Bière de Mineur
This beer has been aging in stainless for about a year. In the fast-paced world of brewing, a year can be a long time.
Last year, we asked each leg of the production team — lab, packaging, cellarmen, and brewers — to design a beer. Bière de Mineur is the brewers’ addition to the mix.
So, Bière de Mineur has been aging so long that one of the guys whose idea it was doesn’t even work here anymore and another is in a completely different position.
“I think Eddie was the one who thought up a Grisette,” says Brewer Andrew Ewing, “and we were all like, ‘Hell, yeah!’”
Eddie Siciliano started here back in September of 2016 in the Packaging Department, worked his way up to Brewer, and left us in July of last year for a brewery closer to home. However, his influence is still being felt.
Regardless, the collaboration between the guys to design this beer was “smooth.”
“We kind of had a similar idea of what we wanted,” Andrew says.
“At that point, we were all tasting and jiving on some of the same beers, too,” says Packaging Manager Mark Graves, who was a Brewer at the time. “So, Eddie brought it up, and we kind of rolled with it.”
Grisettes are relatively underappreciated. They’re a subset of Saisons, but, where a Saison is on the fruiter side, Grisettes are more dry and refreshing.
“Saisons are more in the farmhouse style,” he explains. “Grisettes were more for the miners — for the industrial side of things. So, they were lower in alcohol and with a touch more bitterness so it finishes dry. It’s a light, refreshing sipper.”
There aren’t exactly a lot of Grisettes on the market, but they’re gaining in popularity from your smaller, independent brewers. In fact, a lot of the folks we admire around here brew some good ones.
Andrew has sampled quite a few Grisettes, and he’s seen a wide variation in the character of those beers.
“I’ve had ones that taste like a clean lager to the funkiness that we have in ours,” he says. “Some I wouldn’t even consider a Saison.”
We used a blend of raw malts from Rabbit Hill: raw wheat, raw buckwheat, and malted pilsner. We’ve used raw malts a few times, but this is the first time we’ve used buckwheat in a beer.
We weren’t even sure what buckwheat is.
Using buckwheat — particularly raw buckwheat — adds a bit more of the farmhouse character. Farmhouse brews sort of run the gamut: you typically see them as Saisons, but, really, they’re called farmhouse brews because the brewers would use whatever they had on hand for malt, resulting in a complex malt backbone without having to put too much thought into it. The rustic exoticness of buckwheat fills that need.
“It’s got a little bit of a hay flavor,” Andrew says, which, as buckwheat is typically used as hay, makes a lot of sense.
“Really, we were just trying to make it as farm-y and delicious as possible,” Mark adds.
Farmhouse ales are one of the few styles where, in a general way, they’re not about any one thing. While it takes a full recipe to create a well-rounded beer, stouts and porters are all about the malt, IPAs are all about the hops, Belgians are all about the yeast. In a farmhouse ale, both the malt bill and the yeast bill combine to create something distinctly farmhouse-y.
So, once we had this rustic malt bill in place that seemed like we threw in everything but the kitchen sink, but in reality crafted with a lot of forethought and planning, we needed to find a yeast culture that would sort of do the same thing.
Luckily, both Andrew and Mark are avid homebrewers with their own home-grown yeast cultures.
“I got mine from a farm stand in Medford,” Mark says, with a bit of a laugh. “I took the yeast off the skins of some sugar plums at my local market. It’s light and tart, a little funk. Code name Sugardaddy.”
Essentially… we have no idea what the hell is in Mark’s yeast, which adds to the mysterious, farmhouse, let’s-just-throw-everything-at-this-and-see-what-happens nature of this brew.
Andrew’s yeast, on the other hand, began life as a starter that he grew to size in his kitchen.
“It’s very tart,” he says. “The starter was real tart, and I grew that in my kitchen for four months until it was large enough that we could actually use it. A lot of tartness and a bit of a farmhouse funk.”
“It had a little of those Saison esters, too,” Mark says. “Mine was tart and funk, but his added more of the esters you get from a classic Saison.”
For Lauren Appleman in the lab, bringing in two completely unknown strains of yeast gives her a little, bitty heart attack.
“Usually when we bring yeast in for a brew it is through the Wyeast catalog and we know exactly what we are getting,” she says.
However, with them bringing in their own yeast, there could have been anything in there.
“It was somewhat a fear of the unknown,” she says. “ However, this was fermented in the sour facility so the potential exposure for our clean beer was very limited. We did have to do some sensory on their starters to ensure that we weren’t pitching in bad yeast full of off-flavors.”
They grew their cultures separately, then pitched them together; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the beer will retain characters from both yeasts.
“It depends on how they react to each other,” Mark says. “Sometimes one will overtake the other, sometimes it’ll have elements of both. You never know in this kind of situation. It’s not like making pasta sauce, where you toss in oregano and get oregano. You don’t know what could happen.”
Regardless, the guys seem pretty happy about how the yeasts reacted.
“I feel like it’s pretty different than either of them,” Andrew says. “Absolutely. It ended up having the barnyard-y, farmhouseness that we were looking for.”
We brewed this back in August of last year, so Bière de Mineur has been sitting in stainless with this melange of yeast for about a year.
“Stainless gives it more of a clean character,” Mark says.
“It won’t pick up any bugs or barrel characteristics,” Andrew says. “So whatever you put in there, that’s what the fermentation is.”
Even with the wild fermentation that Bière de Mineur saw, it’s still a much cleaner beer than anything in our Barrel Aged Series.
“If it sat in barrels for a year, we’d probably get too much oak tannins,” Mark says, “and this is supposed to be a simple, clean beer.”
Regardless, everyone seems really pleased with how it turned out.
“I think the brewers really flexed their abilities here, even though they were handed a blank canvas,” Lauren says. “A Grisette could sound intimidating, but the beer turned out to be very approachable. I’m definitely looking forward to this one.”
“I like the low, 5% ABV,” Andrew says, “but it still has tons of flavor. For such a simple beer, you get a little bit of a lemon tartness, I get a lot of leather flavors. It has kind of a perceived sweetness, but it’s bone dry.”
Mark is loving it, too.
“It’s tart, with a little bit of funk,” he says. “It’s simple and clean, but it starts off pretty complex. It finishes dry and delicious.”
Bière de Mineur will be available this Saturday, August 10th at 11am in the Tasting Room, $9.99 a can. Don’t miss out!