Spring at last, spring at last! As we shook off winter’s (mild) chill, we began to plan for a busy summer. We spent most of spring planning for a summer of parties, events, festivals, and brewing beer. In a bout of optimism about the warming weather, we brewed our first saisons. Same basic wort, pitched with two different yeasts – Wyeast Farmhouse and Wyeast Belgian Saison. The results were as varied as you can imagine and revealed two very different beers. Because of the temperature swings in early spring, fermentation was a challenge. Saisons like warmth. They traditionally are distinctive specialty beers from the Belgian province of Hainuat. These beers were originally brewed in the early spring for summer consumption, though contemporary Belgian saisons are brewed all year round with pale malts and are well dosed with complimentary hop varieties. We used traditional Noble hop varietals including Kent Golding and Styrian Golding – both traditional in the making of Saison beer. We’d been fermenting in the cellar and temperatures at the time were in the upper 60’s and low 70’s. The process started out great until, after about 10 days, the Belgian stalled out before completing fermentation. The Farmhouse kept plugging away, with the hungry little yeasts gobbling up all of the available sugar food they could. When her sister, the Belgian, stopped moving, we took it out of the cellar, put it into a warmer environment and later, dumped Wyeast American Ale Yeast into the fermenter to clear it before bottling.
The 2 yeast strains produced very different yeast strains. Each had a different evolution in time. Fascinating. What goes with it was people’s reaction to the different yeast strains. There as preference with the different yeast strains.
The Farmhouse ended up having a bit more ‘funk’. It was full of banana and clove. Typical flavors of farmhouse saisons that could be varied – malt profile, hop bitterness and aroma or yeast expression – delivering a more rugged and variable beer, typical of the style. Farmhouse saisons change so much from brewer to brewer – the delight of the craft beer enthusiast! The sweet and spicy flavors resonated with our ‘test group’. People still ask when were going to make it again!
When the Belgian finally came around and cleared out, it was much drier and cleaner. It was elegant. There was a more pronounced dry malt taste. With all of the turbid beers currently on the market, we happily presented a Saison that had a more traditional look, feel, and taste. A sophisticated beer that we will definitely be brewing again.
There is no right way to do it – Saison is a funny animal. So changeable with so few variables. However, everyone found a flavor. Tasters preference was subjective – we heard lots folks talk about lots of different flavors, food they wanted to eat with it, friends they wanted to share it with, people they knew that would like it. Also, no one was disappointed. Its new, its fresh. Its one of the great truths inmaking different beers, everyone can find their flavor, the place, and beer they want to drink.