With the high temperatures in my upstairs fermentation chamber....IT'S BELGIAN SAISON BREWING SEASON! As many of you know, Belgian Farmhouse Ales are one of my favorite type of beers... to brew, to drink, to talk about, to think about. They are so simple, yet sooo complex. Many brewers love this style because of the unique yeast character that you can express from stressing it at high temperatures, and the complexity you can create with simple ingredients. In my quest for knowledge of what makes a great Saison, I came across some information that really touched me. The story I came across is about a man in San Diego who lost a short battle with cancer a couple years back. Apparently Dave Levonian was a Saison brewing master, and had a philosophy not so different then mine about Saison's. He believed that a well brewed Saison is complex and spicy from the Yeast you use, and the spices you add, but you must add them conservatively, and you must have enough Vienna malt to give it a nice orangish hue. You don't want the drinker to be able to taste one specific spice or flavor, you just want all the flavors to blend nicely together to create a satisfying complexity to a simple beer!
This recipe came from Dave's very own brewing journal and has been passed down for everyone to share, and now I share it with you!
Dave Levonian - Saison Du Mont
For a 5.5 gallon (21 L) yield:
F.G.: 1.008 (1.004 actual!)
7.25 lb (3.3 kg) 2-Row Pale Malt
2.0 lb (0.91 kg) Vienna Malt
8 oz (227 g) Flaked Wheat
8 oz (227 g) Flaked Oats
8 oz (227 g) Honey, added after boil
1.0 oz (28 g) Golding, (4.75% AA), 90 minutes (If Golding is unavailable, substitute Willamette hops for 17 IBU.)
0.5 oz (14 g) Hallertauer, (4.0% AA), 15 minutes
0.5 oz (14 g) Hallertauer, (4.0% AA), at 0 minutes
¾ tsp (3 g) Irish moss, added at 15 minutes
0.5 oz (14 g) crushed coriander, 0 minutes
0.5 tsp (2 g) grains of paradise, 0 minutes
0.25 oz (7 g) Curacao (sweet) orange peel, 0 minutes
0.25 oz (7 g) Valencia (bitter) orange peel, 0 minutes
Two (2) packages Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison Yeast, or two (2) White Labs WLP550 Belgian Ale Yeast, or an appropriate yeast starter
NOTE: Saison should be a dry beer. If your attenuation is not enough, you may need to add a secondary yeast such as Champagne yeast (White Labs WPL 715, or Wyeast 4021) or an attenuative ale yeast (White Labs WLP 001, or Wyeast 1056) to achieve the correct attenuation.
Directions for All-Grain Recipe
Mash grains at 156°F (69°C) to 150°F (65.5°C) and hold for 60 minutes. Mash out at 160°F (71°C) and sparge with 173°F (78°C) water. Collect enough runoff to end up with 5.5 gallons (21 L) after a 90-minute boil (approximately 7.1 gallons, or 27 L). Bring to a boil and add the first hops. Boil for 75 minutes before adding the second hops and the Irish moss. Boil 15 minutes more, and then turn off the heat and add the honey, the finishing hops and the four spices. Next chill to 73-76°F (22-25.5°C), transfer to a fermenter, pitch the yeast and aerate well. Continue fermenting at 76°F (25.5°C) for a total of one week. Rack to secondary for another week. Rack to keg, or if you are bottling rather than kegging, add the bottling sugar and then bottle as you normally would.
Force carbonate at 3.0 – 3.5 volumes of CO2.
Bottle condition using 5.4 – 6.6 oz weight (153-187 g) corn sugar
The all-grain recipes assume 75% efficiency unless otherwise stated. Adjust the grain bill to match your system.
This is basically what I brewed last night with the help of Assistant Brewer, Steve Mittelstaedt, and Assistant to the Assistant Brewer, Adam Luckeroth. We didn't have any Bitter orange peel so I just left that ingredient out. I also added a pound of 2-row because my mash efficiency is lower then what Dave's was. I also decided to use the Wyeast fermented much like they may have fermented in the olden days at high temperatures, upwards to 85 degrees at some points. My upstairs would probably fluctuate between 74 and 80+ degrees from day to night. My initial tasting was extremely flavorful with peppery, orangey notes in the finish and a little sweetness from the honey, and the FG was at 1.004. It's extremely balanced as is, and it definitely is complex to the point where not one ingredient is distinguishable.I dry hopped with 1 oz. Amarillo for 10 days to add complexity to the citrus notes since I didn't have bitter orange peel.
Cheers and remember....Live Every Day!
Bottled 8.11.10 - Smelled of honey and spices. Nothing overpowering at all! We shall see. Will condition it for 4 weeks in 75 degree fermentation chamber to maximize the yeast as does Dupont.
Sampled last Bottle 5.30.11 - 9 months after bottling and I'm sampling the last bottle that I had hiding in my cellar. It's mellowed quite a bit but is extremely fruity in the nose and in the flavor. This yeast has been working and working for 9 months and it's absolutely beautiful right now! I wish I would have aged it all until right now actually. Pours a brilliant apricot color. Flavors are extremely fruity and sweet, but not too sweet. Medium carbonation, could have gone higher in the carbonation. Amazing beer! I will brew this again and again and again!
Rant: ***Not everyone in the brewing industry agrees with Dave and I about this philosophy about taking simple beers and making them taste complex. Some brewers seem to be over doing it in an effort to be extreme, and to get noticed in the muffled din through the deep waters that craft brewing is becoming. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that breweries are pushing the boundaries and am eager to sample these efforts whenever I get a chance. I encourage you to make up your own mind on what tastes good to you.