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2018 Saison v2.0 (Salsbury's Saison)

Probably my favorite Saison out there is Saison Dupont.  I recently read Jeff Alworth's The Secrets of the Master Brewers and reviewed his notes about how Dupont's beer is made.  I used this to inform my own Saison recipe which will hopefully come close to it.

A few notes from Alworth's book, for those thinking of making a Saison:
  • Dupont uses untreated (but very hard) hard water from their well to brew the beer, and they don't consider it to be a crucial element in the beer's flavor.
  • Although Dupont uses a 90-minute boil over an open flame (to deepen the color), you should be able to use a 60-minute boil if you add a color malt to the grist.
  • Dupont's strain of yeast was the basis for Wyeast 3724 and White Labs WLP565).  This strain doesn't do well at low temperatures and needs good aeration to avoid stalling out. 
  • Dupont uses 100% pilsner malt.
  • Dupont mashes in at 113F, then raises the temperature slowly over the next 1.75 hours until it reaches 162F.  Then they boil over 90 minutes to reach the gold color they want.
  • Dupont generally hops with Belgian-grown Goldings hops but does sometimes alter this depending on the available crops.  They only use two additions, one at the start of the boil and one in the last minute of the boil.
  • Dupont uses shallow, square fermenters.
  • The Dupont yeast is pitched at 77F and reuses the yeast up to 100-150 generations.  They let it ferment at temperatures up to 102F before doing anything to lower the temperature.
  • Primary fermentation lasts 1-2 weeks.
  • A different culture is used for bottle refermentation, and conditioning takes 6-8 weeks. Bottles must be laid on their side during conditioning or the beer doesn't taste right.  
  • They don't pitch large quantities of yeast, but relatively small amounts. This, their brewmaster says, seems like a small thing but it makes a really big impact on the beer.  Underpitching the yeast stresses it and causes it to develop esters.
With all that said, here's my attempt at a Saison Dupont clone.


6 pounds Belgian Pilsner malt
0.25 pounds Cara-Pils/Dextrine malt (for head retention)
0.75 ounces Styrian Goldings hops @ 6.3% AA (60 min.)
0.10 ounces East Kent Goldings hops @ 5.2% AA (10 min.)
0.25 ounces Styrian Goldings hops @ 6.3% AA (5 min.)
3.25 gallons starting water
Yeast cake of White Labs WLP565 Saison yeast from Saison 1.0

Although I'm not a big fan of East Kent Goldings, I thought they might lend a bit of citrus to the finished beer (something missing from my previous Saison), so I mixed them in with the Styrian Goldings.

The Picobrew recipe crafter estimates that the finished beer will have these characteristics:

  • Original Gravity: 1.068 SG (actual 1.065 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.015 SG
  • IBUs: 28
  • SRM: 4
  • ABV: 6.9%
  • BU/GU: 0.43
  • Starting Water: 3.25 gallons
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was 2.5 gallons)

Mash schedule:
  • 20 minute dough in at 102F
  • 10 minute ferulic acid rest at 113F
  • 10 minute rest at 120F
  • 10 minute rest at 125F 
  • 10 minute rest at 130F
  • 10 minute rest at 135F
  • 10 minute rest at 140F
  • 10 minute rest at 145F
  • 10 minute rest at 150F
  • 10 minute rest at 155F
  • 10 minute rest at 160F
  • 15 minute rest at 162F
  • 10 minute mash out at 175F
This mash schedule is meant to reproduce Dupont's mash at 113F followed by a gradual increase in temperature to 162F over 105 minutes.

Mash and boil temperatures for the batch

Boil schedule:
  • 90 minutes: No hops addition
  • 60 minutes: 0.75 ounces of Styrian Goldings
  • 10 minutes: 0.10 ounces of East Kent Goldings
  • 5 minutes: 0.25 ounces of Styrian Goldings
  • 0 minutes: Chill to 77F and transfer to fermenter
This boil schedule should result in a color comparable to that of the real Dupont Saison.

After the boil was over, I transferred the wort to a kettle and used my immersion chiller to bring it down to 82F. From there, I pitched it on top of the yeast cake left over from the previous Saison batch bottled earlier in the day.  This may reduce the stress the yeast is under (since the yeast is unlikely to be underpitched this way) but hopefully that won't make a big difference.

Fermentation schedule:
  • 1 day at 80F or higher
  • 2 days at 90F or higher
  • 4-10 days at 80F or higher
This should get close to the actual Dupont Saison fermentation process.

Note:  I pitched this atop the leftover yeast from the first Saison I brewed. Unfortunately, I forgot to close the spigot on the fermenter after bottling that one, and about a bottle full of wort ended up in a big puddle on the floor. This was both humiliating and irritating at the same time, and meant a lot of extra cleanup work.

02/17/2018:  The brewing process went smoothly. and yielded 2.5 gallons of wort at what my refractometer measured at 15.5 Brix. After adjustment, this works out to a gravity of 1.065 SG, which is pretty close to the 1.068 SG the recipe crafter software predicted for the batch.  Color was a touch darker than I thought it would be, given that the recipe contained only Pilsner malt, but that was the point of a 90-minute boil in Dupont's recipe.

02/25/2018:  The airlock is showing no activity. A sample taken from the spigot on the fermenter looked like a fresh White Labs yeast culture.  The aroma was mildly funky. The flavor was dry, slightly citrusy, and the hops seemed well-balanced against the malt.  I think the beer will turn out well.  The blend of EKG and Styrian Goldings yielded a good hop flavor as well.

02/27/2018:  The beer was bottled and placed in the 85F "hot box" with Saison 1.0.  By April 10 it should complete its conditioning period.

03/17/2018:  I chilled and opened a bottle of the beer.  It has an excellent aroma, everything you expect to get from a professionally-made Saison. The flavor is light and pleasant, mixing some peppery spiciness and fruitiness along with the funk.  It's not too bitter, not sweet.  It's one of the best Saisons I've ever had - and much better than the 1.0 recipe I made earlier.  The 1.0 recipe lacks the aroma element and is bland in comparison.

04/09/2018:  Three bottles of the beer were left at Barley's Ale House for their annual home brewing competition. I should have the results in a couple of weeks.

The finished beer
4/12/2018:  Following the BJCP Guidelines and Scoresheet, here's how I would judge this beer.  (I wanted to do my own scoring to compare with what the judges provide later, to see where I my observations are relative to theirs. Am I on the mark, or way off?)
  • Aroma (10/12):  The aroma is funky, a little hoppy, and a little fruity. It could maybe carry a touch more spice to it or hint a little stronger of orange, but it's very good.
  • Appearance (3/3):  It's a nice orange-ish gold with thick white head that lingers a while and leaves behind lacing.  It's hazy but not totally cloudy.
  • Flavor (16/20):  Hops bitterness hits initially, followed with orange and a hint of malty sweetness.  The finish is pretty clean with a lingering peppery bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel (4/5):  It's got a medium body with plenty of carbonation. It could maybe be a little thinner, but it's pretty good as-is.
  • Overall (8/10):  This has all the elements of a classic Saison. The hop-forward aroma and flavor is present, but not overwhelming.  The notes of spice and fruit in the aroma and flavor combine with the usual "Saison Funk" to make a nice, easy-drinking beer.  It's not perfect, but it's pretty darned good.
  • Total Score:  41/50
4/24/2018:  The results from the Barley's judges are in.  My scores were way out of line compared to theirs.  The beer received total scores of 25, 23, and 27.  The individual scores and judges' notes are below:
  • Aroma (scores 6, 5, and 5)
    • Delicate fruit, (not sure what the next word is) and honey-like grain sweetness, hint of citrus peel (mainly orange), earthy farmhouse notes are present, orchard fruits (apple, pear) as well.
    • Strong (??) through head. Classic pils/hop character - faded quickly, no off aroma.
    • Nice. Slight spice.
  • Appearance (scores 2, 2, and 3)
    • Tiny climbing bubbles, thick white head, cloudy gold color
    • Strong, dense head 1/2", persists. (??) Bubble support. Straw. Light haze. Dense lace!
    • Slight haze
  • Flavor (scores 10, 8, and 10)
    • Earthy (autumn leaves), hint of orange peel and lemons, moderate hop bitterness, low-moderate hop flavor, esters a bit more than phenols (bubblegum, clove, chamomile), orchard fruits (mainly apple). A bit too much to allow anything to really shine. After some moments (??) vegetable flavor - infection?
    • Neutral malt, over(??) by earthy infection flavors. No hop flavor. Light vegetal note.
    • Spicy with malty after. Nice balance. Not a strong fruity element, but its in the background.
  • Mouthfeel (scores 5, 3, and 4)
    • Carbonation a bit too high (turns to foam in mouth), could be more dry
    • Medium body. Low carbonic. Flat. Barely oily finish. Low to no alcohol evident.
    • Carbonation good. Nice dry finish.
  • Overall Impression (scores 5, 5, and 5)
    • Close. Flavors are a bit jumbled. Would like to see fruit flavors accentuated and brought forward, or focus more on spices and use fruit notes to compliment. Focus on one but not both. Possible infection as an odd vegetable flavor pushes atop the rest of flavors.
    • Alas, a good Saison spoiled. Sediment and high carbonation without alcohol suggest a bottle contamination. Other bottles may be fine.
    • Very nice
At least two judges mentioned a vegetable flavor as a hint of a possible infection. That's something I will have to look for when I sample the next bottle.  I try to be very meticulous about cleaning and sanitation, so that comment worries me.

I've been trying to dial in carbonation using drops, since I've had too much in other beers because of inconsistent volumes coming out of the Zymatic.  For this batch, I used a large Coopers drop and three small tablets. I probably should have used only one or two small tablets to nail the carbonation amount.

I'll probably add some orange peel to the next batch to dial up the orange flavor. I'll also pitch on fresh yeast, as that may be where the notes of infection or vegetal flavors came from.  

Ultimately, I guess I liked this beer a lot more than the judges did.

06/03/2018: Because I wanted some additional opinions on this beer, I submitted it to the Ohio State Fair to see how it performed in competition there. It scored 25.5, which is in the ballpark of the scores I received at Barley's. At the fair, the first judge had this to say:

  • Aroma (5/12): Very muted apricot citrus aroma. Very low pepper spiciness. No hop aroma. No malt aroma.
  • Appearance (3/3): Dark gold color. Very hazy. Huge, dense off white head that lasts a long time. Continuously renewed by excess carbonation.
  • Flavor (10/20): Sweet start with a medium-low orange citrus flavor. Medium-low bitterness is low for style. No distinct hop flavor. Balance is to a lingering resinous citrus flavor. Finish is medium and aftertaste is alcoholic.
  • Mouthfeel (3/5): Very high carbonation - too much for Saison. Body is medium. Warmth is medium-high and lingers. Too aggressive. Would be more refreshing with lower alcohol.
  • Overall Impression (6/10): Good start. There is a distinct citrus character but could use some additional spiciness. Fermentation seems to have finished in the bottle leaving this overcarbonated and too high in alcohol. Read up on the specific yeast you used and what profile it wants to finish. Some yeasts will only ferment part way until the temperature is changed (putting in fridge).
  • Total: 27/50

The other judge said this:

  • Aroma (6/12): Citrus spice with some malt in background. Spicy hops also in background.
  • Appearance (3/3): Pale gold with huge creamy off white head. Hazy at first. Head is long lasting.
  • Flavor (8/20): Sweet malt initially. Some citrus and hops in background. Creamy.
  • Mouthfeel (2/5): Medium high carbonation and body. Alcohol is evident but may be more than the 7% guidelines call for.
  • Overall Impression (5/10): Suggest less malt in grain bill. Too heavy a body for this style. Enjoyable to drink but misses guidelines for this style. Too malty and too heavy in body.
  • Total: 24/50

Based on the judges' comments, there are changes I will make if I brew this again:

  • Shift the mash profile toward the lower end of the temperature scale for a longer part of the mash to reduce the sweetness a little.
  • Incorporate some sugar or perhaps Orange Blossom Honey in the grain bill to reduce the body and dry it out a bit.
  • Include some grains of paradise and perhaps some citrus peel to amp up the citrus element.
  • Consider Mandarina Bavaria hops or something else, perhaps even dry hopping a bit.
  • Include a secondary fermentation to help further dry it out before bottling.
  • Reduce the overall grain bill to drop the ABV down a little.

We'll see what happens in a 3.0 version.


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