Tonight, around 6:30, at the Green Dragon in Portland, Oregon, my wife and I will release a beer. But not just any beer. Our beer. Our take on a Belgian Saison, which coincidentally occurs while Wayward Wine reminisces on our EU Austerity Drinking Tour in Belgium (read recent post on Bruges: here). But there is a twist.
This summer, our backyard exploded with gourds. Everything from pie pumpkins, to decorative pumpkins, to French pumpkins on strike. Yet we did not plant butternut squash. Nonetheless, we got over 10, alien, questionably phallic growths from one sprawling plant:
Inspired (and moderately intimidated) we decided to add two of them to a beer. First off, we got out the big knives and started hacking:
Then we baked the butternut. Why do this? Well, butternut kinda, sorta, maybe just tastes like mush, nice mush, but mush. By caramelizing them our beer gains complexity of aroma, flavor, and a lovely orange tint:
The next day, we strap on our boots and disposable clothes and head to the Green Dragon Bistro and Pub. Here countless taps feature beers from around the world, including those brewed by the Green Dragon Brew Crew.
For over a year, my wife has brewed and released beers on the Crew’s 1 barrel system. For whatever reason, she chose to put up with me for an entire brew day.
We start at 9 am. While she stares at a kettle refusing to boil water, I clean, organize, and generally get in the way. Then, finally, I get to help.
In goes our pale grain bill from which starches shall convert to sugars and sugars into glorious alcohol. We decide to add half the squash now.
Somehow, magically, it all keeps rolling with the boil. Normally, one might expect a glue blob of barely and butternut to create a stuck mash. But I add rice hulls (possibly a bit too quickly) to create a filter bed that breathes:
We then break out the sparge arm or, um, lautering… ring. Whatever, this thingy below increases circulation, clarifies wort, stabilizes temperature and generally gives butternut chunks a wort shower.
At this point I just keep quiet and pretend to help. Hours pass. Bittering hop pellets go in. And then, one of her Brew Crew members, Rich, pops in with a bag. Inside await five pounds of freshly picked Newport hops. For a second we waver. We never planned on a fresh hop Saison. The entire country of Belgium would laugh at us.
But this is Oregon. Also, they smell glorious: like mild lavender, dried lime peel, and verbena. So we decide to add them towards the end (like pasta sauce, add basil at the end, otherwise its flavors burn away with the steam).
Meanwhile, I peel the rest of our squash.
I decide to smash the refrigerated butternut with my frozen dead hands. Once it is a pulp, I add it to increase butternutty flavor extraction…probably.
While this collusion of Fall’s harvest melds into something greater than the sum of its parts, we turn to cleaning the fermentation tank and all its stainless latches, hoses, locks, hooks, seals, arms, screws, chiller, and lid.
The chill plate and seals gives us some trouble. But at last our strained wort is in the fermenter. We add yeast, set the temperature, and roll it into another room.
Another hour of cleaning and our brew day draws to a close. Somehow, we avoided both divorce and domestic violence. Today, I learned to listen, help, and trust my brilliant brewster.
Also, really, I learned that one does not brew beer. One just keeps cleaning for hours until a beer appears.
Worse, imagine cooking a single dish for an entire day. And then, you have no idea if it will be edible months from now. I miss making wine.
Luckily, we tasted our Fresh Hop Butternut Saison last week. How did it hold up? Could we release it today?
Our beer looks a beautiful, golden straw, with orange highlight and a frothy white head. It smells of honey, biscuit, lemon, lavender, and golden pear. It tastes dry, bright, and refreshing, yet with just enough roundness, caramel, and fruitiness, thanks to the squash (probably). The 6.7% alcohol warms unexpectedly. The 61.1 IBUs of hoppy bitterness tighten its structure just enough to avoid flabbiness. Our Green Dragon Brew Crew Fresh Hop Butternut Saison is an enjoyable, quenching beer that demands another pint (4 of 5).
In celebration of Fall, 2015’s harvest, and avoiding marital dispute, come to the Green Dragon tonight and revel in our our first beer.
Lack of proximity is killing me, sounds fantastic!
Maybe we can bottle one.
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