Summer Saison

Summer Saison

When you are a new homebrewer, two months can feel like an eternity — especially when you have just brewed one of your favorite styles (note: stay tuned for when we brew a holiday barley wine in a few weeks!). I am happy to say, however, that this beer was worth the wait.  After four weeks in primary and about the same in the bottle, this beer is really starting to come around.

Saison is a style that I love for many reasons, but chief among them is just how much creativity you have in building a recipe. The BJCP style guide has its limits to be sure (this one just squeaks into the parameters); nevertheless, this is traditionally a more freewheeling style, given to whatever you have around — spelt? sure! wheat? why not? grains? fruit? sugar? throw it in! The one rule being if you can taste it, you’ve put too much in. A good saison, despite the disparity of ingredients, is always in balance. Add to that the colorful palate of flavors one can achieve with a controlled fermentation of a good yeast, and you’ve got all the makings of an exceptional ale. I had the opportunity to read Farmhouse Ales while brewing this beer, and I would highly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in Saison or Biere de Garde. It is exceptionally informative, very well researched, and well written to boot!

This AHS recipe called for Belgian Pilsner and Wheat LME; Aromatic Malt, White Wheat, and Flaked Wheat; simple hop additions of Tradition at 60 and Hersbrucker at 5; and crushed paradise seeds and fresh lemon zest at 15.  I used WLP568, pitching around 70F, letting it free-rise to the upper 70s/ low 80s, and holding it there for about a month. In order to preserve the characteristic hazy body of this beer, I did not rack to secondary.

OG: 1.064
FG: 1.011
ABV: 6.9%

Appearance: This beer has a beautiful hazy orange glow; a wonderfully rich foam that stays for the better part of a minute.

Smell: Very minimal hop aroma; a good bit of yeast character on the nose.

Taste: In earlier tastings, the flavors were a bit out of balance: I got a surprising amount of banana up front and a whop of spicy clove towards the finish; with time, however, these flavors have melded quite well; the spice is much pronounced, as was my hope with the higher fermentation temp; as one drinks, there is present a slight taste of alcohol on the tongue. I don’t get much of the lemon zest; however, perhaps this means the successful use of adjunct spices?

Notes: This beer is on the higher end of acceptable OG for the style, but nevertheless is quite refreshing on a hot afternoon. That being said, it is no lawnmower beer and will kick you in the pants if you’re not looking out. In the words of sp, “This beer tastes like drunk.” This was the first beer with which we really reined in the fermentation temps and I am pretty pleased with the turnout. I’ve already ordered the ingredients for a smaller, unspiced, table beer for which we will use Wyeast 3711. With any luck, it will prove to be a younger brother to this saison.