Monday, May 5, 2008


I have spoken before of my admiration for the brewing ways of the Belgians. Saturday, I brewed up a version of probably one of the most diverse styles of beer, the Saison.

The Saison is a type of Belgian farmhouse ale. They were originally brewed by farm owners to give to the field hands throughout the summer as a refreshing sort of beer. In the last hundred years, they've morphed into something a bit stronger, but a fun one to brew. There are style guidelines when brewing for competitions, but it's generally accepted that no one really knows what the quintessential Saison is. Since every town had their own version, and even sometimes multiple versions at that, there aren't many rules regarding ingredients and brewing techniques.

My version:

Belgian Pilsner Malt- 9 pounds
Sauer malt- 1 pound

Hallertauer New Zealand (I think it's an organic hop)- .75 oz- 60 minutes
Kent Goldings- 1 oz.- 15 minutes

Wyeast- 1762 Belgian Abbey Ale II- Pitched the yeast cake from the 1 gallon Golden Strong Ale I brewed two weeks ago

131/148/165-decoction mash out

The brew day went pretty good. I had another stuck sparge, but it wasn't too devastating. More of a pain than anything. I changed my mash tun around a little so that grain wouldn't get under the false bottom. I think I achieved that, but a new problem immerged. During the sparge process, the grist basically turned into one huge dough ball. I'm not sure if that was a result of not enough stirring or what, but not a big problem. I managed to basically nail every rest temp and gravity target that I had set for myself, so it is truly the beer I was aiming for (my brewhouse efficiency came in somewhere around 80%)

The recipe itself should make for an interesting beer. I added the acidulated malt to give it a slightly sour flavor, without getting into dealing with any lambic type bacteria. The yeast cake that I pitched in turned out to be on the very expressive side (the sample of my Golden Strong Ale I tasted had a strong hint of banana with a peppery aftertaste). I'm hoping that those things coupled with the lower mash temperature to help dry it out a little will make for a refreshing complex taste.


Ted Danyluk said...

I like Acid Malt, it helped out a Pilsener a year ago. Drops the mash pH a little, and adds to the flavor. One pound should be quite nice.

I'm looking forward to the results on this beer. It will be a lovely light gold color, and the ingredients are kept really simple. Nice starting ground for more complex Belgians.

I'll be getting around to a number of Belgian styles later this year with one yeast strain. Still trying to choose. Please let me know how you like this one. Are you going to reuse it again?

Kevin LaVoy said...

Yeah, working with the acid malt was fun. I also like to chew one of the uncrushed grains before I mash to see if I can pick that flavor out of the finished beer. I won't be chewing any acid malt again.

As far as the yeast goes, I haven't had a full beer from it yet, but I've been real happy with the performance in the fermenter. I came out a little on the low side for volume, and it's lucky I did, as the yeast made it all the way up to the airlock. Also, the small sample I tasted from the Golden Strong had a lot of different flavors going on. It seems like a good all purpose Belgian yeast, in that it is expressive, quick and seemingly is very versatile (it took care of a 1.102 beer, and then went right to work on this one, which was 1.053). I'm sure you'll be getting a bottle of both of these, so you'll get to judge the final product as well.

Brian said...

Hey Kev,

Hands down my favorite style of beer, both for drinking and brewing anymore (well once it heats up a little bit anyhow). Which brings me to my point, I'm sure you're going to ramp up the temp of your yeast there to really dry it out, but do be prepared to pitch some neutral ale yeast down the road should the Abbey strain not dry it out as much as you would need it to for a Saison.

Fyi-I ramped my fermentation temp all the way to 90 degrees and it was fantasticly dry and tasty.


Kevin LaVoy said...


I am really psyched to see where that yeast gets it down to. From what I've read, mashing temps are a big way to customize a beer. I went with a lower sacch rest temperature on this one (148 degrees) to make a slightly more fermentable wort. I definitely pitched some good yeast in there, so it'll be interesting to see how dried out it ends up at.

The Bearded Brewer said...

Saisons are definitely a fun summer beer. I would stress patience, my Iron Lion Saison wasnt good green, but was excellent after about 3 months maturation. All those funky flavors need time to mellow and balance out. Good luck!

Ted Danyluk said...

Depending on how this beer tastes, it might be fun and sickeningly tasty to blend it with my bretty Old Ale right in the glass.

I think I'm narrowing in on the Trappist High Gravity Ale yeast for my Belgians this year. Can't wait. Looking forward to trying yours.

Kevin LaVoy said...

Ted: my only experience with drinking blended beers is a Black and Tan (Germans are big fans of blending with beer, but it's usually with a soft drink ala weissbier with Coca Cola), and I have to say, that sound fantastic.

I'm a fan of the high gravity yeasts. It seems like you have a lot more leeway with what you brew. Essentially they'll ferment a 1.050 beer no problem, but you can also get into dubbel and tripel range without having to worry about your yeast stopping on you. Just plan ahead. I got lucky with my yeast, in that it was third on my list of what I was planning on using.