Anything I’m Fermenting

June 23, 2010

Lauku Alus (No-Boil Latvian Country Ale)

Filed under: Beer,Brewing — iwouldntlivethere @ 7:16 pm
Tags: , , ,

Introduction :
This spring I started researching online about the local beers in Latvia, where my grandparents are from. I found out that there is a fairly vibrant culture of farm-house brewing still being practiced, although it is mostly old-timers now. As such it is in a bit of danger of dying out, so there are efforts in Latvia to record how these beers are made. Some of this info has made it online.
One of the interesting things about these beers is that many are made without boiling the wort after mashing – it is simply allowed to cool, and yeast is pitched. Hops are boiled separately, as a hop tea that is added to the wort. Most brewers grow their own barley and malt it themselves. Barley is the primary grain for malting, although rye is as well. To add colour to their beer, moist, malted grain is pressed into loaves and baked to caramelize it. Mash temps are governed by feel – the water is boiled, then added to the crushed malt; they use rules of thumb (like, 8 buckets of malt – estimated to be around 80 kg – gets 5 buckets of boiling water). Long mash times are used: 2 to 3 hours, the mash is thoroughly mixed, so it becomes porridge-like. It is then sparged thoroughly – filtration being the grain husks, and/or rye straw or juniper branches. Some brewers combine the separate runnings, some ferment them separately.
Hops are either collected from the wild, grown on farm, or bought. They are not stored hermetically or anything, so I consider the hops they use to be ‘aged’. One guy said he is using hops from a sack he bought in the Soviet times (!).
The yeast used is bread yeast that comes fresh, in little cakes, like you used to get here before dry yeast became popular. They use high pitching rates – like a kilo of yeast cake for a 150L batch.
These beers are meant to be consumed within a week of brewing, as they will go sour. The beers are kegged before fermentation is complete to allow cask conditioning – choosing the correct time to do this was emphasized as one of the hardest parts of brewing. They are served from the cask or keg (most guys have gone to stainless 15 or 20 L kegs) via gravity, at cellar temperature.

Methods & Materials:
As a first attempt to brew this style of beer, I chose not to stray too far from the beers I know how to make. The recipe is all-malt to keep with the original style, but with some rye malt, as at least one brewer made rye malt as a side-business (to sell to bakeries), and rye is a very important grain in Latvia. The bit of wheat flour I did add is simply for head retention, the CaraAmber for body and colour, and Carafa for colour. The colour was chosen so that I would not have to do any messing around with the water chemistry.
To compensate for the lack of a boil when formulating my recipe, I lowered my expected efficiency to 70% (from 75%) and reduced the amount of water I would use by 4 L (26 instead of 30 L). To be clear, this is because I would not be boiling off water, the wort would have to be full-strength before the boil. On the recipe report below, the anticipated OG is 1.054, while the pre-boil gravity is 1.046. My OG was 1.051, but I ended up with 22 L of clear wort, so my actual efficiency was 73%, right about where I’d expect it to be without using a lot of flour.
On Saturday I mashed as I normally would, but at 70, because I reckoned that the traditional way of mashing with boiling water probably produced fairly hot mashes. After a 60 minute mash, I pulled the grain out without going to a mash-out, partly in keeping with the traditional way this is made, and partly because of the suggestion in HBD that DMS can be avoided when not boiling by not going above 70 degrees in the mash.
While mashing, I boiled 40 g of Willamette leaf hops in about 2 l of diluted wort. I poured this through a sanitized strainer, into the wort after the grain was removed.
I let the wort chill over night in the kettle, which I brought into the basement. I had considered using an immersion chiller, to minimize the risk on infections, but my chiller was not in working order.
The next morning (Sunday) I transferred to a bucket and pitched 500 ml of slurry of S-04 from the previous batch, which had fermented for a week.
I transferred to keg Tuesday morning – in order to emulate the keg conditioning of the original beers, I added 900 ml of wort that I gotten from letting the trub settle out. I boiled this with a handful of hops for 10 min – partly to sterilize, and partly to get a bit of hop flavour.
The beer is going to condition for a few days, then I’ll chill it before serving on Saturday. I may transfer to another keg before chilling, and dry-hop, although this is not traditional…

Lauku Alus

A ProMash Brewing Session – Recipe Details Report

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (L): 20.00             Wort Size (L): 20.00
Total Grain (kg): 5.30
Anticipated OG: 1.054          Plato: 13.27
Anticipated SRM: 11.8
Anticipated IBU: 32.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70 %

Pre-Boil Amounts
Evaporation Rate: 15.00 Percent Per Hour
Pre-Boil Wort Size: 23.53 L
Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.046 SG    11.36 Plato


%           Amount   Name                              Origin         Potential   SRM
70.8    3.75 kg.   Lager Malt(2-row)     Canada       1.036          2
18.9     1.00 kg.   Rye Malt                         US                1.030         4
4.7       0.25 kg.   CaraAmber                   Germany   1.035          27
4.7       0.25 kg.   Flour, Wheat                Canada       1.035          2
0.9       0.05 kg.   Carafa Special              Germany   1.030         600

Potential represented as SG per pound per gallon.

Amount    Name             Form    Alpha   IBU     Boil Time
40.00 g.   Willamette   Whole   5.50     32.3    60 min.

DCL Yeast S-04 SafAle English Ale

Observations / Results:
Man, what a fast brew-day! Under 3 hours between starting to mill the grain and having cleaned everything up. 12 pm – 3 pm.
I was a bit nervous when I lifted the lid off the kettle Sunday morning, after letting it cool down. There was no need to worry, the wort had cleared up, and the surface was perfectly still, no bubbling or any other indication of microbial infection. Smelled good too. After transferring to a bucket there was a fair amount of very runny trub left in the kettle – probably 3 litres worth. I poured this into two sanitized pitchers and put it in the fridge to settle further.
Fermentation got going really quickly from all that slurry – I didn’t oxygenate the wort, as there were probably more than enough yeast cells in that slurry.
By Monday night the gravity had dropped to 1.014 – this is below my usual final gravity of 1.018 (* my hydrometer may read a bit high or something, btw, so this is a relative rather than absolute measure of the FG…and OG for that matter). I had planned to transfer it while there were a few points to go before FG, so it would condition on its own. Unfortunately, I guess I missed that point – the bubbler was totally still by Tuesday morning. On the other hand, the trub had settled enough to get 1500 ml of clear wort – and still no indications of microbial growth after two days! I boiled 900 ml of this with a handful of hops to condition the keg. I had forgotten to close the pressure release on the keg’s lid, and I noticed after closing the lid that it was already hissing out CO2 from fermenting fresh wort by the end of transfer.
Transferring the beer from primary to keg went smoothly. The beer had become quite turbid, I wonder if it’ll settle out. It tasted…well, different. And not very hoppy at all. I had 2 L extra that I bottled – we’ll see if it conditions further, or even what state it will be in!
Stay tuned for the follow up report on how the finished beer tastes, after the weekend.

I think there are several interesting things to note from this experience – the lack of infection in the wort, the vigorous ferment, the lack of bitterness, the turbidity of an apparently still beer, and the low final gravity.
The lack of infection is probably due to Pasteurization of the wort. Holding something at 70 for an hour, then slowly cooling it is likely more than enough to stop most bugs.
The vigorous ferment was a bit unexpected, along with the low FG. My feeling is that without a boil, there are more proteins for the yeast, and they aren’t ‘cooked’, so may be more biologically available, or something. As well, without a boil, there is no caramelizing of the wort sugars, so the wort is more fermentable. In the next batch of no-boil, I may increase the amount of crystal malt to compensate.
The lack of bitterness (relative to the amount of hops used) is likely because the volume of wort used to make the ‘hop tea’ is quickly saturated by the hop acids. Thus the extra acids in the hops are not dissolved, and once the tea is put into the wort, the amount of dilution reduces the bitterness. Ways around this could be to not strain the hop tea before adding it to the wort – the boil presumably isomerized the hop acids, so when the hops are then added to a larger volume of wort, they could be leached out of the hops, into the wort. As well, or alternatively, the hop tea could be added after transferring out of the kettle, so it is not as diluted.
The turbidity was expected, as there was no hot-break to coagulate the protein in the wort after mashing. I wonder how much it will have settled out by this Saturday when the beer is served. Will report back. The interesting part is, however, that the wort before pitching yeast was actually fairly clear. Perhaps the yeast somehow coagulate the dissolved proteins…

These will have to wait until the finished beer is tasted this weekend.



  1. This sounds like a neat beer. Do you have any tasting notes that you could share?

    Comment by Adam — February 17, 2011 @ 4:47 pm | Reply

    • Oh, I see there is a part 2 with the tasting notes. Excellent.

      Comment by Adam — February 17, 2011 @ 4:51 pm | Reply

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