Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mazarin - Sour Cherries, Sherry Flor and Mahlab (mahleb, mahlepi, mahlebbi)

This beer is another in my line of Dumas inspired beers.  I had been tinkering with the idea of a Mazarin inspired beer for awhile, and I wanted something with hints of Italy (wine yeast), a bit of nuttiness and a deep red color. Luckily I had a bunch of sour cherry juice that I needed to use up, and not a single lambic/etc ready for fruit.  Generally I'm not a big proponent of fruit in non-sour beers, but I think that I might be slowly drifting away from that.  It's really interesting to look at what Ive brewed over the years, you can really identify different influences and interests that send me in one direction only to move away from it several months later.

Lately, Ive become very interested in using wine yeasts in beer.  Ive been playing around quite a bit behind the scenes with several different strains and I really like what I'm seeing.  Wine yeasts offer several qualities that can be quite interesting in beer.  A major one is that wine yeast lack the ability to ferment maltotriose, which is the second most abundant fermentable sugar in wort (~14% on average).  This can result in some interesting beers that aren't quite possible with ale yeasts.

For one you could mash relatively low and still end up with quite a sweet beer.  You could also add quite a substantial amount of sugar to the wort and still end up with sufficient mouthfeel and sweetness to balance. Im hoping to test the limits of this soon, with a very high mash temp, and lots of sugar.  Another interesting thing about wine yeasts are there temp tolerances.  Most strains can ferment well into the 80's (27C+), which is interestingly enough quite like many Belgian strains and in particular saison yeasts which are said to be mutated wine strains.  For me currently the temperature tolerances isn't a big deal, its winter time and quite cool in my house (60's), but during the spring and summer months this could potentially make brewing significantly easier on me.

Anyway, back to the beer!  Having a bunch of sour cherry juice laying around needing to be used up I decided to make a very bready, nutty beer to balance the acidity of the cherry juice.  For a while I was considering using some of the almond liqueur/extract I made a while back in the Fat Washing post, but I decided to hold onto that for something where the flavors might shine a bit more.  Instead I decided to use a spice not too many people are familiar with, but I absolutely love..Mahlab.

Mahlab is the seed of the St Lucie Cherry, and is used quite extensively in sweetish breads around Easter time. It has a very nice nutty, tart cherry flavor that is very almond-like.  Strangely though it took some looking to find it, none of the little Middle-Eastern markets around me carry it year round.  Apparently they only have it around Easter, luckily though a Penzey's just recently opened in the area and I was able to pick some up from there, albeit a tad expensive.

Now that I had both the sour cherry juice and mahlab, I wanted to provide a biscuity, cracker-like malt profile. To get this I decided to use a sizeable portion of dark munich malt and some light crystal malts.  My last addition to the recipe was the sherry flor.  I used this yeast last about a year ago in a biere de garde (Athos).  Now I haven't done a formal tasting of the beer, but its quite interesting.  It has a great nougat flavor with hints of licorice and apples and retained a nice malt profile.  I'm hoping to get a similar result from the yeast this time, as I really think those yeast flavors would play very well with the cherries and mahlab.

Mazarin - Sour Cherries, Sherry Flor and Mahlab
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
5.0Dark Munich (10L)
1.0Crystal 10L
~30ozSour Cherry Juice
2ozGround Mahlab (secondary)
Amt (oz)TypeTime
0.50Sterling (7.9%)60
Mash Schedule
170F2.0qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastSherry Flor - WLP700
5.0galOG1052 + Juice?
80% effIBU14
6.0gal BoilFG

Review - 3/13/13 - Notes & Thoughts


Anonymous said...

"Italy (sherry flor)"

I was under the impression that sherry was indigenous to the Jerez region of Spain. Is the word Sherry itself not an English bastardization of Jerez?

Ryan said...

you know your right, I guess the Italian version would actually be marsala, which is sort of like sherry. Eh I guess you win some and you lose some

Kyle N said...

Hey, I live in a tropical part of Bolivia where it's summer right now and I can't regulate fermentation temperatures down at all, and it pushes 90 f every day. This idea of using wine yeast really intrigues me, though. Do you have any resources you could point me to onthis?

Ryan said...

Kyle, unfortunately there isnt much out there about brewing with wine yeasts, let alone at the high end of the temperature range. I say give it a go and see what happens, FWIW though they say that saison yeast is a mutated red wine strain

Anonymous said...

Look up the following papers regarding Maillard reactions. Amino acids are the key to getting the flavors for Belgian Candi Sugar.

"The Maillard Reaction Application to Confectionery Products"

"Sensory aroma from Maillard reaction of individual and combinations of amino acids with glucose in acidic conditions"

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