Sunday, April 29, 2018

Citrus Saison 1.0

The finished beer, poured into a glass
As I noted in an earlier post, my Saison scored relatively poorly in competition, gaining an average score of 25.  I actually liked it much more than the judges did, but it inspired me to try again before the next competition.  One thing the judges commented on was that there was a mix of spice and fruit in the flavor (all, by the way, from the yeast). They suggested that I pick one flavor and go with it. I decided to focus on citrus, since the weather is finally warming up and a nice citrusy Saison sounded good to me.  What follows is my own recipe.

I decided to use Mandarina Bavaria hops, which impart a mandarin orange flavor, combined with Lemon Drop hops, which impart a lemon flavor. That, combined with the citrusy notes that should come from the Saison yeast, ought to tilt the flavor balance toward citrus.  We'll see, of course.

Ingredients

4 pounds Briess Pilsner Malt
8 ounces Dingeman's Pilsen (all I had on hand)
8 ounces Vienna Malt
4 ounces Crystal 60L
4 ounces Cara-pils/Dextrine Malt
1 ounce Mandarina Bavaria hops @ 9.2% AA (15 min.)
1 ounce Lemon Drop hops @ 5.2% AA (5 min.)
8 ounces Turbinado Sugar (added post-boil)
3 gallons, 23 ounces starting water
Zymatic High-Efficiency Mash Profile
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
1 packet Lallemand Belle Saison yeast

According to the Picobrew recipe crafter, this beer should have the following qualities:
  • Original Gravity (OG): 1.064 SG
  • Final Gravity (FG): 1.015 SG
  • IBUs: 31
  • SRM: 7
  • ABV: 6.3%
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons
After brewing, I measured the following:
  • Original Gravity (OG): 17.8 Brix (adjusts to 1.075 SG)
  • Batch Size: 2.25 gallons
It is important to note that I did modify the mash profile to include a 15-minute Ferulic Acid rest after the Dough In step, to help the yeast express itself in the beer more.  I also modified the first mash step to run at 140F for 45 minutes, then at 157F for 45 minutes, to maximize fermentability.

The Turbinado sugar was added to dry out the Saison a little, hopefully countering a complaint that my earlier Saison was a little too sweet.  (I expected it to be. I like the sweetness to play against the Saison fruit and spice, but I guess the judges didn't.)

Post-Brew Notes

04/29/2018:  During the mash, I noticed that the beer tended to be foaming up through the step filter lid quite a bit, so I refused to walk away for a while.  When I finally did, I set two plastic bins underneath the drip tray just in case it decided to flow over the drip tray.  When I went down after the brew had finished, I was glad that I did.  I measured 20 ounces of wort had spilled out of the machine into the two plastic bins I setup under the drip tray. Had I not set those up, I'd have had a mess all over the floor!  I think this is the third or fourth time I've had that issue with the machine.

Once the boil started, I knew something was amiss.  I expected the boil to run for 45 minutes before the Zymatic added the Mandarina Bavaria hops.  Instead, it added them at the start.  Ten minutes later, it added the Lemon Drop hops. Five minutes after that, it stopped running.  I had forgotten that if you don't set a 60-minute boil addition or manually specify that you want 45 minutes of pre-hop boil time, the recipe crafter will cut the boil short. Usually I catch that before I press the button to brew, but today I didn't. I wound up with a "15-minute-boil" beer.  We'll see how that turns out.  Yes, I could have boiled it outside the Zymatic for 30 or 45 minutes, but I think that would have destroyed the hop profile I was trying to achieve.

When the boil finished, I pumped out the wort, which measure 2.25 gallons.  I decided to just ferment it "as is" and not dilute it, since I didn't have the capacity handy to determine whether the 17.8 Brix I measured was close to the expected OG or not.  As it turns out, I could have diluted the wort and probably hit my target. I may do that with distilled water at bottling. We'll see.  I may instead enter it as a super-strength Saison if it turns out OK.

The Picobrew recipe crafter claims this will be a 31 IBU Saison based on a 2.5 gallon volume. BeerSmith says it's likely to come out more like 38 IBUs at 2.25 gallons.  That will address another complaint from one or two of the judges, who felt it should be more dry and bitter.  

04/30/2018:  The airlock on the fermenter is showing significant (even a bit loud) activity, which is a good sign. I had configured the temperature control system to hold the beer at no less than 82F for the first three days, then to raise that to 90F for the remainder of fermentation to ensure that it ferments out completely.

05/08/2018: In order to have this ready in time for competition, I bottled six bottles of the beer today. It has a nice honey color and is already partially clear. I primed each bottle with a Cooper's carbonation drop plus one small Brewer's best tablet. Gravity registered 7.0 Brix on the refractometer which BeerSmith is equating to a final gravity of 0.999 SG.  I had been expecting a 9.6 Brix reading at final gravity (1.015 SG).  The beer has a nice citrus aroma and flavor, with a hint of warming alcohol.  If it's able to condition in time, it could do well in competition.

05/11/2018: I had been conditioning this at 80F in a hot box, and wondered if perhaps the yeast had roused enough to carbonate it sufficiently to take to the competition. It poured almost totally flat, as I suspected would be the case. It has a nice citrus aroma and flavor (though a buttery diacetyl one now as well, since carbonation is only starting). I'm hoping it finishes in time to get to competition.

05/15/2018: I chilled another bottle tonight. Here's how I'd score it as a judge:
  • Aroma (6/12):  A hint of diacetyl. Nice citrus notes. Mild hop note. Yeast notes subdued.
  • Appearance (2/3): Pale orange yellow. Cloudy. Thin white head with characteristic lacing. Needs more carbonation. Could be clearer.
  • Flavor (15/20):  Definite orange note comes through, along with moderate hop bitterness. Malt backdrop is subdued. Finishes clean and slightly bitter. Slight sweetness. Lacks a spicy element, but very drinkable. The diacetyl in the aroma does not appear in the flavor.
  • Mouthfeel (3/5): Medium body. Needs more carbonation.
  • Overall Impression (6/10):  It's a good Saison, but not great. Needs more of a spice element and a more expressive yeast, with a spice element. Needs more conditioning time to lose the diacetyl.  
  • Total Score: 32/50
We'll see (hopefully) in a few days how the actual judges scored it. Compared to my first two versions of a Saison, it seems closer to style. 

05/21/2018:  The rest of the beer was bottled with a Cooper's carbonation drop in each bottle and placed in my 76F "hot box" to carbonate.  The official scoresheets from the Rhinegeist competition rated the beer a 29 official score, based on individual scores of 31 and 27.  The judges comments were that the finish was off ("dry but clean"), attenuation and body were low, it finished too sweet, and one of them picked up some acetaldehyde (probably due to it being very recently bottled).  My self-score was a point higher than the highest score from the judges, and 3 points higher than the combined score, so I'm in the ballpark but a bit too kind to my own creation.

05/29/2018: There are 11 bottles of the beer remaining at this point. I've offered them to coworkers and expect to give away most of what's left. I'm not thrilled with it so I am fine with having none on-hand if I give all of it away.

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