Saturday, September 17, 2011

Session Beers, Saisons, and Etiquette

I haven't had the chance to brew yet this month, but I've kept busy by doing three interviews for various online media outlets.  I always enjoy the chance to talk about brewing (it's such a refreshing break from writing about it).

First my friend Nathan and I recorded an episode about saisons with James and Andy for Basic Brewing Radio.  It ended up not being an especially technical discussion, focusing on the inspiration behind farmhouse-style brewing and the huge range of beers it includes.  While talking we drank two excellent Brett'd saisons that Andy had sent (the one with oatmeal cookies in the mash was surprisingly good). 

Last week I recorded an interview on brewing session beers for the Beersmith podcast.  This one wandered into more technical subjects, but was also contained more general discussion of why low gravity beers have such a long history and resurfacing interest.  Brad gave me a copy of his Beersmith 2.0 as a thank you for appearing.  I'm still playing around with it to see if it is worth the effort of switching over after six years of using ProMash.

I also talked to Helena over at CHOW's Table Manners for an article she was writing about the etiquette of tasting bad homebrew.  Manners are not really something I ever thought I'd be quoted about (rather than being proud, my mother seemed almost suspicious). 

In addition, I'm happy to report that I recently got the go ahead to write three more articles for BYO on: Blending Beers, Spontaneous Fermentation, and American Dark Lagers (with Nathan).  They are still figuring out the schedule for next year's issues, so I'm not sure exactly when they'll appear (although the Intro to Sour Brewing article that I submitted a couple months ago should be coming out shortly).
All of that has distracted me while a bathroom remodel going on at my house has prevented me from brewing.  Luckily this weekend I'll get back into things with our first ~20 gallon pull and replace for the wine barrel solera followed by brewing a smoked roggenbier at my friend Scott's place.


Haputanlas said...

Wow. Awesome podcast on Session beers. I got far more out of that than I was expecting.

Taking notes for my first session brew. Thanks!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Glad you enjoyed it, what are you brewing?

Sebastian said...

Great podcast. Wanted your opinion on brewing saisons. I have been honing in on a recipe and with some leftovers, I made a low-alcohol saison (4.5ish) and really liked it so I kept brewing it out with different formulations. I found out something interesting: low-abv saisons seem to benefit with a wide variety of grains (4+) on it while higher abv ones like only a few ingredients(2-3). Have you come across similar findings?

It seems to fall in line with historical saisons including a lot of different grains that make a quenching yet good drink for the farms.

Haputanlas said...

Going to be brewing an English Mild. Inspired by Jester King's Whiskey Barrel Aged Commercial Suicide (3.2%).

By far the best session beer I've ever had. However, they rarely release this version.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Lower gravity beers in general benefit from additional gravity to build flavor/body since they do not have enough base malt to get there on their own. I’ve never done an especially complex grist for a low gravity saison. When you say 4+ grains, are you talking grains besides barley, or just specialty grains?

Interesting, Jester King certainly seems to be doing some interesting stuff, glad to hear that a beer that strange actually works well. How big is the whiskey flavor in it?

Sebastian said...

Ah, apologies for the lack of info. So, low-abv saison kept an og of 1.040 and fg 1.001. What I had was a 85/10/5 Belgian pilsner/wheat/biscuit saison that was equivalent to a 1.065 saison. the higher beer came out great. complex, spicy, great yeast character. generally a solid saison.

the low-gravity saison was thin and kind of boring. so, i split the wheat content in half and made it up with munich, split the biscuit with special b and made up my GU's with extract. came out well!

for the 3rd, i decided to add rye and spelt (%5-%3 respectively).

the beer with more specialty grains didn't get bogged down, but came through along with the yeast much in the same way that you described using spices in the podcast. you couldn't tell exactly what the flavor was, just characteristics. rich, spicy, bready, hop character popped and wove nicely with the grain.

same hop profile for all trials (Saaz and Styrian Goldings). same yeast (1.080 starter of wlp566 and an unsmacked pack of 3711).

i made special considerations to keep all pertinent numbers the same through all trials OG, FG, IBU, mash temps, mash ph (which was very low, btw) and mash times. mashed to make a VERY fermentable wort.

because this was just a thought, i am taking my last trial (pils, wheat, rye, spelt, munich, biscuit and special b) up to a higher gravity test (1.060ish) and seeing how that comes through. however, having done this with other belgians, i am not sure it will work out as well. it seems like there will be too much to compete with... thoughts?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It does seem like a lot going on for a saison, but that can work sometimes. The fact that you are doing variations and honing in on what works for you gives me more confidence. This style has so much range that it is really about what flavors you enjoy in the beer and the balance that works for your palate.

Why such a high gravity starter? I never go that high even if I am brewing a strong beer.

Sebastian said...

Sorry, misread the notes. It was a 1L 1.060 starter. I like higher gravity starters for belgian yeasts just to get them working hard so when they are added to a lower-gravity beers, I get some of the more wild flavors out of it (especially the WLP566... it is a GREAT yeast)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Interesting, sounds like you have found another way to stress yeast a bit (rather than under pitching or reducing aeration).

Ken said...

I'm interested in hearing your verdict about Beersmith 2.0.