • Yeast Bay Dry Belgian yeast
  • Yeast Bay Beersel Brett culture
  • White Labs Brettanomyces Trois culture
  • 4 oz. light toast oak chips
  • 4 oz. Calvados

I soaked the oak chips for a month in the Calvados, then added the WL Brett Trois to the chips on Brew Day Eve.

Mash: 60 minutes in 16 quarts of water at 152°F.  No sparge.

45 minute boil, 1/2 oz. Calypso for 30 minutes, 1/2 oz. for the last 5 minutes.

Pitched Dry Belgian yeast in primary. When I rack to secondary I will add the oak chips (with the Brett 3 & Calva) and the Beersel Brett.

OG: 1052

And while I was at it and had energy, I bottled a Chocolate -Hazelnut Porter (“Gnutella”)… and racked my recent Rauchbier to secondary – smoky and rich! Might be another snow day tomorrow, more bottling time, I hope – I’ve got to catch up!

2017, so far…

As of this writing, I have brewed 3 batches in 2017 – a Roasted Red Pepper Porter, a Franconian Rauchbier, and this morning, a peaty Irish Red Ale. (Recipes will follow at the end of the article.) More significantly, I have made 5 important changes to my brewing routine over the last few months.
Let me state right at the beginning that I am not being paid by any of these manufacturers to use or endorse their products. I did not get them free. I simply have found some upgrades to what I had been using for a very long time.
First, I am finally using Five Star Star San as my regular sanitizer. For 25+ years I used chlorine bleach, longer soak times and hot water rinsing. I can’t believe how much time I am saving with the air-dry, no rinse acid-based sanitizer instead.
Secondly, I got myself a Fermtech Auto-siphon. I used to joke about having an excuse to sanitize my mouth with a shot of Scotch before starting the siphon. Then I started seeing much more consistent results and less of an issue with sanitation by using the auto-siphon to transfer from primary to secondary, and from secondary to bottling bucket. Again, how did I not get on this bandwagon a few years ago?
The third change was made because of our process at the Lebanon Brew Shop – when we do demos and classes, we don’t really have room for bottle trees and buckets full of sanitized bottles in the Brew Lab, so to save space we use the Fast Rack system – again, sanitizing bottles is quicker and can be done a few at a time, the bottles are left to air-dry upside down in the Fast Rack – and we never have a bottle tree prong making contact with the inside of the bottle. Another “what was I thinking” moment…
Additionally, I’ve started using Imperial Organic Yeasts – 200 billion cells in a small, super-sanitary, aluminum can – not quite the range of styles as White Labs, my usual “go to” yeast brand, but so far, extremely reliable and easy to pitch. I’ve had start-ups in 3 to 4 hours at most in my last several brews using Imperial.
The final change in my brewery routine is perhaps the most interesting – my cellar and back room have become embarrassing. Too much beer. Some of it old and probably stale. But I have to keep brewing, right? So as of this past fall, most of my brews are now 3-gallon recipes. This also shortens my brew day – no sparge! And it takes significantly less time to bring the wort to a boil.
So to the recipes. None of these have been bottled yet so I have not yet recorded their TGs or abvs.
Roasted Red Pepper Porter
3 gallons, all-grain

5 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
6 oz. Carafa III
6 oz. Cara-Munich III
1 oz. St. Celeia hop pellets
1 oz. Spalter Select hop pellets
3/4 lb. freshly roasted red Bell peppers (burnt skins and all)
Saflager W34/70 yeast (dry)

45 minute mash with the crushed grains and 1/4 lb of the peppers, in 17 quarts water at 155°F.

60 minute boil, adding another 1/4 lb. peppers and hopping with the St. Celeia for 60 minutes and the Spalter Select for 20.

Fermentation at 60°F, add the remaining peppers in the secondary.

OG 1058
Franconian Rauchbier
3 gallons, all-grain

3 lbs. Munich Type I
3 lbs. beechwood-smoked Rauch malt
1/2 lb. Carafa I
1/2 lb. Melanoidin malt
1/2 lb. CaraMunich II
1 oz. Spalter hop pellets
1 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrüh hop pellets
Yeast Bay Franconian Dark yeast

60 minute mash, in 17 quarts at 154°F, no sparge.

60 minute boil – the Spalt for 60, 1/2 the Hallertauer for 30 and the rest for 5.

Ferment initially at 65, chill to 40 after 7 – 10 days.

OG 1065
Irish Red Ale
3 gallons, all-grain

5 lbs. Irish Malting Company Ale Malt
1/2 lb. peated malt
1/8 lb. roasted barley
1/4 lb. 90°L crystal malt
2 oz. Target hop pellets
Imperial Organic “Darkness” yeast.

45 minute mash in 17 quarts at 152F. No sparge.

60 minute boil. 1 oz. Target for 60, 1/2 oz for 15, 1/2 oz added to primary.

Ferment at 65 – 68°F.

I will add 4 oz. light toast oak chips soaked in Jameson Caskmates Stout edition whiskey to the secondary and plan to age it on the oak for at least 3 weeks.

OG 1060