I’ve wanted to brew a hua jiao saison for a while now. My brewing friend here told me it was a bad idea. He tried once and failed. His beer came out overwhelmed by the additions he made.
Hua Jiao (花椒) or Sichuan pepper is a spice famously used in many Chinese dishes. Think black pepper-ish followed by a numbing sensation. It is greenish-brown in appearance when ground. I’ve got a bush in my back yard here in Xining but missed harvesting anything from it this year.
I had a freshly dry hopped beer once that gave a very similar “numbing” sensation to hua jiao. I think that’s what folks are calling “hop burn”. Hua jiao’s numbing is not the kind of thing you want a lot of (at least most people) but in the right amount (in food) it’s real nice.
This could be a match made in heaven…pepper and saison. I thought adding a titch more pepper than my normal saison has would be nice. I’m hoping for more pepper than numbing with a slight tingling sensation.
Recipe (19 Liters)
- Original Gravity: 1.052 (12.88°P)
- Final Gravity: 1.006 (1.67°P)
- Alcohol by Volume: 5.8% (4.8% ABW)
*Here is a link to a very useful refractometer calculator.
- Pilsner 3kg
- Wheat malt 1kg
- Table sugar 500g (add last 5 minutes of boil)
- Saaz (US) 60g at 60 minutes for 19.6 IBUs
- Saaz (US) 20g at 10 minutes for 2.4 IBUs
*Due to elevation (boiling temp) I use an 80% hop utilization rate in Brewtarget.
- Mangrove Jack’s French Saison (re-pitched a slurry)
*I don’t have access to much in the way of exciting saison yeast strains. As far as I know, it’s illegal to produce or sell liquid yeast in China. This is one reason I wanted to play with adding in some spice. I like the strain but have nothing to compare it to. It seems a little bit lack-luster for my taste.
Mash and Boil
- Mash 60 minutes at 67° C
- Boil for 60 minutes
Fermentation and Packaging
- 19° C for four days
- Bump to 25° C for at least three days
- Keg and fine the following day with gelatin
- Burst carbonate and drink
I’ve had some qing ke jiu (青稞酒) (a local sub-genre of bai jiu (白酒)) laying around for a while so I thought I’d use it to make a tincture. I used a table spoon (14.7 ml) of ground pepper and 45 ml of qing ke jiu. Alternatively, using vodka would be fine.
I did a trial run with three glasses. One contained no spice and the other two received one and two drops respectively. Each glass had 100 ml of beer. I used the dropper that came with my refractometer. Drop size is influenced (perhaps obviously) by the diameter of the device used.
I did some rough ratio and proportion calculations and ended up adding the amount below.
I ended up adding 12.5 ml to the keg (19 l). I think this is a bit too much. Next time I would reduce it to around 8 ml for the whole keg and work up from there if desired. Perhaps the conversion guesstimate going from drops to mls was off and this is why 12.5 ml was too much. Either way I know to reduce it next time.
When I dosed each glass as mentioned above, I had my wife and a friend try each one. My friend was blind to the process. My wife knew that I was adding hua jiao flavoring but was blind to which glass received what amount of extract. Both preferred the beer with two drops of extract. My wife tasted each beer stating, “this one is meh, this one is slightly interesting, and this one is the really interesting”. It was gratifying to make a saison with a bit more spice than I was getting from the yeast alone.
As I mentioned above, I think the flavoring is a bit overwhelming with 12.5 ml of extract in the keg.
- Aroma: earthy and hay-like
- Flavor: slightly spicy with an overwhelming hua jiao taste
- Mounthfeel: no numbness and as expected, dry
*I’ve a friend who came and drank a glass of this saison. After a few sips, he was told that hua jiao spice was added to the beer. Immediately, he exclaimed about how it was numbing his mouth and wasn’t that interested in the beer. Personally, I think the reaction is based on bias. Everyone that has had this beer without knowing about the hua jiao has enjoyed it and never mentions anything about a numbing sensation.
Brew it Again?
Yes but change to 6-8 ml of extract per 19 l.
I really like Drew Beechum’s stuff on saisons. Check some of it out here. Next time I plan to follow his fermentation schedule. Although, it may not be as applicable when using the yeast strain I did.
Comments are welcome!