We had joy we had fun, we have a Rye Saison for the sun…

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 21.17.57

When I was at my local brewers’ meet-up in May (I would link, but the site is down) we decided to all try our hands at a Saison in time for the July meet.

We talked a bit about what constraints there are around this particular “farmhouse” style and quickly came to the conclusion that there aren’t any really.

Lets’ take three random, Saisons for example:

  • Saison Du Pont: The classic, spicy, dry-finishing and with a subtle haze.  Complete refreshment in a glass – THE ultimate beer for summer
  • Ommegang Hennepin Saison: Less dry than the dupont, and clearer.  But stronger and sweeter and with a little added spice in the way of (maybe) ginger root and orange peel
  • Brooklyn Sorachi Ace Saison: A Saison in the Du Pont style but with a liberal amount of Sorachi Ace hops – making for that same Saison dryness, but with an additional hit of citrus, herbal and Saaz-familial spiciness.

This seems to be the way of Belgian brewing, there’s never really anything that’s off-limits.  Style guidelines are there to be bent or just ignored.

Indeed, there’s a lot of folks – both here and abroad – that are further “farmhousing” their Saisons by employing bacteriological cultures to produce Sour Saisons and Brett Saisons that offer further taste and aromatic dimensions.

As far as I can see, the only defining part of the Saison style is the yeast…and maybe the fermentation temperature.

There’s a theory that Saison yeast is probably just a red wine yeast that was pitched from red wine bottle dregs by a farmer who couldn’t get to the local brewery or bakery for his yeast that year – and that yeast has mutated over the years to become the hard-working – but petulant beast we know today.

Saison yeast wants to be driven hard.  Don’t ferment at anything under the mid 20’s centigrade – you might get something flat and uninteresting-tasting, and don’t be afraid to crank up the OG a bit too.  Saison yeast is reportedly able to ferment up to 14% ABV.

I don’t even bother aerating Saisons – as my assumption is that: the more harrassed they yeast are, the more they chuck out flavour.

BUT!  Saison yeast is nothing if not finicky, it’ll set off like a steam train building up a huge rocky krausen and then inexplicably grind to a halt…skulking about and appearing to be doing nothing at 1025OG.  Then it’ll be off again and then slow right down again; krausens will come and go and you’ll never know really where you are.

For that reason alone, I give my Saisons up to three weeks in primary, when at least I know it’ll be done fannying about by then and may have got down to 1005 or something equally daft.

But of course, if you get really stuck at somewhere stupid like 1025 OG, you can stuff some US-05 in, and that’ll finish it off for you.

I brewed the Saison recipe above at the weekend, and as you can see I brewed it with rye…because it’s supposed sweet but dryish cracker-bread notes should compliment the expected dry finish from the Mangrove Jack French Saison yeast.

I used Pilsner malt as it’s traditional for a Saison and because we’re nudging a cheery 7% on the ABV I put some palm sugar in too, as that’ll further dry the body and stop the malt bill from becoming too cloying.

It’s in the brew fridge at a merry 25c – where it should go about it’s crazy business and start chucking out those tasty esters…

But, I do still reserve the right to dry-hop, spice or fruit peel it in primary if I think it needs it…

(Ommegang Hennepin clones have dried orange peel and root ginger as spicy additions and I LOVE Ommegang’s Hennepin Saison)

 

Hefeweizen IV Tasting Notes

20170601_174414

Well looky here, if it isn’t a whole month and a tiddle since I brewed up this Wheat beer…bet you’re straining at the leash to find out how this one came out, aren’t you?

All I can say is: this beer puts me at least a couple more steps further up the mountain towards the pinnacle of the perfect wheat beer.

There’s no weird off-flavours in this batch (thank you, brew fridge) and there’s a nice balance of sweet, and a very gentle sour note that helps round it out a bit.  Any bitterness keeps itself to itself – meaning there’s no off-putting bitter twang.

In the phenolics, there’s an array of restrained banana and clovey undercurrents that swirl along merrily in both the nose and the taste.

So: the nose is good, the taste is good and the head retention is passable (not great, but you takes what you can these days…)

It’s very refreshing and – just off chilled – I can drink one down, all nice and right-down into my tum in hardly any time at all.

But…and there’s always a but.

It’s not very exciting.  And the body could do with being a little more full as well.

Maybe next time I’ll chuck in WLP300 instead.  The Mangrove Jack wheat yeast did a perfectly good job – it just doesn’t seem as expressive as the 300.

With all things remaining equal (and with either WLP300 or MJ’s), I reckon I need to rile up the yeast a bit more…you know, really provoke it by dialling the fermentation temperature up beyond 20c, so it can go mad and produce more flavour.

Maybe I’ll even do some more fancy mash rests to try and capitalize on the alpha and beta amylase phases:

Instead of the old 66c trade-off single infusion business, I’ll rest it for a while at 63C (or so) and then move on up to another rest at 70c (or so) which will give me a decent trade-off between wort fermentability (i.e. maltose production) from the 63c rest and a shovel-full of unfermentable dextrins for body from the 70c rest.

God, I almost sound like I know what I’m doing…

Golden Summer Shower Ale – tasting notes

20170531_175903

Jeez.  I’ve nearly slaughtered this keg already.  I mean, I did have some help along the way: quite a lot of “Ooooh, can I have another one, please?” from certain quarters (Graham, mainly)

So, this is apparently a golden ale see here: (https://yeastismybitch.com/2017/04/11/golden-summer-shower-ale-ivpa/).

You can see it in there, pretending to be one in the photo.  Trouble is that’s where the similarities end…

Yes, it’s got a dear little fluffy head and yes it smells like a golden ale too – only just a lot more hoppier as I ended up dry-hopping it with 50g of home-grown cascades…and you can see the dry-hopping by the haziness of it…

This ale has hops and bitterness and strength (by god, doesn’t it just: two pints of it in the hot sun whilst tending a barbecue and I was feeling distinctly “Wahey!“)

But, everything’s in balance; well, everything’s in balance if you wanted a massively amped-up version of Hopback Summer Lightning, I guess.

This is very much NOT a barbecue slammer, unless of course you’re the one that wants to be slammed.

Saying all that, though…it is dangerously drinkable…and such a cinch to brew, too, with it’s minimalist malt bill.  Make a mental note to brew with pale malt only, you won’t be disappointed…