January 20, 2012

New Dogtails Brett Saison, Now With Apricots

This week I am starting up a very beloved beer in my house -- Dogtails. Dogtails is my brett saison. It develops a very clean brett flavor, not too musty or fecal-y, with a nice saison backdrop. (The original post about this beer is here.) Thanks to the brett it takes about nine months for this beer to stabilize although the brett always seems to find something new to consume in the bottle so most bottles end up with some serious carbonation. I need to let this batch age as long as it needs to so I can avoid the excess carbonation. Plus, the beer continues to get a better flavor over time.

This time I am making a two gallon batch but I'm making some tweaks to the recipe and process to make a more complex beer. A key change is that I'm going to dump this beer on some apricots during the summer to turn this batch into a nice apricot brett saison. I'm planning on adding 1-1.5 pounds per gallon. I currently have a hefeweizen on apricots that needs to get bottled soon so I'll see how prominent the half pound per gallon tastes in that and make adjustments for the saison.

There are two really big changes I'm making to this beer, inspired by the very interesting book Farmhouse Ales. First, the ABV is getting dropped from a sturdy 7.11% to a more quaffable 5%. Farmhouse Ales discusses how saisons used to be session beers and the "super saisons" we are more familiar with in the 6-9% range are less traditional. I'm not really concerned with the traditional-ness of my beer but after drinking that 4% saison at Funkwerks in Colorado I decided maybe an easier drinking saison would be worth trying. So while I realize 5% is still a touch higher than it could be I feel like this is a good transition point for this beer (although after adding fruit and brett it will probably go back towards 7%).

Second, the book discusses how saisons would likely have some sourness -- as in tart -- thanks to imperfect storage allowing lacto infections. So in order to mimic that touch of sourness I am doing a sour wort on 1/7 of the boil volume. This amounts to half a gallon, which is the easiest way for me to sour wort since I can do it in a growler and really limit oxygen exposure. Although I am sour worting a big portion of the final product I am only souring for about 24 hours so it won't have a chance to get too sour. I think this is also a great fit with a bretted saison since brett will do interesting things with the acids and other flavor components left behind by lactobacillus.

Additionally I am tweaking the grist. When I first brewed this beer it was mostly pilsner with a noticeable vienna addition and some white wheat for body, flavor and haze. The Dogtails Noel I brewed last year for a winter saison deleted the vienna for munich and dropped the pilsner for a bigger munich addition. I liked the munich for the caramel flavor that paired with the cinnamon and homemade candy syrup but I am a big vienna fan so it's coming back as a bigger percentage of grist. I dropped the wheat a little to add some caravienne for a little more flavor complexity. The grain bill (for two gallons) reads:

2.75 lb pilsner
4oz vienna
2oz white wheat
2oz caravienne

There will also be a sugar addition in the boil that makes up another 10% of the grist. Depending on how this turns out I'll contemplate another increase in vienna but this time reduce the pilsner further. I also went with a Belgian pilsner malt over the American pilsner malt I have been using. I'm curious to see how much of a difference it will make in flavor. Some people rave about Belgian and French malts, other people say there's no significant difference.

I also intend on changing up the spice additions. Instead of just coriander I am going to make a coriander addition and a black pepper addition to enhance the spiciness of the saison yeast. The fuggles used in the original recipe are getting swapped out for Kent Goldings. The previous five minute addition is getting dropped for a slightly larger bittering addition. After aging for months there's just not a lot of hop aroma to get. Plus I would rather get aroma from the fruit and spices.

So in case you want to see the full recipe it looks like this:

Two gallon batch. Scale as necessary.

2.75lb Belgian pilsner
4oz Vienna
2 oz white wheat malt
2oz caravienne

Prepare mash of 8oz of grain with a mash in the 140Fs and sparge as usual. Bring to boil, chill to 120F and add raw grain in a container with low oxygen exposure. Keep warm for 24 hours.

Mash and sparge remaining grains on brew day as usual. In boil kettle add sour wort to obtain full boil volume of 3.5 gallons. Boil 90 minutes with the following additions:

0.70oz Kent Goldings (4.5%) at 90 minutes
0.3oz Kent Goldings (4.5%) at 20 minutes
7oz table sugar at 10 minutes
1 tsp crushed coriander at 1 minute
1/2 tsp black pepper (crushed or ground) at 1 minute

Cool and pitch dogtails yeast culture (add saison strain plus brett brux). Ferment in low 70Fs. Age for nine or more months with 2-3lb apricots that have been frozen, thawed and sliced around 5-6 months. Continue aging as necessary.


  1. Sour mash for a Saison Brett. Cool idea. I've started making my saison's either Saison Brett's or Saison's with Flanders/Lambic bugs so they sour. I like the idea of doing the sour mash to accomplish that.



  2. An updated tasting on this beer at http://homebrewingfun.blogspot.com/2012/09/a-couple-tastings-over-weekend.html. Sour mashing worked excellent but less happy about the brett flavor and incredibly long delay getting to a good place with it.