Mt. Rainer Smash — Tasting

Mt Ranier Smash

The recipe for this beer is here.

I fermented the beer at 67F with a temperature control device.  After 8 days, I added 1 oz of the pellets as a dryhop.  The beer then sat for 2 weeks before I could get it kegged.  The final gravity is 1.012, with a IBU/FG ratio of 3.5.  It is 5.2% ABV.  The beer was force carbonated.

Appearance:  Straw colored beer, hazy, almost looks like a hefe weizen.

Aroma:  Slight fruitiness to the beer, green apple and banana both at lower levels, followed by a floral and a bit spicy hop note.

Taste:  Slight, malt sweetness, a bit grassy and green, followed by an earthy bitterness.  There is more of the green apple taste on the back with a hint of the banana, with a spicy bitterness in the aftertaste, pretty smooth.  It leaves the mouth dry, and a touch tart.

Mouthfeel:  coats the mouth well, feels full in the mouth, but leaves a slight drying sensation at the end.

Critique:  First off, the hops.   The hops aroma reminded me of Saaz but the taste has a bit of Golding to go with it.  It is a pretty clean bittering.  I did not get any of the licorice or citrus notes they talked about, it tasted…like a pretty clean noble hop.    I can see this going well anywhere you want more of a clean, spicy/fruity hop profile.  The bitterness was rather pleasant.  Next, the yeast.  Much more fruity then I was expecting.  It is not to the level of many English strains, but there was definitely some apple.  There was also banana going on, but at fairly low levels.  This gives the beer a more sweet perception, but then it actually finishes with a tartness at the end.  Interesting yeast, I doubt it will give the classic hop bite side by side with 1056, but if you want a bit of fruitness in your beers, without going as far as many of the English strains, this would work well.  It actually kinda reminds me a bit of WLP 007, but that had more apple, and less banana then this strain.  I should qualify, those flavors are there, but in the back, they are not overbearing or dominating.  Finally, the grain.  Well, it is pilsnery, without as much of the grassy sweetness.  It is just kinda there in my opinion.  I would make a decent base to play off specialty malts as I think it is a pretty clean palate, but overall, if I wanted to make a pale beer, I would use Pilsner for its sweetness and green flavors, just more interesting.  So, at the end of the day, I have a light colored, well bittered blond ale with some nice fruity esters to keep it interesting that ends fairly dry with a touch of tartness.  A step up from your typical lawnmower beer, I can see this guy going down easily after a day of yardwork.

American IPA, 3 hops, 2 yeasts, 1 wort — tasting

The recipe for this beer is here.

I had a chance to try the IPA’s side by side.  A note before we begin.  I am still working on my mashing process with the HERMs system I built, and yeah, well, I must have screwed it up.  I ended up with a very dextrinous wort.  The finishing gravity on both was 1.025.  Yeah, bummer.  Unfortunately, this has left me with a heavier beer then I intended.  I chalk this up to learning a new process, but I was still miffed it ended this way.  I guess this just means I will have to try again in the future!  The biggest problem is, I don’t really like sweet and heavy with my IPA’s.  I prefer drier beers generally, but particularly in the IPA, which is supposed to highlight the hop.  I have a hard time doing that with too much malt.  Also, I wanted to see how much hop character I could get without dryhopping this beer.  Dryhopping, what used to be a rarity less then 10 years ago, seems to be the norm now.  I now drink a pale ale or an IPA, and if I don’t get smacked in the face with hops, it seems off.  So, this was a bit of a challenge to see how much hops I could get just from kettle additions.

Tasting Notes

WLP 028

Appearance: hazy golden color, well carbonated, hangs on

Aroma: Spicy, herbal hop, some pine and apple

Taste: sweet full maltiness at first, immediately followed by a strong bitterness.  Some apple and some darker fruit esters.   Beer is more hop forward, but there is a malty note in the aftertaste to balance the hops

Mouthfeel:  Full body to the beer, but the hops give a drying sensation on the cheeks.

Wyeast 1056

Appearance:  Hazy golden color, about 2 fingers on the head, dropped a bit faster.  Not as carbonated as WLP 028

Aroma:  citrus, floral, spicy hops.  some malt

Taste:  touch of malt, but quickly moves to a very bitter taste from the hops.  No esters noted.  Hops pop out, and it lends to a fairly dry finish.  The hops outlast the malt on the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel:  Medium body, prickly on the tongue.

Critique:  Wow, what a difference the yeast makes.  What impressed me most was the difference in how the hop and malt were balanced.  I felt the WLP028 gave a more balanced beer.  The malt profile was there, but so were the hops.  You also get more esters from it, it is not as clean as the 1056.  However, even though the final gravity was the same in both, it tasted sweeter and fuller, more in keeping with what I would expect from a 1.025 FG beer.  The 1056 has a way of hiding that sweetness.  It accentuates the hops much more, and the citrus note really popped on this beer, where I got more of the pine and herbal notes on the 028.  I would be curious to see which I liked more if I had not mashed too hot.  The hops pop much more on the tongue with the 1056.  It is definitely very clean, I did not get really any esters at all.  However, I am worried the 1056 may actually have made the beer seem too thin, without enough malt to hold up to the hops.  Only way to know would be to retry.  In the end, I concede 1056 is the yeast for the hophead.  They just jump out at you with this yeast, and it gets out of the way to let the other ingredients do their thing.  However, the WLP028 had a nice hop aroma and taste, not as bright, but it definitely was more balanced with the malt.  I can see this being a great yeast where you want more malt expression, but it still plays well with the hops.

As far as the hops go, I liked this blend.  Very “American” but it gives a wide range of hop flavors and aroma that work well with each other.  I will likely play with it a bit, I would like more of a citrus presence, but I think this is a solid starting point for a very classic American hop signature.  There is lots of hops on the nose and on the tongue, but you miss that brightness you get from dryhopping.

Bitter #5

Bitter #5

I have a friend who just turned 50.  His wife is throwing a big bash at his house.  He grew up just west of London, and “proper bitter” is one of the things he misses from home.  He will have several family members visiting from the UK as well, and my gift to him for the party is a “proper pint of bitter.”  He is part of my regular tasting victims, er, I mean panel, so I have a fairly good idea of what he likes.  Nice malt body, decent bitterness in the back and on the palate, nice subtle hop aroma, and “none of those catty, piney American hops.”

For the recipe, I went with a pretty straight forward 90/10 build on the malt bill of 2 row pale malt and crystal.  I also had run out of Kent Golding, so I used some Willamette whole leaf hops I had in the freezer.  There is a new home brew store in my town, and I popped in to grab some malt and check the place out.  Unfortunately, he is just getting started, and while the shop owner is a homebrewer, he extract brews and did not really grasp the importance of good base malts.  He did have some Crisp 2 row pale in a 10# sack, but it was pre ground.   I bought it anyway because I needed it, but I have no idea how long it has been in the bag.  He told me just a few weeks in the store, but at the distributor, no idea. I always grind my own grain, and have gotten used to how my mill works, but I had no idea how good the grind would be on this.  However, I was in a bit of a pinch, so I bought it and gave it a try.

8.00 lb       Pale Malt, Crisp                Grain        91.43 %
0.50 lb       Caramel/Crystal Malt Muntons (60.0 SRM)           Grain        5.71 %
0.25 lb       Caramel/Crystal Malt Dark Simpsons (150.0 SRM)     Grain        2.86 %
1.50 oz       Williamette [4.50 %]  (60 min)           24.8 IBU
0.50 oz       Williamette [4.50 %]  (30 min)           5.8 IBU
0.50 oz       Williamette [4.50 %]  (15 min)            3.7 IBU
1 Pkgs        London Ale III (Wyeast Labs #1318)        Yeast-Ale

Simple infusion mash at 155F for 1 hour, finished at 152F.  Batch sparged with 6 gallons of 168F water in 2 stages.  The OG was 1.042, giving me a 73% efficiency.  I was not thrilled by this, but it was in the ballpark, I was shooting for 1.045.  This beer will have 33.9 IBU’s with a IBU/GU ration of 0.759.  I had made a 2 L start with London Ale III, and pitched that after aerating the wort with oxygen.  I let it ferment for 2 weeks, ambient was about 66F, and the FG was 1.012.  The beer ended at 3.8% ABV.  I then racked off the beer to a keg, and I added about 1/4 oz of Williamette leaf hop to the keg.


Color:   hazy orange color, has a nice head that just hangs on.

Aroma:  Nice, spicy and a bit earthy hop nose, with some of the dark fruit esters (cherry) in the back, along with some of the crystal malt.  On the back, you get more of the toasty aroma from the grain

Taste:  toasty malt up front, then you get a touch of sweetness that is quickly washed away by a firm bittering at the backend.  There is a spicy quality I think is from the Williamette.  Finishes with a mouth cleaning bitterness, and a slight prickly from the carbonation.  Medium mouthfeel, coats the mouth, but is not thick.

Critique:  I am pretty happy with this beer.  It is actually more bitter and hoppy then I had anticipated, but I really like the Williamette.  There is a nice spiciness and roundness to the hop, and a clean bitterness that makes it very easy to drink.  I did not get as much of the fruit from the yeast as I usually have, and I think it is because the beer was fermented at cooler temperatures then I usually do.  Overall, the net effect is the same, a very easy to drink, refreshing beer that is low gravity.  I will be curious to see how the Englishman take it, my guess it is going to be a touch hoppier then they prefer, but the Yanks will dig it!

Post-Mortum — The beer was universally well received at the party.  Probably 15 people tried it, and most went back for more.  This just cements for me that a nice Bitter is one of the best crowd pleasers out there.  I got the keg back with dregs.  The nice thing about that is, now I have to fill it again!

Brew Day — Mt. Ranier SMASH

I was at a local store, and they had a hop I was not familiar with, .  I like the descriptions I saw, more Noble, with hints of citrus and licorice.  I am always looking for new hops to try, particularly outside of the usual “C” hops, just to see what else is out there.  As this is a new hop for me, I decided to make as simple beer, that will really highlight the hops.  I also took this opportunity to try two other ingredients for the first time.  The first up is by Muntons.  Basically, it is the English version of Pilsner, and thought it would be fun to try.  It is pretty light in color, and has more of a grassy note then I usually taste in British malts, but not as pronounced as say a German Pilsner.  To up the complexity a bit, I toasted 1# of the malt at 350F for 10 minutes, just enough to have it start to become aromatic.  This malt lost that grassy taste, and had a touch more of the toasty sweetness.  It did not darken much at all, so I don’t think this will impact the beer much.

First pint out of the kettle, allowed to settle

I usually take the first pint off the kettle when racking to the fermentor to do my gravity testing, and to let it sit to see it clear.  Looking at how it separated, the beer will be a nice golden color.

Finally,  I wanted to try a new yeast.  I have never tried , but the description of soft, clean, nutty, and slightly tart sounded like a winner.  I also wanted to bring out the hops more, so I adjusted my water with gypsum and salt to to 154ppm Sulfate and 71 ppm chloride.

9.00 lb       Lager Malt (2.0 SRM)                      Grain        90.00 %
1.00 lb       Toasted Malt (27.0 SRM)                   Grain        10.00 %
1.25 oz       Mt. Ranier [6.10 %]  (60 min)             Hops         25.5 IBU
0.75 oz       Mt. Ranier [6.10 %]  (30 min)             Hops         11.8 IBU
0.50 oz       Mt. Ranier [6.10 %]  (15 min)             Hops         5.1 IBU
1.50 oz       Mt. Ranier [6.10 %]  (0 min) (Aroma Hop-StHops          -
1 Pkgs        American Ale II (Wyeast Labs #1272)       Yeast-Ale

The beer was infusion mashed.  I did not use the HERM’s this time, and I let it mash at 153F and drift down to 145 over 75 minutes.  I then sparged, and collected 8.1 gallons of wort. This was boiled for 60 minutes, with the hops added as above.  The last hop addition was at flameout, with a 5 minute recirc without the chiller, then I turned on the chiller to bring the temp down to under 100F in about 20 minutes.  I then shut off the pump, let it sit 30 minutes, then racked into my carboy.  OG was 1.052, with a IBU/SG ratio of .083.   Yeast was pitched from a 1L starter, the fermentation temp is set at 67F.

Tasting notes posted here.

Brew Day — American IPA, 3 Hops, 2 Yeasts, 1 Wort

American IPA split between two yeasts

I recently brewed a batch of beer with .  I had used this beer in my British yeast experiment, and I thought it may make a nice “clean” beer yeast.  Now, I was drinking this compared to 4 other very flavorful yeasts, so my perceptions could have been skewed.  I had also seen how much a yeast can either accent or suppress hop expression, and according to White Labs, WLP 028 is not supposed to suppress the hops like many British strains do.   So, I set up a side by side, where the same IPA will be fermented with WLP 028, and , pretty much the gold standard of clean ale yeasts.

The other piece to this is that I wanted to try some different hop combinations.  Specifically, I wanted to get away from tons of super fruity and citrusy hops such as Cascade, Simcoe, Sorachi and Centennial.  Instead, I was looking for the more herbal, and darker tasting hops, something with some resin, but did not smell too much like marmalade.  I picked out Chinook for its piney notes, Nugget for its more savory/herbal notes, and Columbus, which when I first smelled it, seemed to have quite a bit of spearmint to go with some lighter citrus.  I have used Nugget in the past as a bittering hop, but not much for flavor and aroma, and I have never used Chinook or Columbus before.  I also decided to add these hops in a rotating fashion throughout the brew, hoping to layer the flavors.  I also wanted to focus more on later hop additions to get more taste and aroma from the hops and less bitterness.  I additionally wanted to avoid dryhopping, just to see how much hop aroma I could get, and also because I am going to bottle condition these, so I know I am going to lose some of that bright flavor and aroma anyway.  Instead I chose to add the last addition during whirlpool at 180F.

Finally, I have very soft water.  I usually don’t do to much to my water other then dechlorinate it with campden tablets, but I did add 4g of gypsum to the boil to get some sulfites in the beer, giving me 87ppm.

The recipe is as follows:

9.00 lb       Pale Malt  (Canadian Malting 2 row)        72.00 %
2.00 lb       Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM)                          16.00 %
1.00 lb       Wheat Malt, Ger (Best Maltz)                 8.00 %
0.50 lb       Simpson’s Medium Crystal Malt           4.00 %
0.25 oz       Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %]  (60 min)   Hops         11.1 IBU
0.25 oz       Nugget [12.20 %]  (50 min)                Hops         9.2 IBU
0.25 oz       Chinook [13.00 %]  (40 min)               Hops         9.1 IBU
0.33 oz       Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %]  (30 min)   Hops         11.3 IBU
0.33 oz       Nugget [12.20 %]  (20 min)                Hops         7.8 IBU
0.33 oz       Chinook [13.00 %]  (10 min)               Hops         5.0 IBU
0.42 oz       Nugget [12.20 %]  (0 min) (Steep Hops/Whirlpool)
0.42 oz       Chinook [13.00 %]  (0 min) (Steep Hops/Whirlpool)
0.42 oz       Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %]  (0 min) (Steep Hops/Whirlpool)

The beer was mashed via an infusion at 153F.  The temp dropped to 150 before I corrected my HERM’s system and was able to bring it back up to 154F and hold it for 60 minutes.  I then mashed out at 166F.  This is my second batch with the HERM’s unit, still getting the hang of it.  The OG is 1.061.  The beer has 53.5 IBU’s with a IBU:OG ration of 0.924.  The beer was split into 2 batches, 2.5 gallons each.  I had made 1L starters of both the WLP 028 and the Wyeast 1056, and I decanted and pitched them both.  As I don’t have 2 temperature control systems for fermentation, I am going to let these guys sit next to each other in a closet in my house, which is 67F currently.

Tasting results are here.

Saison #4

Saison #4

Saisons have become my new favorite style of beer.  This is my 4th version of a classic saison (Saison #1, Saison #2, Saison #3), and this time, I wanted to brew a lower gravity version.  So many of these are made very big now, often coming in very large bottles, and that makes it hard to enjoy on a weeknight.  I was looking for a more moderate alcohol, table saison, that I could have a glass or two with dinner during the week.

I do very much like, and  have saved some on a slant so I can grow it up when I please.  I like that it tends to dry the beer out and ferment very quickly, but leaves a much more spicy, peppery note then other strains I have tried.  I also wanted to make this a simpler beer to make, so I decided to not do any dryhopping.  I was just going to do a bittering charge, and then an addition at knockout/whirlpool to see how well the hops aromatics come through with that technique.  I decided to modify my Saison #2 recipe, as I enjoyed it so much before, and thought it made a great warm weather beer.  The recipe is as below.

6.50 lb       Pale Malt (2 row) New Englander (2.0 SRM)
1.00 lb       Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM)
1.00 lb       Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM)
0.50 oz       Sorachi Ace [11.80 %]  (60 min) (First Wort Hops)         23.4 IBU
0.50 oz       Simcoe [14.10 %]  (60 min) (First Wort Hops)         25.2 IBU
0.50 oz       Sorachi Ace [11.80 %]  (0 min) (Aroma Hop — steeping)
0.50 oz       Simcoe [14.10 %]  (0 min) (Aroma Hop-steeping)
1.00 lb       Turbinado (10.0 SRM)    Sugar
Saison Blend (East Coast Yeast #8)       Yeast-Ale

OG 1.047, FG 1.009, ABV 5.3%, IBU/OG: 1.019, IBU/FG: 5.4

The grain was mashed starting at 150F via a simple infusion mash.  The temp dropped 3F over 75 minutes, and then I fly sparged and ended up with just below 8 gallons at the start of the boil.  The beer was boiled 60 minutes.  Hops were added at first wort, and at knockout on the burner.  I let the whirlpool go for 10 minutes, then I turned on the immersion chiller.  The whirlpool caused the beer to chill very quickly, and in about 15 minutes, I shut off the whirlpool, and let the beer sit for another 15 minutes, then poured the cooled wort into a 6 gallon better bottle.  The wort was aerated for 30 seconds with pure oxygen, and I added the yeast.  It was fermented at 78F for the first 3 days, then bumped up to 80F.  After 9 days, the heat was turned off, and I let this cool to ambient, 61F, over the next 5 days.  This was then racked into the keg, and force carbed.

Appearance:  Slight haze, golden color, nice head that drops in a few minutes, but leaves a nice lacing down the glass.

Aroma:  spicy jumps out, pepper and cloves, also banana.  There is some citrus peel and floral notes in the background.

Taste:  light body, some light malt at the front.  There is a slight fruity sweetness, again banana with some background citrus,  that is quickly covered by a spicy, clove, peppery bite.  It finishes very dry, and with a strong bitterness.  Very crisp.

Critique — The nose is more phenolic then I would ideally like, and the hops were more muted then in my dry hopped versions, no suprise.  The beer is also balanced too far to bitterness, and the beer is a bit harsh overall.  There is some malt, but not enough to balance this.  As I was trying to make a lower gravity, every day drinking saison, I think I would tone down the bittering hops.  The taste comes across as very dry, which I usually like, but it is too much so given the bitterness.  In the future, I will cut the IBU’s back by about 20-25%.  I do miss the brightness of the dryhops.  Not my best beer, but I learned quite a bit from it, and I think there is something here too work with.

50/50 Palisade — tasting

50/50 Palisade

For the recipe on this beer, please look here.

A few notes on the fermentation and handling of this beer.  It was in the primary for 18 days.  I set the temperature to 65F for 7 days, then upped it to 66F for another 7 days, before shutting off the heat and letting it drop to the ambient of 61F for 4 days.  I then kegged it, and force carbonated it.  It finished at a gravity of 1.010, giving me a 5.2% abv beer.  The IBU/OG ratio was 0.74, putting it much more on the bitter side, but it ended up drier then I expected, with a IBU/FG ratio of  3.6.  The attenuation was 79.4%, which was higher then I expected.  I am not sure if that is a product of the HERMs system I used to brew it, but I may mash hotter with this in the future.  On to the tasting.

Appearance:  Hazy dirty orange, it has a nice head that hangs on.

Aroma:  Spicy, floral hop aroma, which makes me think more of a European hop.  There is no citrus like many American hops, this is more along the lines of a noble German hop mixed with Goldings.  Hard to describe, but not overpowering.  I really don’t get any esters I can attribute to the yeast, but hard to tell with the hop aroma

Taste:  Toasty malty flavor.  It is fairly crisp, almost lager like, with a little bit of apple, but again, I am not sure if that is not the hop vs the yeast.  Overall, the esters are pretty clean, and there is a nice hop bitterness at the end, very smooth.  The beer is dry, goes down pretty easily.

Critique — well, I set out to make a beer that was a bit maltier but it attenuated more then I expected.  That being said, it is easy drinking.  The malt is there, but not sweet like caramel, and has more of a toasty flavor to it from the Munich malt.  I think this would make a very nice base for a brown ale, with a touch of  caramel and some light chocolate for more nutty/roasty flavors.  It is fairly bitter, but not in a hit you over the head way.  It leave a nice dry, bitterness at the end.  The yeast was pretty clean, which is what I expected, but nice to see my impressions of WLP 028 validated.  It is not a complex beer, pretty straight forward, but will go down easily with the summer weather.  I also learned that Palisade maybe a pretty versatile hop, but I think I would use it in combination with other hops, as it does not have a strong presence on its own, but I can see it playing well with others for complexity, kind of like adding vanilla extract to a recipe.

Brew Day! — 50/50 Palisade

My wife enjoys malty brown ales.  Usually reserved for the fall and winter, we happen to live in a place that when the sun goes down, it routinely will drop into the 50′s to low 60′s, even in August.  So, I decided to make a nice easy drinking, malty beer for us for when we are sitting around the fire out on the patio and enjoying the stars.

I decided to take a different approach with this then the usual brown ales, which often have some pale chocolate and some crystal as part of the grist.  I decided to make this a 50/50 beer of Best Malz Munich 1, and Briess 2 row brewers malt.  I was sorely disappointed in North American Munich malts when I made my Octoberfest, just not malty enough, so I decided to try a German maltster instead.  To get the color right, I added a touch of debittered Black malt.

The next goal I have with this beer is to try out WLP 028.  I very much enjoyed this yeast when I did my British Yeast experiment, and think it would make a great, clean house strain.  I wanted to try it out in a malt forward beer first, as that is its primary purpose, but I am going to wash this, and use it in a split batch side by side with WLP 001 to compare hop expression the next brewday.

Finally, I wanted to try .  A newer strain, they are supposed to be more English in character, so I thought they would fit well in this beer.  This beer is single hopped, so I can get a feel for what the hops will do.

Recipe as below:

5.00 lb       Munich Malt -  Best Malz 8L
5.00 lb       Briess 2 Row brewers malt
0.13 lb       Black Malt, Debittered (500.0 SRM)
1.00 oz       Palisades [8.30 %]  (60 min)              Hops         29.5 IBU
0.50 oz       Palisades [8.30 %]  (20 min)              Hops         8.9 IBU
0.50 oz       Palisades [8.30 %]  (0 min) (Aroma Hop-Steep)
1 Pkgs        Edinburgh Ale (White Labs #WLP028)        Yeast-Ale

I mashed this on my HERM’s system that I just completed.  It was nice to be able to step up to 168F for mash out.  It was mashed at 154-155F for 60 minutes, then over 15 minutes, it was brought to 168F.  I then did a fly sparge, collecting 8 gallons of 1.040 wort.  This was boiled with the hop additions as above for 60 minutes.  The aroma hops were added at flameout, I let it sit for 10 minutes, then I turned on the immersion wort chiller and the pump for whirlpool.  After 15 minutes it went from 202 F to 90 degrees (gotta love the pump/whirlpool for rapid cooling).  I then shut off the pump, let it settle for another 25 minutes while the chiller was still running, and collected the separated wort.  O.G. was 1.050, which is 75% on efficiency, pretty good, I think the recirculating during the mash helps quite a bit.

For tasting notes, please look here.

Saison de Mars — Tasting

Saison de Mars

Well, after transfer to the keg, and about 1 week of conditioning under pressure, I drew a sample to try.  The recipe for the beer is here.  This beer ended at 1.012, with an ABV of 4.95%.  This is quite a high final gravity for this strain, and likely due to the lower temperature at which it was fermented.  There was also more crystal malt in this beer then the other saisons, so this beer should have more unfermentable sugars in it.  Again, the malt bill was more in keeping with Bier de Garde, so in color and final gravity, I think we are there.  On to the tasting!

Color — cloudy, reddish brown beer.

Aroma — Lots of spiciness, cloves, some pepper.  There is also a herbal and woody/earthy note which I think is also the yeast.  You can smell some of the dark caramel and tobacco in the background.

Taste — Thinner body, I get some caramel up front, with a slight astringent dryness I taste I think from the chocolate malt.  There are some fruit esters, but more of the banana flavor then any dark fruits.  It finishes with a nice balanced bitterness, with just a touch of caramel sweetness.  There is a bit of a bite at the end, which I usually associate with wheat in beers, not sure if this is the buckwheat.

Critique — The first thing that jumps out at me is the yeast.  Even at 73F, 2 degrees below the bottom end of the recommended range of the yeast, you still get a very strong and distinct flavor profile.  The yeast is the dominant flavor, and without more hops for it to play off, it kinds of overpowers everything else.  As it warms up, I get more maltiness in the taste, but I don’t care for it as much as I did in the hoppier saison I made.  I like the maltiness, but it kind of gets lost in the yeast driven flavors, and I think I would add more aroma hops if I was to do this again.  Still, it goes down pretty easy, so we will see how this evolves over the weeks to come.  As far as the buckwheat, with the recipe, it is hard for me to say exactly what it brings to the beer.  It is quite cloudy, so I suspect that is partially the buckwheat.  I do get a bit of a bite at the end that I associate with wheat, which maybe the buckwheat, or it could be the yeast.  In the future, I will likely just use wheat flakes in the mash, as they are just easier to use.  I enjoy this beer, but there is room for improvement.  I think the take home is that this yeast strain should be really paired with fruity, hop focused beers, and downplay the malt characteristics.  Malt expression just is not a strength of this yeast, and it is such a distinct taste, you can’t tame it very well, so I guess I should just embrace it and play up to it.  Now, pair this recipe with an English ale yeast, and I think you got a nice Northern Brown on your hands.

Saison de Mars — Brewday

Saison de Mars --- aka "Mud Saison"

In Maine, we have several different seasons.  Yes, you have the standard definitions of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, but there are subseasons here that tend to really explain how things work.  The dominant season, particularly for the local economy, is “Tourist Season”.  Running from Memorial day to the End of September, this is when the population of the state doubles, and all those people come to their “camps” and “cottages” for the Summer.  They may spend time hiking the mountains, canoeing a remote river, or watching the iconic lobster boats ply their trade in the coast waters.  Everything LL Bean is selling you does exist, especially if you have the money.  It is truly glorious, the weather is warm during the day and cool at night.  No one has air conditioning, so you just open your windows and bring the outside in for those 4 months.  Next, you have “The Color”.  This is a very elusive season, running about 3-4 weeks in October.  The air turns crisp, the farmers markets are exploding with the fall harvest, and the forests turn brilliant shades of reds, yellows, and browns mixed with the retreating greens.  The “Leaf Peepers” show up in droves, driving over the backroads enjoying the view.  Now, several cruise lines have ships come into Portland and work their way up to Bar Harbor to take in the sights.  Fall is my favorite time of the year, and “The Color” is its pinnacle.   If you ask most Northerners who moved to the South what they miss about the North, I bet they will say Fall.  Then you hit Winter, which is why all the Northerners do move south.  Winter here is long, starting in December and the snow still flies well into April.  It can be brutal, not just because of the cold and snow, but because it is dark.  It is pitch black at 4:00pm at the end of December, and there are weeks where if you work 8-5, you will not see the sun except for on the weekends.  This combination of cold and dark prompted a from Geary’s.  used to be brewed only in the winter, and was released with the slogan “Available only when the weather sucks!”  It is available year round now, which I think has kind of ruined its mystique, but I still enjoy it.  This then leads up to the final season, Mud Season.  This is when the snows recede, and the plants are starting to turn green, but the ground is still frozen solid, and the water from the melted snows turns the top inch or two into a morass of primordial goo.   Mud Season is good for one reason, you have to go through it to get to Summer.

I was originally going to brew a beer for Mud season, and I thought it would be fun to play on Saison, and make a “Mud Saison”.  Well, that did not sound very appetizing, but I liked the idea, and decided to turn to Biere de Garde for inspiration.  Biere de Garde is a style of beer from northern France, on the border with Belgium.  These beers were brewed in the winter to be cellared and consumed in the warmer summer months when brewing was not very effective due the warm weather and the spoiling microbes that came with it.  A substyle of Biere de Gard is Biere de Mars, a beer brewed as a sort of “yeah, winter is over” mentality.  Biere de Garde is a maltier style, but still fairly highly attenuated, with a much cleaner yeast profile then Saisons.  Several breweries have jumped on this, and you can find examples from (which is certainly not an example of a clean beer), , and .  I decided to go for a more malt driven beer, still with a decent hop bitterness to balance it.  I selected Kent Goldings as the hop because I think it tends to meld wonderfully with richer malty flavors, and it is one of my favorites.  I also decided to use the , but ferment it as a lower temperature then the 80F I have in the past, to try to get a bit of a less estery, more spicy profile.  I wanted caramel malt for the sweetness and tobacco notes I get from the darker roasts, and pale chocolate was to bring a bit of a nutty quality to the beer.    For an added twist, I did a cereal mash with 2# of raw buckwheat I got from the local whole foods store.  Buckwheat is a traditional food in the northern part of Maine, particularly among the people of French decent.  I wanted to see what that would bring to the table.  I also decided to shoot for a lower gravity then would be traditional for a Biere de Garde, because ECY 08 is a very high, 90%+ attenuator, and I did not want a 7.5% beer.

The recipe is as follows:

7.00 lb       Pale Malt (2 Row) Malteurop (1.8 SRM)     Grain        70.00 %
2.00 lb       Buckwheat – raw                      Grain        20.00 %
0.25 lb       Caramel/Crystal Malt (50.0 SRM)           Grain        2.50 %
0.25 lb       Caramel/Crystal Malt 150L (150.0 SRM)     Grain        2.50 %
0.25 lb       Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM)                Grain        2.50 %
0.25 lb       Chocolate, Pale (225.0 SRM)               Grain        2.50 %
1.50 oz       Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %]  First Wort Hops  26.8 IBU
1.0 oz       Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %]  Flamout  Hops         0.8 IBU
1 Pkgs        Saison Blend (East Coast Yeast ##8)       Yeast-Ale

The mash was odd.  It is very cold, and my insulated cooler could not maintain temps in my garage, where I brew.  I went from a mash in temperature of 154F down to 144F in 1 hour.  I usually expect a drift of 3-4 degrees over the hour, but this was excessive.  To compensate, I took 1 gallon of water, brought it to a boil, and added it to the mash to bring the temp back up to the low 150′s, and let it sit another 15 minutes.  In retrospect, I probably should have just tested to see if mashing was done with iodine.  Anyway, this was sparged, and after a 60 minutes boil, I added the flame out hops, let them sit in the hot wort for 10 minutes, then whirlpooled and chilled.  In the end I got 5.25 gallons of clear wort at a gravity of 1.050.  I aerated, and pitched the yeast from a 1500 mL starter that I built during the week from a slanted yeast specimen.  I use an and a Ranco, which doubles as my HLT temperature controller, to maintain a constant fermentation temperature in the winter.  My basement is currently 53F.  In this case, I set it for 73F, let it go for 4 days, and after primary started to calm down, I turned it up to 75F.  That is the bottom end of this yeasts suggest range, so I hope to let it finish out but keep it on the smoother side…if that is possible for a Saison.


Edit 3/4/12 — The tasting notes can be found here.


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