Les Saisonniers Report — The Yeast Bay — Le Quatre Saisons

Saison is seemingly approaching royalty these days. Ironically so, as it was once brewed as a working beer for seasonal workers (les saisonniers) in the field.  The things I really enjoy about saison is how the style is broadly defined and the creativity it is pushing in the yeast market.  Currently there are many great saison yeasts available – and more are coming to market monthly.  But nothing is released without adequate testing.

As you may have been following, there are three of us (MarshallEd, and myself) who are testing for Nick over at The Yeast Bay.  Recently, we brewed a saison and split it four ways with four unknown yeast strains.  Yesterday, we finally sat down (figuratively speaking) and talked about the beers we’d brewed – numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 as we have affectionately come to know them.

This is the end of the road for strains 1 and 2 for me.  Strains 3 and 4 are now sitting with four different strains of brettanomyces (each!) and will be tasted again in several months.

The author (with baby) filling out eval sheets.

The author (with baby) filling out eval sheets.

On Saturday, I had four experienced tasters (most BJCP certified) come over and we went through a standard judging of each strain.  We will refer to them as [1,2,3,4, and 5].  Most of our conclusions were pretty similar – the full results are below.  Strains #3 and #4 were definitely our favorite, however there is some bias because strains 1 and 2 were not nearly as carbonated for some reason.  #1’s only problem was being too sweet, although that could be a result of the mild carbonation.  #2 was quite sweet, and not fully attenuated.

While our tasting group enjoyed #3 as a “pretty standard saison,” the consensus between Marshall, Nick, Ed, and myself was that #’s 1 and 4 showed the most potential.  I’ll leave it to the others to share their experiences/favorites.

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The following is from the tasting group I hosted:  

Definitions: LQS stands for Les Quatre Saison.  Rank was our tasting group rank.  The boxed numbers correspond to the “taster numbers” as to who thought what.

LQS #1

Aroma – Some banana [1], sweet, peppery [1,3], slight plastic medicinal [1], light bubble gum [4,3] , clove [4],  no hop, some malt aroma [3,2]

Appearance – hazy, straw color, low head retention [1,2,3,4]

Flavor – light banana, clove [2,4], phenolic/spicy [2,3,4], sweet [2,3], mild alcohol finish, fruity sweet [1].

Mouthfeel – low carb, medium body

Overall Impressions – low carb makes it seem sweeter [3], lots of esters, peppery and clove [2,3,4], underattenuated [2,3,4],

Rank: 4

LQS #2

Aroma – sharp peppery [1], banana, slight fruitiness, perfumy nose, low malt, no strong phenolics [3], light brett aromas [3,4,5].  Some citrus [2,5]

Appearance – hazy, low head retention

Flavor – some bitterness upfront [1], low sweetness [2], brett flavors, well balanced [3,4,5], still slightly sweet [2,3,4,5]

Mouthfeel – low carb [1,2,3,4,5], sparkly, brett lingers, light body

Overall Impressions – harsher on the palate [1] needs more carb, not typical of a saison, but good [3], needs more carb, lots of citrus, brett [3,4,5], needs to be dryer, [2,3,4,5]

Rank: 3

LQS #3

Aroma – light aromas 1,2,3,4,5], clean, light clove [1,2,4], light hop aromas, light brett [3], light fruit, esters, light sulfur [1,5],

Appearance – yellow, head fades quickly

Flavor – fruit [1,2,3,4] citrus, pineapple, hay, some fruitiness, light phenols [1,2,3,4,5], more dry than others

Mouthfeel – high carb, thin body [2,3,4,5]

Overall Impressions – a gusher, cleaner than the others, thinner side, pretty classic saison, finish is dry, [3,4] could be drier, nicely balanced [5].

Rank: 1/2

LQS #4

Aroma – fruity [1,2,3,5], bubblegum?1, light malt [2,3], some fruit, less pepper[2], no hop aroma [3], citrus, lemon [5]

Appearance – small white head, hazy, best head retention thus far

Flavor – lemon pepper, fruitiness [1,2], balanced hop/malt character, spice [1,2,3]

Mouthfeel – nice carb, dry finish.

Overall Impressions – not as balanced as #3 [2], well balanced, nice overall, could be drier [2,3], standard saison with fruit.

Rank: 1/2

Framboise

Framboise is the name for a Belgian lambic beer that has been infused with raspberries [it literally translates to raspberries in french].  Framboise is a fantastic beverage – sadly, a fantastically mistaken one;  too often, Framboise conjures up thoughts of  cloyingly sweet Lindemans.  Rather, a traditional Framboise, such as Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus, infuses the delightful funky and tart sensations of a Lambic with a dry raspberry flavor.

Similar to the way Krieks (cherries) are made, Framboise is made by adding fruit post-fermentation and resting for 3-6 months.  The added sugars from the fruit are fermented out, leaving a bright raspberry taste -without much of the sweetness.  While the easy-to-find Lindemans actually uses raspberry juice and sugar to flavor/sweeten, a traditional Framboise simply adds the freshest berries – at 2-3 lbs per gallon.  According to Guinard [1], Cantillon uses 25% Cherries, 75% Raspberries and .05% Vanilla.  I plan on playing around adding some Kriek to my Framboise to see what sort of effects I get.

You can tell which one I have a preference for!  While I used to enjoy a small amount of the sweeter style, my palate has changed towards the more savory side of the spectrum the last few years in both food and beverage.  I don’t want anyone to think I’m bad-mouthing Lindemans, (they won a gold medal in the US Open Beer under Belgian Lambic category) but those of you who know me understand that a) I don’t like cutting corners and b) I enjoy making things using traditional methods when trying to stick to a style.

For my Framboise, I took my 100% Lambic and aged it on 3 lbs of raspberries per gallon.  This is slightly heavy, but I love raspberries and figure I can always cut it later with more lambic, either versions 1, 2 or 3.  I aged in my 10-gallon keg a Framboise from Lambic V1, then 5 gallons each of Framboise and Kriek from Lambic V2.  The blend is TBD.  I sourced my raspberries from the local Whole Foods, as they were actually the cheapest, and I wanted something with the least amount of processing.  I put the berries in, then racked beer until the keg was full.

Racking onto the raspberries.

Racking onto the raspberries.

One thing I didn’t anticipate was the expansion of the raspberries.  It was a mistake on my part, I’ve made fruit beers before and are always amazed how much the fruit inflates – I was just too excited this time.  Anyhow, when purging the keg, several times I had beer/fruit come out – not so good.  What I recommend for the beginner (or anyone who ever ferments in a keg) is to hook up a blowoff tube via the “gas out” so there’s never any pressure build up.

I decided to try some as it stands now. I’m working on reading more about blending so I haven’t bottled just yet and when I went to rack off a sample, I noticed the fruit covered in a nice pellicle – the bugs are still at work!  The beer is delightful, and in fact, I cut it with some with straight Lambic because the raspberry flavor was still so overpowering.  I’m going to hold off on a final evaluation of this until it is blended and will check back in as it progresses.

Framboise tasting #1

Framboise tasting #1

Source:  [1] Lambic (Classic Beer Style) Paperback by Jean Guinard  (1990)

Lambiek Zomer

Long overdue – however appropriately timed, just starting to drink this beer as the heat cranks up.  Enjoy!

To me, Lambic represents the top tier of the brewing world.  It is a tough beer to brew – the mash schedule is wild, the boil is long, the cooling methods can require specialized methods, and the fermentation takes place in wood (for many years.)  That isn’t mentioning blending – a skill that isn’t easily taught through literature – plus it’s not as though breweries are selling unblended wort to experiment with (although that could be an interesting business venture…).  This post is looking at my unblended lambic – lambic that has been produced and taken from a single barrel.  The BJCP states that unblended lambic should have little to no carbonation and is very rare to find – in fact the only listed bottle is Cantillon Grand Cru Bruocsella.  I’ve been told you can get unblended from the brewery directly, but since that is quite the hop over the pond, I decided to make it here.

I researched pretty much all the literature I could find on the subject of Lambic.  I found old articles in Brewing Techniques, Lambic: Classic StylesGeuze & Kriek: The Secret of Lambic BeerWild Brews, and even found several old threads/forums on the subject.  Older threads didn’t provide as much information; I found Wild Brews to be exceptionally helpful, as well as the older Brewing Techniques articles.  After extensive research and thought, I decided to use an old Riesling Barrel that recently had Saison pulled out.  I felt as though I would rather have the fruity notes of Riesling than the smoky-vanilla whiskey flavors for the Lambic.

To prep the barrel, I hot water cleaned the barrel (160F) and did several rinses the day before brewing.  I decided to brew the whole batch in one go using a 55 gallon Blichmann setup I had bought the previous year.  I used my 15 gallon keggle setup as the side kettles for the wort as it was heated to step the mash up.

I chose a standard grist of 33% Raw wheat and 66% Pilsner.  The raw wheat was used due to an ordering issue – but I didn’t want to put off brewing this any further.  The night before, I crushed over 120lbs of grain using a drill, a barley crusher, and a Netflix account.  I made sure to mix and integrate the two grains prior to crushing, due to previously using the barley crusher just for wheat was not as effective.

IMG_9903I followed a turbid mash method and mashed all morning.  It was a lot of work figuring out where all the water and wort was going and would love to see this done on someone else’s setup just to see how they did it.  Fun fact: this style of mashing was invented because, previously, breweries were taxed by the size of their mash tun, not the volume produced – so it was crammed with as much grain as possible – thus, water would be introduced, rest, removed, then so on.  That, and the brewers would step mash at different temperatures, then sparge with super hot water (190F) to ensure as much sugar was extracted from the grains as possible.  Normally mash time is a time to relax, sanitize fermenters, etc – this was the busiest time of my brewing career.

After turbid mashing, I addIMG_9938ed 2# of hops I had from a 2001 harvest, as with a lambic the brewer wants the preservative quality of the hops and not the bitterness or flavor/aroma.  I chilled using my therminator, and was able to get all 50 gallons down to pitching temperature in the barrel within 20ish minutes.  I didn’t take notes or record actual data on the chilling.

Where I used a therminator is where normally wort would be transferred to what is known as a coolship.  This flat vessel is designed to chill the wort down and inoculate it with local yeast & bacteria.  I pitched Wyeast 3728 rather than taking the chance and using my coolship as I didn’t want to risk anything going wrong with 50 gallons of wort.

IMG_9966This lambic aged for 1.3 years – considered a young lambic – but I am moving soon and wanted a chance to age some on fruit and drink it  before I move!  The clarity is remarkable for being a beer with so much wheat – I really didn’t expect that!  I also chose to carbonate one keg of the beer and leave the other keg flat.IMG_9994

All that being said, this is not an impossible feat.  You too (if you haven’t already) can brew this fantastic beer.  Do your research, and plan out what you’re going to do, ahead of when you are going to do it.  The last thing you want is 15 gallons of wort without a place to go.

 

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Appearance:  Clearer than expected.  Straw color, thick, white head which lasts several minutes then fades away.

Smell/Nose:  A mix of funk, citrus, and fruit.  very classic.  Light notes of lemon and apple.

Taste:  Noticeably sour with a nicely balanced sweetness.  The funk is not overpowering, but pleasant to taste.  The yeast/bacteria really did a nice job with cleaning this up.

Mouthfeel:  Quite light in the body, despite the fact that I destroyed the grain bed with almost 200F water.  I am really enjoying the carbonation in half.   Very smooth.

Drinkability/Overall Impression:  Really enjoying the balance of sweet, tart, and crispness to this beer.  I will continue to age some of the beer in the keg to see how it changes over time (that, and there is plenty of it!)

Overall “score” 9/10

The Yeast Bay: Le Quatre Saisons

It’s summer, which means it is an easy time to brew Saison for those of us in the typically cooler parts of the country.  With the twist of a cork, high carbonation pushes explosive flavors out the nose of this complex tasting, yet simple brew.  Even though Saison is a term that covers a broad range of brews, the zest in nose, crisp mouthfeel, and lingering spicy finish are signature to this style and extremely refreshing as the days warm up.

Saison is a fun beer to brew, simply because the style is so broad and experimentation is king in my house.  Originally a brew for seasonal workers in the summer, farmhouses would make Saison in the off season so there would be a safe beverage to consume in the working months.  These farmhouses weren’t collaborating on what a Saison should be, they were simply brewing their own style of beer on their own terms.  During this time, workers were entitled to five litres of Saison a day.  Sign me up!

Fortunately for me, I got signed up for a project even more up my alley: testing Saison strains for The Yeast Bay.  Prior to this blog, I didn’t get involved too much in social media and almost missed the opening for Nick’s all-call for beta testers (Nick: TYB Owner).  I sent him my information and luckily was added as the third beta tester for this project.

After ‘meeting’ the other testers Ed & Marshall, as well as Nick via Google Hangout, we formulated a recipe for our first brew.  The first brew would test four strains from… who knows where.  All we knew is they were saccharomyces and Saison was the style.  We went for a simple malt bill, 20IBU, and various mashing/fermentation temperatures.IMG_0950

4/20/14

Le Quatre Saisons
Size: 11.5 gallons
OG: 1.055
IBU: 20
Boil: 60 minutes

Grains
70% Canadian Pils Malt
20% White Wheat Malt
10% Munich Light (10L)

Hops
20 IBU Magnum @ 60

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Strains 1&2 in 3 gallon fermenters

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strains 3 and 4 before bottling, about to get some brett

I mashed in at 148F and my fermentation temperature was 67F.  It ended up being more like 68F, but it was far enough from Ed’s 71F that I think the results will be a bit different.  I brewed a 12-gallon batch and split the batch four ways into two 5 – gallon carboys with 3.5 gallons each (Strains 3 &4), and then two 3 – gallon carboys with 2.5 gallons each (Strains 1& 2).

The reason for the larger carboys was that after bottling a six pack off each larger primary, I would be splitting Strains 3 & 4 into four more 1-gallon containers, filling them each with .75 gallons of beer and doing a secondary fermentation with four Brettanomyces strains (again, of unknown origin.)

The brew day was typical and uneventful, I hit the gravity spot on, however  at the end of the brew I ended up with 11.5 gallons of wort.  I hadn’t used my 15 gallon pots in a while (as most of you know who read my stuff, I typically brew on a 55-gallon system and split batches with friends/enemies) and forgot about the loss rate that the system has due to boiling/trub etc.IMG_0912

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The unknowns…

After chilling to 67F, the different yeasts were pitched into each fermenter, and I sat back, and waited.  Initial thoughts on the primary fermentation thus far: 2014-05-05 19.28.36

#1 (far left) fermented out quickly and flocculated very well.  Probably the clearest beer by far.

#2 took a long time to ferment down to 1.023, then took a heat ramping to 84F to get down to 1.015

#3 fermented “average” however didn’t get as low as #1

#4 acted very similar to #3.

5/5/14 I pulled samples after two weeks and put tasting notes in my google doc for this test.

5/24/14 All primary strains bottled and Saison is in secondaries with brett strains.

In case you didn’t catch it on Ed’s page here is a copy of who did what re: brew & fermentation

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More than a Staple

There really isn’t a food as enticing as freshly baked bread.  Evidence shows bread as an integral part of our diet since almost 30,000 years ago.  Many kinds of bread exist today, from flat breads to round ones and every shape and texture in between.  Bread brings people together and is often what holds a meal together.  It is a delivery device for oils, vinegars, soups, stews, curries, and a multitude of other foods.  Bread has been and will be a centerpiece in my home and the loaves have been coming out better and better as I work on my personal methods.2014-03-23 11.15.58

This latest batch of bread was one of the best I’ve ever made.  I made a dough at 78% percent hydration which achieved a perfect, crusty exterior with a chewy, soft interior.  To see how I make the dough (which I use for pizza, bagels, etc.) you can look here at the dough methods page.  Note that hydration changes depending on what product is that is being made, and I simply change the initial amount of water being added.

All the bread is based upon 1000g of flour, so it makes the math easy.  Also, remember that later in the recipe, you’ll be adding 50g of water with the salt addition so be sure to include that in your hydration calculation.  For the bread, I put in 730g of water, then later add the 50g so I get my 780g out of 1000g of flour = hence, the 78% hydration.  For bagels, I use 73% hydration, and for pizza dough, 75%.2014-04-11 18.14.41

Read through the pages on the dough method as well as the shaping page.  Shaping will take time to learn and with practice will end up being quick and graceful so as not to lose any of the gas trapped in the dough.  Play around with fermentation times and temperatures to suit your house and living style.  I’ve fermented doughs overnight in the basement or fridge, and I’ve also tried rushing the process by increasing the temperature (not recommended.)  Have fun with it and email me if you have any questions.2013-12-27 19.31.08

crusty bread with brie and roasted red pepper/mint/parsley spread

Updates

This is a brand new blog, and I’m updating it daily – trying to fill in all the headers with methods that are tried and true.  Experiments will enter as posts and become headers eventually as they work.  If you try any of the methods and don’t understand anything, shoot me an email at iheart314@gmail.com  

Picts will fill in as time allows, I’ll be incorporating many of the homebrewtalk.com threads I have posted into a more formal approach.  I’ll post when things are “up and running.”   

Important:  If you have not used it yet, the most important thing I’ve ever installed is AdBlock.  It removes all advertising from all websites, eliminates youtube ads, Google ads, etc.  Before you do anything else, change your browsing experience forever.  https://adblockplus.org/en/chrome