Ossetian beer is a low alcohol carbonated drink (1-9 degrees) of brown or black color. Its taste is very reminiscent of black kvass but it also has hints of hoppy bitterness. Porter is the closest traditional beer style. This article goes over the beer-making method which stays true to the classic technique but is also adapted to home conditions.
Note. The following recipe can offend experienced brewing masters as it only vaguely resembles the classic technique of mashing and brewing. The Ossetian beer can be classified as a hopped brew or a separate low-alcohol drink, but it is not a beer in the traditional sense of the term.
About Ossetian Beer
When it comes down to preparing Ossetian beer barley is the grain of choice due to its abundance, but you can also create combinations of different types of grains in various proportions. For example, 2 parts barley and 0.5 parts wheat and rye (preferably all couched). Sometimes even corn flour is added to the beer must (up to 25-30%).
In recent years Ossetians back away from using malt by replacing it with dark bread and sugar. This yields something similar to rye alcoholic kvass, but you can’t really call this a traditional way.
Water should be clean, soft and odorless. The ideal option is spring water but bottled water works fine, too.
To prepare beer you need hop cones. Ossetians grow their own hops and use them to prepare must without really worrying about varieties and acidity. For our purposes of making homemade beer buying hops in a pharmacy or in brewery store is the most reasonable way to go (the cheapest one with an alpha acidity of 4-5% is suitable). The more hops are added to the must, the bitter the Ossetian beer turns out.
To start fermentation, Ossetians add a ferment made from the previous beer batch to the must. In villages neighbors often borrow each other’s ferments or count on wild yeast. Since we don’t use the ferment, it’s advised to add beer or wine yeast to prevent the must from getting infected with pathogens. Dry or pressed baker’s yeast give a characteristic ethanol aftertaste and wash flavor.
Sugar is added during cooking along with hops to increase the ABV or at the very end to sweeten the drink. But sugar is guaranteed to give a kvass aftertaste, that’s why it’s better to add as little sugar as possible or skip it altogether.
- Barley – 2.5 kilos
- Water – 10 liters
- Dry hop cones – 50-100 grams
- Beer Yeast
- Sugar – 50-250 grams (optional)
You’ll need a large cooking pot with a thick bottom.
The proposed recipe along with the list of ingredients and ratios are not the only possible solution for making Ossetian beer. There is no unique generally accepted recipe—each village has its own understanding of beer making. This results in Ossetian beer tasting differently in various regions.
How to Make Ossetian Beer at Home
- First, you need to make malt by couching, drying, and grinding the grains. Most times Ossetians simply thoroughly wash and soak the grains, and then after they double in volume (after one day), they decant and put them in a thin layer in a cold dark place for 2-3 days until they sprout. After that the malt is dried for 3-4 days, the sprouts are removed and the prepared grains are grind into medium-fine flour. You can also purchase premade unfermented ground malt.
- Heat up a dry cooking pot with a thick bottom. Add 60% of the malt (1.5 kilos). Even out the layer and cook on medium heat periodically stirring, until the flour turns dark brown.
The stronger the roasting, the darker the beer. If you overroast it, the beer will turn out too bitter. That’s why in most cases the malt is roasted until it’s brown.
- Pour water into the cooking pot and the remaining malt (1 kilo). Stir it from time to time to prevent the flour from burning and bring the mash to a boil. After that, turn the heat down to a minimum and cook for 15 minutes. Stir for 2-3 times and turn off the stove. Leave the mash for 10-15 minutes to let the remains of the malt goes down.
- Strain the mash through cheesecloth. Pick up the spent grain from the bottom using a colander or small dipper and lay it out on a filter fabric. After that, slowly strain through cheesecloth with the spent grain all the liquid. Wash the first container and strain it once again. Then squeeze the spent grain once again and throw it out. Thanks to such filtration all nutrients get washed out of the malt, making the beer itself much brighter.
- Heat up the cleared liquid part once again, bring it to a boil, add hops and sugar (optional), and stir. Cook on a slow fire for 30 minutes. Since the classic mash conversion technology (splitting of starch into sugars under the influence of enzymes in malt) and control of thermal conditions are not applied in this method, the initial mash contains minimum sugar, thus the beer turns out low-alcohol (2-3% ABV). In order to increase the ABV, you need to increase the sugar content of the mash. Usually, it’s done by adding beet sugar (you should add up to 10% of the mash used). It’s best to add 3-5% or refrain from doing it altogether. This will yield a beer with 3-7% ABV.
- Take the pot off the stove, cool the mash to 28-30°C, add activated yeast, and stir. Leave the mixture open (without an airlock) in a dark place at room temperature for 2-4 days. To prevent insects from getting into the drink, you can tie the neck of the container with cheesecloth. After a few hours, you should notice foaming and hissing—this means that the beer is fermenting.
The longer the Ossetian beer ferments, the higher the ABV. You can try it after 2 days.
- In Ossetia, it is customary to make beer for the holidays, that’s why it’s not supposed to be stored for a long time. But you can pour your beer into plastic bottles, cork them, and leave in a fridge for a few days. It’s important to monitor the pressure in the bottles and let some gas out in order to prevent the bottles from suddenly exploding.