April 8, 2011

Dogtails Noel -- winter saison

Last year I wrote about my saison "Dogtails" http://homebrewingfun.blogspot.com/2010/11/dog-tails-saison-recipe.html that I fermented with a culture borrowed from a bottle of Foret, a saison produced by the folks at Dupont. Early Dogtails had a sort of unenjoyable sour aftertaste. Not the sort of tart sour one finds in a lambic or oud bruin. Just something really out there. The weird aftertaste mellowed out and Dogtails became a very pleasant saison.

Since saison is a good summer beer I left my remaining bottles tucked away for this season. I was surprised to find that there was some refermentation in the bottles. I suspected brett. Sure enough, I popped open a bottle to find it excessively carbed with the unmistakable brett brux flavors. It is actually really delicious. In many ways it reminds me of my wild ale, but with more saison flavor.

It reinvigorated an idea I had over the winter to do a winter warmer -- a "noel" type beer. I wanted to do a winter saison, but since I  didn't start thinking about it until the end of the winter it was a little late to give it time to age. I wanted to age out the saison with some wintery spices so it would be nice and mellow come winter. Upon discovering the brett in my saison I decided it would make for a really interesting winter warmer. I have yet to see a brett winter warmer!

I modified my saison recipe to remove the typical vienna-wheat-pilsner combination to go pilsner-wheat-munich to get some darker color and richer caramel flavors. I also added some cinnamon for some winter-style flavor. I also have been experimenting with making my own candi syrups and sugars. I made a small amount of a very dark, toffee-ish syrup that sounded like it would blend really well into this recipe. I also added some honey to get additional dryness and a hint of honey flavor. I intend to let it age until early November in primary and then I will add some oak for a week or two and then bottle it for opening around Thanksgiving time. Talk about a complex beer. Here's the base recipe in my typical one gallon fashion:

Grain bill:
1lb Pilsner
.75lb Munich
.25lb Wheat malt

Mashed at 154F

Boil additions (90 minute boil):
.4oz Fuggles at 90 minutes
.50lb dark homemade syrup at 10 minutes
.25lb honey at 10 minutes
.13oz Fuggles at 5 minutes
1/2 tsp cinnamon at 5 minutes

Fermented with Foret culture.

Estimated ABV: 8.49%
IBUs 30.4

According to beersmith, using D2 in place of the homemade syrup the beer should be 32.6 SRM, which is extremely dark. I can assure you it is nowhere near that dark. The syrup seemed to have very little effect on the color. It is about the color of newcastle, which is still dark for a saison but much lighter than I expected. The cinnamon amount is probably too little to taste but if it adds a hint of character that will work for me.

I guess I will check back in on this beer in seven months.

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