to everything, a saison

It’s a couple days past the solstice and it’s not the time of year I think most folks usually scramble for a snifter of saison … plus, I generally don’t hold truck with spices in my saisons. I love process-derived and yeast-derived complexity.

But this was an Urban Farmhouse Ale, using the ingredients of the season (homegrown hops and coriander from a plant I had let go to seed in the garden) from my pied a terre. Spice embargo be damned, and also the time of year – it’s never not a good time for a saison.

An agrarian admixture of mostly pils malt backed by a touch of Canadian pale and German Vienna, flecks of unmalted oats in the grist. Low, low mash rest for high, high fermentability, a bit of kettle sugar, then a long, hot primary with East Coast Yeast #08 Saison Brasserie Blend.

How did it turn out? Here we go:

Poured off a keg at about 7 weeks from brew day. Hazy straw and a Luciano Pavarotti’s finger-worth of white mousse. The nose is initial musty notes of cellar and cork followed quick with a yellow lemon Froot-Loop snort of coriander. More coriander in the flavor around a flash-bang of grassy, spicy Liberty hops (a flameout addition to the kettle along with coriander). The yeast comes through with a curious mix of powerful ripe tropical fruit esters and phenolic black peppercorn. Some oat-derived oiliness fools your palate into thinking the finish will be something other than blastingly dry (FG 1.001!)

So – it’s light, snappy, and I wish I had had this during the heat wave in July. But, as I said, it’s never a bad time for a saison, and as Garret Oliver writes, it’s an extremely food-friendly style. And with all the food-centric holidays coming up, that’s good enough for this farmhouse aficionado.

This was my first time out with ECY08, and I like it … maybe not love it. The mixture of ripe fruit and phenols certainly holds my interest, but I have to wonder if this beer would be improved if it broke one way or the other. I would try this recipe again but perhaps with a different saison yeast (Wyeast 3711? yeah, Wyeast 3711), or with the same strain but different fermentation schedule. My notes say that the primary free rose to over 80F (fermometer on the carboys didn’t go that high) and that at 12 hours the offgas was “spicy – lemongrass and white pepper – but not phenolic.”

Anybody else use ECY08? What were your results? Where do you come down on spiced saison?

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sour times

Sitting over coffee and prepping notes for a talk on sour beers for Better Beer Society University, I have mixed-culture fermentations on the brain and some raw materials to work with.

Raw material #1: Last summer I racked a nice, clean red ale base beer into an oak barrel and inoculated it with Wyeast’s Roeselare blend; 13 months on, it’s ready for … something. Cherries? Blending? Straight-up bottling? Whatever its fate, I need some fresh wort to fill that buggy barrel no matter what.

Raw material #2: Earlier this year a Brewing TV viewer provided some friends and I with a washed Brett culture from a bottle of Russian River Sanctification. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

Raw material #3: a couple pounds of frozen-ass Chernaya Lisovenko blackcurrants from Mary Dirtyface Farm. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

All this can only mean one thing: it’s about to get acidic up in this piece.

The plan: 10 gallons of base beer, split half and half between the to-be-emptied barrel and the Sanctification Brett and the blackcurrants (Russian River, Russian fruit – I love symmetry). Do something cool with the 2011 ale from the oak … I’d tell you now, but then I’d have to get you blackout drunk so you wouldn’t remember.

Recipe deets below, brew day to follow. Stay tuned.

Basecamp Sour 2012
Targets: OG 1.052, 7 SRM, 18 IBU

Grist

  • 16 lbs pilsen

Simple is good …

Mash: Flemish Sour regimen

  • 122F for 20″, 145F for 30″, 162F for 20″, 170F for 10″

… but complex is sometimes necessary. A high-temp alpha sacch’ rest will create plenty dextrin for the Brett to chomp on. Truth in advertising: I’m using up a stock of shamefully old undermodified Pils malt with this mash, elsewise the lack of unmalted adjunct grain would arguably make the 122F rest unnecessary for what these beers are going to be.

Boil

  • 1 lb D-45 Belgian candi syrup @ 60″
  • 1.5 oz German Brewer’s Gold (6.5%aa pellets) @ 60″

Fermentation

  • BRY97 primary for barrel portion – a nice, clean base beer for the acid bacteria now living in the wood to work with.
  • Russian River culture for the second portion – all Brett, all the time.