Thumbspike Saison 2.2

The Lake Arrowhead Brew Festival is around the corner, and I’ve promised to bring some beers for my club’s booth. A nice saison seems in order–it’s the same recipe I brought last year, with only a minor change for the pilsner malt variety (Barke instead of Château Pilsen). I really liked this beer, and it went over well at the festival, too. I guesstimated on the hop alpha acid, following that from last year’s laboratory-verified measurements.


Thumbspike Saison 2.2

  • 9.25 lbs. Barke Pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. white wheat malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.8 oz. Carafa Special II (Weyerman)
  • 1 oz. whole wild hops (est. 5.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. whole wild hops (est. 5.8% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1.5 oz. whole wild hops (est. 5.8% alpha), 2 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. French Saison Ale dry yeast (Mangrove Jack’s M29)

Target Parameters

  • 1.056 o.g., 1.003 f.g., 6.9% abv, 25 IBU, 6 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter
  • 60 minute mash at 150°, batch sparge, 60 minute boil


  • I mashed in with 1.5 gallons of RO water and 2.2 gallons of Claremont tap water (3.7 gallons total) to hit a mash temperature of 150°. I added 1 tbs. of 5.2 pH stabilizer. The mash was down to 147° after 60 minutes. At this point, I batch sparged with 1.2 gallons of water (10 minute rest after addition, vorlauf, collect runnings) and 3.5 gallons of water (10 minute rest after addition, vorlauf, collect runnings).
  • In total, I collected 6.75 gallons of runnings at a gravity of 1.044, for 74% efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops per the schedule.
  • After cooling, I transferred to the fermenter and pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.055, pretty much right on target.
  • I brewed this beer on 7 July 2018, and am fermenting it at 75°.

Kegging Updates: Raspberry Belgian, Thumbspike Saison 2.1

I’ve done a decent bit of kegging this past week, to square away some beers slated for the Lake Arrowhead Brewfest that I’ll be serving with Horse Thief Brewers. The festival is just under a month away, but with a new baby soon to arrive in the household I know that time will be tight. Gotta keg while the kegging’s good!

Raspberry Belgian, transferring to the keg

Raspberry Belgian 1.1, transferring to the keg

My cold storage space is also tight, so I’ve decided to get the beers carbonated and conditioned using a more “traditional” keg priming technique. Not only does it cut down on my CO2 usage, but it also should help to eat up any residual oxygen from the transfer and help the beers stay a bit fresher. Now of course it would be ideal to do the full keg purge with CO2 and closed transfer thing. But as I said…I’m tight for time and not keen on always blowing through my CO2 supply. I also feel that these two beers should hold up pretty well (both are fairly high alcohol and one is quite tart); if it was a delicate lager, crystal malt heavy porter, or hoppy IPA, I would definitely do things differently.

In any case, here are the details on everything.

Thumbspike Saison 2.1

I brewed this beer on June 25, and fermented it at the ambient temperature–around 75° on up. I kegged the batch on 12 July 2017, with 2.75 oz. of corn sugar boiled in 1 cup of water. Around 5 gallons went into the keg. Final gravity was 1.003, down from 1.055. This works out to around 6.8% abv.

Raspberry Belgian 1.1

I brewed this beer on 27 June, fermenting it at around 66°. On the fourth day of fermentation, 1 July 2017, I added around 1L (~4.25 cups) of Vintner’s Harvest raspberry puree. After about a week, I moved it out of the fermentation chamber to finish out at ambient temperature, around 78°.

I kegged the beer on 14 July 2017. The flavor was nice and tart, although at this point the raspberry comes through more in the aroma than in the flavor. I will have to see if that changes when I chill it and serve it carbonated; there might be some minor adjustments required prior to the festival, if that’s the case.

Because I wanted to keep this beer for home use too, I split it between two mini-kegs. Three gallons went into one, with 1.82 ounces of corn sugar boiled in 1 cup water (targeting around 3 volumes of CO2). The remaining 2 gallons or so went into another keg, which I force carbonated to around 2.8 volumes.

Final gravity for this batch was 1.013, down from 1.044. That clocks in at 4.1% abv–a very nice session beer!

Thumbspike Saison 2.1

The Lake Arrowhead Brewfest is coming up in August, and I’ll be there with the Horse Thief Brewing Association to serve up some tasty homebrews! I’ve promised two beers–one is the second iteration of my raspberry Belgian, and the other is my wild hop saison! I recently kicked the keg on this one, and I was overall pretty pleased with it.

The latest version of Thumbspike Saison is virtually identical to the last, with only a few very minor changes. First, I did a mix of Bohemian and Belgian pilsner malt for the grist, because my floor-malted Bohemian pilsner malt was nearly gone. Second, I ditched the rice hulls from the grist, because the percentage of wheat was so low as to be a non-issue for sparging (and this was proven in the easy collection of the first and second runnings). Finally, I modified the hop schedule very slightly to try and increase the hop character in the brew.


Thumbspike Saison 2.1

  • 5.25 lbs. Château Pilsen malt (Castle Malting)
  • 4 lbs. floor-malted Bohemian pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. white wheat malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 1 oz. Carafa Special II (Weyerman)
  • 1.1 oz. whole wild hops (5.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. whole wild hops (5.8% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. whole wild hops (5.8% alpha), 2 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. French Saison Ale dry yeast (Mangrove Jack’s M29)

Target Parameters

  • 1.056 o.g., 1.003 f.g., 7.0% abv, 26 IBU, 7 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter
  • 90 minute mash at 148°, batch sparge, 60 minute boil


  • To use up my RO water and thin out the Claremont waters a bit, I added 1.5 gallons with 2.2 gallons of tap water for my mash water. I heated it up to 160°, added the water to the mash tun, and let it slide to 157°, before adding the grains. This hit a mash temperature of 148.3°, which was down to 144° after 90 minutes.
  • After 90 minutes, I added 1.2 gallons of water at 170°, let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. I then added 3.5 gallons of water at 170°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.75 gallons with a gravity of 1.048, for 80% efficiency.
  • I aimed for a 60 minute boil, adding the various hops and finings per the schedule.
  • After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame and started chilling. Once I hit 85° (which is pretty close to the limit of what I can chill with our water during the summertime!), I transferred to the primary fermenter and pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on June 25, 2017. Starting gravity was 1.055, nearly exactly hitting my target gravity.
  • I plan to ferment at ambient temperature, which is around 75°. It will probably sit for a few weeks, because I am in no particular rush to get this batch on tap.

Beer Tasting: Thumbspike Saison 2.0

20170623_160401I managed to do a tasting with the very last glass of this! Talk about good timing.

  • Appearance
    • Thick white head, with excellent persistence. The beer itself is medium gold, with a slight haze.
  • Aroma
    • Tart aroma, with a hint of breadiness behind that.
  • Flavor
    • Pleasantly tart and very slightly fruity, with a bready maltiness that is quite pleasant. This is a moderately bitter beer, although the bitterness has a slight rough edge to it. I’ll blame the wild hops for that.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Light bodied, moderately high carbonation, and a nice dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a surprisingly nice beer! I’m not sure what I expected, but in the end it turned out pretty good, especially with a bit of maturation. In the future, I might play with the hop bill, to take a bit of the “edge” off (probably due to the wild hops), but as a ‘gimmick’ beer this ain’t half bad! I like how the yeast worked in this one — the dominant tartness with a bit of fruitiness behind that makes for a tasty combination. It’s a bit different from the slightly more clove-y flavor I get from traditional Belgian saison yeasts, and I rather enjoyed it. Thumbs up for the Mangrove Jack M29 saison strain!
  • Overall
    • 7/10

Big Batch Update: Saison, Amber Ale, Pilsner

There’s lots to report with kegging and fermentation for a few recent batches. So, here’s what’s new:

  • Thumbspike Saison 2.0

    • This might have had the quickest turn-around on any kegged beer I’ve ever done! I brewed the beer on 12 May 2017, starting with an 80° fermentation temperature. On 16 May, I raised the temperature to 85°. Everything really churned along, from start to finish (as you might expect with fermentation at those temperatures)! I kegged the beer on 20 May 2017, with a final gravity of 1.004. That works out to 6.7% abv. I’ve had it on tap for about a week, and it’s a pretty interesting and enjoyable beer. All of the ingredients melded together quite nicely, and I am pleased with the results. It’s a very refreshing brew for a warm afternoon on the patio.
    • My first impressions are that it has a very lightly fruity aroma, with a slight tartness on the flavor. Head retention seems pretty miserable at this point, but I don’t know if that’s a real feature of the beer or because I didn’t wash my glass from a previous beer before pouring this one.
  • Hell Creek Amber Ale 1.1
    • I brewed this beer on 14 April 2017, with a starting gravity of 1.060. I kegged the beer on 7 May 2017. Final gravity was 1.016, which equates to 5.8% abv.
  • Czech-ed Out Pilsner
    • This batch has the honor of being my first dumper, ever. I’ve weathered warm fermentations, low gravities, and incomplete fermentations, and have always soldiered through in the end. Alas, this particular batch just wasn’t any good. The culprit wasn’t infection, bad fermentation, or anything like that. It was bad hops! As noted in my original post, the late hop addition smelled really grassy. I should have known better than to add them to the kettle, but wasn’t quite that smart. So, I kegged the beer, carbonated it, and pulled my first sample…to a whiff of pilsner that smelled pretty much like freshly mown lawn, and not in a good way. It was almost reminiscent of jalapenos, but in any case was not reminiscent of what a good European pilsner should taste or smell like. Lesson learned!
    • In terms of fermentation history, I started fermentation at 50° on 9 April. I raised the beer to 65° on 21 April, and then dropped it to 33° on 30 April 2017. I kegged the beer on 14 May, at which point it had a final gravity of 1.011. This equates to 5.6% abv.