Dark Saison 2013

>> Sunday, January 13, 2013

I was so happy with the way my two Saisons turned out this year that I decided I'd like to brew a dark version for my first 2013 brew session. Dark Saison isn't an officially recognized BJCP style so it falls under 16E Belgian Specialty Ale. The Saison style itself is a pretty broad category with a lot of room for experimentation. That's even more so the case with Dark Saisons.

Speaking of experimentation, I've never used Midnight Wheat Malt or raisins in a recipe before so this will be fun. The midnight wheat will contribute a lot of color but is said to be similar to de-bittered malt in that it lacks the astringency associated with dark roasted malts. I was originally planning on going with a full pound of Midnight Wheat, but after talking to Cody at Salt City Brew Supply, I scaled it back to half a pound. As for the raisins, I'm using Trader Joe's Thompson Seedless Raisins. These raisins are not treated with sulfur dioxide or any other preservatives per the label. I'm hoping some of the raisin character carries through to the finished beer but that may be asking a from only 6 ounces. I may end up adding more raisins in the secondary if it seems to be lacking character. The reason I'm using raisins is I got to try a Dark Saison a couple years ago at Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach. It was a sour saison and had been aged and/or brewed with raisins which added some really nice complexity to the beer. I don't expect to get the same level of sourness out of my beer, but I'm hoping for something that is complex and will age well.

As for the yeast, I saved the WLP644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois from my Funky Saison and will be re-using it in this batch. So this will be a 100% brett fermentation as well. Since this yeast has been sitting dormant in the fridge for a while, I made a 1 liter starter.

Here's the recipe as I'm making it:

9.0 # Weyermann Pilsner Malt
2.0 # Briess Dark Wheat Malt
0.5 # Briess Midnight Wheat
0.5 # Special B
0.5 # Acidulated Malt
2.0 oz Styrian Goldings (60 min)
1.0 # Belgian Candi Sugar (10 min)
6.0 oz Raisins, pureed (10 min)
2.0 oz Saaz (5 min)
0.25 t Bitter Orange Peel (5 minutes)
Zest from a navel orange (5 minutes)
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
White Labs WLP644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois

Mash at 147F for 90 minutes. 90 minute boil. Start fermentation at 72F then raise to 85F over a few days.

Brewing Notes
Brew session went well. I got started a little later than I'd planned, so I didn't finish cleaning up until about 7pm. This was due to kegging both my Rauchbier 2012 and my Mannish Boy Bourbon Barrel Barleywine. I've said it before, but I'm really thankful I can brew in my garage rather than outside. Right now it's a nippy 4F outside. The garage was probably 40F...still chilly but a heck of a lot better than 4F.

The only problem I ran into during the brew session was a chilled the brew a little too much. I was shooting for about 70F but chilled to 60F, so it's currently in the ferm chamber warming up. One of these days I'll get around to installing a thermometer on the chiller output.

Update 1/15/2013
I checked the ferm temps when I got home from work last night and it was right at 72F. Not bad considering the high outside was only 5F. It may seem a little odd to brew a Saison in the dead of winter, but I'm hoping this will have developed some nice brett character by the time the weather starts to warm up. I pitched the yeast last night and there's now a nice layer of krausen on top. I just bumped it up a half a degree and will continue to do that morning and night over the next few days.

As I mentioned above, I wasn't sure the 6 ounces of raisins would be enough to provide much raisin character in the finished beer. I'm glad to say the aroma of raisins was quite noticeable when I pitched the yeast. I'd expect some of the character to get scrubbed out during primary fermentation, but I think it's a good sign of things to come.

Update 1/22/2013
Not much of an update, but I did crack open the lid on my ferm chamber tonight. This one definitely smells interesting. Like the Funky Saison I brewed back in June, I'm picking up tropical fruit aromas along with a little bit of banana, and something else I can't quite place. It doesn't smell like the raisins, but it is somewhat fruity/estery.

Ferm temps are up to 80F now. I think I'm going to have a hard time hitting 85F given the cold weather we've had in Utah lately, but based on the aromas coming out of the ferm chamber I don't think it's going to be lacking fruity character.

I'll probably check the gravity this weekend and also taste a sample. On that note, I realized I forgot to check the starting gravity before I pitched my yeast. I'm guessing terminal gravity will be around 1.005. ABV should end up in the 9-10% range.

Update 1/26/2013
Checked the gravity with my refractometer today. It is ballpark-sh at best since I forgot to get my OG (knowing the OG is critical if you use a refractometer rather than a hydrometer). Assuming my gravity was near the Beersmith prediction (1.079) today's reading of 9P would translate to approx 1.010 and 9.18% ABV. I think it can still drop at least three more points, so this will be staying in the ferm chamber at least another week.

Update 2/18/2013
I racked this to a glass carboy on 2/9/2013 to free up my conical for my Blood Orange Hefeweizen. It's been sitting in my office at about 68F ever since. My plan is to cold crash it and add gelatin in about a week. It looks very dark in the carboy, but I don't know that I'd call it black. It's probably more of a dark brown with deep ruby highlights. I'm hoping the gelatin will help pull any chill haze causing proteins out of suspension so that it has good clarity when held up to the light. Hopefully this will be in the bottle by 3/2/2013.

Update 2/27/2013
I bottled this batch tonight. It had dropped pretty clear so I decided to skip the gelatin and go ahead and bottle it. This beer is definitely dark...it looked like motor oil as I racked it into the bottling bucket. Assuming the Beersmith prediction of 1.079 for the O.G. is close, this finished at 1.006 for an ABV of 9.69%. I tasted a small sample and it was very good. There's already a bit of brett character and I'm interested to see how it tastes once it's carb'd up.