The most enjoyable aspect of homebrewing for me is the ability to split batches and compare two different ingredients or processes. Specifically, I love doing a batch and splitting the wort into two fermentors and using different yeast strains. I am constantly scouring the internet, trolling forums, and asking other homebrewers about new yeast, hops, and to a much lesser extent, malt. I believe there are tons of other homebrewers out there just like me and the recent explosion of new yeast companies and new hop varieties has me scrambling to keep up with my side-by-side comparisons. Here is a look into one I did a while back.
After doing a bit of research on “standard” ale strains, I wanted to do some digging for a house saison strain. I dabbled a bit with wyeast 3711 and Belle Saison (which I believe to be of similar origins), and half-heartedly explored the Saison Dupont strain, but I wanted something more unique to set my beers apart from the crowd. My recent move to Pennsylvania gave me access to Tired Hands Brewing Co. (THBC), which has opened up my eyes to the possibilities of new and unique hoppy and farmhouse style ales. After a bit of digging, I got a hold of what I believe THBC is using to make their delicious farmhouse creations, East Coast Yeast ECY14. Of course I needed another strain to do this split batch, so when The Yeast Bay started production recently, I scooped up their Wallonian Farmhouse strain, picked a simple saison recipe, and went to work.
ECY14 Saison Single Strain:
Appearance. Hazy golden straw with a slightly more persistent head than its Wallonian sister. I guess it’s rustic looking.
Aroma. First thing I notice is the distinct farmhouse aroma, earthy and minerally, with some bright straw/hay bouncing around as well. Some lemon peel, and a little bit of black pepper. Initially there was a nice herbal and spicy presence from the Sterling hops that has since faded. Now there is an very slight hint of sulfur and banana once the beer warms that isn’t too much of a distraction.
Taste and Mouthfeel. Medium body with a good carb (served on draft), silky smooth mouthfeel that coats the tongue and then the dry finish (1.004) smacks your gums . Slight mineral bite with a lemon rind chaser. Juicy and fruity come to mind as well.
Overall Impressions. Very nice strain that is nuanced, balanced, and sets a nice template for numerous farmhouse interpretations (barrel-aging, lacto souring, brett additions). After several fanboy trips to THBC and one recent trip to Hill Famrstead, I think this is the clean Fantome strain they are using. I recently brewed a Farmhands-inspired batch to test this theory that I will bring to the brewery.
The Yeast Bay Wallonia Farmhouse:
Appearance. Same golden straw color but a bit clearer than the ECY. Nice lacing left behind.
Aroma. Very distinct farmhouse funk to this one, much more herbaceous but a similar stale hay aroma to the ECY (which means the aroma hops are playing a role but seem to be melding seamlessly with the strains). Definitely get more earth, umami, mushroom from this strain in the nose. I keep wanting to same “sharper” aroma but that’s hard to define.
Taste and Mouthfeel. Similar but slightly less coating mouthfeel than the ECY, not a bad thing. Lemonheads, bitter orange peel, mineral, funk, earthy mushroom, and mustiness bouncing around. Very distinctly saison, where as the ECY strain might be able to pull off some double duty in the wit, Belgian blonde, and even trappist styles.
Overall Impressions. Very enjoyable, nuanced and refreshing saison perfect for year round consumption. I was surprised by the yeast character similarities between the two beers, which leads me to think that all of these saison strains may have originated from one central point, maybe Dupont?
I came across a bottle of Blaugies La Moneuse while at the local Wegman’s and decided to give it a go while enjoying lunch with the family. A lightbulb went off as the same distinct rustic mustiness washed over my tongue that the Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse strain must be from Blaugies, rumored to also be Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse Ale. Some quick google geography cross-referencing seemed to confirm my hypothesis.
A real man would culture up that yeast and be done with this “truth is out there” crap
This was once again a very enjoyable experiment that still has me scratching my head as to what my house strain will end up being. I have brewed subsequent batches reusing the yeast cake from both of these beers so stay tuned for more saison related nonsense and nerdy ramblings.