Saison isn’t a style of beer I have much experience brewing. In the past I tended to shy away from brewing most styles of beer that focus on esters. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of brewing a clean beer, free of esters and other yeast derived compounds, that allows the malt and/or hops to shine through. For some reason back in September I decided to eschew this and brew a saison, I suspect it’s because it’s so popular with my brewing friends. I needed to brew one to fit in.
Version 1.0 of this beer turned out okay but I decided to make a few changes when I brewed this 1.1 version. I decided that I wanted more wheat character, so I upped the wheat a substantial amount from 9.5% to 36.4%. I love the creamy mouthfeel and bready flavour that high percentage of wheat gives a beer. I had decided to use WY3711 as the yeast in version 1.0 of this beer because many of the saison brewers I know swear by it. I believe that is mostly because of how attenuative it is, and doesn’t have the same sticking problem as the Dupont strain (WY3724). I had already harvested some WY3711 from version 1.0 so I didn’t change that for this iteration. I also decided to add some Amarillo at flame out, to give a more interesting grapefruit flavour, unfortunately at the time I had forgotten how much I hate the 2013 crop of Amarillo. I decided to go with a somewhat neutral water profile, electing to use slightly more sulfate than chloride to help accentuate the crispness of the beer. In the previous attempt I mashed at 150*F and the beer attenuated all the way down to 1.000, so I upped that a bit this time to 152*F hoping the yeast would leave a bit more body.
Brewed: Nov 14, 2014
Kegged: Dec 16, 2014
Targets: OG: 1.055, FG: 1.010, ABV: 5.9%
Actual: OG: 1.051, FG: 1.000, ABV: 6.7%
Batch Size: 6 gallons
Mash: 152°F for 60 mins @ 1.50 qt/lb thickness
Boil: 90 minutes
Pre-boil Volume: 7.75 gallons pre-boil
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
6.0 lbs Pilsner 1.8L (Weyermann)
4.5 lbs Wheat Malt 2L (G&P)
1.0 lbs Munich 6L (Weyermann)
1.00 oz Hallertau Tradition 6.5% AA @ 60 mins (21.9 IBU)
1 whirlfloc, 2 g DAP yeast nutrient @ 10 mins
1.00 oz Amarillo 8.7% AA @ 0 mins
Water and pH
Mash pH target: 5.34 pH (Bru’n Water)
Water Volumes: mash 4.26 gallons, sparge 4.94 gallons
Gypsum: 0.9 g in mash, 1.0 g in sparge
Calcium Chloride: 0.4 g in mash, 0.5 g in sparge
Lactic Acid: 4.0 mL in mash, 2.0 mL in sparge
Water Profile: Ca = 54.2 ppm, Mg = 9 ppm, Na = 15 ppm, SO4 = 56.9 ppm, Cl = 39.1 ppm, HCO3 = -66.8 ppm, RA = -99 ppm, SO4:Cl = 1.5
WY3711 (~216 Billion cells)
Pitch at 66°F
Controller set to 68°F
Bump up to 75°F on Day 3
I made a 1.6 L starter of WY3711 using the slurry I saved from the last starter I made for the 1.0 version of the beer. This was enough to build an estimated 290 Billion cells, of which approx 216 Billion cells would be pitched at a rate of 0.75 Million cells / mL wort / °Plato of gravity. I use the Brewer’s Friend yeast calculator for estimates, though I may switch to the one from Homebrew Dad at some point in the future since that one has more options.
In my continual effort to dial in hitting my mash in temperature I mashed my grains in as fast as I could. I transferred 4.26 gallons of hot strike water into my mash tun and swapped 1 qt at a time with cold water until I was a few degrees over my target strike temp. I mixed my acid and strike water salts then stirred until I was at a strike temp of 163.5°F (about 1°F over Beersmith’s recommended temperature). Right away I mashed in as fast and I could and got the lid back on ASAP. After about 10 minutes I opened the lid to check temp and take a pH sample. After stirring the temperature was 151.6°F, close enough to my target of 152°F. pH readings need to be taken at room temperature so I always put my wort sample into an ice bath and stir until my Thermapen reads in the mid 70’s.
The initial pH read 5.59 pH so I mixed 1.5 mL of lactic into the wort and waited another 5 minutes before measuring again. The second sample read 5.38 pH, close enough to my target of 5.34 pH. I find that even if you use the most accurate numbers you can the pH estimates in water spreadsheets are always off quite a bit. There are lots of factors that the water spreadsheets don’t take into account, otherwise they would be extremely complicated. I wager a guess that wheat malt at 2L doesn’t have the same acidification power as 2 row barley at 2L, but none of the sheets take this into account and count them as the same. I’m not sure how to make this more accurate, one thing I am considering is trying phosphoric acid instead of lactic acid for pH adjustments. A few personal experiences have made it seem more accurate, but I haven’t tested that on my system.
Things continued on from there in a straightforward manner. I vorlaufed, then drained 3 gallons of 1.079 SG first runnings wort. I sparged 4.94 gallons of water through the grain bed to yield 5.15 gallons of 1.025 SG second runnings. All this combined in the kettle to give 7.75 gallons of 1.042 SG wort. Skipping to the end of the 90 minute boil when all the additions were done I only 1.051 OG.
It seems Beersmith screwed up on it’s boil off calculations because it was telling me that 7.25 gallons @ 1.043 SG = 6.25 gallons @ 1.055 SG. Something must be wrong with Beersmith since I calculate an estimated OG of 1.053 using gravity units (7.25*43/6.25 = 53.3), much closer to what I got.
Gravity units aside, I proceeded to chill the wort to 66°F, drain 5.5 gallons into the bucket, and pitch the WY3711 yeast. Before moving the beer to the fermentation area I oxygenated for 90 seconds. For this batch I decided that my fermentation fridge wasn’t needed since I would only require heating due to the usual temperature profile preferred by saison yeast. I just placed the bucket on my basement floor with a temperature controller and a heat belt. I let it free rise from 66°F to about 68°F and rest there for a few days then used the heat belt to push up the temp to around 75°F. I held it at that temp for a few weeks before kegging on Dec 16th. I had so many other beers going on that it took a while for a keg to free up, I’m not used to brewing at the pace I have been for this wedding. The final gravity of this beer turned out to be the same as the last, 1.000 FG, so much for mashing a bit higher. Tasting the hydrometer sample didn’t give me much hope for the beer but I decided to keg it up anyway. I carbonated to 3 vols of CO2 and served it at my new years party.
There’s nothing terribly wrong with this beer it is very drinkable and I think the balance, body, and malt character is spot on. I’m just not happy with the fruity yeast profile that I got. I get a strong flavour that I can only describe as lemony grassy zesty with a slight phenolic spicy tang. I suspect part of this is due to the 2013 crop of Amarillo I used at flame out, but I remember the same lemony pepper profile from 3711 with the 1.0 version when I didn’t add flame out hops. It’s been reported that something was wrong with the 2013 crop of Amarillo and several people from my club ended up throwing theirs out. Perhaps Hops Direct had a bad crop or something. As you can see in the first picture the beer is somewhat cloudy but this is expected since I used a high percentage of wheat malt and the beer is still young in the keg.
This beer was originally supposed to be for the wedding but I’m not willing to bring a beer I’m not happy with so I re-brewed this recipe on Dec 31st, without the flame out hops and with the Dupont yeast (WY3724) strain this time. I’m hopeful that the Dupont stain will give the character I am looking for. I might even dry hop with some Nelson Sauvin for fun, but that batch is still fermenting so I’ll post about it when it’s done.