Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's alive!

A saison is a true farmhouse beer, originating in Belgium where farmers would brew the beer to enjoy in the summer. This meant that the beer was typically pretty light in color and low in alcohol. There are a lot of saisons on the market right now, it seems to be the next big style that could take the place of IPAs and Double IPAs. They can be crisp, they can be spicy, they can be funky or tart. It's really difficult to say exactly what a saison tastes like because it varies a lot. You should try a few commercial saisons (like the one I mentioned drinking here) to get an idea of what you might like. The saisons on the market these days can come in at a whopping 8 or 9% alcohol, where the traditional beer was brewed to be more session-able (3 or 4%).

All details and history about saisons aside, we like saisons because we like session-able beers. You can't stand around the back of a pick-up truck or sit around a campfire and drink pint after pint of 8% beer, it will end badly. You could enjoy a few 3% alcohol beers and still feel like waking up the next morning to bring the lambs out to pasture or do your chicken chores.

About a year ago, S brewed a saison. It was a bit experimental, which is the fun part of homebrewing. He had been reading a lot about open fermentation at the time and wanted to give it a try. He brewed the beer and pitched Belgian saison 1 yeast from White Labs (WLP565). He then let it sit out in the yard for the day where it collected all sorts of funky yeast from the apple trees and environment. Open fermentation can be a bit scary because you can never be too sure what may land, but this beer turned out great! We brought it to our homebrew club at the time and it was a big hit.

Fortunately, S had top cropped (scooped) some of the yeast from the original saison. He set it in a mason jar of wort from the original saison and allowed it to go dormant in the fridge.

Fast forward to this weekend (passed a year in the fridge and a move to a new house).

It's alive!

S ordered enough ingredients to split his saison recipe into 2 brews: sour mash and normal brew. We started with the sour mash.

The mash sat outside in the heat and sun before we boiled (~22 hours). The pot had two lids layered in an attempt to keep oxygen out.

Then we boiled.

A key piece to the brewer's equation is proper sanitation. You don't want bad bacteria or bugs creeping in and ruining 5 gallons of homebrew. We use a sanitation solution on anything that touches our beer post-boil. A little bit of Star San mixed even with cold water goes a long way. In this case, we also used Star San with anything that touched the beer before the sour mash.

Once we boiled, we pitched the yeast into the new saison.

The temperature over the last week has been 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun and we have been letting the wort sit out and ferment. Fermenting with this saison yeast strain at a high temperature should produce a really funky beer. The yeast will be the stars of the show for the end result of the flavor.

For the next batch with the same ingredients, we won't use the sour mash technique, but will use the same yeast strain to compare flavors.

I would love to hear from other homebrewers who have tried similar techniques and how their beer turned out!


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