Live in the moment, especially when Olallieberries are involved

So last night I cracked open one of my last olallieberry saisons that I had saved/found in my “cellar.” We (my husband and I) brewed it last summer during the “berry burst” that we have every June/July. Slow Food Santa Cruz dubbed last year “Year of the Olallieberry” and I took full advantage of that. Olallieberry pie, olallieberry scones, of course fresh olallieberries (with ice cream when possible!) and we tried a brewing experiment as well. We pureed 5 pounds of olallieberries and put them into the secondary fermentation of our “house” saison. The results? Outstanding. It was tart (as a good olallieberry should be), dry, and the most beautiful color.

Olallieberry beer

This year when Swanton Berry Farm opened up for olallieberry picking season we ran up there as soon as we could, containers in hand, ready to pick with the full intention of making round 2 of our beer. Sadly, the berries were much more expensive than last year and not nearly as sweet – this drought has really impacted the berry crops, and olallieberries are especially sensitive berries to begin with. Our wallets just couldn’t handle the amount it would take to get that many berries (however we did get just enough for snacking and one delicious pie).

Olallieberry pie

Sadly, when I sat down last night to enjoy my beer, I found that its time had passed. Either we had stored it incorrectly or it was just not meant to be saved for a whole year. The delicate, sweet-tart, unique olallieberry flavor is clearly meant to be savored quickly, a reminder to live in the moment, particularly when berries are involved.

But, a special treat, for you dear readers, is the recipe for this tasty beer, should you be inclined to brew it! This is an all grain recipe, and requires at least a 7 gallon capacity, the berries add on an additional 1.5 gallons or so, so be prepared for that.

Olallieberry Saison:

*the base recipe for the saison is from Seven Bridges Cooperative, our local organic home-brew store, a wonderful place for all of your home-brew needs!

Prepare ahead: Puree 5 pounds of fresh, local, olallieberries (really, what else is there around here?). Freeze them until they are ready! This breaks down the cell walls and helps them infuse the beer better (or something sciency… trust me, it works). This is also convenient if you are not planning on brewing this beer during those exact two weeks that olallieberries are ready for picking.


7 pounds Gambrinus organic pilsner malt

2 pounds Gambrinus organic wheat malt

1 pound Gambrinus organic Munich malt

1 pound organic oat flakes

¾ pounds organic cane sugar

1 oz organic German Hallertaur Tradition pellet hops

2 oz organic German Spalt Select pellet hops

Yeast: Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Original Gravity: 1.064 – 1.068 (ours was 1.056 – we are still tweaking our system)

Final gravity without berries: 1.002 – 1.012 (we added berries when it was 1.024 – by the time we bottled it was 1.002)

IBU’s: 39

Average Alcohol content (estimated): 7% (this was estimated prior to adding the sugar from the berries – so it will be a bit higher)


  1. Heat 3 ¾ gallons of water to 165 degrees and add all the grains. Mash for 30-60 minutes until the starch conversion is complete
  2. Sparge the grains with 4 ½ gallons of water heated to 170 degrees
  3. Transfer the wort to the brew pot, add the cane sugar, dissolve and bring the wort to a boil
  4. Add 1 oz of Hallertaur Tradition hops for bittering and boil for 30 minutes
  5. Add 1 oz of Spalt Select hops for flavoring and boil for another 20 minutes
  6. Add 1 oz of Spalt Select hops for aroma and boil for 10 more minutes
  7. Turn the heat off and cool the wort to 65-75 degrees.
  8. Transfer to the primary fermenting vessel and add oxygen by stirring vigorously with a sanitized spoon, pouring back and forth between the brew pot and the fermenting vessel or using an oxygen infuser (a really cool brewing toy)
  9. Add the yeast and ferment in a cool dark place for about a week, have the temperature around 70 degrees
  10. Transfer to the secondary fermenter and at this point add the 5 pounds of thawed, pureed olallieberries. They will float to the top of the fermenter, this is totally fine.
  11. When the beer has reached the desired gravity, transfer it to another fermenting vessel to clarify (there will be a LOT of berry gunk left over). Leave it there for about a week.
  12. Either keg or bottle using your preferred method, store for no more than a few months, and enjoy!

Olallieberry Saison

Make sure to drink this beer before it goes bad – it is meant to be enjoyed within a few months! Trust me, you won’t have trouble giving it away or finding people to drink it with you.

Also, this month from the Heritage Food Project, on July 25th some of the Heritage Foodies will be at the Soquel Pioneer and Historical Association picnic to judge a food contest they are having! For more information, here is the link:


-Stephanie Haas

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