Jon’s Kitchen Saison – Tasting notes

20150608_185045As you may or not remember I brewed this one up with the half-pack of Belle Saison yeast left from the BrewUK stove topper kit and a few other bits and pieces (

And by holy crikey I’m glad that I did…

Appearing in the glass more gorgeously luminous and hazy-yellow than it has any business to, this is one lovely-looking beer. I think the wheat more than contributed to it’s sheer good looks.

The carbonation is absolutely spot-on and the head is all frilly and white, just like a tart’s knickers.

The aroma is that gorgeous clean yeast phenol that Belle Saison seems to be good at, and on the back there’s some graininess too…

A HUGE body, with complexity and magnificent citrus notes wrestle in the hay with a fairly playful but forthright bitterness…5.8% ABV means that there’s no shortage of wallop, either.

The finish is sherberty and dry…which is odd and different, but hugely tasty.

Literally – and pardon my french, here – this is one fuck of a beer.  I’m very, very pleased with how this turned out.  When I open the last bottle (there are only five left, remember) I shall weep fat, hot, bitter tears.

I will make this beer again, and again and again.

Floreat Belle Saison!  A triumphant yeast performance…

A great introduction to all-grain brewing: @BrewUK CraftyBrews – Stove Topper Kit

saison_5Are you currently a canned-kit brewer?  Or are you an extract brewer?

If you’re either of these and are looking to get on the all-grain ladder, you certainly can’t do better than having a crack at one of these four litre kits.  I was fortunate enough to be sent a Saison version to try out, by Greg from BrewUK…and if there’s one thing I like more than brewing, it’s free brewing!

When you unpack your Stove Topper kit, you’ll find that it contains nearly everything that you could possibly need:

  • 4.5L Glass Demijohn
  • Bubbler Airlock and Bung
  • Siphon Tube
  • Glass Thermometer
  • Sanitiser Solution
  • Grains
  • Hops

20150429_092205All you need to do is round up a couple of decent-size pans, a jug, a sieve and a funnel

(The instructions say that you’ll need two ten litre pans – which I think is probably a bit over-kill.  I managed with a five litre stockpot and a nine litre preserving pan.  Plus you also need to make sure that you’ve got a fairly big sieve…I ended up using the inside of a salad spinner inside a colander – Don’t tell Eve!)

The instructions are pretty easy to follow, although they might take a bit of reading to get your head around – I’m fortunate in that I (apparently) know what I’m doing; but saying that, I did have to re-read some sections a couple of times to make sure that I’d got it right…I did want to do the kit justice by not deviating at all.

I’m also happy to report that the strike temperature suggested in the instructions was perfect, so I hit my 65C mash temperature dead on.

Instead of taking the temperature frequently and applying heat during the mash to keep a steady 65C, I elected to take the pan off of the heat and wrap it up in the kid’s old coats – which kept it within 1C of the mash temp throughout the entire hour.

It might be worth bearing this in mind in the instructions – as applying heat to a mash is a delicate art and the possibility of overshooting mash temps is always possible (anyone for a pseudo decoction?)

I also figured that a slight drop in temperature during the mash wouldn’t hurt and might make for a more fermentable wort – which wouldn’t be a complete disaster, as a drier finish is well within the Saison style

The really great thing for me was actually mashing in and sparging again after so long away from my three vessel set-up.

Mashing and sparging is so much more involved than my normal “dump the lot in the Braumeister and run off to do something else house or child-related” approach to brewing these days.

This kit reconnected me completely with the brewing process as it will you, too.  You’ll actually see things happening: the rainbow bubbles on the mash surface when sparging, for instance, that (I’ve been told) signal you’ve had a good starch to sugar conversion.

20150429_143515I’m happy to say that I hit all my targets on the dead-on and have a happy ferment going on in the Demijohn (high krausen in under twelve hours, thank you Belle Saison yeast.)

I look forward to drinking my eight bottles of lovely beer.

If you’re at all looking to get into all-grain and just fancy having a bash, then you can’t go far wrong with this kit.  How can Greg do them so cheaply?

Get and order one now for you, your friends and anyone else who fancies making some decent beer…and make sure to say you were sent by, it probably won’t count for anything, but it’ll make you look achingly cool…

Thanks again to Greg for letting me try this one out. I really do enjoy reviewing decent products like this…

But of course it didn’t end there, did it?  The instructions said to re-hydrate half a pack of the Saison yeast and add to the fermenter, etc…


I can’t bear the thought of having half-a-pack of yeast hanging about doing nothing…and I did have another demijohn in the shed…and some left-over bits and pieces of malt and hops.

Why not use the second half of the yeast and the BrewUK instructions to make another demijohn of Saison – but this time using some half-baked recipe of my own?

A quick flick through Farmhouse Ales – Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition gave me some inspiration and guidelines for recipe formulation, so I ended up making the following, which I’ve called Jon’s Kitchen Saison:

Kitchen Saison

Both fermenters are now happily bubbling away and haven’t -as yet- come foaming through their airlocks.  I will report back when they’re done.

20150429_150132PS: Yes I know that it looks a bit on the bitter side, but these hops have been about a bit in the freezer – the aromas still alright, but I bet they’ve lost some bittering potential…

Beer Kit: Dark Star Festival Ale All Grain Kit from @BrewUK

I must confess that I’m not usually a beer kit type of brewer – preferring to make up my own recipes (for better or worse).

But when turning 40 a little while ago, people (Jim and Sarah-Lou in particular) asked what I’d like for my birthday I thought I’d ask for an all-grain kit so that I could give them a whirl (I always think that just asking for a bag of malt seems a little uninteresting – plus they’re a bugger to wrap up)

Jim and Sarah bought me a Dark Star Festival Ale kit from dear old (along with another – to follow) so on Sunday Jim and I brewed it up.

Flying in the face of convention and making it up as we went along, Jim and I decided to Braumeister it – taking liberties with the instructions as and when required:

We opted for 27 litres of water in the BM to start off with and a dough-in temperature of 38C.  I chucked out my usual mashing schedule and went with:

38C – Dough In

67C – 80 Minutes (Saccharification rest)

78C – 10 Minutes  (Mash Out)

We sparged the malt pipe with 4 or so litres of 78C water – giving a pre-boil volume of 27 Litres.

After that we followed the instructions religiously – throwing in hops and Hail Marys at the appropriate junctures.  After cooling, and some judicious BM tipping we ended up with about 22.5 litres of 1051SG wort in the fermenter.  So all good there.  We then pitched a packet of S04 as I’m starting to trust it again…

I’ll let you know how this one goes.  I’ll also try and get a video of the airlock up here – as it looks a bit like a constant temperature of 21C is causing the S04 to tear through this wort.  Oh for my brew fridge (it’s coming soon, don’t worry)