Thursday, October 18, 2012

Saison II vs. Saison III Tasting

One of the easiest ways to become a better recipe designer is to split batches. It allows you to taste exactly what a certain ingredient contributes. In this case I produced 10 gallons of petite saison wort (Pilsner malt, flaked spelt, and a touch of corn) that I divided between two fermentors. I pitched one with White Labs Saison II and the other with the recently released Saison III. Hopefully this beer evolves into a year-round beer for Modern Times, something drinkable enough to sell in 16 oz cans! If these sorts of posts hadn't clued you in, we're taking a unique path on recipe secrecy.

A glass of spelt saison fermented with White Labs Saison III.Spelt Session Saison III

Appearance – Foggy pale yellow. Suspended overhead is a billowy, sticky, white head. Retention isn’t as good as I would have hoped with all that spelt protein, but it isn’t terrible either.

Smell – Big spicy yeast character. Black pepper and cardamom. There is fresh fruit and dough too, and a slightly herbal hop presence.

Taste – The aromatics carry through in the flavor. Slight tartness helps to make the apple/pear fruitiness pop more than it did in the nose. Dry, which accentuates the firm bitterness. The doughiness is toastier in the nose, hard to tell if it is from the spelt or the yeast.

Mouthfeel – It has a decent mouthfeel for a moderate gravity saison. Carbonation is solid, but could be more intense (although I’d need longer beer lines to be able to pour it).

Drinkability & Notes – One of those beers I finish almost without realizing it. Bright, quenching, refreshing, delicious. There isn’t much I’d change about this one unless we want to go for a more intense character by increasing the hopping, adding light spicing, or just a hint of Brett funk…

A glass of spelt saison fermented with White Labs Saison II. Same beer otherwise.Spelt Session Saison II

Appearance – Nobody wants a crystal clear “farmhouse” ale; the yellow body has a rustic haze. The white head is dense, leaving a sheet of lacing on the side of the glass as it slowly deflates.

Smell – The nose has less spice (although pepper is certainly still present), and more apple fruitiness, bordering on cidery.

Taste – The flavor is flatter, waterier, less interesting. The fruitiness is tropical, brighter. It seems less bitter, but more minerally. It has some tartness as well, but it is more carbonic, like seltzer.

Mouthfeel – Thinner, and slightly tannic. This version tastes more like a low-gravity saison despite finishing slightly higher (1.006) than the Saison III (1.004).

Drinkability & Notes – I get a slight fusel alcohol note that keeps it from being as profoundly drinkable as the Saison III version. Not a bad beer, but maybe pushing the fermentation temperature into the low-80s was more than this strain needed.


kyler said...

I wonder if saison II is "related" to WY3711. I did a split batch recently with saison I and 3711 fermented at a regular starting temp and a high ending temp and the 3711 tasted almost exactly like what you described. nose was ok, but there was little to no flavor, no body and a slight fusel heat.

Blackjaw said...

I agree with the mid-80s may have strained the Saison II. I use this strain in the mid to upper-70s and I did not experience the same taste on my Saisons as you did. As for slight fusels, never experienced them either, not like I did with that loco strain 3711. I think I missed the boat on Saison III this year, hopefully they will have it again in 2013.

Derek said...

It's still out there if you search around:

Jeffrey Crane said...

I recently tried a friend's beer where he did a similar split batch brewed with Saison I and Saison III. I was impressed with the overall amount of flavor and the complexities from III. It had all the flavors you look for in a Saison and the flavors were more intense.

The flavor intensity has become a part of brewing that I really want to figure out. What do you think most controls that? Is it the amount of yeast growth or is it more strain specific?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'm sure flavor intensity is affectect by both the strain itself and the choices we make as brewers. No matter how much you stress an American ale yeast, it isn't going to produce the level of positive phenolics/esters of even a cool fermented saison strain. I avoid intentionally stressing yeast until I get to know them. At GABF Jason Yester of Trinity told us he has let his saisons get as high as 118 F! Fermentor geometry/pressure gets into play, but that is still crazy.

I gave these beers reasonable pitching rates and plenty of oxygen. Once we get a recipe dialed in, then I may have time to play with those variables, but I'm pretty happy with this relatively standard treatment (not to mention what works in a bucket may not translate to a conical).

The sugar profile of the wort plays a role too: adding simple sugars tends to boost ester production, FAN levels affect fusel alcohol formation etc.

Complexity is complex.

SeƱor Brew™ said...

Splitting a batch is also a great way to get a greater variety of beers out of the same amount of brewing time. I brew nowhere near as often s you do, so I have been brewing split batches almost every time I brew.

Here's a link to the details on the most recent:

3 beers in 1

Anonymous said...

Nice pics

Drew Beechum said...

Your experience with the Saison III reflects the results that I saw out of the Saison tasting at the San Diego AHA Conference. The overwhelming favorite of the crowd was the ECY Saison Brasserie strain, but Saison III was just behind it in terms of popularity.

So much so that I encouraged the crowd to get it released.

Damn good yeast strain!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Your article about that experiment in Zymurgy was one of the big reasons I went out of my way to try Saison 3, and I'm glad I did.

I need to give the ECY blend another shot. When I first used it I got too much banana, but Al recently told me that he had identified the culprit after I mentioned it and removed the strain. Talk about great customer service!

Bringing bottles of both versions to a homebrew club meeting tonight to get some more feedback!

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