Brewing a Super Saison

Tin Roof Super Saison

Vitals
Method: All-grain
Boil-time: 60 mins
Batch size: 5 gallons
Original Gravity: 1.060
Final Gravity: 1.004
ABV: 7.4%
IBU: 32
Brew Day: 4/17/2016

 

Now that the weather in Wisconsin is coming out of hibernation and we’re starting to see things like sunshine, plant life, and smiles, I felt like brewing a Saison. For those that don’t recall anything from that one time you took a French class, “Saison” actually means “Season” in French. There, you just learned something! Saisons are often called farmhouse ales, throwing back to its roots as a locally-brewed beer for field workers. Classic Saisons were typically low-alcohol beers so they wouldn’t completely couch the workers. But higher strength variants began appearing after World War II when the style was expanding into new markets.

In modern times, table Saisons, normal Saisons, and super Saisons are all officially recognized versions of the beer, ordered in progressing strength. Saison’s are not typically spiced but rather the yeast is relied upon to provide “spicy” notes like pepper, fruit, and phenols. Saisons are unique in that yeast is pitched at a normal ale pitching temperature but the temperature is allowed to free-rise. This can mean fermentation temperatures into the 80’s or 90’s. Saison yeast is a very high attenuator, as a very low final gravity is important to get a dry mouthfeel (and in the case of my super Saison, to really wrench up the ABV).

 

Most commonly, a pale, refreshing, highly-attenuated, moderately-bitter, moderate-strength Belgian ale with a very dry finish. Typically highly carbonated, and using non-barley cereal grains and optional spices for complexity, as complements the expressive yeast character that is fruity, spicy, and not overly phenolic. Less common variations include both lower-alcohol and higher-alcohol products, as well as darker versions with additional malt character.

The recipe for this super Saison is simple. The grain bill is made up of 2-row and White Wheat Malt. The bittering hops are Northern Brewer and aroma is supplied by Saphir. I intended to use Wyeast 3711 with this but my local homebrew supply store had just been wiped out of this strain when the brewer from a local micro stopped in (thanks One Barrel). So, in its place I used Danstar Belle Saison dry yeast. Interestingly enough, this would be my first brew with a dry yeast. Normally, with a liquid yeast I would make a starter so I can farm as many yeast cells as I need, but the Belle Saison packet had about 175 billion cells (give or take a couple) and this recipe needed 197 billion. Close enough for me. No starter this time.

 

Fermentables

AmountFermentablePPGSRM% Bill
9.5 lbTwo-Row Pale Malt1.036386.4%
1.5 lbWhite Wheat Malt1.0402.413.6%

Hops

AmountVarietyTimeTypeIBUAA%
1 ozNorthern Brewer60 minPellet27.17%
1 ozSaphir10 minPellet4.93.5%

Yeast

StrainTypeAttenuationTemp RangeFlocculationStarter Size
Danstar Belle SaisonAle - Dry73 % - 80%59F - 95FHighN/A

 

I mash with distilled water which means I can add minerals to create any water profile I want. For a water style I chose Antwerp, Belgium. Why Antwerp, Belgium? It’s a Belgian beer. Why does Belgium water make good Saisons? The Antwerp water profile has a high temporary hardness (can be removed by boiling) and moderately low levels of sulfates. Because I’m keeping the hop dosages low, the ratio of sulfates to chloride will help accentuate the bitterness given the very little amount of actual hops in the recipe. Also, the softness in this water is conducive for brewing beers that are very light in color. The mineral profile is given below:

Ca: 90ppm
Mg: 11ppm
Na: 37ppm
SO4: 84ppm
Cl: 57ppm
HCO3: 76ppm
pH: 8

Mash temperature was low at 148F to provide the yeast with a large share of fermentable sugars as I wanted this beer to finish really dry, in the 1.004-1.006 range ideally. I used about 3.5 gallons of 163.3F water to mash in and mashed for an hour. No rice hulls. I ran a vorlauf cycle for about 10 minutes before collecting the first runnings and then sparging with another 4 gallons at 168F. Pre-boil volume was about 6 gallons and pre-boil gravity was 1.050. The color was a very light straw color and there really wasn’t much aroma to the wort at all.

Specific Gravity via Brewometer
Specific Gravity via Brewometer

The total boil time for this batch was 60 minutes with the Northern Brewer going in right away and the Saphir at 10 minutes remaining (along with Irish Moss). At flameout I steeped the wort with 1oz of dried Lemon peel and 1oz of organic Lavender while whirlpooling. The original gravity was measured via refractometer at 1.060 meaning efficiency came in at 74.2%.After chilling, transferring to the fermenter, aerating and pitching the rehydrated yeast (115mL at 85F), fermentation was kicked off at 68F and allowed to rise to 84F over the course of the next three days. By that time final gravity had stabilized around 1.006, yeast/trub was dumped and the temperature was lowed to 62F for another three days.

Fermentation Temperature via Brewometer
Fermentation Temperature via Brewometer

At this point I found a rogue ounce of Motueka hops in my freezer and decided to toss them into the fermenter. This is a New Zealand hop known for its distinctive fresh crushed citrus “Mojito” Lemon/Lime character that I thought would pair well with this brew. At this time I also weighed .20 oz of organic Lavender and made a tincture along with 1.5oz of Tito’s vodka. The Motueka sat in secondary for about 5 days before I kegged. The keg was set to 15psi for roughly a week before lowering to 13psi.

The first taste was on 5/4/2016, about 17 days after brew day. The beer was carbonated and a quick swish showed a really nice, snow-white lacing on the glass.

Aroma: The first whiff gave off a soft, spicy alcohol note along with some lemony esters. Really no hop aroma I could detect.

Appearance: A very pale golden straw appearance that is both hazy and effervescent.

Flavor: Up front is a citrusy (lemon) and slightly spicy (peppery) taste.  Super dry finish. There is a noticeable alcohol impression and the aftertaste is slightly bitter.

Mouthfeel: Very light body and a moderate alcohol impression.

Comments: I’m very happy with the first sample of the beer. I’d like to see a little more carbonation but that’s easy enough to adjust. I would definitely brew this one again. Weighing in at 7.4% ABV though, I don’t think I’ll be having more than one or two or my yard is going to look really peculiar after I mow.  I do plan to add the Lavender tincture at some point and post an update on my thoughts on that addition.

IMG_1821
Banana for color

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