Notes on the Augustus Saison

Augustus Saison

I was on one of those classic LHBS trips…

It is not too often that I have the opportunity to shop in-person at my favorite shops (Austin Homebrew Supply, Defalco’s, etc.), so when I do, I try to take advantage of it and see what is new, different, anything that sparks an idea.  On this summer day, I happened to be wandering the aisles of AHS’s newish storefront and arrived in front of the hops cooler. Staring me right in the face were packs of Hopunion’s Citra hops.  I had been hearing a lot about this new breed — a lot of good things.  As the name implies, Citra hops impart a nice citrusy, fruity flavor and aroma, and are additionally a great high-alpha bittering hop as well.  So I picked some up, and they sat in my refrigerator…

I was busy brewing a lot of specialty beers, like the gluten free “CeliAle” and the Oud Bruin, which gave me all kinds of hell.  So it was a while before I roused myself to brainstorm a recipe idea for the Citra.  It being July in Texas, I was using a lot of Belgian yeasts and, in particular, Wyeast 3711, which was recommended to me by a brewing buddy, and which I have really come to like — it is fast, dependable, and great for a Saison (I have heard of it going below 1.000 — now that’s a dry finish!).  It seemed plausible that the citrusy character of the hops could complement a Saison, which frequently includes additions of lemon zest, etc. As I wanted to really see what this hop can do, I used it for all stages of the boil.  I didn’t want this to be a “Belgian IPA” so much as an aggressively hopped Saison, so I kept the bittering charge to 0.5 oz and used very small additions for flavor and aroma: 0.25 oz every five minutes from 25min til flameout.  All in all, it is estimated to be somewhere around 42 IBUs, so nothing crazy.

The mashbill was pretty straight forward with mostly extra pale LME, some wheat malt LME, and a late addition of 1 lbs Orange Blossom honey that I threw in just because I had it laying around.  I also added 0.25 oz each of cracked coriander and ginger root at 10 minutes as well.  Lastly, I dry-hopped with 1 oz of Citra for 1 week.

OG: 1.062
FG: 1.005
ABV: 7.5%

Appearance:  It has a lovely, hazy golden color to it; a foamy white head, with great retention.

Smell: A beautiful hop aroma; maybe out of character for the style, but really lovely. When I tasted the hydrometer samples of this beer during fermentation, the mix of yeast and hops produced an aroma oddly reminiscent of cat urine. As one could imagine, this was pretty off-putting; thankfully, this seems to have “worked itself out” either through the addition of dry hops or the yeast simply cleaning itself up — definitely something I will be conscious of in the future. Just one more example of the “Never give up on your brew” adage — the finished product can surprise you, if you give it time.

Taste:  The small additions of hops worked really well for this beer, as it has a very soft hop character that is really interesting;  I was afraid that the strong Belgian yeast character would compete with the hops, and I think that that is the case to an extent — the next time I brew this I will ferment at the low end of the recommended temperatures in order to subdue the yeast character and provide a bit cleaner finish; still, a really beautiful and complex palate; I don’t get much from the coriander or ginger — I wonder if I would notice their absence in future brews, or if they are simply in perfect balance…probably the former.

Notes: I think this was a successful experiment!  One of the most frustrating things about Citra hops is how popular (and therefore difficult to procure) they are.  My idea for the Augustus Saison, which will be our “house” version of the style (whenever I settle upon the right recipe) is an aggressively, but not overly, hopped version that is refreshing and finishes dry.  I like the idea of playing around with different hops to see how I can achieve this and what unique character each brings to the beer.

We will be brewing this beer again this weekend.  This time, however, it will be all grain, with no spices and 2 lbs of honey to really dry it out.  I just ordered a bunch of different hops from Nikobrew, including 8 oz of Citra.  Perhaps I will try recreating this same recipe, or maybe trying different combinations.  Now that I know what Citra can do, I am interested in seeing how well it plays with others!