Saison (all-grain)

In my  quest to keep making a bunch of new beers and also to brew appropriately for the season, it’s time for another easy-drinking spring/summer beer.  I don’t really know much about the Saison style, except that I like them in the warmer months – they’re light-bodied, very aromatic with lots of fruity/spicy notes, and can even sometimes pack a punch of booz. Here’s the recipe:

  • 9 lb belgian pilsner malt
  • 1 lb flaked wheat
  • 0.75 crystal 80 malt
  • 1 oz hallertauer (4.3%aa 60 min)
  • 1 oz hallertauer (15 min)
  • 0.5 oz crushed coriander (10 min)
  • 0.5 oz bitter orange peel (10 min)
  • WYeast Belgian Saison 3724

Mash grains at 148 for 75 minutes, then boil and add hops during a total 75 minutes on the burner. Chilled to 75, aerated, pitched (no starter this time, we’ll see if this really matters…), and sealed. O.G. read 1.046.

This thing got right off to fermenting just a few hours after pitching.  After 8 days in the primary @ 65 degrees there was no activity in the airlock, so I racked it to a secondary and checked the gravity.  1.022. Wait. WHAT?! At this point I’m pretty baffled. This beer should be finishing in the sub 1.01 range, so it’s seriously not done fermenting yet. The only thing I can think of to explain this is that there may have been an air leak somewhere near the lid of the bucket, allowing air to escape outside not through the airlock.. so the airlock looked idle, but in fact the beer was still releasing CO2 through some leaks and fermenting away.  However, there was no krausen or foam on the surface the beer when I opened the primary bucket, which would indicate lots of active fermentation. Or, maybe I totally overshot my strike water temperature during the mash and produced a very non-fermentable wort. I do remember dialing very exactly at 148, though. Either way, this kinda sucks. I really don’t expect the beer to ferment any more in the secondary; maybe 1 to 2 gravity points, if that. It’ll be a miracle if this turns around.

I tasted this beer just prior to kegging, and, if you ignore the numbers, the taste surprisingly isn’t that bad for not finishing low enough. Once again, the coriander/orange peel isn’t very noticeable (need to bump this up to an ounce of each), and the overall taste is very similar to Belgian Wit I just did, just less wheat-y and little darker in color. A little disappointing – I thought the Saison yeast would have a little more character and have produced some wilder flavors. Time will tell with this one.

Update 4/19:  This thing has really improved! It’s been kegged for about a week now and the carbonation really brings out the aromas – it’s got a nice mild fruitiness to it and the Saison yeast is much more noticeable now.  It’s slightly on the sweeter side and has a nice full body, which is uncharacteristic of a Saison (usually these should finish very dry and thin, mine stopped fermenting abruptly), but it’s pretty delicious actually!

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