Saison 05/2012

>> Sunday, May 27, 2012

Today I'm brewing up a Saison.  This style is associated with farm workers in the French speaking region of Belgium.  It's said the workers would receive up to five liters per day during the harvest season.  The thing I like about this style is unlike a lot of other styles, the definition is pretty broad which means there's lots of room for experimentation.

I've been wanting to brew a Saison for quite a while but I didn't really have a way to accurately control the warm fermentation temps needed for this style.  Now that I have my fermentation chamber, I figured it was time to give it a go.

Like many Belgian styles, this recipe calls for Belgian candi sugar.  Belgian candi sugar is highly fermentable and helps lighten the body and dry out the brew.  It's pretty easy to find in at just about any brew shop, but you can also make it at home which is what I chose to do.  As far as equipment, you'll need a candy thermometer, a saucepan, and a foil-lined cookie sheet (for cooling).  The Cliff's Notes version of making it is:
One pound of home-made Belgian Candi Sugar

  • Dissolve about 2-3 pounds of granulated table sugar in about a cup of water.  
  • Heat in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved
  • Add a food-grade acid (e.g. cream of tartar) then raise and hold the temp between 260F and 275F for at least 20 min
  • Once the desired color is achieved, raise the temp to 302F then pour onto a cookie sheet and allow to cool.
 I'm not sure who deserves credit for first documenting the process, but here's a link to the instructions I followed to make my candi sugar.  Candi sugar generally comes as either clear, amber, or dark.  I wanted a little bit of color contribution, so mine is towards the dark end of amber.  It's cheap and easy to make...about a dollar per pound compared to store-bought which is typically around five to six dollars per pound.

The recipe I'm making today is as follows:

9.0 # Weyermann Pilsner Malt
3.0 # Briess White Wheat Malt
0.5 # Weyermann Vienna Malt
0.25 # Weyermann Acidulated Malt
1.0 # Belgian Candi Sugar (5 minutes)
1.75 oz Styrian Goldings (60 minutes)
2 oz Saaz (5 minutes)
0.25 t Black Pepper, coarsely crushed (5 minutes)
0.25 t Coriander, coarsely crushed (5 minutes)
0.25 t Bitter Orange Peel (5 minutes)
Zest from a navel orange (5 minutes)
Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Mash at 147F for 90 minutes, 90 minute boil, start fermentation at 68F then raise to 78F over a couple days.

Brewing notes:  It was a pretty uneventful brew day up until the last two minutes.  I added all my 5 minute additions including the Belgian candi sugar.  The boil looked a little weak so I turned the heat up a little bit then ran inside to grab a spoon.  I was gone all of 30 seconds but that was just long enough to have a boil-over...good times.  Unfortunately a lot of the Saaz hops found their way to the garage floor courtesy of the boil over, so this may be lacking a bit of hop flavor/aroma.  It also added at least an hour to my cleanup because of the mess it made.  Word to the wise, never increase the heat right after an addition unless you're there to keep an eye on it.

Two changes I made on the fly: I originally planned on using the zest from half a navel orange but I ended up using the whole orange.  The other change was I added 1/4 teaspoon of bitter orange peel as well.

I bottled this one back on 5/27/2012.  Most of it was bottled in heavy Belgian bottles and corked using the Colonna Capper/Corker that my wife got me for Christmas.  This was the first time I've used it for corking and although there is a bit of a learning curve, it went well.  It's definitely a little more involved than capping so I wouldn't want to do it with every batch, but it makes for a very nice presentation.

Sampling one during a brew session
So we cracked one of these open on the 4th of July.  This beer turned out fantastic.  It has dried out wonderfully but isn't watery or thin.  There's a hint of orange in there but it does not dominate the palate.  Same with the other spices, they compliment the overall flavor profile without dominating.  I'm really interested to see how this brew changes over time, and I can't wait to try the brett version.