A little under a decade ago, my journey with wild beers started. I was trying all kinds of beerstyles before I discovered geuze. At first I had to get used to the specific taste, but the process and the romance around that style intrigued me a lot. I visited Brussels a couple of times and tried all there was to try, and really started to appreciate the intense and complex tastes and aroma’s these spontaneously fermented beers could incorporate.
Back then I was a pretty active homebrewer, but it didn’t come to mind to try and brew something similar. Not for long though. Fast forward a couple of years, I started distributing my blends. Ever since I started doing so, I’ve been looking for a way to create something that reminds me of these spontaneous beers, but not to mimic or reproduce them. I have a lot of respect for the lambic tradition, it’s a style on it’s own. I’ve been looking to create something of my own. Something unique, something with identity, with history and with a character that reminds me of the spontaneous fermented beers I really love.
I don’t just brew or drink beer, I read a lot about it too. About two years ago, I found out that Alkmaar (the city I live in) has quite a rich beer history. Back in the nineteenth century, we had a famous (son of a) brewer named Jan Wahlen. He wrote a book about beer and brewing that has been well kept in the Regional Archives of Alkmaar. It’s called “Brouw-Boek, onder den titel van Mijne Geliefkoosde Uren, bevattende het praktisch brouwen” which means something like “Brew-Book, titled My Precious Hours, containing practical brewing info”. Needless to say, I dove in.
The book was written from 1862 to 1865, and contains a lot of cool info about how they used to brew back then. It has drawings, beer labels, a lot of information about the process, ingredients and troubleshooting. But the best part is, it contains recipes. One of those recipes is quite a basic recipe for “Gerstenbier” or “Gerste”. The oldskool handwriting is pretty hard to read, but if you try hard, you can.
About the Recipe
I really liked the recipe, and the thought of recreating something that was brewed and enjoyed by the people who used to live here 150 years ago. It contains 58% malted barley, 14% oats, 21% wheat and 7% spelt. Since spelt is part of the wheat family, it kinda reminded me of a slightly modified lambic grist, and figured it could work well for me. I added a little munich to make op for the caramelization in the long boil (they used to boil for 12 hours) and decided to use this recipe as my base beer. I call it Gerste, my own interpretation of the old classic Dutch Gerstebier from the 19th century.
My Base Beer
So here we are now. I’ve been waiting for over a year before I could release my first Gerste, because the fermentation and aging of my beers take so long. I’m so thrilled to finally be able to release them and tell you all about them! Long story short, this is the base beer of all my beers that will be released in 2022 and beyond. Expect a wide range of aroma’s and flavors, depending on what my cultures, the barrels and adjuncts like fruit and spices will do with it.
I brew this base beer with low alpha acid hops and my own wild yeast cultures. The taste of my one year old Gerste is pretty similar to that of one year old lambic, in a couple of years we will find out how a blend of different vintages tastes like.