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

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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 brew day

Nope.  I’m still not naming my wheat beers…at least until I get one that has the following traits:

  • Stable foamy head
  • Good balance of clove and banana phenols
  • Obscene drinkability

There’s not much to say about this one, I’m afraid:  It was the by-now-familiar grist make-up:

2.5Kg Wheat Malt and 2.5Kg of Pilsener Malt (oh, and 200g of soaked rice husks)

Hops were a measly 6g of ancient Magnums from the freezer.  That should contribute 11 IBUs of bitterness, maybe less; I’m not much bothered, I don’t want much bitterness in it at all really.

I used the following mash rests:

38c Dough-in
42c (15mins) Ferulic Acid rest (for clove-like phenol precursors)
66c (50mins) Sacchrification rest
78c (10mins) Mash-out

One small deviation: I didn’t skim the foam prior to adding the hops, normally I’m an avid skimmer – but not this time…  I also boiled it for exactly one hour…with the lid only partially on the Braumeister – I’ve discovered that this makes for a much more healthy boil, just don’t let the condensation run back into the boiling wort…you’re boiling wort to get rid of DMS and other rubbish…

All went well and I ended up with 22L of 1055 OG wort, into which I put some Mangrove Jack’s Bavarian Wheat Beer yeast.

I didn’t oxygenate, as I read somewhere that a lack of oxygen makes Weizen yeast more expressive.

It’s all now tucked up happily in the brew fridge at somewhere between 19c and 20c.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

BTW: Did you like the video?  It shows a very pretty-looking cold-break.  It’s way more than I usually get, so maybe that’s due to not skimming pre-boil?  It’s certainly not as a result of Irish moss or other protein coagulant, it scarcely seemed worth adding kettle-finings – this being a wheat beer…  Thinking about it, it was quite a vigorous boil…maybe that did it?

Golden Summer Shower Ale (IVPA)

Miss me?  I mean, did you miss me?

Don’t worry if you didn’t.  I’ve been off of brewing for so long now it’s embarrassing, so I don’t expect any teary welcome backs or anything.

So.  It’s nearly summer, and what could be nicer than a lovely refreshing summer ale – something that’ll glide across the taste buds, slake a parched throat or re-hydrate a tried work-worn body?  Yeah, that’d be really nice…if only I wasn’t such an efficient brewer.

5.2% – that’s what Beer Engine reckoned it’d be; 1052 OG or thereabouts for my 5 and a bit kilos of grain.

Well, I got 1061 and if that US ale yeast does it’s job and wrestles the lot down to 1009, we’ll be looking at 6.7% or so ABV.

I planned on dry-hopping with some more Styrians (Bobek) but it might end up getting a dose of centennial as well, plus the rind of two or more pink grapefruit.  Anyone for another (hastily invented) beer style?  IVPA – India Very Pale Ale?

Yeah, suck it up craft breweries, I can make those moves too…


Notice the deceptively simple grain bill?  That’s because I needed to ease myself back in gently and that little bit of wheat malt is only to work up a bit of head protein and interest in the mouthfeel.

The mash was simplicity itself:

  • Dough-in 38C,
  • Sacch Rest: 67C for 80 Minutes
  • Mash Out: 76C for 10 Minutes

I sparged with 2 litres of hand hot water – mainly because I’d already mashed out and to be honest sparging a Braumeister malt tube with 82C (or whatever) water?  Life’s too short…

Heaven only knows how this one will shape-up, especially as it’s fermenting in the shed in my new fridge-based-fermentation chamber.  We’re currently at a reasonably steady 17-18c so I have hopes that it’ll be as clean as a whistle.

…and of course, when I want to clear the finished beer, I’ll drop the temperature down to 5 or so degrees.  That’s how we roll in these temperature-controlling times.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Next up: probably a rendition of Ommegang Hennepin Saison – especially now I’m able to ramp up a temps to 25c…  Cha-ching.



Mid-Week Mini-Mash: Fake Flanders Red (Sour)


Last night, and probably much against my better judgement, I decided to get another mid-week mini-mash on.

I find the mini-mash style of brewing (see here: https://yeastismybitch.com/2015/10/30/first-steps-in-all-grain-brewing-the-mini-mash/) particularly satisfying as it means I can try things out without sacrificing 23L of wort and several hours of work; plus of course, it’s a doddle to clear up.

The mini mash also helps me to prove to myself that I’ve still got the moves and can hit my targets as an all-grain brewer, especially as my bigger brews are mostly done in the partially automated Braumeister…

So, a Flanders red, eh?  It’s a style that I dearly love: you know, solid and malty with a good sour tang and a delightful acetic acid/vinegar edge.  If it helps at all, try to think of balsamic vinegar…that sort of theme.  Is that better?

The malt bill for this recipe was (very loosely) based on recipes for Rodenbach/Duchesse de Borgogne clones that I’d seen on the web – albeit with substitutions based on what I had kicking about in the grain box:


The mashing happened at between 66 and 67C as I was busy with other things whilst it did it’s bit on the stove-top.  I’m not a stickler for maintaining temperature too closely when it’s such a small batch, and north of 66C and south of 70C was my mash temperature window.  That range should also provide a slightly less fermentable wort for any Brettanomyces present to get chewing on.

All went off OK, but I did taste the wort towards the end – and that one gram of Magnum in the recipe seems to have imparted a little more bitterness than I cared for, so let’s hope that it doesn’t upset the Lactobacillus too much (Lacto doesn’t generally flourish when there’s too much hop bitterness, hence only 8IBUs in this recipe…I’m hopeful that L. Plantarum is a bit more hop tolerant than others I’ve heard about)

And yes, a 45 minute boil!  Whatever next!  And with Pilsenser malt too!  Aren’t you worried about a DMS bomb and lack of hop isomerization, Jon?!

Umm, no.  Bitterness, is bitterness as far as I’m concerned, and in all my brews so far I’ve never come across DMS yet; Although, If I get it this time I’m prepared to eat my words…but, to be on the safe side, I did boil the wort rather violently…

Yeast-wise, as this was a tiny 1 gallon batch, I wasn’t going to jizz away seven or so quid on the traditional Flanders “Rosealare” yeast ‘n’ bacteria culture – instead relying on the yeast and Lactobacillus and god-knows-what that came out of the fermenter that had my (puzzlingly, well-fermented) Berliner Weisse in.

I just did a standard yeast wash procedure (https://yeastismybitch.com/2015/06/01/washing-and-re-using-yeast-for-fun-and-profit/) on the gunk left after bottling the Berliner – and stuffed the washings in the fridge; oh yeah, and I also threw in some bottle dregs from a Lindemans Cuvee Rene that I polished off last week, too.

This delightul yeasty soup should contain Lactobacillus Plantarum, an unknown but plucky brewers/wild yeast of some sort and assorted other yeasts, Lacto cultures and Brettanomyces strains from the Cuvee Rene sediment.

The fun thing about all this is that I’ve no clue how long this will take to get going, ferment right out, drop in acidity and then eventually drop bright and clear.

What larks…

I’ll post updates.

PS: 8am yesterday morning and the airlock was starting to bubble, so that’s a good sign.