Tag Archives: Saison

The Other Saison Strains.

Saison duel

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.

Blaugies Bottle Service

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.

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SaisonFest 2013

Saison Party_1

I ordered a bunch of American saisons at the beginning of the year and planned on doing a springtime saison tasting party.  Spring came and went, so I planned for summer.  I added to the bottle collection over the following months with anticipation building for the most ultimate of all ultimate beer gatherings.  In furtherance of my saison party prep, I brewed a ten gallon batch of saison and split the fermentation between two saison yeast strains so we’d have a homebrew representation.  And then summer passed (I showed a surprising amount of self-restraint not opening that ever growing stash of farmhouse style brews).  With cold weather looming, we decided to dust off the bottles, push the kegerator outside, buy a shitload of olives and cheese and get the party started.

Much fun was had, the weather was beautiful, and plenty of saisons were tasted.  Some standouts for me were the Boulevard Tank 7 (and Brett version), Logsdon Seizoen (and Brett version), Great Divide Colette, and Pretty Things Jack D’Or.  My homebrewed versions held up surprisingly well, and I’ve included some tasting notes below.

For these beers, I kept the grainbill pretty standard for a saison using 90% pilsner malt, 5% flaked wheat, and 5% table sugar (added to the fermentor).  As is often the case with my I’m-a-dad-now abbreviated brewing schedule, this batch performed double duty as part of a single-hop saison experiment for my Brooklyn Brewsers homebrew club.  I chose Crystal as the single hop for it’s noble hop similarities (most classic saisons use noble hops), making sure I didn’t go too far outside the box and have ten gallons of really weird beer to drink.

The wort was split between two yeast strains, Danstar Belle Saison and East Coast Yeast ECY08 Saison Brasserie (actually a blend of several saison strains).  Both were fermented starting at 72F and allowed to free rise to 80F over the course of fermentation.

Belle Saison

Appearance.  Somewhat hazy golden hue with a dense rocky head that persists.  Much clearer than ECY08 version.

Aroma.  The Brewsers chose to have everyone dry hop their saisons, so the hop aromatics were definitely accentuated.  That said, both yeast strains were still able to come through in the nose.  The Belle Saison has notes of mineral, citrus, lemon zest, spiciness, somewhat fresh-cut grass, hay, earthiness, and noble hops.

Taste and Mouthfeel. This version finished very dry (.996!) and with the extra carbonation was spritzy and refreshing on the tongue.  The initial dryness is accentuated by yeast notes of black pepper, delicate smooth bitterness, and noble hops popping one after another.  There is a distinct citrus note present, a lot of lemon and grapefruit. 

Overall Impressions.  Very drinkable.  This keg was gone (mostly from me) very quickly as it was my go to beer for a while.  I like the not-so-complex layers of flavor that seemed to get out of the way of each other.  This beer took a while to round out and after two months in the keg it was peaking, although it was almost gone at that point.

ECY08 Saison Brasserie

Appearance.  Same golden hue as Belle, but cloudy throughout its tenure in the keg.  I knew it was going to be this way after seeing them both post-fermentation with Belle Saison forming a nice thick trub pile at the bottom of the carboy and ECY08 as cloudy as a hefeweizen.

Aroma.  Very noticeable barnyard, minerally, citrus, reminds me a lot of Saison Dupont.  Lemons and grapefruit once again, most likely from the Crystal hops.

Taste and Mouthfeel. While not as dry as the Belle version, this beer finished respectably dry at 1.001.  Very spritzy and lively on the tongue as well, allowing the flavors to bounce around in your mouth.  Lemons and grapefruit present as well as mineral notes that set this apart from the Belle.  Grassy, earthy, and some spiciness, but mild compared to the black pepper present in the Belle Saison.

Overall Impressions. This beer, even at an advanced age, was more coarse than the other version, making me think of the word “rustic” for some reason.  Both beers took a while to come into their own, as is often the case with belgian-style beers.  One of the most interesting things for me about this split batch was my wife’s surprised reaction when I told her that the beers were exactly the same recipe except for the yeast strains — despite having the same grainbill, hop and fermentation process, the flavors of the two strains and yeast-driven esters made two completely different (and totally drinkable) beers.

*photo credit to Naoko Machida

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100% Brett Saison

100% Brett Beer

I was lucky enough to have Dmitri of BKYeast grow up a culture of his Cantillon Iris 2007 Brettanomyces strains (C1).  Brettanomyces, while generally feared when brewing standard “clean” beers, is quickly becoming the darling of the (adventurous) brewing world.  I thought I would further experiment and see what kind of flavors I could brew up.  I chose to loosely follow an all brett witbier/saison recipe by Chad Yakobson in an article he wrote for Zymurgy recently.  One of his suggestions was to supplement the grain bill with something brett couldn’t chew through (flaked rye, naked oats) in order to leave behind enough body and mouthfeel in the beer.  My goal was to produce this beer in time for the National Homebrew Conference, but this strain had other plans.  Primary fermentation took seven weeks to get down to final gravity and missed being ready for the conference.   I was expecting a lower finishing gravity (1.008) based on my one other 100% brett fermentation (and a bit of research).  With quite a bit of residual fermentables left behind I decided to bottle this batch in thick-walled corkable belgian bottles.

Appearance.  Hazy golden hue with very little head retention.  Looks like a Belgian witbier.

Aroma.  Very pleasant aromas of hay, citrus, peach, mango, and a slight musty funkiness that isn’t off-putting.  Very distinct brett aroma.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Lemon verbena, sweet apple and pear notes with a slight astringency in the mouthfeel.  There is a very cider-like quality to this beer.  The brett has seemingly disassembled the malt profile of this beer leaving behind a thin to medium body.  Carbonation is slightly lower than I think it should be, but I purposely used less priming sugar because of brett’s tendency to chew through everything.  I plan to age a few bottles for a while to see how they hold up.

Overall Impressions.  Very appetizing beer that has grown on me over the few bottles I’ve tried.  To me this beer seems like a hybrid of beer, cider, and wine.  You’re never sure what to expect with brett fermentations and it is surprising that this beer is even drinkable considering this is a somewhat randomly sourced strain of brettanomyces.  I recently read an article in Brew Your Own magazine where David Logsdon of Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales mentioned that he doesn’t find the flavor profiles of 100% brett fermentations desirable and so he’ll typically only use them in secondary, after primary saccharomyces fermentation.  I tend to agree with him, but had to try it for myself.  I am interested in brewing a 100% Brett IPA as the mingling of flavorful hops and interesting brett esters seems appealing.   The low finishing gravity and minimal malt profile also seem in line with an IPA as well.

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