The Many Faces of Saison

We all love saison, right? I’m going to brew a saison this weekend but when I started to think about the type of saison I want to brew I headed off down a rabbit hole of yeast strains and microbes trying to decide whether I should have a level of tartness to it, keep it simple and sessionable, add some Brett for some funk and age it, any further ingredients like herbs and spice, strong, dark etc. etc. So this got me thinking to write up a post on the various styles of saison I like to brew myself and hopefully give some further insight as to why this is my favourite beer style, that is, if you can shoehorn all these variations into one single style. Defining saison is impossible as it is many things to many people. I hear a lot of people say they don’t like saison but have you drank saison Dupont, the finest clean example? Or a Saison a la Provision from Burning Sky, one with added Brett and lacto?

The history of saison has been covered in great detail by many more knowledgeable than myself but if you would like a learn more I can highly recommend Dave Janssens blog  http://www.horscategoriebrewing.com/ and hit the saison section.

The Maltose Falcons also have a very good section on brewing saison with analysis of various yeast strains used to brew the style which you can find here https://www.maltosefalcons.com/tech/guide-saisons-and-saison-yeasts

Read Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski if you prefer to gain your knowledge in book format.

Also there is nothing here that can’t be found on Milk The Funk as this is where I primarily learned all these fermentation procedures. These are just some of my personal interpretations and techniques with information gathered from all of the above resources plus more.

I don’t decide what my saison is going to be by looking into my malt store to see what I have available nor do I see if I have the correct hops to carry out the process as I may indeed not use any hops. The place to start the recipe is to imagine yourself sitting down in your comfortable chair, nice and relaxed, picturing yourself drinking the final product.

STRAIGHT-UP SAISON

What’s in that glass? Is it clean and dry and sessionable with just a single strain of saccharomyces, Belgian Pils malt and a 60 minute bittering addition of whatever hops take your fancy? Or is it a little stronger, tipping over the 6.5% ABV barrier with a hint of alcohol and a lot of spice and a heavy carbonation with an effervescent head pouring over the side of the glass? Either way it should be dry as a bone and fermented near 25c, and these are basic examples of clean saccharomyces options.

BRETT SAISON

My personal favourite is Brett Saison. This is the one that can be fermented in three different ways (all of which are mid 20’s C for me) the first of which is a co-pitch or mixture of both your preferred saison strain(s) along with your preferred Brettanomyces strain(s) at the very beginning to let them work in tandem for a finished product that I would leave for a six weeks minimum and longer for enhanced Brett characteristics. I like my FG down around 1.002 (perform a forced fermentation beforehand to get a good idea of when you’re fermentation is complete) when I know I’m safe to bottle (in Champagne bottles depending on whether or not you prefer higher carbonation levels). For added funk, use green bottles. You heard me correctly and expect to see some of my saison on your shelf funking further in green bottles. Using saison strains famous for stalling mid-way through fermentation like Dupont are my favourite for co-pitching with Brett as it eliminates the famous saison stall as the Brett seems to slowly carry it through.

The second Brett saison fermentation begins with letting the saccharomyces deliver all the character by completing the majority of the attenuation itself or indeed all of the attenuation itself before adding your Brettanomyces strain to hoover up the final few gravity points. Keep in mind that this process takes longer for Brett to attenuate the residual sugars so I’d give it about four months + with monitoring once a month. Of course, wort composition, fermentation temperature and pitching rates can affect the profile so give it time and monitor once a month. Bottle or keg when happy!

The third is bottle conditioning with Brettanomyces. Ferment with your favourite saison saccharomyces strain for two weeks or until fully attenuated and prepare your favourite Brett strain for bottling day. If you have 40 bottles then have 40ml of Brett ready and add 1ml to each bottle with a pipette. Definitely use those thicker Champagne bottles for this one and always make sure your beer has finished attenuating and the FG is down to 1.002, at least that’s what I do.

SOUR SAISON

How many variations of this one have I made? Let’s say three. The first of which is to make a saison with low IBU of about 5 so as not to inhibit the lactobacillus. I wanted to find the saison strain with the highest fermentation temperature and that was WYEAST 3724 which can hit the hights of 38c without a problem. This so happens to be where lactobacillus, the souring agent, is happy out too. This makes for a stress free and quick turnaround sour saison by pitching both together at the start of fermentation at 38C. The job is done in the normal two week timeframe but you can keep an eye on the fermentation and pH and even halt the pH from dropping when you have reached your desired pH or don’t want it too sour by adding a dose of your preferred dry hops to the mix.

The second way is as per above but with the addition of Brettanomyces in a co pitch with the sacch or at the end of fermentation. Give it months, not for the souring but fermentation and depth of character.

The third is blending. Make your favourite version of any of the above saison from the clean or Brett section above but in a separate vessel you can make the sour saison and blend it with the clean in a third vessel and age. You can also make up about 8 litres of DME starter and sour it and ferment it fully with your saison strain and blend this to one of your clean saison. Blending! You can choose your desired pH level on your saison and The Mad Fermentationist Michael Tonsmeire has a calculator out there to aid you with gravity reading, pH, IBU, colour etc. whilst performing your blend of two or three beers depending on what your end goal is.

The fourth is adding lacto and Brett after the clean fermentation and this one could be a 12 month turnaround beer with nice subtle tartness.

Saison eh, and there was you thinking they were a one dimensional spice bag. But wait, there’s more!

WILD SAISON

The wild one is where you can incorporate your own wild yeast strain. How many variations?

The first is to use your own wild strain and call it a saison. Handy. It’s true that a lot of wild yeast give the flavour profile of typical store bought saison strains but this is not as easy as it sounds nor as easy to find. I plate and isolate individual strains and its great fun but finding a single sacch strain with massive character and the ability to bust out the blocks and ferment beer is hard but not impossible.

What’s in your wild yeast? I’ve been writing about wild yeast and wild yeast capture for a few years, see previous blogs from myself, but I’ve yet to find a wild yeast strain I would be happy to attach the saison style or profile to. The success rate for wild yeast capture is pretty small and when the end result is worth pursuing from this small success pool the final beer can still be pretty uncharacteristic. I’ve got two wild yeast strains I’ve been monitoring and trying out in various wort and hop profiles for many years to train them in acclimatising to making beer and adjusting to hops and alcohol but their flavour profile, whilst dry, is more suited to dry fruit beers or beers with white wine profiles and Nelson Sauvin or Hallertau Blanc hops.

Do you want wild yeast in your brewery and all that it contains? Are you worried about diastaticus (extremely overlooked and worth of a blog post in itself)? I’ve just armed myself with an idea for the next blog, nice one!

The second is to co-pitch your favourite saison yeast strain with your hand harvested wild yeast strain. Only you know what’s in your wild yeast but if it contains sacch, Brett, pedio and lacto you better be ageing that one for up to a year.  If your wild yeast is single sacch and suited to a hotter fermentation temperature then co-pitching with saison strain will give you a beautiful saison.

BARREL AGED SAISON

All of the above but aged in a barrel!

OPEN FERMENTATION SAISON

Make your favourite clean saison but why bother with a lid on your fermenter? Let those microbes land in and help out. Best give this one some added time. In our brewery we have open fermenters for making these exact beers.

COOLSHIP SAISON

The same as above but with the chilling and microbes landing from an overnight cooling in the coolship.

But why negate those beautiful wild microbes or taint it with saison yeast I hear you say.

Because saison.

My favourite strains dependent on desired end result are WYEAST3724 for sour with your preferred lacto source, WLP565 by itself or with any of your favourite Bretts and for light sessionable Brett saison The Yeast Bay saison Brett blend .

I’m also looking forward to incorporating all these saison into our brewery which will be open for business very soon @ Wide Street Brewing.

I guess I like to brew saison and the above are all ways I’ve attempted to brew them.

So what am I brewing this weekend?

A saison.

Thanks for reading!

Sean.

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Midlands Beer Club Meet + Brewery Tour

On Saturday 22nd of this month the Midlands Beer Club will be gathering in Skellys Bar, Ballymahon from 3pm onwards. The monthly or bi-monthly meet up rotates through different venues in the midlands from Tullamore, Athlone and this time as far as Ballymahon, Co. Longford. If you’ve not been to one of these meet-ups before then it’s not an exclusive club so feel free to join us for the first time as it’s a pretty relaxed affair drinking, talking, talking about drink and drinking until we’re not fit to be talking! The plan of attack is to meet in Skellys bar at 3pm for a beer and then venture the short walk down to our soon to be opened brewery Wide Street Brewing for 4pm to let people have a browse around and see what equipment we plan on using where myself and Carla will be on hand to answer any questions that anyone has regarding our process. Once the tour (drinking and looking at stainless steel tanks) is over (about an hour) we will head back to Skellys for the evening where the homebrewers amongst us can share around our brews for critique and enjoyment. Once again you don’t have to be a homebrewer yourself to take part. Pat in Skellys tells me he plans on having a nice array of craft beers available for purchase on the day in the bar so we can get stuck into what the bar has to offer from a beer and food perspective once the homebrew is out of the way. By all means don’t be shy so turn up and introduce yourself and sit in for a few pints at any time during the day.

 

For the short brewery tour at 4pm I also plan on having a couple of beers on tap for whoever attends. The first of which is a Brettanomyces IPA. I don’t primary ferment or co-ferment my Brett IPA’s with saccharomyces and this one is hopped with 25g/l of Nelson, Citra, Galaxy and Columbus split evenly between whirlpool and dry hop and should stabalise at 7%. All the big guns are in there so I’m looking forward to this one myself!

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Brett IPA after one week fermentation.

The second beer available on the day is a session strength 4.2% table beer in the form of a session Brett saison. I have brewed it with Brettanomyces along with a saison yeast strain in a co-pitch primary fermentation with East Kent Goldings hops. It’s only a month old but totally dried out already with noticeable mild Brettanomyces characteristics coming through with the East Kent Goldings hops dominating the flavor profile so far. It’s a beer designed to quench a thirst but would also benefit from ageing. My own personal favourite style of beer is Brett saison so this is the session strength version and a beer I plan on always having available in the brewery as  I see more and more people requesting session strength beers from me and in the pub in general.  I always love opening Brett beers months after the brew day to check in on their evolution and it’s always a positive experience.

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Brett Saison in a BrewDog glimmer. Swap in yeast for hops.

In other news I applied to the Washington University Department of Genome Sciences to avail of a small sample of Pichia Apotheca to run some trials on various wort profiles and combinations with Brettanomyces to see what it has to offer through the fermentation process but that’s a future post.

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Tiny vial with a miniscule Pichia sample.

In the background experimentation continues non-stop with various new and exciting yeast strains and whatever wild fruits my uncle sends in my direction! A sour saison recipe using The Mad Fermentationist blend recently got hit with 2kg of wild elderberries so that should be one for the festive period.

The wild yeast strain from my local woods also got bottled recently after training it for over a year and exposing it to different environments, temperatures, hopping levels and after sitting for four months in a 20 litre batch it’s finally producing the characteristics I’m looking for. It started out with banana aromatics and eventually evolved into a mild orange and pear flavour aided by Hallertau Blanc with a hint of white pepper in the background. Perfect for what I’m looking for and excited to use it in a commercial batch.

Over the weekend we moved the tanks into their final resting place and repurposed the pallets they arrived in on for a little bar and seating area.

Sample pics of where we’re at. Early days but making progress.

Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday if you can make it and if not don’t worry, we’ll have beer available for purchase soon enough!

Sean.

#thereWillBeBrett

@WideStreetBrew

Brewery Progress

It’s been a while since I checked in with an update on how things are going with regards to construction so just in case you thought there was nothing going on in the background I’ll bring you up to speed.

We don’t have our brewing license as of yet so can’t sell beer but we were invited over to Amsterdam to pour some beer as home brewers at Carnivale Brettanomyces so we’ve been busy with that for the last few weeks. We brought a Brett pale ale Citra Cascade, Belgian Brett Red with grape concentrate, Saison Sauvignon Sauvin and a 100% Beersel Brett blend Pomegranate pale tart ale. Three of these were experiments with one to go into full production as soon as we’re ready but all seemed to go down well with the festival goers in Amsterdam as the whole lot was consumed with hours to spare.

 

 

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Oedipus brewery where we had our stall. Excellent hosts. 

Carnivale Brettanomyces is where we consider our home from home and it was great to see a lot more Irish over there taking part. This year we were able to take in informative lectures from Bootleg Biology on yeast wrangling (plus Jeff brought some yeast for purchase and we got some rare The Mad Fermentationist blend),  tasting session with Burdock Brewery operating out of Toronto but who also work in conjunction with a local winery to create some of the most fantastic beer/wine hybrids I have ever tasted, informative lecture and tasting session with Trevor from De Garde on his processes, meet and greet with Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, meet and greet with the very friendly and informative Shawn from Birds Fly South based out of South Carolina producing urban farmhouse styles that I will be keeping an eye out for in future, Kent Falls, Burial, Speciation, Funk Factory, Yazoo, Nevel,  Trillium etc. etc. the list could go on forever. It’s a chance to see what the alternative progressive scene in U.S.A. is like as these are beers and breweries we rarely get a chance to sample, not to mention the wealth of talent already available in Europe. It really is a festival for catching up with old friends and making new ones.

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Sunday dreg blend in Oedipus.

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Land & Labour tap takeover in Walhalla. Brett game on point.

Another festival we’ve also prepared a beer for is the Midlands Craft Beer Festival in Don’s Bar, Moate on the 14th of July.  It’s also another festival we can’t charge money for beer at so we’ll have one keg and one keg only and when it’s gone it’s gone! The beer has been ageing away nicely for about three months now and is fermented with two different saccharomyces strains of yeast and six different Brettanomyces strains of yeast with some added herb and dried fruit and should be a sign of things to come from us in the future.

But who cares about all that right? What people want are the action shots of this new brewery!

 

I’ll just provide a few pictures of where we’re at on the build to give you an idea of the space we’re working with and try and provide some further detail. First and foremost we needed to dig up those old floors. Drainage and angled floors is where it’s at in a brewhouse and we had the highly skilled DJK Carpentry taking care of the whole fit-out with expert care and precision.

 

You could eat your dinner off that brand new cement floor.

Slightly raised and brand new concrete floor across the whole building with the brew house side on the right complete with slight gradient for drainage.

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Warm room for bottle conditioning at the back left of the premises.

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New tanks we’re excited to get brewing on which include all single skin and dish bottom stainless steel 1500 litre kettle, 850 litre mash tun which will hopefully double up as a whirlpool for IPA’s with slight modification and a lot of labour on brew-day, 1000 litre cold liquor tank, 1000 litre hot liquor tank, 3 x 1000 litre open fermenters and a small CIP kit for cleaning and sterilizing with various pumps and hoses.

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Left to right: 3 FV, HLT, CLT, BK, MT. < get with the jargon.

All the above tanks will be positioned against the wall where the photo was taken. Nothing too hi-tech but we’re excited to put this system to use and to get some Brett beers on the market in Ireland.  Missing from the photos and yet to arrive is the glycol system for keeping the temperatures of the beers where we want them during fermentation, heat exchanger to cool the wort on the way to the fermenter and our bottling and capping machines. The bulk of the work is done and we’re happy with the progress being made so stick with us for another few months and we’ll have some beer on the shelves for you all.

Thanks for reading,

Sean.

Wide Street Brewing Company Limited

This is blog post I’ve been waiting about 18 months to post as this week we have signed the lease on our new premises for our brewery Wide Street Brewing Company Limited which will be a very short walk from the centre of Ballymahon town in south Co. Longford. The brewery name comes from the fact that Ballymahon has a very wide street, not the widest, just wide and we want to make a connection between the brewery and our home town. Continue reading “Wide Street Brewing Company Limited”

Yeast Wrangling: The Importance of Yeast

I recently purchased Pete Browns Miracle Brew book and a line in it reminded me I was to post about wrangling my own yeast. It was mentioned in the book that when the vast majority of people were asked about the ingredients of beer hops seemed to have been the number one reply with malt a distant second and water and yeast completely forgotten about. Continue reading “Yeast Wrangling: The Importance of Yeast”

How did you make that sour beer?

The majority of sour beer brewed in Ireland at the minute has been brewed by a technique called kettle-souring. There are exceptions like The White Hag, Otterbank and more recently Land & Labour. Kettle souring enables a brewery to get a sour beer on the market in the same time-frame it takes to make a conventionally brewed beer and therefore leads to a quick turnaround and no beer sitting in tanks and wooden barrels for months and years on end taking up space in which another beer could be made. It is also cleaner and a risk-free way of making a sour beer due to the lactobacillus being boiled off before going into the fermenter. Continue reading “How did you make that sour beer?”

#Hagstravaganza & What is Brett?

A new and very high bar has been set for craft beer festivals by The White Hag brewery in Sligo. The purpose of this blog is for beer travel and my own wild/brett brewing but I reckon I can tie the two together after what I’ve witnessed at this festival. Over 60 beers from various European breweries were pouring at this event and for the first time at a festival in Ireland I didn’t feel the need to focus on IPA drinking for the day as there was an abundance of the beers I tend to favour like saison and Brett beers, which is testament to the diversity that this festival provided. Continue reading “#Hagstravaganza & What is Brett?”