Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Saison Revisited (again)

This summer has been hot, humid, and busy! As such, I haven't had the urge to brew in quite awhile! It's been a good 2 months or so since my last brew. I think I ended up brewing 3-4 weeks in a row at one point, including a mead, and my subsequent break was a bit longer than expected!

Awhile back, when I started brewing a string saison experiments, I picked up several packs of WY3711 French Saison yeast. This has since become my favorite yeast! Anyway, the final smack pack has been sitting in the fridge for awhile now and when I decided it was time to brew again I knew I wanted to use it up.

The last saison I brewed turned out great! I like it better than any commercial saison and, to me, it is a perfect example of what I look for in a good saison. Low abv, crisp, and refreshing with spices, subtle floral notes and a slight earthiness coming through in both the nose and flavor. The head is about as close to the puffy clouds that float on a good glass of Dupont as I could hope for as well.

I wanted to re-brew the same recipe. Even the basement is a bit on the hot side for a lot of yeasts, but good starting temp for the saison yeast. Once I got to Northern Brewer to pick up my grain & hops, I decided spur of the moment to pick up another smackpack of 3711 and double the batch size! When I got my all-grain equipment I made sure the kettle I bought and mash tun I built were big enough to handle a 10 gallon batch (assuming it's not a high gravity beer, anyway.) It was finally time to try that out.

I left the recipe as it was, but I recently picked up a TON of bottles of various Jolly Pumpkin beers for the cellar. The majority are Bam & ES Bam. Certain aspects of Bam remind me a lot of this saison. They have similar spice notes. The brett character in the Bam beers balanced very well with the hops and spice character from the yeast. Since I was brewing 10 gallons, I decided to split the batch into 2 separate 5 gallon buckets. Half will be dry hopped the same as last time with Saaz. The other half will get dry hopped with Crystal hops, similar to Bam. (edit: I didn't ed up dry hopping either. See below.) I added the dregs, along with 1/2 a bottle or so, of Bam into the primary of this second bucket. Depending on how the beer is developing when it gets moved to secondary, I may add more dregs then.

I won't bother reposting the entire recipe. Here's a link to it: Summer Saaz Saison. Everything was pretty much exactly doubled. The hops were 4% AA this time rather than 3.9%, but seeing as that made a 1 IBU difference, I stuck with the same (doubled) amounts. As noted above, the only change will be JP Bam dregs and Crystal dry hops for 5 gallons. The other 5 are exactly the same.

After the boil, I ended up with 8 gallons. (Oops. A few friends were brewing along with me and we got distracted sampling all the carboys of sours aging in the basement and let the boil go long. . .) I split it into 2 buckets of 4 gallons, then boiled another 2 gallons of water and topped both buckets up to 5 gallons. The OG of both ended up at 1.041. I was shooting for 1.040 so That was pretty good.

3711 (only) batch:
9/4/10 - Transferred to secondary. Added dry hops: 2 oz Saaz (1 @ 2.8%, 1 @ 4%). Trying 2 oz rather than 1 this time. Ropy infection on bottling day. Dumped the whole batch and threw out the plastic gear. This is the first time any beer has gotten unintentionally infected here. I find it a bit ironic that the only evidence of pedio sickness I've seen in any of my brews was a supposedly clean one!

3711 + JP dregs batch:
9/9/10 - Transferred to secondary. SG 1.003. Spices & brett in nose. Tastes slightly tart, spices (ginger?,) and fruity brett. Delicious!

10/4/10 SG ~1.001 Developed the same ropiness that the other half had. The taste seemed similar to earlier, but more sour. I wish I could've gotten a better taste, but I couldn't stomach keeping the mucus-like beer in my mouth any more and had to spit it out.

1/21/11 - Tasted this a few days ago while giving friends a tour of the sour beers. It is in a really good place right now and the sickness has gone away. I'm looking forward to getting this in bottles soon!

2/2/11 - Snowed in by a huge blizzard, so I had Annie help me bottle this half. It tastes amazing as is, so I opted not to dry hop after all. I'll have some fellow brewers try it after it carbs and give me opinions about possibly dry hopping next time. Unfortunately, I ended up with a bit over 4 gallons rather than the 5 I hoped for. The hydrometer sample tasted somewhere between a Bam Biere and a lambic. Very little brett character, but a nice crisp, tart acidity that offsets the extreme dryness of this beer. I'm expecting the carbonation to add another dimension to the crisp body, but honestly I'd drink the entire batch flat with no complaints!