The Belgian Saison has been chilled and served for a couple weeks now. After discussing the carbonation level with Chris (Notch Brewing) and Helder (Backlash Beer), I decided on 2.75 volumes as the target. I typically carb my ales between 2.25 and 2.5 volumes, but wanted more for the Belgian.
One thing to consider regarding carbonation is the vessel (ie, the bottle). Turns out, 22 oz bomber bottles can handle higher pressure than 12 oz bottles. Supposedly 12 oz bottles max out at 3 volumes. What would happen if I exceeded the pressure build up in the bottle? Boom. Bottle bombs. Exploding bottles and beer spraying everywhere. Not good. So to be safe, I shot for 2.75 volumes, as most of the bottles I was using were the 12 oz variety, which a handful of 22’s mixed in. Also, to be even more safe, I purposed used bottles that had not yet been reused by me for homebrews. I had saved up a large number of bottles (my wife just loves this part), so I had enough to pick from to get the number I needed. Unfortunately, that means they ALL had labels still. Lots of soaking in hot water with OxyClean. Some labels come off easy after a good soak, but others… ugh. In the end I had a little over three 12-packs of 12 oz bottles and maybe a half dozen 22 oz bombers.
Using a bottle priming calculator (I use the one at Screwy Brewer’s site) I figured I needed about 5 oz of cane sugar (not priming sugar, which is dextrose… if using dextrose I would have needed more). Basically you dilute the sugar in some water, boil it to sanitize, and add it to the bottling bucket as you transfer the fermented beer from the carboy to the bottling bucket. The yeast that’s still in suspension in the finished beer will eat the sugar while in the bottles. This process gives off CO2, which builds up the carbonation as there’s no way for it to escape the capped bottle.
Soooo… the saison. It’s extremely pale in color. Rye malt is light grey in color and adds basically no color to the beer. The grist is mainly Pilsen, wiht some rye, malted wheat, and flaked wheat. next time I would likely add a little Munich or a touch of crystal to give a bit more color.
I used the Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes yeast and fermented in the mid 70s. I got a lot of fruity esters as a result. Initially I was thinking there was a lot of banana like a bavarian hefe, but now it seems to be a bit more of the typical Belgian ester profile. May be a bit more of a Belgian Blonde or golden strong in aroma and flavor than a saison. But then again, this is not specifically a Sasion yeast. I avoided the Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison yeast after reading that quite often that yeast can stall out about 2/3 of the way through fermentation, and many homebrewers end up having to add another yeast just to get it to finish. So, while I intended for a Saison, and I believe the grain and hop bills are appropriate for a Saison, the final product may not quite fit that category.
There’s no denying the Belgian ester and phenolic profile though. It goes down pretty easily but you need to remember it’s a 6.7% ABV beer. The mouthfeel is not too thin, despite finishing nice and dry (1.010). I assume this is due partly to the higher carbonation.
Hopefully I can gather some friends to share this with and get their take. I know one particular person who’s been raving about Allagash Belgians like their Dubbel and Curieux (their Tripel that’s aged in bourbon barrels).