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

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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