Simple Saison

To me, process is more important than recipe. That wasn’t always the case, I remember fawning over clone recipes, sourcing uber specific hops and getting nervous about missing a hop addition by a minute. I cant pinpoint it but over time I have become almost lazy about recipes. If I had to choose, I would say a watershed moment was that first day at Brasserie Thiriez. As a brewer, Daniel was both relaxed and totally in control. Over the time I was there, I don’ think we actually ever talked about recipes; instead, we spoke about yeast health, fermentation temperatures and bottle conditioning. You could argue that these are part of the recipe but I think for the most part recipe in homebrewing means malt bill, mash temp and hops.

After Thiriez and talking with other like-minded brewers, I kind of don’t care about what percent of this or that malt is in their beer. Whats more important is how do you treat that malt, what is it going to do for your yeast, does it make sense to use that ie. are you buying it from the other side of the world. Same with hops, if you want a noble hop aroma there are a handful of good options… I could be wrong but I feel that the soul of beer is formed by how it has been treated rather than what it is made from. For me, that’s what sets Farmhouse beers apart from the rest and that’s what I care about in the beers that I will make.

The beers at my brewery will basically fall into two categories, short turnaround (~3 months) beers and aged beers (6+ months). Within each category I will try to have some staples. For example, I need a 5% saison iv’d into my arm at all times. So I’m planning on brewing a base beer that I can use for all kinds of stuff but also drink fresh and really enjoy. As a side note, I’m not super concerned with making sour beer… if my yeast takes it that way, so be it… if not, so be it. Anyway, I basically want to have this beer that is versatile, changes with the season and gives consumers a good introduction to what we are about. So thats the one I am working on first, for now I’ll call it my simple saison.

The big question for me at the moment is to step-mash or not to step mash. For my first iteration of the recipe, I went will a full on step regime. Later, I’ll brew the same beer using a single infusion and taste the differences. That being said, I probably wont choose the single infusion anyway. Im in the step-mash-is-good-for-yeast camp so its going to be hard to get me out of there. Also when I do start operations, I’m likely to throw all kinds of under modified or raw cereals into my mash so best to start off with what I know works. To be honest, the only downside of a step mash I can think of is time and there are multiple upsides. So if I can brew on a system that can handle it… its gonna happen.

Here is the recipe, 100% Gladfield NZ pilsner malt to 5% ABV and 20 IBU’s of Motueka. Im using this NZ craft malt until the Australian craft maltster Voyager gets up and running, and Motueka, well I had it on hand and I do like it. Bonus is that its from the Southern Hemisphere so its pretty local.

For the mash, I went full on starting with a ferulic acid step at 45C for 20 minutes. I am going to play with this, but I am interested in seeing how a boosted clove profile develops over time, especially once bugs get involved. The rest of the mash is pretty much Mad Fermentationist/Brasserie a Vapeur (a al Hors Categorie blog)/ Weyermann suggestions. So infusion to 55C for 20′, then heated to 61C for 10′ then to 66′ for 30′ before the sparge/mash out at 75C. I was brewing on a Sabco rims system so the last two steps were from recirculating past a heating element.

On the day, I brewed 45 l and split the batch into three fermentors. The main point of this first batch was to test clean yeast strains. Before I started to mix things up by throwing in some bugs, I really wanted to test a few yeasts under my probable ferment schedule and see which one I liked the best. I pretty much know its gonna be WL565 because when that thing gets good wort and a hot ferment, it doesn’t disappoint. I’ve used WY3711 enough to know its probably not what I want. In the weeks previous I could only get my hands on 565 and 566 so those make up my first test. I pitched a healthy, active starter of 565 into 20 l of the wort, then 566 into another 10 l and then mixed the two into another 12-15 l of wort. I didn’t bother with pitch rates or anything this time round. That could come into the equation later, but for my purposes on this round, this should do it. I bittered to 19 IBU’s with additions at 60′, 5′ and 0′. 50% of the IBU’s came from the 60′ addition and the other two both represented 25%.

After knock out, I transported the beers to their fermentation chambers (fridges with stc-1000’s). They were all fermented at 28 C for 1 week. After the week all three beers were terminal around .5 deg P. Sadly the hydrometer I was working with was pretty dodgy so I couldn’t get the best reading. After the week, they were all transferred into clean, sanitised and CO2 purged corny kegs for their garde at 12 C for another 3 weeks.

Its been a week since I transferred them and I am itching to see what happens after the next 3. Naturally, I tasted each of them before transferred and while they had their small differences, because of the hot ferment the phenols were super heavy. If I packaged those beers straight away, you would recognise them as a saison straight away; however, they were lacking flavour complexion and depth. These phenols should chill out during the garde. After the garde, I am going to package and bottle condition for 2 months before tasting. I will update this post with tasting notes.

So, what’s next. While these beers finish, I am going to pick some funk for small batches of secondary ferments. I will write a separate post about how I am going to do this which should follow in a few weeks.



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