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.
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…
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.