Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Saison Notes

I wanted to post these here for posterity.  They are notes from the king of saisons, Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead.  He gave these notes back in 2007, so they might be a little outdated, but they serve as a fantastic outline of general saison brewing.  In particular I take away the sulfate levels as well as the acidification of the sparge water, which I've never done, but will most definitely be doing when I do my 4th iteration of my saison.

Yeast/Fermentation: A great saison begins with the brewer's choice of yeast. A likely candidate is the Dupont culture (WLP 565, WY3724). This will always produce the peppery/estery/earthy characteristic that seems to define the style. Many brewers have reported difficulties achieving desired levels of attenuation while using this strain and are thus forced to finish the fermentation with a second strain of yeast. I have never encountered this dilemma but highly suggest that when using this strain it is necessary to maintain a very warm fermentation temperature - in the range of 75° to 90° F (24° to 32° C) and to use a yeast nutrient. Due to this occasional lack of attenuation, it may be more advisable to choose a more predictable and reliable yeast strain. Chouffe (WLP550, WY3522), Fantome (WY3725), Blaugies (WY3726) or any myriad of the wit/wheat yeasts (WLP400, WY 3463) available from White Labs and Wyeast are capable choices. The Blaugies strain (WY3726) is reputedly less finicky than the Dupont strain and has a very similar flavor profile (likely due to the relationship between the two breweries at Blaugies' startup). If choosing the Chouffe yeast, beware the "flavor bomb." Higher temperatures with this yeast can result in excessive phenolic/ester development. Pay particular attention to the suggested temperature profiles - but don't be afraid to experiment. Being cautious and living by the rules doesn't breed an inspired saison!

Primary: 1-3 weeks

Secondary: 2 weeks

Bottle Conditioning: 2-3 weeks, minimum

Cellar Indefinitely - three-year-old bottles still taste brilliant!

Water: Depending upon the profile of your water source, you may want to try and boost your sulfate levels into the range of 100 to 200 ppm through the addition of calcium sulfate (gypsum, CaSO4). This will benefit the perceived dryness of the final product and accentuate the hop character. If the pH of your source water is much above 6, you may choose to treat with food grade acid (lactic or phosphoric) to bring the pH of mash and sparge water into the 5.2-5.4 range

Grist: Feel inspired. Begin with a base of Pilsen malt. 2 row pale will work if you don't have access to Pilsen malt. This should contribute at least 50% of extract value. Try adding in Munich, Vienna, wheat, spelt, oat, or rye malt. Candy sugar, dextrose, and other sugars (1-10%) will add fermentability to the wort and boost attenuation

Mash: Infusion mash, unless you have the ability/desire to step. Mash temperature should be guided by your desired end result - the lower the temperature, the higher the level of attenuation and fermentability. Try mashing somewhere in the 146° to 152° F (64° to 67° C) range. Adjust as necessary

Boil/Hopping: 90 minute boil. 20-40 ibus. Noble hops are preferable. Try Styrian Golding, East Kent Golding, Hallertauer, Saaz, or try adding an American twist to your saison by using Mount Hood, Amarillo, or any other spicy variety. It's all up to the chef. Add bittering hops at 60 minutes (20-30 ibus); add remaining bitterness in the last 15-20 minutes of the boil. Finishing addition at the end of the boil should be in the range of 1-2 ounces per 5-gallon batch

Spicing: Star anise, coriander, lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, peppercorns, orange peel, ginger, figs, cumin, dates, etc. Minimal