Saison is one of those styles that I wish I brewed more of. Especially the longer-aged, brett’d styles. But, for whatever reason, I either forget about this style, or decide to brew something dark and roasty when making long-aged beers. The past two years have been hell (I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone why) and my mixed-fermentation brewing has suffered because of that.
This spring I decided to do something about that. But, given the stresses on my time I didn’t bother putting together my own yeast/bacteria blend, and instead went with a (new to me) commercial blend. For this beer, I used the Mad Fermentationist Blend from Bootleg Biology, which contains Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, and Lactobacillus. I usually like to make my own mixed-fermentation blends, but given the limits on my time, this seemed like a good work-around.
So how did it turn out?
Recipe – Mad Days Mixed-Fermentation Saison
- Volume: 20 L
- IBU: 25
- SRM: 5
- OG: 1.057
- FG: 1.004
- ABV: 6.5%
|4.00 kg||Pilsner Malt||79.1%|
|0.5 kg||Vienna Malt||9.9%|
|0.5 kg||Wheat Malt||9.9%|
|0.06 kg||Caramunich Malt||1.2%|
|12 g||Warrior (14.2%, 60 min)||20.3 IBU|
|28 g||Hallertauer Mittlefrueh (4%, 10 min)||4.9 IBY|
|1 Pack||Bootleg Biology #BBXMAD1|
- Beer was mashed for 60 min at 66.3 C, and sparged to collect 29 L of pre-boil wort.
- Wort was boiled for 60 min, with Warrior hops added at 60 min, and Hallertauer Mittelfrueh and Whirflock at 10 min.
- After the boil the wort was chilled to 20 C and the yeast pitched.
- The beer was fermented for 6.5 months in a cellar ranging from 16C to 20 C, swapping the blow-off tube for an airlock after ~1 week of fermentation.
- The beer was kegged and carbonated at 35 PSI for 24 hours, for ~2.4 volumes of CO2.
Appearance: Golden and clear, with a course white head.
Aroma: Yeasty, with earthy and herbal notes from the yeast and hops. A slight fruity aroma emerges once the beer has warmed a little
Flavour: I have to admit that I am a touch disappointed. It is a nice saison, but the Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus characters are not as bold as I had hoped. Up-front you get the classical saison fruit notes and earthy phenolics. This is accompanied by a touch of acidity – not sour, not even tart – just more acidic than a normal beer. The phenolic components normally provided by Brettanomyces are largely missing, although it may be possible that the earthy notes present in the beer are the combined effect of the saison yeast and brett.
All of this is on top of a classical saison malt bill and hopping approach, which provides a nice bready and herbal note to go along with the spicy saison yeast. It is dry and crisp, and fantastically refreshing. Overall, this is a very nice saison, and I enjoy every glass. But it was not what I was expecting given the time it spent in the fermenter, and the cultures that were pitched.
Mouthfeel: Very dry and crisp, with a modest acidic feel, but without any astringency. The aftertaste is a lingering spice and saison-ester note, with the tiniest hint of malt sweetness emerging as the other flavours fade. An incredibly refreshing beer.
Overall: As a saison, this beer is excellent. As a mix-fermentation beer, it’s underwhelming. In retrospect, I know where I went wrong. My first mistake was using too cool a mash temperature, which likely led to a wort without enough dextrins to support Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces. Secondly, I brewed this in April and fermented it without heating. Meaning that primary fermentation took place in a room at 16-18 C (60-64 F), which would promote an overly-clean fermentation. Lastly, I may have added a few too many IBU’s, thus suppressing the Lactobacillus.
In other words, I love this beer and it is a great saison. But for a truly funky saison, changes will need to be made. If I brew this again, I’d up my mash temperature to 68-70 C (154-158 F) to drive dextran production, I’d reduce the hopping rate by 5 to 10 IBU, and I’d ramp the fermentation temperature from 20C to 27C (68 to 81 F) over the first three days of fermentation.