I attempted my first Belgian brew in the summer of 2012. I discussed recipe and process with several professional brewers (Notch, Backlash, and Pretty Things) I aimed as a similar, but not exact by any means, grain bill used in Pretty Things 2012 “Field Mouse’s Farewell” Farmhouse ale. The only thing I changed which I regretted was the yeast.
I had read too many articles and comments about the traditional Belgian Saison yeast strain stalling out mid-fermentation. Beers stopping at 1.030 specific gravity, when the beer should finish very dry (1.010 or less). Top that off, my local brew shop didn’t have the Belgian Saison strain available, so I went with Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes yeast instead. Built up a 1.5 liter starter, which took off in the fermenter, which was filled with krausen after just 18 hours. OG was 1.061, and it finished at 1.010 after 2 weeks in primary and another 10 days in a secondary.
I bottle conditioned the beer, aiming for 2.75 volumes of carbonation (about as high as I dare using standard 12 oz bottles). Carbonation was perfect. Beer was beautiful. But the yeast driven flavors I associate with a Saison just weren’t there. It was more of a Belgian blonde in that aspect. Again, a tasty beer that hid the almost 7% ABV well. Dry, crisp finish. But just NOT a Saison.
So, this time I will use the Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison strain. If it stalls, I have a packet of Wyeast French Saison yeast available, which I’ve heard will ferment ANYTHING. Either that, or as some do, just toss in some US dry ale yeast (S-05) if/when the Belgain yeast stalls. The initial part of the fermentation should provide the yeast characteristics, while a secondary yeast would mainly just help finish the process.
My grain bill will change slightly this time, adding some dark Munich to the pils, rye, and wheat malt. I also will use a little flaked oats in the mash. A pound of sugar will be added late in the boil to boost ABV and help to dry the beer out as well.