For fans of classic Saison, what would be a super cool thing to do? How about going to BFE Belgium and spending a day with Dany Prignon, the brewer owner at Brasserie Fantôme? Yeah, cool! Bonus points? Dany is a genuine, slightly eccentric, totally enjoyable dude to have as a friend.
Ok then, what would be even better?
How about having the opportunity a couple years later to collaborate on a beer with Dany, then go to Belgium at the turning of the new year to 2017 in the freezing cold winter to brew the beer with him? That would be Ghost Turtle. Seriously! Collaborate and brew a beer with the undisputed Mad Scientist of Belgian Super Saisons? What a lucky effing Saison loving MFer am I?
How about a year later designing a specialty Saison that is brewed at Brasserie Fantôme, Brasserie Saint Somewhere, and Barley Forge Brewing Co.? The “Fantôme of the USA”, the “Saint Somewhere of Europe”, and a favored local (to me) brewer of classic Saison – all three brewing a beer I designed? That would be Ghost in the Kettle. Yeah… Holy Crap! How did I manage that?
Umm… I haven’t a fricken clue.
But, I can unequivocally assert that this Ghost Turtle I am enjoying tonight – and the Ghost in the Kettle already released by Barley Forge, and within a few months released by Fantôme and Saint Somewhere – are all fine beers.
And me? I’m a guy who makes some beers. The lucky MFer who gets to bring a long-time admired brewer and now friend, together with some newfound brewer friends to make some good beers.
I'll be using some brewer jargon for this post because the batch of Ghost in the Kettle brewed at Barley Forge Brewing Co. is being fermented with a wild yeast, and brewers geek out on that stuff. Kevin Buckley put the beer in the fermenter on May 17th. I provided the base recipe to all three breweries – Barley Forge, Fantôme, and Saint Somewhere – and got out of the way to let them do their thing. I can't recall if Buckley will be dry hopping or not. I can say that intuition, experience, maybe both, led him to ferment it with very much a classic Saison schedule, and the yeast seem to love it.
The yeast is a wild strain from a mixed culture that I propagated from a white patch on the skin of a honey tangerine in the brewery yard. White Labs isolated the predominant organism from the mixed culture and gene sequenced it. It is identified as a wild Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain. They've banked it as Beancurdturtle Sacc WLP5179. In forced fermentation at White Labs they were getting attenuation at 82% minimum – meaning dry finish.
I gave Buckley all the information from White Labs and my experience brewing with the mixed culture, and the isolated Sacc C. strain. He decided to go with an aggressive Saison fermentation schedule – and the yeast bloomed and fermented like crazy. 85% attenuation by the end of day 4 - that's impressive. On day 4 I asked him if the esters (aroma compounds) were like Orange Tang (observed on previous batches). He said, "I was going to say citrus/peach with some pepper. Tang might actually be closer". He also described the phenols as "Spicy, clove and a very slight barnyard.", and commented "Flavor still has a perceived sweetness given the low finishing gravity and it is still dry."
That's all good news for a Farmhouse Ale. But Wait! There's More! Nine days later I checked in, and the gravity was down to 1.002 which indicates a 96% attenuation. Again – impressive. And it was still producing some CO2, creeping along. If this attenuates to 1.000 (same weight as water) and retains a citrus, spicy, slight funk/dank you could say it's nearly a perfect Farmhouse/Saison strain – and as clean as it finishes, maybe even awesome for dry Pale Ales and IPAs. Ok, so enough beer tech geekness. Where are we at with this beer for the beer drinker?
Well, Buckley is leaving it to rest and condition. From my experience with this yeast and a beer I designed with similar herbs and spices – it should be a really great, citrusy, slightly funky, beer with a touch of sweetness and slipperiness, yet a dry finish. Buckley has done a great job starting with a recipe and wild yeast I provided, and tweaking it to his preference and process. I have a lot of confidence that he's shepherded this batch to a nice conclusion.
As brewers we start with a target – a concept and vision in our mind of the beer we want to create. The appearance, the aromas, the flavors, the mouthfeel, and the overall impression we want to create for the person enjoying it. We combine grains, hops, yeast, process, and sometimes herbs and spices aiming at the target. With enough experience, we sit down a few weeks after brew day and take a sip – and what was in our mind is in a glass in front of us. It's exciting and a bit magical. I'm thinking we'll have a bit of magic to share with Barley Forge's take on Ghost in the Kettle. That makes me happy.
Ghost in the Kettle is a collaboration between Brasserie Fantôme, Brasserie Saint Somewhere, Barley Forge Brewing Co., and Beancurdturtle Brewing LLC. A lucky collaboration from me pitching the idea to three brewers, all whose beers I loved for one reason or another, all who know how to brew a Saison. Starting with a recipe designed by Beancurdturtle Brewing (that's me), each brewer tweaks it to their own taste and process. The three beers should have a similar backbone, with each a different personality. The first batch was brewed at Barley Forge Brewing Co. a few weeks ago.
A little over a week ago I visited Brasserie Saint Somewhere where Bob Sylvester brewed his spin on Ghost in the Kettle. Some changes in the hops and hop schedule, an addition of honey in the fermenter, his own house yeast strain and "Free Range Tarpon Springs Brett and friends". I'm very much looking forward to the beer that this will be. From Bob's last message "Pitched the honey today. Beer’s doing great. Can’t wait for the finished product." I believe he is on the same page.
One thing I remember from the brew day was wrapping up and walking from the brew house to the taproom, I told Bob "I'm really pleased and I feel privileged that I got to be here today." He laughed and brushed the compliment off. Pretty much the same kind of reaction I got when I told Dany Prignon of Brasserie Fantôme that he was like an icon of Belgian Farmhouse, "Ouf! I'm just a brewer." All three of the brewers in this project have been low ego, open, and generous to me with ideas and answers to my questions about brewing Saison with a bit of wildness.
Good ideas, good brewers, good will – can't result in anything less than good beer. I am looking forward to enjoying the beer from all three exceptional brewers.
Each brewer will bring their own preferences and distinctive style to a beer designed by Beancurdturtle Brewing. The beers will be similar in backbone, while each will express the uniqueness of style each of the brewers/breweries has.
I've been hinting about this for a while, the ball started rolling today with a brew day at Barley Forge.
My first taste of this collaboration between Brasserie Fantôme and Beancurdturtle Brewing® LLC. I will say that I have never been more confident leaving a brewery after a brew day and trusting that the fermentation schedule and packaging would befit the style and target for the beer. The collaborating brewer is Dany Prignon after all – and he knows his way around a Saison like few others on this planet. I simply overlaid the beer with the several flowers, herbs, and type of honey that my experience and palate told me would lend it the ghost of Genièvre.
• Restrained aromas of, gin, resin, juniper, peppery spice, biscuity malts, and citrus acidity.
• Flavors of dry grain, resinous herbaceousness, spice, and punchy phenols.
• Medium light body, slippery fat middle, and a sticky dry and slightly astringent tongue tingling finish.
Overall, I would say I’m, more pleased with this collaboration than I may be able to express. First for the fact that a Brewer that has been a legend in my mind since 1995 has become a friend. Second for the opportunity to influence a beer that he brewed with the Beancurdturtle touch. And third because the progeny of two old brewers putting our ideas into one beer has resulted in such a crazy complex - rough/dry/spicy/ginny/peppery - Belgian to the bone beer.
I’m incredibly grateful to have collaborated on this amazing beer with a longtime brewer/hero of mine, now a cherished friend.
Soy, Érezée, Belgium and La Habra, California USA; Belgian Farmhouse brewery Fantôme Brasserie Sprl and Orange County California Beancurdturtle Brewing LLC collaborate to create a specialty Saison, Ghost Turtle. Ghost Turtle is firmly grounded in a spicy Farmhouse Saison typical of Brasserie Fantôme, and gently overlaid with the influence of a blend of multiple flowers, herbs, and wildflower honey designed by Beancurdturtle Brewing. The floral and herbal aromatics and flavors gently express characters of Genièvre, an heirloom Belgian spirit that has been called “The grandfather of Gin”.
Target acquired! Had myself a preview pint of Piney the Turtle tonight at Phantom Ales and it meets both the concept target for the collaboration, and the philosophy behind Beancurdturtle Brewing.
Don’t expect to be blown away by some huge palate walloping beer like a DIPA or BBA Stout. The concept called for a Rye IPA (or Rye Pale Ale if you are from California) at 6% ABV and about 40 IBU, with additions of select hops, blue spruce tips, and juniper berries used to contribute restrained yet decidedly piney/resinous characters. Balanced and approachable enough to invite a second pint.
Here’s my tasting impressions from my pint tonight:
Appearance is clear, mostly pale and slightly warm, fine and lasting head.
Aromas are subdued, crisp malty profile and balancing herbaceous characters.
Flavors are dry, spicy/peppery, Rye Ale backbone with complex pine/resinous flavors that layer and build as I get deeper into the pint.
Mouthfeel is light/medium and the finish is long, sticky, and piney.
Burps are – ok, I know burps are not an official factor in beer tasting – reminiscent of dry gin
Overall impression, a straight up and well brewed - by Phantom Ales - Rye (very rye) Pale Ale, complimented by nuanced layering of piney/resinous characters that build in the flavors and have a long sticky finish.
Note that an eensie-weensie taster glass will not get you the full layered build of pine/resinous flavor and finish that a pint will. This beer is like peanuts – one peanut is good, but ten will hit the spot and make you want more. Order the pint.
A great American Rye Ale with pine/resinous deliciousness.
That’s right – nothing fancy, something special.
Piney the Turtle will be available on draft, and to take with you in crowlers, at Phantom Ales on January 14th 2017 when they open. I’ll be at Phantom Ales to hang out and have a pint or two at 5:30pm on the 14th until… I’m not sure.
Piney the Turtle is a specialty American Rye Ale. The dry and spicy character of a cleanly brewed rye ale is supported by piney/resinous hops, blue spruce tips, and a touch of juniper berries to create a uniquely refreshing beer with invigorating aromatics. This beer was designed by Beancurdturtle Brewing LLC and brewed at Phantom Ales in Anaheim California.
I’ve been designing specialty beers for craft breweries for over three years, so it’s nice to finally have one brewed and sold in my hood (Orange County). Big thanks to Phantom Ales for the opportunity to collaborate with them to make Piney the Turtle happen.
I do hope that you’ll enjoy this specialty rye ale.
Or maybe the first question should be, “What is Ginever?” Well, it’s my project name for a beer we collaborated with Brasserie Fantôme to conceptualize, and soon brew.
The concept for this beer is to layer the aromatics and flavors of fine Gin over the peppery/spice and farmhouse/phenolic tones expressed in Fantôme Saisons. The project name is a spin on “Jenever”, the name for the heirloom Dutch liquor that is known as the “grandfather of gin”.
In my conversations about the concept with Dany Prignon of Brasserie Fantôme we decided that he would drive the backbone Saison, and I would design the aromatics. In researching herbs used in Jenever and one of my favorite Spanish gins I learned that Jenever originally was a liquor made by distilling moutwijn (malt wine in Dutch) then incorporating herbs, predominantly juniper berries (jeneverbes in Dutch). So, this beer is fundamentally Jenever that someone forgot to distill (umm… disregard the flourished editorial license).
Contributing the Gin like characters to this beer are bold brushstrokes of aromatics starting with juniper berries of course. Then there’s a few flowers including Chinese tea roses, a few herbs including cardamom, and some wildflower honey. The canvas will be a simple Saison in the rustic/earthy/complex fashion at which Brasserie Fantôme excels.
I drew from my experience with juniper berries and floral aromatics brewing Giniper White IPA for the BCT Brewing Project, and Rosita White IPA which I designed for Cerveses La Gardènia in Tarragona Spain. I used some tips on grain and hops from Dany Prignon. I made some adjustments to account for the peppery/herbal/spice expressed by Fantôme beers, then designed and brewed a test batch.
Tonight I decided to prove the merit of our concept. I side-by-sided Ginever with a classic dry martini. Maybe a twist of lemon peel would have been better than the olive, but I digress. The similarity in the aromatics is delightful. The herbal and floral flavors are the fulcrum. Tipped to gin it is dry, bright, and elegant. Tipped to the Saison base it is invigorating, complex, and comforting. Very simply, it works – especially if you like gin.
So on January 3rd of 2017, Dany Prignon (the undisputed “Mad Scientist” of modern Wallonian Super Saisons) and Daniel Fernandez (a humbled designer of aromatic and flavor complex specialty beers) will come together at Brasserie Fantôme to brew a unique collaboration that will surprise many beer drinkers. Frankly, it will be best understood by those who have enjoyed a shot of frozen Jenever, or a classic dry martini (preferably with Spanish gin).
My recommendation? Get yourself a bottle of Jenever or a fine gin. Put it in the freezer. When this beer is released (probably mid-2017), set yourself up a shot to side-by-side with this beer. You’ll understand what it’s all about… Yes you will!
“Make it all about fresh oranges.” Was the request when I was designing this specialty Saison to be brewed in Valencia Spain. I’d used fresh oranges in a couple beers before – they only remain fresh maybe a few weeks at best. After that the freshness fades fast, and the orange character becomes muddled and pithy. The first pilot beer proved this.
So rather than use fresh oranges, I asked “How can I proxy the characters of oranges in a way that will last?”. For some brewing challenges I have to dig deep into the practical library in my head from cooking for 30+ and brewing for 20+ years – this was one of those challenges.
No oranges are used in brewing this beer, though in aroma and flavor it expresses the aromatics and flavors of fresh oranges. How? Two kinds of dried orange peel – European and Caribbean – for the aromatics and flavors. Rose hips for the acidity and residual sweetness. Citrus forward New Zealand hops for the juicy backbone. Orange blossom honey for the aromatics. It is “all about fresh oranges” after months (even years) post packaging.
It was the first commercially brewed and internationally distributed beer that I designed. It has been awarded a medal in international competition. It has been sold and enjoyed from Finland to Spain, and in the USA. It is at its core an earthy, turbid, and funky Saison, expressing what you would expect being brewed in Valencia Spain – oranges in your face. That’s right – nothing fancy, something special.