Recently a friend of mine gave me a pack of Podpiwek Kujawski when she found out I was a homebrewer. I’d never heard of it before, but she told me that she’d remembered it from her childhood in Poland and recently found it at a Polish store in Brooklyn. When she handed me the package in the photo above with it’s amazing artwork I knew I was going to have to dig in and make up a batch of Podpiwek.
Podpiwek comes in a 3.5 oz. package containing – Beetroot, barley, chicory, sugar, hops and citric acid (shown in the photo below). The contents look like and have the texture of potting soil.
The instructions (translated from Polish using Google Translate) were to boil the contents of the package with 10 liters of water for 10 minutes, strain through a thick cloth and cool mixture, add 500 − 600 g of sugar and stir in 5 g of fresh yeast. Put into a sealed bottle in a warm area for 5 days and then in a cool area for 3 days. From the small amount of information I’d found online, the finished drink should only be 2-3% ABV.
I decided to change it up a bit and boil for 20 minutes and add the sugar during the boil. I thought I’d use an organic cane sugar since it has some residual molasses flavor to give a little extra flavor to the brew, but I don’t know what I was thinking. None of that flavor could come through the flavor of the grain mix, so should have saved the money and used the cheap stuff. After tasting the wort at the end of the boil I decided to throw in 1/8 oz. Saaz hop pellets that I had in the fridge and boil for another 5 minutes. The wort was not very complex tasting, but not as bad as I thought it would be. I thought the extra hop addition would give it some character. I used Safale US-05 dry brewers yeast (11 g) in place of the 5 g fresh yeast mostly because I had no idea what yeast they would use in Poland and because the Safale is inexpensive.
As a brewer, putting this in sealed bottles did not seem right to me. The OG was 1.035, which is not high for beer standards, but there was still going to be plenty of fermentation going on. I put the majority into a 1 gallon glass jug with an airlock and divided the rest between a glass bottle with a swing top cap and 2 liter plastic soda bottle. Definitely too much fermentation for sealed bottles, don’t follow package instructions! I realized quickly that the glass and plastic bottle were getting pressurized quickly so I just kept opening to let CO2 out. Big mistake because I forgot to do this before I went to bed and realized it in the morning. I had a feeling that I had a problem on my hands. I tried to slowly open the swing top bottle and it exploded right into my face, all over the ceiling and the entire kitchen. Thank god the baby was on the other side of the living room or he would have got a Podpiwek shower!
The finished product is surprisingly tasty. It has some nice coffee notes to it in addition to a almost cider like taste. I’ll see what everyone thinks about it at The NYC Homebrewers Guild Fermentation Study Group where we’re going to be tasting some different Eastern European fermented beverages at our April meeting.