July 22, 2014

NYE Saison Recipe & Brewday

Last year my wife and I spent New Years Eve with a group of friends who are nice folks but not the beer geeks that we are. Nonetheless, we decided it was a good time to break open our three liter bottle of Chimay Gran Reserve from 2010. Not only was it hilarious to pour but it was fantastic. That beer ages brilliantly. This group is primarily a wine and liquor group but we are slowly teaching them to love good beer. I decided for this NYE I wanted to pop open some homebrew and a wine-like saison would be a good crossover beer with some gentle oak notes and a little chardonnay from some oak cubes I have been aging on chardonnay for a few months. I am brewing the beer now so it will have some aged character to it. Saisons age well, especially when they do not rely too heavily on hops. Hops tend to fade and sometimes that can fade into a bland or unpleasant flavor. We recently opened a three year old bottle of Ommegang Hennepin that we kept forgetting to open and it was unexpectedly pleasant. All of that in mind, this beer will get some dry hops before going into the bottle.

The vision is of a beer with some noticeable oak and Chardonnay character mixed into the fruit/spice yeast profile with the fruity esters and wine flavors balancing the dryness of the beer with some grassy/spicy/citrus hop character laid over it. A mix of forest and wine country. A good beer all around but a fine opportunity to present a beer that will appeal to other kinds of drinkers. The recipe is one part inspiration from Firestone Walker's Lil Opal and one part using up leftover ingredients I already owned. Like Lil Opal, it is primarily based on pilsner and a mix of malted and unmalted wheat but I am going for a more complex hop flavor with a mix of newer European hops that offer an interesting take on the traditional noble character. These kind of leftover beers are nice when brewing on a small scale because it's cheaper to buy grain by the pound than the ounce which results in a library of several ounces of various grain that beg for use. By keeping around some excess base malt I can sneak in a spare beer here and there at a very low cost since I am saving money by buying grain by the pound. I've wanted to do a saison with some chardonnay character for a while, so all in all this beer is a great excuse to accomplish several goals. Let's get to it.

NYE Saison Recipe

Batch size: 1 gallon
Est. ABV: 8.5%
Est. OG: 1.079
Est. FG: 1.015
SRM: 5.2
IBU: 38

The Mash

RO water used for mash and sparge.

Single infusion mash of 3.91qt at 155.2F for 145F rest for 60 minutes.
Decoct 0.80 qt and bring to boil. Return to mash for 156F rest for 30 minutes.
Batch sparge with 1 gallon of water at 180F. Mash PH: 5.4

Mash water additions:

Gypsum: 0.4g
Epsom salt: 0.4g
Calcium chloride: 0.3g

Sparge water additions:

Gypsum: 0.5g
Epsom salt: 0.4g
Canning salt: 0.1g
Calcium chloride: 0.3g
Lactic acid: 0.5ml

The Grain Bill

72.4% 2 lb. 3 oz. Belgian Pilsner malt (2 SRM)
10.6% 5 oz. German Pilsner malt (2 SRM)
8.3% 4 oz. Wheat malt (2 SRM)
4.3% 2 oz. Unmalted wheat (1.6 SRM)
4.3% 2 oz. Munich malt (9 SRM)

The Boil

90 minute boil

0.17 oz. Belma [12.10%] at 90 minutes (35.4 IBU)
0.10 oz. Celeia [4.5%] at 10 minutes (2.6 IBU)
0.15 oz. Opal [6.5%] at 0 minutes (0 IBU)

The Fermentation

Fermented with 0.7 package of 3711. Pitch at 70F and free rise to 85F. Hold until fermentation ends. Add 0.25 oz. medium oak cubes soaked in chardonnay. Age until November. Dry hop with 0.10 oz. Celeia and 0.15 oz. Aurora. Bottle to 3.0 volumes CO2.

Brewday & Fermentation Notes

Brewed 7/22/14
First runnings: 1.082
Pre-boil gravity: 1.045
Pre-boil volume: 1.8 gallons
Mash efficiency: 77.6%
Post-boil volume: 1 gallon
Post-boil gravity: 1.080
Efficiency: 72.6%

Pitched 1/3 smack pack of 3711 at 75F. Held temp at 75F for 16 hours then free rise to 85F for remainder of fermentation.

Final gravity reading 8/3/14: 1.011. 86% Attenuation. Fruity and spicy, as expected. Hops and yeast come through clearly. Nice distinct flavor profile. Excited to see how this one ages out. Plan on adding oak in 1-2 weeks.

9/10/14: Added approximately two ounces of chardonnay that has soaked on medium oak chips for eighteen months. Beer is delicious and clear. Chardonnay is extremely oaky so it should dilute well. Will retaste at bottling in early November to see if it needs more wine.

11/22/14: Bottled without dry hopping. Wine flavor is nicely integrated. Complex fruity flavor over grainy malt. Decided beer was sufficiently complex to skip dry hopping. Reminded me of River North's chardonnay barrel aged J. Marie saison. FG: 1.007 and apparent attenuation 91.25%. (Certain wine played a role in the FG but not sure how much.) ABV at 9.4%.

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