Monday, February 9, 2009

Dark Saison - 1st and 2nd Tastings

Saturday my friend Alex came over to lend a hand while I was brewing a sour honey wheat. While he was here he dropped off a couple bottles from his half of the dark orange rosemary raisin sasion we brewed together in October. You may remember that we split the pitched wort each taking half home to ferment, age, and bottle. I thought it would be interesting to taste my first bottle of his along side a bottle of mine.

The two beers seemed like they would probably be similar. They started as the same wort from the same mash/boil, and had the same yeast pitched from the same yeast cake, and both have similar final gravities (1.003 for mine, 1.004 for his).The biggest difference was fermentation temperature, mine peaked around 84, while he got his into the low 90s. While these temperatures might sound high, the yeast was Wyeast's VSS 3725 Bier de Garde, which they say performs well at up to 95 degrees. The only other major difference between the batches was how they were aged, his got six weeks in secondary including one week at 40, while mine just got two weeks at room temperature.

Mine (left)
Appearance – Nearly opaque-black, with just a faint rusty highlight when held to the light. A rocky, one finger tall, tan head with good stability. Mine appears to be the more carbonated of the two beers (but not by much).

Smell – The rosemary is certainly upfront, with some light roasted coffee following behind it. Not a particularly Belgian aroma (not much yeast character). Solid aroma, but I think the rosemary is covering up the yeast character.

Taste – The citrus is more prominent in the taste than the rosemary. Pretty dry (but not as dry as the hydrometer indicates), yet very malty. Despite the lack of sweetness it still has good balance because of the low IBUs. Finishes with a bit of alcohol warming (much more after it has a chance to warm up).

Mouthfeel – Good prickly carbonation, medium-light body (particularly for such a big beer).

Drinkability & Notes – As this beer ages the herbs/spices have become more integrated into the malt and yeast character, if that continues it will become an even better beer with time. This one will probably be doing very nicely by next Christmas.

Alex's (right)
Appearance – The color is virtually identical to mine. The head looks the same as well, except for the fact that it is a bit creamier and about 1/3 the size right after pouring. However, after getting the chance to sit for 5 minutes while I concentrated on mine the head actually doubled in size. Both beers have good lacing, but this one is particularly sticky.

Smell – I get the rosemary here, but it is mingled more with an assertive spicy/peppery yeast character. The coffee character seems more subdued.

Taste – The alcohol is a bit more upfront in this version (probably due to the higher fermentation temperature). I don't get much of the citrus, but I get a hint of the raisins which was missing from mine.

Mouthfeel – The mouthfeel is creamier and a touch fuller due to the lower carbonation, a bit more satisfying for a big beer like this.

Drinkability & Notes – This one tastes like it needs more time than mine for the alcohol to calm down, but I think that next year it will be better than mine because of the bigger yeast character.

It is surprising that you can split a wort, and pitch yeast from the same yeast cake yet get such different beers. It makes you appreciate how difficult the idea of cloning a complex brew like 10 Commandments really is (and what a challenge it is to brew a beer like this consistently). I may try a bottle of each of these again next winter to see if they diverge or converge over time.

With how dry both of these got I am going to guess that the portion of the batch that we infected, with the dregs from a few bottles of sour beer, will not be getting that funky (not much is left for the wild microbes to eat). Although that may also mean that it won't need much more than the 3 months it has already had in secondary.


Jimbob said...

Would love to see the recipe for the sour honey wheat beer and the Saison sound incredible!!!!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The sour honey wheat beer is still in primary (I haven’t even figured out what kind of honey I will be adding), so it is too early for a full post, but here is a preview of the recipe.

5 lbs German Pils
3 lbs Wheat Malt
.5 lbs Crystal 10
.25 lbs Carapils (Muntons - 20L)
.25 lbs Honey Malt
Mashed @ 157
OG 1.044

80 minute boil
15 IBUs of Amarillo @ 50 minutes (.875 oz of 8% AA)
6 grams of 100% chamomile (tea bags) @ flameout

It is fermenting with 1056 (American Ale Yeast), and a starter made from the dregs of bottles of La Folie and my Temptation clone. In another 10 days once fermentation has calmed down I plan on adding .75 lbs of honey. I’ll probably add another .75 lbs of honey after a few months in secondary so the bugs get a good meal. The effective OG with the honey will be in the mid 1.050s.

Once it has 9-12 months of age on it I’ll be adding some dried flowers to the fermenter, jasmine definitely, but I may split the batch and try some other ones (hibiscus, lavender, chrysanthemum, marigold etc…).

Not sure if you were asking for the saison recipe, if you were there is a link near the top of the post.