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Belgian update #1

My attempt at a Saison described in yesterday’s blog post“Quite the Eventful Brew Day!” appears to be headed in a slightly different direction. Monday was one week into the fermentation, which had slowed and the krausen mostly fallen. I replaced the blow-off tube with the typical 3-piece airlock and took a gravity sample. 1.010 after just one week (starting gravity was 1.060). Not sure how much lower it will go, but now that the fermwrap is holding the temp up at 74-75°, it IS still bubbling. I expect it may drop down as low as 1.008. This low finishing gravity was the intent, and why I mashed at 149° as well as added 1lb of cane sugar to the boil (boosting alcohol production without adding more unfermentables by simply using more grain). I am hoping for a nice dry finish, and this appears to be heading in that direction.

I do what I typically do when taking a gravity sample when it’s mostly fermented out… I tasted the sample. Wow. Lots of banana like I would expect from a Bavarian Hefeweizen yeast strain. It could be that my palette has yet to differential some of the different esters produced by these various yeasts. Again, I used Wyeast 3522, not their Belgian Saison yeast (3724) as I was afraid of getting too much farmhouse, barnyard flavor (and I’ve seen others talk about using 3522 for their Saisons).

One big reason I avoided the 3724 was this:
“This strain is notorious for a rapid and vigorous start to fermentation, only to stick around 1.035 S.G. Fermentation will finish, given time and warm temperatures. Warm fermentation temperatures at least 90°F (32°C) or the use of a secondary strain can accelerate attenuation.”

I’ve read plenty of posts online from homebrewers who have had it do exactly that: get stuck about half way through the ferment and require a substantial amount of time in the fermenter to get it to finish.

It’s possible some of the banana I am getting from this brew may subside over time as it ages.

Regardless, I’m starting to see this result as more of a Belgian Blonde than a Saison. If it does get down to 1.008, I’m looking at a 6.9% ABV Blonde ale. I am now considering giving it some more time in the primary and then possibly another week in a secondary carboy on some American oak chips. The chips would need to be sanitized, and I am finding many different methods to try. Some toast them, or steam them in a vegetable steaming basket. Others soak them in bourbon. I may try the latter. Probably not dump the bourbon itself into the fermenter, but the soaked chips. From what I understand the cubes tend to be more subtle in adding the wood character compared to the chips, so a shorter time on the chips most likely. And then bottle and age.

Seeing that the yeast is much a part of these beers, I can finally use some 22 oz bomber bottles without the fear of mixing in the yeast/sediment on the second pour. Wish I hadn’t tossed so many 22 oz bottles I had saved into recycling a couple months ago though!

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