From a commoner’s perspective, Saison might be a confusing beer. Difficult to explain taste – peppery, fruity, earthy…horse blanket?
Sometimes pale like a wit, others dark like a stout. A portion served with fewer ounces often for higher cost which begs the question – what’s so special about a Saison?
A small delve into the history of the beer will tell us it’s origin (Belgium), use (a seasonal worker’s beer) and composition (mostly barley, maybe a bit of wheat, hops, yeast), no far stretch from many other beers. Yet that taste! Musty, earthy, lemony with a spice to singe one’s nostrils.
As a brewer the Saison felt elusive, a beer not to be brewed until skill caught up with ambition. But after a glance over a typically grain bill and a gander over to Wyeast’s French Saison page, the task seemed easily within grasp.
Recipe – As there were a lot more ingredients going into this batch than normal, I wanted to keep my recipe variables to a minimum, have it finish dry, moderate hop flavor and ABV and be a great slate for post fermentation additions.
- Batch Size: 10 Gallons
- 16Lbs German Pilsner
- 2Lbs White Wheat Malt
- 1oz Hallertau (60min)
- 1oz St Celeia Golding (10min)
- 1tsp Wyeast Nutrient
- 90 seconds pure O2 (2 micron stone)
- Wyeast 3711
- OG: 1.048
- FG: 1.000
- SRM: 3.58
- IBU: 11.29
- Mash: 60min @ 148°, single infusion.
- Boil: 60min
- Fermentation temp: 68° and let rise up to 75°
- Brewday Cost: $50.59
Strike water to 154, mash in down to 148
A ~3° variance between mash temp and wort temp on my system, compensate accordingly.
Brewday went smoothly
After boil began and before hop additions I pulled 800mL for an aerated starter. Boiled, additions, cooled, one pass through the counterflow chiller/ice bucket combo brought 10g down to 68 in 2 minutes. Put the fermentors in the chamber and pitched the starter the next morning.
5 days after pitch – The batch was down to 1.004, happy about this SG. Fermentation was not aggressive, no blow off needed with 0.5g headspace and by this time Krausen had fallen and airlock was dormant. Sample tasted straight. No signs of weirdness albeit still very young.
This is where I split the batches for different dry additions
Batch 1 – Blackberry Sage Saison
- 2 bags organic frozen blackberries
- 0.5oz dry rubbed sage
- Addition Cost: $8.67
12 days post pitch – Frozen blackberries and sage were added. Berries were put in food processor, pulsing enough to roughly half them. Held at 160° for a minute, added to fermentor.
17 days post pitch – The batch did a refermentation with the new sugar from the berries which brought it down to 1.000, nice and dry! The berries took it from wit pale to what you see below.
19 days post pitch – The batch was bottled, yeast was clumping likely due to the whirfloc but did not settle out. Next time either no fining or gelatin in the carboy.
39 days post pitch – Sage really came through after bottle conditioning. Turned out to be a very dimensional beer on the tongue.
Batch 2 – Morello Oak Saison
- 2 jars Morello Cherries (Trader Joe’s, 24.7oz)
- 1oz light oak chips soaked in Shiraz
- Addition cost: $11.27
I chose jarred cherries over ripe for a few reasons. Mainly fresh morello cherries are seasonally unavailable. I wanted a refermentation from this addition, the sugar the sour cherries were sitting in provided this and lastly I was certain of the additionally sugar being added which I could account for in my final ABV.
24 days post pitch – Cherries and oak chips were added. Oak chips were held in Shiraz on a stir plate for 24 hours, decanted and dumped in along with the cherries straight from the jars.
The cherries had a nice tart taste. The added sugar from them (220g) should add ~0.005 to the SG and allow refermentation.
26 days post pitch – Reading taken 1.002, a very bright red hue from the cherries, oak was faint.
28 days post pitch – Bottled the batch. Morello cherries left a very nice sour taste, oak was on the fainter side but still noticeable.
39 days post pitch – Carbed up perfectly at 3.2 Volumes. Finished extremely clean and dry at 1.001 (7.5%ABV). Very crisp on the tongue but not lacking mouthfeel. Decided to use gelatin in the morello cherry batch which made it incredibly clear and bright. Very drinkable for the high ABV. Overall very happy with how the beer turned out.
What changes next batch: Really really happy with the morello oak batch. The only change I’ll make is a longer stint on oak. The blackberry sage one was also damn tasty but simply fell flat next to morello oak.