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Two-Day Brewday (Day 2): Saison de Nöel

For those following at home, this is the second brew I’ve done in the course of two days. I discussed the grist for this brew here, and since it’s a split batch I figured go back at rip out half the details from my earlier post, to make a separate post for the beer I’m boiling up today. So if you read the earlier post, some details may seem familiar.

To keep things simple and brief, so I can get into the differences between the brews:

The grist for the double-batch mash was 6 kilos of Pilsner, 3 kilos of Munich, plus 800 grams of Special B, 500 grams of torrefied wheat, and 300 grams of Caramunich.

The Saison also gets 500 grams of Demerara sugar as well, mostly to help dry it out and maybe contribute a tiny bit of flavor. (Note: normally, I wouldn’t use any Crystal malt in a Saison, but I don’t mind if it has a touch of sweetness for an Xmas beer, plus the raisin-character of the Special B is something I think will suit both beers…)

The hopping is as simple in this beer as in its twin:  33 grams of Hallertauer Tradition in the Saison, which I’ve added as a first wort hop, because a little flavor might be nice; but I’m not adding flavor or aroma hops, as I don’t want them to overpower the yeast and other character of the beer. Meanwhile, for spices, I’ll be adding a little candied ginger (about 3 grams; since the stuff is 40% ginger, that’s just over a gram of ginger).

For the yeast, I’m going to pitch some of my saved-up Belgian Saison yeast (Wyeast 3724) for the Saison (though if the fermentation slows down too much, I’ll hit it with some French Saison yeast (Wyeast 3711) to finish it off).


As I recounted in my post about the Fruitcake Ale, other considerations conspired to make it impossible to boil this wort on the same day I ran it off, so I ended up deciding to let the wort sour with some lactobacillus (from some crushed Pilsner malt) for 24 hours. I basically just put it in a bucket I use to collect and measure wort, dumped the handful of grain in, and then did my best to pump some CO2 onto the wort, and left it with an electric blanket wrapped around it, which I hurried over to turn back on a few times during the 24 hours.

When I cracked the lid, the smell was, well, something like what other sour mashes I’ve experienced have been like, but a little less “clean.” I’m glad I decided to only sour it for 24 hours, therefore. (Okay, it ended up being 26 hours in the end.)

I ran the wort off through a mesh bag (stretched over a strainer) and got all those pilsner grains out, then pitched the hops and got it set up to boil. The boil took longer to get started than I wanted, because the power bard I ended up using for my immersion heater kept shorting out on me. But once I got it going, I started a very long boil.

The boil smelled a little like vomit at the beginning, and it foamed up like no wort I’ve ever seen, probably pushed along by all the whole hops floating on the surface, but after a little while all of that passed and it was smooth sailing.

(It’s still boiling as I write this.)

My hope for this beer is that it turns out a little sweet, a little sour, a little spicy, and a little fruity. Hey, it’s a Christmas beer, and a dark Saison as well, so what the hell, right? And, hell, if it’ll help develop more melanoidins, I’ll even boil it an extra hour (and then just rehydrate in the last hour).

The secondary for the Saison is going to be simple — basically, I’ll just keg it when I can, without any weird additions except maybe some wood chips — I’m thinking about using a wood that is a little more unusual — maybe some hickory or chestnut wood or something, a mild woody flavor that isn’t as overpowering as white oak — but that’s just a vague thought at the moment. Anyway, for now, I need to decant some of my L’identité Secrèt “Super” Saison into a couple of glass jugs where I’ll be souring some with a blend of Brett yeasts, and adding fresh omija fruit to the other… this will allow me to keg the Saison I made with my students, so that I will have a fermentation vessel available in which to ferment this Saison.

One change of plans: I’ve decided to go with French Saison as I haven’t got a way to maintain the kind of temperatures that a Belgian Saison yeast needs, nor do I particularly want to wait six weeks or more for it to ferment out (or to buy an aquarium heater… I will do that eventually this winter, but not yet).

UPDATE (17 Jan 2012): Kegged today, and pitched a tube of White Labs Brett C. The pre-souring character was too plain on its own, so this beer will likely have to go out for NEXT Christmas. But hey, that’s life.

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