I've been intrigued by the Dark Funky Saison recipes that Mike over at The Mad Fermentationist has posted annually over the past few years. With a couple sour beer buckets free, I decided spur of the moment to try making one of them on Sunday. My friend Jim just happened to be brewing a decocted German pils, so I headed over to his place with my brewing gear and set up shop to brew together.
Mike's post was for a 15 gallon batch done as a group brew, so I scaled everything down a bit. I also made a few other changes. I got rid of the light extract, but I added 1# of D2 dark candi syrup. I also didn't have a spare bottle of red wine handy, so after chopping up my dates and caramelizing them in a tiny bit of wort, I deglazed them with more wort, then added the entire mixture into the boil. Since the recipe used under an ounce of hops, I just transferred everything, dates and all, into the primary. I figure it'll just be a bit of extra food for the bugs. I did up the hops a bit, but not terribly much. Since Mike mentioned the black cardamom he used was a bit strong, I didn't lower the spice amount, but I did increase the hops to balance it a bit more. We'll see how that works out. It's only a few IBUs difference anyway.
I also used different yeast. Mike used WY 3711 French Saison (one of my favorite strains.) Our LHBS has a tendency to have some pretty old yeast sometimes, and the newest saison strain of any type that they had in was almost a year old, with several from '09 even. . . I don't like using old yeast like that even in a starter in most cases, but especially since I was brewing on short notice, I wasn't about to pitch an old pack. Nor did I have time to drive up to Northern Brewer for fresh yeast. Luckily, they had a pack of T-58 dry yeast left, so I picked that up in place of the 3711. While it isn't a saison yeast per se, I've been curious to try T-58 for awhile and this seemed like a good opportunity. With sour dregs and spices getting added, the base yeast should be less exposed anyway.
I also subbed a couple specialty malts for things I had on hand.
The recipe I used was as follows:
Dark Strong Funky Belgian with Spices
brewed on: 1/16/11
IBUs: 20 IBUs
mash temp: 154F
expected color: 31.5 SRM
13 lb Belgian Pils Malt
11 oz CaraMunich II
6.5 oz Carastan
6.5 oz Special B
5.5 oz Pale Chocolate
4.5 Coffee Malt
4.5 US Crystal 90L
2.25 oz Carapils
2.25 oz Carafa II
2.25 oz Flaked Wheat
1 lb D2 Dark Belgian Candi Syrup - 60 minutes
7oz chopped Dates, caramelized in a pan, deglazed with wort - 60 minutes
1g Black Cardamom seeds, ground - 2 minutes
Hops (loose pellets):
0.7 oz Amarillo @ 9.1% - 60 minutes
Dregs (in primary):
Drei Fonteinen Oude Gueuze
De Dolle Oerbier
Jolly Pumpkin Bam
I was expecting about 1.088 OG, but that was without taking the dates into account. They upped the gravity significantly! This is apparently a winter of strong beer brewing for me with a strong old ale, English barleywine, and this Dark Strong Belgian. I may even do one more barleywine yet this winter since the one I brewed is destined for our group red wine barrel.
2/21/11 - SG @ 1.022 Dark brown and very opaque. Not much sourness yet. Cardamom is present but not too overpowering. A bit boozy, but more warming than distracting. Very mild raisiny background. Should be interesting with age.