Homebrew Recipe: La Granja Agave Azacca Saison

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Illustration by David Witt, DWITT All-Purpose Illustrations

This recipe appears in Michael Dawson’s book, “Mashmaker: A Citizen-Brewer’s Guide to Making Great Beer at Home.” Learn more at mashmakerbook.com.


Agave tequilana is the plant responsible for pulque and tequila. It’s also an adjunct sugar source for this month’s recipe. In the interest of adjective-laden beer styles we’re going to undertake a non-traditional farmhouse ale populated by blue agave nectar, new school hops, and a mixed-culture fermentation.

We’ll need a few things to breathe life into this brew. Specifically, a pils and wheat malt grist with blue agave nectar/syrup added in fermenter; Azacca hops, because they have a cool name; a mixture of Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces to chew it all up; and your finest mason jar or Solo cup from which to enjoy the heady freshness of a young midsummer farmhouse ale con agave.

Going by the numbers

In order to color outside the lines, we need the lines laid out. So let’s revisit the Beer Judge Certification Program specs from Saison Classic circa September 2013:

An original gravity of 1.048–1.065 ahead of a potentially extremely-attenuated final gravity range of 1.002–1.012 makes for an alcohol by volume content of 5–7%. Bitterness can run from 20 up to 35 IBU, but will often seem higher than that due to the combination of high attenuation and high carbonation. The color in the glass goes from a golden 5 SRM up to a russety-orange 14 SRM.

What makes it tick

Blue agave nectar has a delicate floral quality combined with a really interesting undertone that reminds me of mesquite, or maybe even creosote. Like honey, agave nectar or syrup consists largely of simple sugar molecules (fructose in particular) and will ferment right out, with a net effect of thinning the mouthfeel. Also like honey, its flavor/aroma contribution can be very slight and easily removed or overshadowed; we’re going to try to preserve some aromatics by adding it to the fermenter instead of during the boil. You can find blue agave nectar at co-ops and grocery stores. I’m using Wholesome Sweeteners brand.

I know I was cavalier back in the second paragraph when I intimated that Azacca hops were getting picked solely on the basis of its name (although I think we can all admit it makes for some nice alliteration). But the fact is that a big late addition of the dwarf hop variety formerly known as ADHA 483, now named after the Haitian god of agriculture, is also going to bring some welcome tropical pungency that will meld beautifully with the agave and the yeasts.

Speaking of yeasts—a blend of saison and Brett is what I’m going to go for to achieve a combo of tropical fruit mixed with woodsy, peppery spice. By all means deviate as you like but do use a nice, earthy, funky saison strain. For more information on saison yeast choices, see the aforementioned Saison Classic recipe online at growlermag.com; and for more on Brett, see the recipe for Brett Session IPA in the July 2015 issue.

A recipe to try

La Granja Agave Azacca Saison
Target OG: 1.056, Target IBU: 28–30

Shopping list:

Grain
• 7 pounds Rahr 2-row
• 1 pound Rahr white wheat malt
• 8 ounces 60°L crystal malt

Hops
• 1 ounce Azacca

Yeast
• Wyeast 3031-PC Saison-Brett Blend

Sugars
• 16 ounces blue agave nectar

Next page: Key points and brewing method

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