Always one more detail
Even at mashing, there is a story to tell to learn the old secrets. No thermometer? Easy - just make porridge with the right thickness and your mash is perfect. Every time !
Picture courtesy of Per Øyvind Arnesen
Per Øyvind Arnesen, head beer judge, Norwegian homebrewers assosiation - participated in July 2019.
Brewing at Sigurds brewery
Strange. As I write this, my yeast starter with Sigurds kveik has started coming alive. It took about 15 minutes from when I took the dried yeast out of the freezer and pitched it in a sugar starter at 33 degrees celsius.
Visiting Sigurds farm was a great experience. Sigurd met us at the airport, and drove us up to his farm up in the valley above Sykkylven. The western part of Norway is really beautiful with all the fjords and mountains, and we had spent a couple of days visiting Flåm, Sognefjorden and Geiranger before trying to learn some more about the local brewing traditions.
Forget everything you know about thermometers, temperature, timers, oxygenation, starters, water adjustments, weighing, and so on. This is original brewing, untouched by the industrial up- or downscaled brewing methods we use today. This is brewing, done as our forefathers learnt from our forefathers - and mothers.
How do you know that the mashing is at the correct temperature? Easy. You make a dough of the malt, and you stop adding water when you lift the mashing paddle and two (2) drops drip from it. We measured the temperature, 66 degrees celsius.
The brewing day started Saturday morning, after a cosy dinner, lots of beer talk and a good night’s sleep at the farm. Sigurd had collected juniper and started warming the mashing water early in the morning, we helped him stoking the fire and setting up the mashing tun. Mashing is done by creating a dough that you filter through juniper branches. We tasted some of Sigurds last beer batches, added a pinch of yeast, and went on to have an 8 course beer tasting menu at a local restaurant, Raus (thats a Norwegian word meaning “generous”, not a german word. The dinner was really generous.).
Wait. Did we forget something? Nope. The local tradition is raw beer. The wort is pasteurized, and when you add Sigurds inherited family yeast, things happen. Fast. The yeast is like the greyhound of dogs, the cheetah of cats. Or, more like Garfield. It eats everything, and wins the competition against bacteria and wild yeasts. Fermenting at a really high temperature makes the optimal environment for the yeast, and it’s finished in a couple of days.
We tasted some other beer made with other traditional yeasts, kveik, and those are an eye opener. From complex oaky notes to lots of citrus, oranges, pine and nutty aromas. Some of them are traditionally made as raw beer, others are boiled for up to 4 hours.
I don’t normally drink beer sunday morning, but this was an exception. The wort we pitched on saturday was nearly finished fermenting. Lots of fruity notes, light malts, spices, it makes a delicious beer. I got some of the dried yeast back with me, no problems with airport security there.
Staying and brewing at Sigurds farm was both very cozy, and a very interesting brewing experience. Seeing the old brewing traditions being kept alive was great, but also something I can use in my own brewing.
It’s now been 2 hours. I have a small krausen on the starter, and I’m looking forward to brewing outside in the weekend with a giant, wood fired kettle, using juniper, a small amount of hops, and lots of buckets. We are planning to serve the beer next weekend at Sørlandets beer festival.
Update, september 25th, 2019: We brewed a beer with Norwegian, floor malted barley from Bonsak, using a miniscule amount of hops, lots of juniper, and woodfired kettles. The beer was served a week later, and won the Best in Show award at the festival!
Four Belgians, two Polish and two Australians walk into a Norwegian farm.
The farmer says……”Welcome “
It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but in fact it was the beginning of a fantastic weekend of brewing, eating local delicacies, drinking fabulous farm ales and above all, laughing and learning a lot.
By Erwin Wanmol, head brewer at Vrijstaat Vanmol, Pajottenland - participated September 2019
About a year ago I learned about a very unknown style of beer, which was a branch that divided right at the beginning of the beer tree, the raw ale. I learned that it was a style which was mainly used at Scandinavian farms.
Digging more deeply into it I learned about a unique yeast, wich was used by said farmers, the kveik yeast.
Our brewery is located in the Pajottenland, home of the lambic. The more I read about it, the more it felt like it was an almost similar style of beer. In fact the Nordic raw beer style is even older than lambic.
I said to myself “ I got to get to know a Norwegian farmer who wants to invite me to a brewday “
One can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon the possibility to do some kveik training at Sigurd’s farm Tormodgarden in Sykkylven, home of the infamous Tormodgarden Kveik.
I contacted Sigurd and we made an arrangement for the 3 day all-inkveiksive package.
We flew in from Schiphol to Aalesund where Sigurd picked us up and drove us to our lodge where we would be staying the next days. Then we drove tot his farm in Sykkylven were the magic would happen.
The first night Sigurd prepared a evening of kveik tasting in which he had one beer fermented with different strains of kveik and one control beer which was fermented with the Fermentis US-05 yeast.
This was very insightful. We got to taste the effect of the different yeasts while we got to know the other guests.
The evening ended with a delicious supper, prepared by Sigurd’s lovely wife Julie.
The next day was traditional brewing day.
When we entered Sigurd’s cellar, the smell of juniper branches was all around. A great smell must I say and combined with the fantastic landscape, it felt like we were literally breathing Norway.
What followed was a day of insights in the traditional Norwegian way of brewing raw ale. Learning that everything happens for a reason and discovering how they did it back then without all the modern equipment.
In the mean time, Sigurd fills up the dead moments with hilarious stories about local history.
At the end of the brewing day we went into town to a nice restaurant and had a great meal and even greater beers.
The third day we were invited to have breakfast on the farm, which was in one word heavenly.
Fresh baked bread, local delicacies, deer on toast!!! Sigurd may be a great brewer but Julie is a goddess in the kitchen.
After breakfast we went to see the result of our brewing day and even though Sigurd made a very heavy festival beer, the fermentation already was already 3/4th done! That´s some kveik magic for you!
We tasted the beer and it was a charm. No harsh taste, as smooth as a baby’s bottom yet very tasteful.
We discussed the beer and exchanged knowledge and had another great lunch. Then we took a scenic tour around the fjord and left for Aalesund.
There we took the plane back home, looking back on a life altering experience.
Making juniper infusion
Starter after 30 minutes