Brewing a Traditional Lithuanian Farmhouse Beer – Keptinis

Brewing a Traditional Lithuanian Farmhouse Beer – Keptinis

For National Homebrew Day today, I wanted to share with you my experience brewing a very unique beer. Yesterday I brewed a centuries old Lithuanian farmhouse beer recipe from the book “Historical Brewing Techniques – The Lost Art of Farmhouse Brewing” by Lars Marius Garshol.

What makes this beer so unique? It’s a baked, raw ale.

The brewing session took just over ten hours to complete. When finished, this beer will closely resemble a cross between a brown ale and a barley-wine, but with much less bitterness. The body will be huge, and the aroma and flavor will be filled with deep toffee, caramel, and dried fruit (raisin) notes, accompanied by spicy phenolics from the Hornindal Kveik yeast.

According to Lars Marius Garshol, “keptinis is an ultra-obscure style of beer, made only by a few farmhouse brewers in north-eastern Lithuania, and by three commercial breweries. One being Ramunas Čižas, the other two being Dundulis and Kupiškio.” Craft breweries will struggle to make this style because of the amount of oven space required to bake large pans of wet malted barley mash, which is the signature process that makes this beer so unique.

Remember that this is a farmhouse beer. For centuries, farmers would set aside a portion of their grain, whether it was barley, rye or even oats, to brew the family beer, both for nourishment and celebration. Most had a separate small building on premise for the malting process, and the farmers understood this process well. The issue was that they rarely had a kiln, which is where the complex flavors, color and mouthfeel would come from. Specialized malt was expensive and hard to find, and a far distance away. The solution? Make a mash, then bake it at high temperatures to allow the maillard reaction to caramelize the sugars in the malt.

So let’s get into how my ten hour brew day went…

Knowing that the goal was to caramelize as much of the malt as possible, I lowered my mash liquid to malt ratio from 1.420 quarts/pound to an even 1 to 1, which made a thick mash. I mashed in with 15 pound of Viking Pale Malt, and five pounds of Viking Rye Malt.

After an hour in the mash at 156 degrees Fahrenheit, I poured the mash into four aluminum pans, and placed them on my outdoor grill at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I was only able to fit half of my mash into the pans, so in the future I will need another baking solution to fit more volume. I highly recommend using the aluminum pans so you don’t ruin your good baking pans, and you can bend and peel the aluminum to get the bark-like malt out of the pans after the bake is complete.

The three pictures show my progress at one hour, two hours, and at the completion of three hours.The high temperatures boil the mash and release steam, reducing the liquid and therefore thickening the mash. Eventually, when most of the liquid boils off, the malt begins caramelizing.

After three hours, I pulled the pans from the heat, and added the now carmelized malt back to the mash, and recirculated the mash for another thirty minutes. Note in the picture you can see the varying degrees of carmelization, all which will provide unique flavors to the finished beer.

During recirculating, I also brought three gallons of water to a boil, and added two ounces of Northern Brewer Hops, making a hop tea. After recirculating the mash, as the recipe suggests I added the hop tea to the mash during the sparging process, which would bring earthy, spicy hop flavor and bitterness to the beer.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a raw beer, so the wort was never actually brought to a boil, but the wort did get collected at around 180 degrees F so we can assume any bad bacteria has been killed off and won’t effect the finished product.

Another note worth mentioning is that this was an intensely sticky mash, both from the carmelization and from the heavy use of rye. This made lautering and the collection of wort very difficult. I ended up collecting a half gallon less than anticipated…even after using boiling hot hop tea to sparge.

In the end, I collected four gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.082. The color was a deep amber, with tons of toffee and caramel flavor. I pitched the Hornindal Kveik yeast at 80 degrees F, and commenced cleanup. When I woke up this morning, less than 12 hours later the kveik yeast was doing its job and bubbling away. A successful keptinis brew day complete. Stand by for tasting notes when the beer is finished in a few weeks.

Happy National Homebrew Day!

Relax, have a homebrew!


Karl D. Larson

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