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NO RULZ BREWZ SAIZON

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Saisons are great in summer. Martin Potter shows us how to brew it traditionally and funk it up with some hops.

These days, saisons account for a fair number of recipes prepared in home breweries in the lead up to summer. By definition and history, saison (French pronunciation for ‘season’) is a Belgian or French pale ale that was originally brewed as a form of sustenance for farm workers during the hottest part of the year. It is generally a mildly hoppy, strong pale ale with an ABV up around the 7 per cent range.

In more recent years, we’ve seen just about any and every possible incarnation of saison. In general terms, you can do what you like with it. Make it a 4.5 per cent summer quaffer or make it a 7 per cent short session beer.

No Rulz Brewz again

Modern variants include use of New Zealand,  Australian and American citrusy or fruity hops, but the mainstay tradition still runs deep for those chasing the old world Belgian or French flavours. One of the keys to making a saison that pops with flavour though, is to really let the fermentation flavours do the talking. That means starting your fermentation down relatively low 17OC and slowly ramping the temperature up to 32+OC. I typically finish them off with a heater belt at 35OC for the last two to three days.

 

Never fight the funk

Traditionally, a saison would be brewed in the warmth of the farmhouse during the cold winter months, aged until the summer harvest and consumed as a refreshing drink while tending the crops.

For those of us that work up a thirst watching palm fronds fall into the pool in summer, it’s just as good for beating up on a less hard earned thirst. For me, there’s typically at least one variant on tap at home. For really hard work like scaling a coral trout or watching the neighbour mow the lawn, you might need a bigger glass, a second glass, or both. Such is life.

While the flavours develop better in more traditional styles over a period of six or so months, the modern era variants are really quite refreshing when done with a solid 1.5-2g per litre dry hop addition and consumed young and fresh.

Expect your saison to finish with a really low Final Gravity (FG) – often as low as 1.002. That means they’re going to have quite a light body and dry mouthfeel. Be guided by your hydrometer readings, when the beer is done, it’s done. Two stable hydrometer readings done two days apart will herald that bottling day has arrived.

(1) All Grain

Expected Brew Figures

OG: 1062

FG: 1005

IBU: 30

ABV: 7.6%

Volume: 23 litres

Ingredients

5.5 kg German Pale Ale Malt

250g German Carapils

200g CaraAroma

200g Carabelge

500g Clear Belgian Candy Sugar

20g Magnum Hops

25g Strisselspalt

Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Method

  1. Mash at 67OC
  2. Sparge and bring to a boil
  3. Boil for 60 minutes – add Magnum hops at the start of the boil
  4. Add Strisselpalt with 10 minutes remaining
  5. Cool to 22OC and pitch the yeast. Ferment at 25OC, then ramp up to 30OC for the last two days

(2) Concentrate

Expected Brew Figures

OG: 1051

FG: 1002

IBU: 24

ABV:  5.9% (bottle carbonated)

Volume: 23 litres

Ingredients

Mangrove Jacks International Series Belgian Ale

1.5kg Extra Light (Pilsen Light) Malt Extract

500g Light Belgian Candy Sugar (can substitute with 500g Dextrose)

25g Strisselspalt hops

Finings

Belle Saison Yeast

Method

  1. Bring 2-3 litres of water to the boil and boil the Strisselspalt hops for 15 mins
  2. Strain the liquid into the fermenter and mix in the dissolvable extracts and sugars
  3. Top up with cold water to 20 litres, before checking the temperature – use cold fridge water if required to bring the temperature down as you aim for about 17OC at 23 litres
  4. Sprinkle the yeast and give a light stir
  5. Ramp up the temperature by 2OC per day until it reaches 35OC. Hold for two days and check the hydrometer – it should finish around 1002. Add finings two days before bottling

(3) Extract with Specialty Grains

Expected Brew Figures

OG: 1056

FG: 1002

IBU: 26

ABV: 6.5% (bottle carbonated)

Volume: 23 litres

Ingredients

3kg Pilsen LME

500g LDME

500g Belgian Candy Sugar

250g Briess Carapils

250g Weyermann Carabelge

100g Weyermann CaraAroma

14g German Magnum T90 Pellets

25g French Strisselspalt

½ Whirlfloc Tablet

Finings

2 Belle Saison Yeast Sachets

Method

  1. Mill grains and steep in water at 67OC for 30 minutes
  2. Remove grains and add liquid to an urn or large pot (25 litre if possible, if not use smaller pot and top up with cold water in the fermenter) then add the dissolvable sugars
  3. Add German Magnum hops for the 60 minute boil
  4. With 15 minutes remaining in the boil add French Strisselpalt hops
  5. With 10 minutes left add ½ Whirlfloc tablet
  6. Chill wort to 17OC, transfer to fermenter and pitch the yeast
  7. Ramp up the temperature by 2OC per day until it reaches 35OC. Hold for two days and check hydrometer – it should finish around 1002. Add finings two days before bottling/kegging

Brewer’s Tip

For a point of difference, try adding 12-15g of Cascade as a finishing hop by steeping it in boiling water for 10 minutes. Back this up with 12g-15g Citra dry hopped on day seven of fermentation for seven days. It’ll give it a light citrusy hit and is super refreshing.

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