Raw Ale update

A few weeks ago I brewed up a bunch of raw beer. Go read about it if you haven’t already. I brewed two different beers of 12 gallons each and split them into two different fermentors per batch. As of now three of those batches have been bottled/kegged and one, fermenting with a wild sacc and brett blend, remains in primary. I’m not totally sure how to approach this so I’m just going type out a bunch of words and see how that goes.

  • Everything fermented at 75F because I wanted to see what my wild yeasts would do at that temp. Conclusion: I think they’re better fermenting a bit cooler but still made good beer.
    • Sub note: the two spruce beers were fermented with locally harvest strains that were harvested at different times and from different sources (wild grapes last fall, and a plum blossom this spring) but the beers tasted identical, which helps point to this yeast being the dominant strain in the area. Conclusion: build a coolship.
  • After one week all of the beers were very well attenuated with gravities around 1.003 for each batch. Conclusion: I need to mash hotter or use crystal malt or both.
  • After one week these beers were not ready to drink, in fact I was really concerned about them as they had what I can only describe as a peanut butter flavor to them, the cypress and lemon balm beer being more peanut buttery and the spruce beer being less so. Thankfully this lessened with time (yeast probably cleaned up some) and is completely gone when the beer is cold. I’m wondering if the extra protein in the beer is a contributing factor here? Possibly the non-hop herbs are also a contributing factor. As a counter point my wife did not get any peanut butter flavor from the sample. Conclusion: next time just use hops.
  • All of the beers are very malty, which is not a big shock
    • The spruce beers weren’t very sprucey tasting, in retrospect, this should have been obvious before I even brewed it, historical spruce beers were often brewed with spruce essence which was basically just a super strong boiled down (for hours) spruce tea. I added some spruce tips in the keg to add some sprucey flavor to one of the beers. Conclusion: next time add spruce to the strike/sparge or make a spruce essence.
      • For the other non-sprucey spruce beer I juiced 5 pounds of wild harvested blackberries and picked an ounce or so of sage from my yard, added those to the keg and then racked the beer on top to fill it up and put it in the kegerator a few days ago.This has the potential to be very good, though it seems the acid from the juice has caused a lot of the protein in the beer to coagulate and the first few pours have had a lot of curds…
    • The cypress lemon balm beer has a very slight hint of a sort of dirt? flavor that’s followed by a touch of lemon and herbal flavor, though this dirt flavor seems to be going away. I wasn’t expecting any lemon from the lemon balm having brewed with it before and not gotten any. I added some additional cypress in the keg to boost the cypress flavor. Conclusion: lemon balm is a poor brewing herb, stop putting it in beer.
  • None of the beers have any hint of DMS, half of the malt in the lemon balm and cypress beer was pilsner and still nothing. This is the main argument (that I’ve seen) against raw beer and it is not an issue.
  • None of the beers were infected. Or if they were the infection hasn’t manifested itself after three weeks.
  • The beers were not hoppy at all, this was expected, but they are really not hoppy, at all. The spruce beer was supposed to be ~15 IBUs which I know is not a lot but it seems like it may be even less? Or perhaps the extra protein in the beer is also a contributing factor here? I’d like to pick up some Polaris (~20% AA) hops and see how a raw ale with those hops comes out.
  • I don’t think this is going to completely replace boiled beer for me, but I will definitely keep it in my repertoire as a viable option for making good beer.
  • Supposedly raw ale does not have as long of a shelf life as boiled beer, this remains to be seen as it’s only been three weeks since they were brewed. I plan on letting the batch with brett go for a couple months in primary so I guess we’ll see how that turns out too.
  • If you care about clear beer, this is probably not the technique for you.