The perfect Saison recipe….my search for it

I like saisons. Brewing them and drinking them. I may have mentioned this before. When I brew them I feel verry zen. I am also developing my own take on what it is, or should be.

The Australian Amateur Brewing championship style guidelines put it in category 17. Farmhouse Ale & Wild Beer. The background they give is as follows – Saisons – History: A seasonal summer style produced in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium. Originally brewed at the end of the cool season to last through the warmer months before refrigeration was common. It had to be sturdy enough to last for months but not too strong to be quenching and refreshing in the summer. It is now brewed year-round in tiny, artisanal breweries whose buildings reflect their origins as farmhouses. You can find more of this here – AABC

James at Beer Bar Band wrote a really nice piece on saisons and what they taste like here with his Beer – Verticle Saisons post. Excellent writing and it covers two beers that I can vouch are great saisons, especially the Saison DuPont. That is the one they named the style after.

What a saison actually is though is an interesting question? the guidelines are really broad on this one in the style guideline, lots of may be this, might be that, pale to amber, 5-7% ABV, clear or cloudy…. it goes on.

I think the best description of this beer is in it being a farmhouse ale made for the workers. This gives a few hints and the following points are my interpretations of this;

  • I doubt it would be all that consistent in malt bill across the geographic spread of the beer.
  • They would have used a fair percentage of what they grew. I doubt it would have been all that pale as the malting and kilning would have been inconsistent and probably burnt some of the malt, adding some colour.
  • Clarity, that depends on your brewing process and how you let it sit. It is possible to have perfectly clear bottle conditioned beers.
  • Hoppyness? I think it’s often under estimated. You want the beers to last so probably add plenty of hops, or maybe even other herbs and spices (havent tried that yet).
  • Add in some sugar? if its cheap why not, these people were brewing to keep the workers happy.
  • Now to booze % I wouldn’t want people working for me to be drinking 7% ABV beer for lunch. Would you?

That’s my kind of guiding ideals for designing my saisons, so I tend to end up with a lower ABV, hoppyish beer with some sugar, and a range of grains, often some unfermented (my folks have a farm so I use the home-grown ones). And how am I going in finding my perfect saison recipe using my self-imposed saison rules? Well I’m getting some beers I like, and some that I’m not sure of.  Here are my last few cracks at it.

Saison 2011.

I really liked this beer, might be hard to replicate as the Vienna that I used was really old stuff that I got for $2 for 2kg which I had to use when I discovered that mice had made a mess of the bag of wheat I intended to use. Really nice clean beer, started at 1.042 OG  (terrible efficiency) and finished at about 1.010. This is based on a saison I brewed the year before. This one got the Wyeast Farmhouse ale, a blend. I had to use this instead of my prefered Belgium Saison yeast.

Amount Item Type % or IBU
3.50 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (3.9 EBC) Grain 68.36 %
0.75 kg Vienna Malt (6.9 EBC) Grain 14.65 %
0.50 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (3.9 EBC) Grain 9.77 %
0.10 kg Acid Malt (5.9 EBC) Grain 1.95 %
0.01 kg Roasted Barley (591.0 EBC) Grain 0.20 %
19.00 gm Magnum [14.00 %] (50 min) (First Wort Hop) Hops 35.6 IBU
25.00 gm Pearle [8.00 %] (1 min) Hops 4.3 IBU
0.26 kg palm sugar (2.0 EBC) Sugar 5.08 %

Saison Stella.

I wanted to use my hopback on a saison, and Stella hops apparently had some kind of berry like background taste. I thought that sounded like a good idea. OK not so much. Its got a taste that sticks out, I think its the hops, kind of a resiny oily hop taste, and I might have added a little too much character malt. Its kind of a pumped up version of the Stella 2011. I’m having one right now. Its far less saisony than the Saison 2011. Same yeast though. The raw wheat and barley were only harvested a few days before I made this beer. It’s probably my favorite little bit about this beer. A little bit bigger, this beer had an OG of 1.048 and finished at about 1.010 (really must pay more attention to the FG!)

Amount Item Type % or IBU
3.50 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (3.9 EBC) Grain 63.41 %
0.75 kg Vienna Malt (6.9 EBC) Grain 13.59 %
0.50 kg Barley raw Grain 9.06 %
0.50 kg Wheat raw Grain 9.06 %
0.15 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 80L (157.6 EBC) Grain 2.72 %
0.10 kg Acid Malt (5.9 EBC) Grain 1.81 %
0.02 kg Roasted Barley (591.0 EBC) Grain 0.36 %
16.00 gm Magnum [14.40 %] (50 min) (First Wort Hop) Hops 30.9 IBU
100.00 gm Stella [16.60 %] (1 min) Hops 36.0 IBU

Saison 2012 – the Sushi Tribute

Sushi was my goldfish for about 6 years. He died a few weeks ago, I’m naming this beer as a tribute to my little orange swimmy friend who is no more. This beer is a tweaked version of Saison 2011. More roast, more palm sugar, more hops I (doubt the homegrown ones add much) my prefered yeast, and some fresher vienna. Not really sure how it’ll come out, it appears darker than I expected, one of the increase in roast barley, and fresher vienna, or the addition of rye malt has done this. Also the palm sugar was different to the previous batch, darker I think. Time will tell. It started at 1.052. A little bigger than planned but still ok. Oh and I didn’t put any home-grown barley or wheat in this beer cos I’m lazy.

Amount Item Type % or IBU
3.50 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (3.9 EBC) Grain 64.81 %
0.75 kg Vienna Malt (6.9 EBC) Grain 13.89 %
0.50 kg White Wheat Malt (4.7 EBC) Grain 9.26 %
0.10 kg Acid Malt (5.9 EBC) Grain 1.85 %
0.10 kg Rye Malt (9.3 EBC) Grain 1.85 %
0.05 kg Roasted Barley (591.0 EBC) Grain 0.93 %
20.00 gm Magnum [14.00 %] (60 min) (First Wort Hop) Hops 41.9 IBU
9.00 gm home grown wet hops [5.00 %] (1 min) Hops 1.0 IBU
30.00 gm Pearle [8.00 %] (1 min) Hops 5.4 IBU
0.40 kg palm sugar (0.0 EBC) Sugar 7.41 %
1 Pkgs Belgian Saison (Wyeast Labs #3724) Yeast-Ale

So that’s what I’ve been doing in relation to the saisons. Havent got it figured yet but I think its in between these recipes. Oh now I need to explain the palm sugar. In Thailand it came to me that saisons suited asia, dry, refreshing beers, that could have a whole bunch of different ingredients. Saisons also go well with Thai food (well actually any light and cold beer does more or less). So anyway I figured a Thai ingredient would be a nice touch. Funky looking stuff isn’t it?

funky palm sugar for the saison

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One thought on “The perfect Saison recipe….my search for it

  1. […] saisons again. My search for the perfect saison recipe continues. Some old recipes can be found here and in other posts on this […]

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