When most people think about saison they are imagining Saison Dupont (pale, moderate gravity, relatively hoppy, peppery yeast) while in fact saison has a huge range, from featherweights like Dupont's 3.5% ABV Avril to a darker 10% ABV beer like Fantôme Spéciale De Noel. In my opinion the only constraint for calling a beer a saison is that it is fermented with a saison yeast strain.
After successes with our first two dark winter saisons Alex and I (Noah moved to Colorado a few months ago) decided on a similar plan for the third in the series. This year we opted to add figs (instead of dates or raisins), buckwheat honey, and warming spices (cinnamon and anise).
The malt bill was similar to its forebears, but we reduced the original gravity to produce a more drinkable beer. The high lovibond crystal malts will provide some dark fruit character to complement the figs, and the Carafa will add a light roast without causing the dry finished beer to be harsh/acrid. For some body we added steel cut ("Irish") oats to the mash, but not before gelatinizing their starches with a quick boil (a step you can skip when using oats that have been rolled or flaked).
A small amount of bitterness was all we asked from a single addition of Simcoe hops. In a big complex beer the hop variety is of little import, so I used up the last of my 2007 "hop crisis" order. Fermentation was ably carried out by the yeast cake from the Petite Funky Saison I'd brewed a few weeks earlier (with added dregs from a couple commercial sours).
So far this has been a great yearly tradition that I'm hoping we'll be able to continue for a few more falls before we get bored of the dark fruit saison concept.
Dark Fruit Saison III
Batch Size (Gal): 10.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 25.94
Anticipated OG: 1.066
Anticipated SRM: 22.6
Anticipated IBU: 22.9
Brewhouse Efficiency: 67 %
Wort Boil Time: 85 minutes
61.7% 16.00 lbs. German Pilsener
15.4% 4.00 lbs. German Munich Malt
8.1% 2.10 lbs. Fig Puree
3.9% 1.00 lbs. Steel Cut Oats
3.3% 0.84 lbs. Buckwheat Honey
2.9% 0.75 lbs. Carafa Special II
2.9% 0.75 lbs. CaraMunich
1.9% 0.50 lbs. Special B
1.25 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 11.00% AA) @ 70 min.
1.00 Whirlfloc @ 10 min.
1.00 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 10 min.
2.00 gm Anise @ 5 min.
1.00 gm Star Anise @ 5 min.
0.50 gm Cinnamon @ 5 min.
White Labs WLP565 Belgian Saison I
White Labs WLP645 Brettanomyces claussenii
Profile: Washington DC
Sacch Rest 90 min @ 156
Brewed 11/13/10 with Alex
Chalk and baking soda added to the mash to make sure the pH doesn't go too low.
Oats were steel cut and boiled for 15 minutes to hydrate/gelatinize before adding to the mash about 10 minutes dough-in.
Batch sparged with 180 degree water.
Hops ~3 years old, adjusted down from 13.6% AA.
Spices ground in a coffee grinder for 10 seconds before adding.
Half Black Mission figs, half Canadian. Both organic from the CO-OP. De-stemmed, and halved. Boiled in the the final runnings for 15 minutes, then pureed with a stick blender. Added with 10 minutes left in the boil.
Organic buckwheat honey warmed in a pot of water to loosen, then added after the end of the boil (2 minutes into chilling).
Chilled to 72, then pitched half yeast cake from Bretted Saison (along with dregs from Supplication and Consecration). Shook to aerate.
Fermented for 10 days on a heating pad set to low to try to keep the fermentation temp above the ambient ~63 degrees.
12/14/10 Racked to secondary with .75 oz of dark rum soaked American oak cubes.
10/15/11 Blended some, and bottled the remaining 2.25 gallons with - 1 5/8 oz cane sugar.
5/3/12 Tastes great, although the carbonation isn't quite as strong as it could have been.The buckwheat honey softened out nicely from some earlier samples.