Jester King Craft Brewery

Chuvashian Inspired Farmhouse Ale with Victory Art Brew in Russia

This week, I had the privilege of traveling to Russia with my brother/co-founder Michael Steffing and our production manager Averie Swanson to brew with Victory Art Brew in the town of Ivanteyevka outside of Moscow. We set out to make a beer inspired by the farmhouse ales of Chuvashia, located 400 miles to the east.

Exploring old farmhouse brewing traditions from around the world is something we find very interesting. It’s fascinating to learn about how people throughout the centuries have harnessed their surroundings to make beer that’s tied to a place and time. It’s something we try to do with our own beer, which creates a natural curiosity about how others have done it before us. I’ve heard others say that “beer is people”, and I fully believe that. It’s a window into their lives, surroundings, and time period, and it brings them together. For our beer with Victory Art Brew, we tried to capture part of Chuvashian farmhouse brewing tradition and incorporate it with our own place and time.

Chuvashian farmhouse ale is part of homebrewing history and culture. We’re not talking about widely available commercial beer. Rather, we’re talking about people using what was available in their surroundings to make beer in their kitchens. Chuvashian beer was prepared by taking a large earthenware pot called a “korchaga” with a hole on the side near the bottom. The korchaga was lined with rye straw, and the hole was plugged with dough. Cold water and malt were added to the korchaga, and the top was sealed with more dough. It was placed in a stove overnight for 16-18 hours. The next day, the korchaga was removed from the stove, and the hole near the bottom was unsealed to collect the wort (unfermented beer). Additional hot water was used to rinse the remaining sugars from the grains. The wort was then placed in a wooden container for fermentation without being boiled.

Hops were not added directly to the wort. Rather, they were boiled in a separate vessel with water, then strained to create a hop tea. This hop tea was then added to the wooden vessel containing the wort. A yeast starter called the “kulaga” was then added to the wooden container. A ceremony was performed at the time of the yeast addition to “raise the specters”.

After the primary fermentation, the beer was either consumed or combined with other ingredients like honey, herbs, or berries. The beer then underwent additional fermentation in the wooden vessel for anywhere from one week to one year. Finally, the beer was served in wooden buckets accompanied by prayer.

In our case, we lined the bottom of the mash tun with wheat straw and mashed with Russian pale ale malt and rye and wheat flakes.

We then rinsed the mash and moved the wort to the kettle, but did not boil. Rather, we boiled 1kg of Chuvashian hops in a separate pot for one hour.

We strained the hops from the pot and added the hop tea to the wort.

We then chilled the wort to fermentation temperature using a heat exchanger. The wort was then racked into oak barrels that formerly contained Crimean wine and was pitched with our mixed culture of brewers yeast, native yeast, and native bacteria from Jester King.

After the wort ferments in barrels for quite some time, it will be refermented with Russian honey.

Brewing with Victory Art Brew was truly a wonderful experience. It was honestly a little intimidating for us to travel thousands of miles from Texas to a land none of us had ever visited before. We could not have been made to feel more welcome. The people of Victory Art Brew, especially the proprietors Eugene Tolstov, Doug Zent, and Denis Kovalev, were incredibly kind and made us feel right at home. It was an absolute pleasure to brew with them, and we look forward to having them to Jester King sometime in the future to brew a version of Chuvashian-inspired beer in Texas!

Jeffrey Stuffings
Jester King Brewery