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2018 Saison v1.0

The finished beer - 2 mos. after brewing
This post starts with a shout-out to the good folks at Adventures in Homebrewing.  I recently ordered two batches worth of ingredients from them, one that became 2018 Belgian Dubbel v1.0.  The other was intended to be this beer.  Unfortunately, there was a mix-up and only about six ounces of the grain was shipped. When I contacted them to report the issue, they shipped replacement grain immediately and it arrived quickly. No hassle, no argument, nothing.  That's the way to earn customer loyalty.

The recipe below is from Beer & Brewing Magazine, dating back to July 2016. It's purported to be "in the style of" Saison Dupont.  I've modified the recipe slightly, both to fit the Picobrew Zymatic and to remove the East Kent Goldings hops, which I don't care for.  I recently read that Dupont most likely uses a Belgian Goldings variety rather than East Kent, and I prefer Styrian Goldings to East Kent Goldings.  I've also modified the mash schedule to mimic what Dupont does as well. (The BJCP guidelines for the style say that East Kent, Styrian Goldings and Saazer-type hops are all to-style.)

Ingredients

4.5 pounds Belgian Pilsen Malt
3 ounces Vienna Malt
2 ounces Munich Malt
4 ounces Caramunich Malt
1 pound Wheat Malt
0.50 ounces Styrian Goldings hops @ 6.3% AA (60 min.)
0.25 ounces Styrian Goldings hops @ 6.3% AA (10 min.)
1/4 packet White Labs WLP565 Dupont Saison yeast

I plan to do an all-Pilsner malt version in the future to see how it compares to this.

According to the PicoBrew recipe crafter, this beer should have the following characteristics:
  • Original Gravity:  1.055 SG (actual was 1.058 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.012 SG
  • IBUs: 20
  • SRM: 7
  • ABV: 5.6%
  • Starting Water Needed: 3.08 gallons (I used 3 gallons and 16 ounces)
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was 2.2 gallons, added 1 quart to dilute some)
The mash schedule will be a modified version of Picobrew's Efficient Mash process:
  • Dough In for 20 minutes at 102F
  • Ferulic Acid Rest for 20 minutes at 113F
  • Mash step 1 for 20 minutes at 135F
  • Mash step 2 for 20 minutes at 140F
  • Mash step 3 for 20 minutes at 145F
  • Mash step 4 for 20 minutes at 150F
  • Mash step 5 for 20 minutes at 155F
  • Mash step 6 for 25 minutes at 162F
  • Mash out at 175F for 20 minutes
This should mimic Dupont's mash schedule somewhat. They begin with a ferulic acid rest at 113F, then gradually raise the temperature to 162F over the next 105 minutes.  It should result in a very fermentable wort and a dry Saison.

My fermentation plan is:
  • Post boil, chill the wort to approximately 82F
  • Infuse oxygen in the beer through a vigorous pour (and the Zymatic's natural tendency to incorporate air during pumping of the wort, so this should be well-aerated)
  • Pitch a smaller amount of yeast than normal, to encourage stress on it.
  • Place the fermenter inside my insulated zipper bag, after wrapping it with a heat wrap and a thin layer of insulation.
  • Seal the bag and set the temperature control to keep it at a minimum of 82F during fermentation, allowing it to get "as high as it goes" on its own above that.  (Dupont allows the beer to get to 102F before using any kind of temperature control on it.)
  • After two weeks in the fermenter, transfer to a secondary fermenter and let it rest another week, possibly with gelatin finings added.
  • Cold crash it and then bottle it, using corn sugar, and keep the bottles on their sides during conditioning.  I'll consider adding a different yeast strain at bottling.
  • Condition this way for six weeks.
This should also mimic what Dupont does and result in a good Saison.

Post-Brewing Notes and Observations

My grain mill got stuck on some of the malt during crushing and I had to fight with it a bit to get it to finish the job.  Fortunately that happened during the last few ounces of malt.

Dough in and mash went perfectly. The grain bed got fully soaked and even had a layer of water on top of it, so I wasn't concerned about it failing to hit its gravity.  It also did not foam significantly during the mash, which allowed me to focus on bottling my tropical stout and preparing the fermentation area to keep the fermenter warm enough.

Gravity came up slightly high (1.058 vs. 1.055) and volume slightly low (2.4-ish gallons after adding some distilled water) but close enough. I setup temperature control to keep the beer at or above 82F throughout fermentation. There was plenty of aeration so I'm not worried there. I pitched about a third of a packet of White Labs WLP565 liquid yeast, which is a little low and intended to stress the yeast a bit to improve the formation of esters. The ferulic acid rest should help there, too.

02/07/2018:  Over the last three nights, I watched the temperature of the fermenter and it hasn't seemed to go beyond about 81.3F.  I saw no airlock activity for a minute or so.  Concerned that I had underpitched the yeast too much, I took the risk of opening the fermenter and was rewarded with a Saison-ish aroma and the sight of about a half-inch of krausen atop the beer.  Satisfied that fermentation is taking place, I sealed the fermenter and put the insulated bag around it to keep it warm.  I'll check again on 2/11/2018.

02/13/2018:  I raised the temperature on the fermenter to 93F to allow the fermentation to finish out. A sample taken from the fermenter measured 10 an adjusted gravity of 1.010 SG and ABV of 6.4%.  I've heard stories of the Dupont yeast stalling out at a higher gravity, but did not experience it here. The sample is cloudy, a pale gold color, with a distinctive Saison aroma that's both a little fruity and a bit funky. The flavor is dry malt, with a definite hops presence, and a hint of citrus. The finish is very dry and slightly bitter.

02/17/2018:  Today, my wife and I bottled the beer with 2.25 ounces of corn sugar. According to Alworth's book, Dupont bottle conditions their beer in a hot room with the bottles lying on their side. I loaded all but six of the bottles into my "hot box" on their sides, so that I could compare them with the bottles loaded upright.  The temperature of the box has set to 82F.  Following Dupont's example, I plan to condition the beer for six weeks.  It should be ready for tasting around April 3.

03/17/2018:  I opened a bottle of this for a side-by-side comparison with the 2.0 version made a bit later. By comparison, this version's aroma is much more sedate than the 2.0 version. The flavor is also somehow more bland than 2.0, despite 2.0 having only Pilsner malt in it.  I'd stack the 2.0 version up to any Saison I've ever had.  This 1.0 version has a very mild Saison "funk" to it, a slightly fruity and primarily malty flavor, with very little spiciness to it. It's a decent and drinkable beer, but definitely not the equal of the 2.0 recipe.

04/11/2018:  I opened a bottle for the photo at the top of this post tonight.  It pours a slightly orange gold color with a thin white head.  The aroma has an element of barnyard funk to it, with some fruitiness and a touch of floral hops.  The flavor starts with a mild malty sweetness, a kind of orange-peel and orange juice flavor, hops bitterness, and little bit of a peppery bite to it. The aftertaste is bitter. Mouthfeel is medium-bodied.  It could probably use more carbonation, given the thin head.  It could probably also benefit from a floral honey or candi sugar to dry it out a little, though it's only mildly sweet. If I was a judge scoring this beer, I think these would be my ratings:

  • Aroma: 8/12 (yeast character could be more pronounced)
  • Appearance: 2/3 (thin head)
  • Flavor:  16/20 (should be a little more dry)
  • Mouthfeel: 3/5 (needs more carbonation)
  • Overall Impression: 7/10
  • Total Score: 36 (Very Good)

In other words, it definitely has some room for improvement, but it's a pretty good Saison as-is.  My Saison 2.0 version would probably score better.

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