Saison, which means season in French, has become much the rage among American homebrewers and craft brewers alike. As a homebrewer here in NYC, I routinely see my colleagues brewing saisons, especially during the warmer summer months. Moreover, there are some great commercial saisons that come to mind, both American and Belgian. Benchmarks of the style include Brasserie Dupont’s Saison Dupont, Brassarie Fantome’s Fatome Saison, and Brooklyn’s own Sorachi Ace.
Despite the modern revival, saison has been around for more than two hundred years and brewed by traditional farmhouses to supplement workers on the field. Contrary to modern practices, the beer was usually brewed during the winter months and stored until harvest time in late summer. For homebrewers, brewing Saison in the summer is adventitious since saison yeast strains employ higher than normal fermentation temperatures.
The beer is also versatile in description. The color of the beer ranges anywhere from pale straw to light amber, and is moderately to highly hopped. The alcohol level was traditionally low, but this range has increased dramatically with some saisons approaching 8% ABV. Pilsner malt and wheat malt are usually employed as a base, but non-traditional grains, such as rye and spelt that were regionally accessible, were often added to mash to produce a unique and rustic character. Belgian or French yeast are employed to the ferment this beer, producing stone-fruit like esters and mildy pleasing phenolics. Some funk imparted by Brettanomyces can also be present. Importantly, the beer must have a unique smoothness and refreshing quality, arising from a high degree of attenuation and carbonation levels.
The last saison that I brewed was Cuvee de Bonhuer. In this case I used the Wyeast 3711 strain (French Saison). For this beer I decided to go with a mixed yeast culture - WLP565 (Belgian Saison I) and East Coast Yeast’s ECY03 (Farmhouse Brett). I’ve heard many good things about East Coast Yeast and never have been able to get my hands on some as it sells quickly. Matt Chan, a homebrewing friend of mine, gave some ECY03 to freeze down and I finally have a chance to use it. Lastly, I decided to go uber-rustic and use a significant amount of malted Spelt in the grist.
Recipe (5 gallon batch):
- 6.5 pounds of Belgian Pilsner Malt
- 4.0 pounds of Spelt Malt (Valley Malt)
- 1 pound of White Wheat Malt
- 2.4 ounces of Spelt Crystal Malt (approximately 80L)
Mashed in according to Phil Markowski’s suggestions in Farmhouse Ale’s; doughed in for a rest 131°F and did a raised temperature mash targeting both beta and alpha amylases at 144°F and 154°F. Raised temperature again for mash out at 168°F. Recirculated, took the first runnings and batched sparged to obtain 7.5 gallons of 1.041 wort. Boiled for two hours to concentrate sugars, but added hops at 60 minutes:
- 0.6 oz Sorachi Ace (60 minutes)
- 1.0 oz Sorachi Ace (5 minutes)
- 1.4 oz Sorachi Ace (0 minutes – flameout)
- Added whirlfloc and yeast nutrient at 15 minutes
Cooled to 74°F and oxygenated for 1 minute.Pitched 400 billion cells of WLP565 and ECY03.
FG: ?? Still fermenting
IBUs: ~26 (Tinseth)