Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sweaty Bretty (brewed 4/13/2013); AND 3 things I have learned about my taste in Saisons

I started this blog when I began honing my saison skills (about a year ago), and have pretty much dialed in a "house recipe" at this point. While I do like the "classic" saisons (Dupont, certainly!), I find most commercial saisons to lack the full ester profile that these wonderful little yeasties can kick off if they are treated right. For those who know what I *really* like to drink (don't judge me!), I suppose it is also no surprise that I love the pairing of the spicy yeastiness of the saison yeasts with a earthy and fruity Brettanomyces character.

The basement lab set-up.
Before I shoot out my basic recipe to the world for the scrutiny of all, I wanted to list three rules I've adopted for my saisons. If you've read the above paragraph, the first might not be too surprising...

1. Use Brettanomyces in some form. 
The combination of the peppery phenols of the saison yeast and the funky fruitiness of Brett really compliment one another.  One of my favorite saison yeasts is White Labs 670 - American Farmhouse Blend; it has a strain of Brettanomyces Bruxelles in the vial with the Sacchromyces (a saison strain), making it an easy and affordable one-two punch. (Its said this strain was developed in conjunction with Tomme Arthur from The Lost Abbey.) I've also had really good success with adding Brett after primary fermentation. When doing this I tend to go with WLP 565 for primary (read #2...), and finish it off with WLP 645 Brettanyomes Claussennii. If you are going this latter route be sure to build in a little residual sugars in your recipe for the Brett to work on, as WLP 565 attenuates really well if treated right.

2. Ferment it right, and get it HOT!
Saisons are best when dry, and to achieve a maximum level of attenuation, you need to be ramping up your fermenting temperatures. (This is true even if you are using Brettanomyces in the secondary.) "Ramping" is the key term here -- don't start fermentation off in the mid- 80s; its important to keep initial temperatures mild to restrain fusel alcohol production during the growth phase (about the first 24 hours). Ramping is exactly what it sounds like: gradually and regularly raising the temperature to drive attenuation and ester and phenol production.

As the growth phase of the yeast completes (~24-36 hours
after pitching), begin your ramping schedule.
I start at 65º ambient and ramp 2º F (1.1º C) every 24 hours.  
Typically I pitch at 65º F (~18.3º C), as measured with a temperature controller probe taped to the outside of the carboy. Then, I raise temps by about 2º F (~1.1º C) a day until I've reached the point I want them to be. With WLP 670 I usually stop at around 86º - 88º F (30 - 31º C) or so, depending on how the beer is looking. I'll simply hold it there until primary fermentation is complete according to my gravity readings -- the beer tends to off-gas quite a bit at these temps, and airlocks are not an easy way to measure fermenting activity. I'll then rack to a keg for conditioning and secondary (read: let the Brett take over, and play that wonderful waiting game). With WLP 565 I'll typically crank into the low 90s and rest there.

3. Use table sugar and aciduated malt (for the Brett). 
Because it is easily fermentable, table sugar will increase the perception of dryness in the final beer (and also increase the alcohol, of course; an ancillary benefit!). It aids in insuring your saison will attenuate, and accents the yeast esters too.

Aciduated Malt is loaded with lactic acid, and is used by some brewers to adjust mash pH. With my mellow water profile out here in Colonie, New York, I generally don't have a problem getting my water right where I want it with mini9mum adjustments using water salts, and don't use Lactic acid or aciduated malt for the purpose of adjusting mash pH. (I'll discuss my water profiule and adjustments in a future blog post, if people are interested.) I add Aciduated Malt to my saisons and 100% Brett IPAs specifically becuase Brettanomyces will take this lactic acid and convert it into some deliciously tropical-fruit-like esters (ethyl lactate). I forget where I picked up this trick, but would be willing to bet it was from either the Mad Fermentationist blog or the Embrace the Funk interview with Chad Yakobsen of Crooked Stave. (I think I mention these resources in every blog post I do...I've learned a TON from reading these blogs!)
In recipes with a lot of pilsner malt you definitely
want an extended aggressive boil (~90 minutes)
 to drive off SMM, the precursor to the corny
compound DMS.
Those are the big three. I guess I could come up with more if I really thought about it. If you have any questions you can always hit me up in the comments.

Yes, it is supposed to look like that...
I do have a batch of saison that finished too sweet for my tastes (up around 1.017 or so). I blame this on  yeast that  was past the expiration date (I got it on the cheap), and my being too impatient to grow up a healthy pitch (tip #4: ALWAYS pitch enough yeast!). The good news? I used the American Farmhouse blend, so the Brett will continue to eat those dextrins. I also had some dregs of Russian River Sanctification on hand, just waiting to eat something. Guess what happened to those...sacrificed to the saison Gods! I'll check in on this batch (brewed 3/2/2013) in a month and see how its doing, but most likely it won't be ready until June at the earliest.

Here's the recipe of the saison I have bubbling away on the fermenters right now -- you'll notice its really basic, and closely resembles the first saison I blogged about over a year ago. I've found I like simplicity in most of my yeast-driven beers:

Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 gal
Boil Size: 13.42 gal
Boil Time: 90 min
Equipment: Wittbrew 5000 (10 Gal/37.8 L) - All Grain
End of Boil Volume: 12.22 gal
Final Bottling Volume: 10.00 gal
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency 73.2 %

15 lbs Pilsner (Best Malz) (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 60.9 %
4 lbs Munich Malt (7.0 SRM) Grain 2 16.2 %
3 lbs Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 3 12.2 %
1 lbs Acidulated (Weyermann) (1.8 SRM) Grain 4 4.1 %
1.9 oz Carafa Special I (Weyermann) (320.0 SRM) Grain 5 0.5 %
1 lbs 8.0 oz Cane (Beet) Sugar (0.0 SRM) Sugar 6 6.1 %

1.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 7 14.4 IBUs
1.40 oz Citra [12.00 %] - Boil 10.0 min Hop 8 9.7 IBUs
1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] - Boil 5.0 min Hop 9 3.8 IBUs
1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] - Boil 0.0 min Hop 10 0.0 IBUs

American Farmhouse Blend (White Labs #WLP670) [600 ml creamy slurry]
(-OR- WLP 565 primary with Brett Clausseni secondary)

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