Phil Markowski, master brewer and author of Farmhouse ales wrote, “Saisons were meant to be refreshing. Therefore, it is wrong to imagine a syrupy brown beer of 10% alcohol. Rather, saisons were pale and light in alcohol and flavor. They were often sour and/or bitter”. Originating from Wallonia, saisons were brewed in the winter months using local farm ingredients (spelt and other forms of wheat) and stored until the farming months in early summer. Each farm produced their own unique beer and signature.
From these small and almost forgotten beginnings the American craft brewing movement has revived the style. There is a wide range of interpreting saison, with some being sour and quite funky, while other breweries make a beer that is very dry, mineral-like, and earthy. All great saisons have fruity esters produced from characterful Belgian yeast. My most favorite saison to date is Southamptons Peconic County Reserve Ale. This beer was brewed and aged in Chardonnay barrels before being bottle conditioned. Saison-Brett from Boulevard brewing Company is another fond memory. Although I have not had any, I have heard Hill Farmstead makes amazing saisons, Juicy and Ann are particular standouts. Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace and Saison Dupont are benchmark examples that can be easily found on store shelves.
I have made only one other saison – Petite Spelt Saison. I never wrote a review for this beer as it was being consumed during my move. The beer went very quick to great reviews, and I’ve been missing something like this ever since. This time around I decided to ferment the beer with WLP 670, American Farmhouse blend. I wanted to make something that could store over a long period of time and slowly become sour/funky as this mix has Brettanomyces. Staying with tradition, I bottle conditioned the beer in champagne bottles.
Recipe (6 gallons):
- 10 lbs of floor-malted Pilsner Malt (Weyermann)
- 4 lbs of Flaked Wheat
- 1 lb of flaked Rye
- 8 oz Carared (20 SRM)
- 4 oz of Special B (180 SRM).
Mashed in at 122°F with 1.4 qts of water per pound of grain and held for ten minutes. Raised the temperature to 154°F and held this saccharification rest for 45 minutes. Mashed out at 168°F for ten mintues. Batch sparged and collected 9.3 gallons of 1.055 wort. Boiled for one hour:
- 1.75 oz of Sterling (7.0% AA) at 60 minutes.
- Yeast nutrient and whirlfloc at 15 minutes.
- 2 oz of Sorachi Ace (12% AA) at 0 minutes.
Cooled wort to 68F, aerated for 1 minute with pure O2 and pitched a one liter starter of WLP 670.
- OG: 1.050 (some wort was used for an experiment)
- FG: 1.010
- IBUs: 28.6 (Tinseth)
- ABV: 5.2%
2/3/13: BREWDAY. Mashed in perfectly at 122F. Brought to 154F in 8 minutes. Holding at this temp in dead winter proved to be a challenge. Averaged at 154F, but temps swung from 148F to 158F. I’m unable to fine tune heat with the blichmann burner. First runnings: 1.094!! Second runnings: 1.037. Collected 9.2 gallons of 1.055 wort with a mash efficiency of 83%. After boiling, I added an extra gallon of distilled water to get a higher volume.
2/4/13: Pitched in the morning and by the evening there was vigorous activity.
2/6/13: Fermentation temps have been held steady at 69F throughout the most vigorous fermentation. After three days, krausen is starting to subside.
3/2/13: After one month in primary, the farmhouse ale is corked and caged under 2.6 volumes of CO2.
4/20/13: Had several chances to try this beer and I love it. Looking forward to seeing it change over time. Soft wheat dominates the pilsner malt. Lots in the way of fruity esters – peach, apricot, stone fruit. Some funk and a very slight sourness – barely detectable. Spritzy carbonation and thirst quenching. I will lay this beer down for months to come.