Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Great Saison Experiment: 8 Strains - Part 2

Part 1 Malt, Hops, Mash ....Continued

So with the malt bill and hopping already covered we can move onto the part that matters the most for Saison - Yeast. There are several yeast forward beer styles (hefeweizen, wit, all other French/Belgian beers with the exception of Biere de Garde), but Saison stands out. The malt and hops just provide a foundation (mouthfeel, background flavors) for the yeast derived flavors to build on. So for me the most important ingredient for my Saison is what yeast I use.  My next step was to hunt down the best yeasts. I did some important research and narrowed down my choices to 8. (I may do another round next month because there are more I want to try - many more)

No yeast was (directly) bought in the making of this beer
  1. French Saison Wyeast 3711 - harvested from last year's French Saison - 5 gal batch
  2. Saison Dupont - harvested from a 750 ml - 5 gal batch
  3. Brett Drie - used yeast cake from ESBrett - 5 gal btach
  4. ECY03 - 1/2 vial (birthday gift from a homebrew friend) - 1 gal batch - If anyone knows more about the actual yeasts in the blends please leave a comment.
  5. ECY08 1/2 vial (birthday gift from a homebrew friend) - 1 gal batch -  If anyone knows more about the actual yeasts in the blends please leave a comment.
  6. Lost Abbey Red Barn - harvest from a very fresh 750 ml -  1 gal batch -  hope it's the same yeast as Carnevale which is sweeping competitions this year.
  7. Southampton Saison Deluxe - harvested from a 1 yr old bottle -  1 gal batch - Phil Markowski literally wrote the book on Farmhouse beers
  8. Logsdon Seizon Bretta - harvested from 750 ml -  1 gal batch -  Have heard great things and enjoyed the interview over on Embrace The Funk
For all the yeast (except the Logsdon, pitched directly), I made a 4 oz - 1.030 starter which was poured directly into the bottle. Then 3 - 4 days later I added another 6 oz - 1.030 starter to the bottle. (For the 1 gal batches, that was the limit of the stepping up.) For the Saison Dupont and French Saison, I started stepping them up about 3 weeks before brew day. After the 6 oz starter, I added 32 oz - 1.030 starter to a 1 gal container and poured the entire contents of each starter bottle. Then 3 days before brew day I added an additional 32 oz - 1.030 wort to the Dupont, French Saison and old Brett Drie yeast cake. All the starters were showing nice krausens by brew day.

As for fermentation profile, I am going to keep this round simple instead of the preferred temperature ramping I normally do. All 20 gals were pitched at ~ 70F and kept in ambient closest conditions (~75F). I did not use any exterior cooling or water baths, I allowed all the beer's temperatures to free rise during fermentation. The next round of testing will experiment with higher fermentation temperatures (using heating blankets).

5 Gallon Batches (Brett Drie in corny, French Saison, Dupont)
Day 2
Day 5

 1 Gallon Batches (Lost Abbey, SoutHampton, ECY03, ECY08, Logsdon)
Day 2
Day 5

 I tried to emulate my water profile to the one listed in Farmhouse beers. Basically, the Saison water profile is low in all minerals except Sulfate and Bicarbonates. The higher sulfate level will help to enhance the dry and bitter mouthfeel. I do not pretend to be an expert, I just created a close approximation of the profile with San Diego water cut with R/O and some other salts added (see below).

Active fermentation took off for all the batches after a short lag time with the exception of the Logsdon yeast which did not have a starter, activity took about 36 hrs. The next phase of this experiment will be tasting notes, which I will try to get a panel together for.


  1. I'd love to know what those ECY strains are as well.

    Nice experiment

  2. I can't wait to see (taste) the results of this experiment. I am planning on doing a big batch of saison but focusing on adding different flavorings post fermentation (Thai spices, cucumber, mulberries, and fennel seed, pink peppercorns).

    We will have to do a big stating once they are all finished.

    1. Jeff,
      I'm bottling this weekend, at least the non-Brett versions. I'm also going to keg a part of the big batches and play with dry hops.

      Also James that you met at my house brewed a 3 way split batch that he is bottling soon. Lets find a date for an epic Saison tasting.

    2. Great experiment, I am brewing a batch of Saison tomorrow with the Wyeast 3726. This strain apparently is easier than the Belgian Saison strain. As a sidenote I would like to mention/ask you whether the style Saison is generally regarded as a tart/ sour beer? The saisons I has (apart from Fantome) are not sour.

    3. Thanks this has been a lot of fun.

      Your question is hard to answer, but I'll try. And I recommend you read the Farmhouse Ales book as he explains this all very well.(Link in the First Post)

      Traditionally, all Saisons were very sour and very much like today's lambics, but that was because everything was spontaneously fermented and brewed in the cold season and then drank during the warmer months. So all beer had some bacteria, wild yeast, brewers yeast and then had time to sour. Once sanitation and yeast isolation was discovered the flavors of these beers also changed. They could now be brewed year round and with better sanitization. I doubt the yeast strains were very pure especially on these small little farms, but the beer was now being brewed closer to when it was being consumed so the amount of sourness decreased. Plus, at that time light Pilsner beers were becoming hugely popular throughout Europe and could be produced for much cheaper than these farms. Most of the Farmhouse brewers shut down and the ones that remained started making beers closer to the mainstream beer. A few brewers stuck with the old traditions and a few new brewers tried to make beers like they used to, but most were influenced by the modernization of brewing and now brew cleaner beer with pure strains of yeast.

      And then when Americans started making this beer they all used pure strains from yeast banks and then we did't associate sourness with Saison. This is until recently when more brewers are understanding the history of the style and producing some very creative examples of the style.

      This is at least my interpretation of the history. So it is up for you to decide how you want to brew your Saison.

  3. I'm a big fan of Wyeast 3726. The Saison d’Épeautre from which it is from is almost the idealized saison in my eyes. I've also isolated the Jandrain-Jandrenouille, de la Senne, and Ellezeloise strains. I've had a lot of luck with the Jandrain-Jandrenouille strain. It dries everything out and accentuates any herbs or grassy hops you might add.

    1. Thanks for the info. Those yeasts were on my list to try. Once I started looking into the number of Saison yeasts available, it was surprising how many possibilities that are available.

      Any recommended Fermentation profiles with the yeasts you listed?

  4. This is a awesome experiment. I need more dedication to pull something like this off. Can't wait for the results.

    1. Thanks. It is one of my main reasons for homebrewing. I'm going to do another one soon with a few more Saison strains that didn't make it this time.

      Well, I still have the wood experiment for you to taste (don't get excited the base beer wasn't very good and all the beers got a Brett infection so it is hard to pick out any wood flavors - this one will need a re-do). And once the Saisons are all bottled and carbed, I'll have you guys help me with tasting.

  5. The Brett Drie is very much similar to a lot of Saison yeasts. I find it to be very spicy in the Aroma, and fruity in the flavor department.

    Thanks for sharing that yeast with me back in the day.

    1. Nick,
      The more I use it the more I discover about it. I think the Brett Drie strain has a very wide range of flavors based on the wort it is put into. If used in a short chain wort like most Saisons, it does produce a spicy note. But if used in a long chain wort it will produce a lot of fruit flavor. And if used with hops the fruit flavor is even more intense.

      No worries - have you tried Brettanomyces Clusterianus ECY19 (East Coast Yeast) yet?
      Don from Small Place Big Brews is going to send me a vial -

      It sounds like another interesting strain.


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