Monday, August 27, 2012

Spelt it Right Saison Recipe

There are very few American beers brewed with grains other than the big six (barley, wheat, oats, rye, corn, and rice). For whatever economic/flavor reasons these are the grains that produce the huge range of beers of beers we see today. There are a couple others that see occasional use, sorghum (in gluten free beers), buckwheat (in my sour amber ale), and today’s star: spelt!

Spelt (Triticum spelta) is an ancient variety of wheat, which is often marketed as farro for Italian cooking (although farro is not always spelt). It is high in protein (~17%), which is one of the reasons it sees limited use in brewing. Take a look at the gigantic protein hot-break clumps that developed in the boil (and that shot is with no water treatment, hop additions, or kettle finings). Its flavor is similar to wheat, but to my palate provides a slightly toastier character. I’ve had it in Brasserie de Blaugies Saison d'Epeautre, and Sixpoint’s Mad Scientists #1 Spelt Wine. Some brewing suppliers sell malted spelt, but it was easier for me to find unmalted rolled spelt from Bob's Red Mill.

Saisons have crept up in alcohol content over the years. Originally these were light refreshing beers, and that is still where their slight tartness and peppery yeast work best in my opinion. However, I didn’t want to push the alcohol down under 4% into the “table saison” range, as many of these come across as thin. With good attenuation this 1.043 OG beer should end up close to 5% ABV. Perfect to drink from a 16 oz can about a year from now when Modern Times opens.

For this first attempt at a test batch I wanted to focus on the yeast. I think the classic Dupont strain (WLP565/WY3724) produces remarkable flavors, but it can also be sluggish and unreliable even under ideal conditions. Wyeast French Saison (3711) is the opposite, a quick reliable attenuator, but the flavor is more tropical and less spicy than I would prefer. To try out two yeast strains I brewed a double batch split between White Labs Saison II and their newly released Saison III.

While saison yeast stains are often known for their tolerance (and in some cases need) for elevated fermentation temperatures, this is no excuse for not having control. I pitched both halves of the batch in the mid-60s F, allowing them to ramp up into the mid-80s over the course of a few days. Despite being mid-August in DC, nights in the mid-60s required keeping the fermentors insulated with blankets to maintain a stable temperature.

Jacob and I are planning to let the flavor of this base beer determine where we take the recipe. Does it need a more complex hop aroma? Should we spice with a touch of black pepper? Maybe blend with a portion of beer that has been inoculated with Brett? We will see.

Spelta Été

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 10.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 16.50
Anticipated OG: 1.043
Anticipated SRM: 3.0
Anticipated IBU: 29.5
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

78.8% - 13.00 lbs. German Pilsener
18.2% - 3.00 lbs. Flaked Spelt
3.0% - 0.50 lbs. Flaked Corn

5 ml.      HopShot (Extract) @ 45 min.
1.50 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.50% AA) @ 15 min.
1.00 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.50% AA) @ 2 min.

1.00 Whirlfloc @ 10 min.
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 10 min.

White Labs WLP566 Belgian Saison II
White Labs WLP585 Belgian Saison III

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 75 min @ 147 F

8/18/12 Made two .6 L starters (Saison II and Saison III). Left at 79 F to get going.

8/19/12 Brewed

Bob's Red Mill Flaked Spelt

Batch sparge, hit 171F. Collected 11.5 gallons of 1.038 wort.

Great protein break despite a lack of water adjustments.

Chilled to 90 F with ground water, then whirlpooled and switched to recirculating ice water. After 20 minutes it was down to 70 F. I racked out of the keggle, which resulted in really clear wort, but a one gallon loss. So only 4.5 gallons in each of the buckets.

Let the wort and starters sit at 66 F for two hours before oxygenating for 45 second and pitching the non-decanted starters. Left at the same temperature to begin fermenting.

24 hours after pitching I moved them out of the 66F room to my 75-77 F basement.

8/23/12 Up to 82 F ambient wrapped in a blanket, should be enough to really help it finish out.

10/18/12 Glad I split the wort, the Saison III is the standout. Despite finishing at 1.004 it has a decent body, slight tartness, and great balance. The Saison II is cidery, thin, and slightly fusel. Tasting notes.


Brian said...

Re: WLP565 being sluggish, you can get the same character and a reliable fermentation with 568. It's 565 blended with a more straightforward Belgian ale strain. DuPont character, and FG in the 1.008 range for me.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I don't like the idea of pushing whatever other Belgian ale strain is in there as hot as I would a saison. If we were blending strains, I'd probably go Dupont and 3711 (as Odonata did). I like saisons really dry, say sub 1.005 (although bigger/darker can certainly be a bit higher).

George Schlossnagle said...

Have you tried brewing with millet?

I've used unmalted millet as a replacement for wheat before in an off-style 'witbier'. It produced a nice sweet character that I really enjoyed.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

My only exposure to millet was feeding it to my sister’s parakeet when we were growing up. Glad to hear it worked well, where did you get it?

Unknown said...

Out of curiosity, what do you think of a little acidulated malt in a saison? Also, will be curious to hear how these yeasts perform, as I just bottled a wlp565 that I couldn't get below 1.010.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

A bit of acid malt is great for bringing the mash pH down on a pale beer. Certainly a good choice if your water is high in carbonates. I've never gotten a real tartness from it though (eve at 20% of the grist).

It seems like the breweries that have good luck with the Dupont strain (like St. Somewhere) have to repitch it over and over again to allow it to adapt to their brewery before it ferments like it should.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike, Been a follower for some time. I wrote a blog entry a little while back that included raw spelt grains (berries) and a cereal mash. My recipe included some acid malt as well and it gave a nice crispness to the beer. Also, Saison II is my GOTO beer from now on for saison! AWESOME yeast! If would like to read the article it self here is the link: Feel free to let me know what you think! Thanks.

George Schlossnagle said...

I got whole, unmalted, unhulled millet from Bob's Red Mill. I ground it in a vitamix (don't have a grain mill) and did a cereal mash with it BIAB style, then used the output of that for a decoction mash of the rest of the grains.

George Schlossnagle said...

Matt: that's a very similar strategy to what I used with my millet-based beer. It worked well, though I used more water, lengthened the boil, and then only used the liquid out from that process as a decoction.

Señor Brew™ said...

How about quinoa? Also a high protein grain. I think it would lend a unique flavor profile to a brew.

ALB.rx said...

Quinoa is technically a seed not a grain.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Same with buckwheat and amaranth, close enough in terms of brewing if not biology(small part of a plant that contains carbohydrates and protein).

PeTeR said...

Hi Mike..
Love following your work.
Im doing a "Harvest" Saison, and thought of Spelt, how much would you add for a 20 Litre batch ?
The base is 50% Pilsner.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

What is the rest of the grain bill? Pilsner should be able to comfortably convert about half of its weight in unmalted adjuncts, and shouldn't have a problem with more given a nice long saccharification rest.

I just racked this batch to kegs last weekend for some time naturally conditioning. The samples I pulled at bottling were good, but the spelt wasn't hugely apparent. You could certainly go up to 30% or so if you want it to be a bigger presence.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any info on 585 is from? I Brewed a quick and simple extract batch to test it out and early returns are very positive. The description on WL website is spot on: huge fruity esters with a slight tartness.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I have no actual basis for this, but with the popularity of the tropical/attenuative Wyeast 3711 French Saison, could Saison 3 be White Labs' own version of the Thiriez strain?

2bluewagons said...

Any word on how the yeast comparison turned out? I have a very similar recipe in my queue and am still deciding on the yeast. Am interested to hear your thoughts on the White Labs Saison variants.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The two kegs are still sitting in my basement waiting for the pale and and hoppy red rye I have on tap now to kick. I pulled a small sample of the Saison III fermented batch last weekend and it was great: spicy, not too dry, faint tartness, lightly grainy. Interested to try them chilled and side-by-side in a week or two.

Adam Mc said...

I assume the corn is to lighten the body. Any benefit of corn vs. sugar in this regard?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yes and no. As I understand it the sugars created by the same malt enzymes acting on the starches provided by the corn will make about the same level of fermentables/unfermentables as it would acting on malt starches. What corn does is dilute the protein and malt flavor, adds a hint of perceived corny sweetness, and make for a crisper beer. Adding sugars will have a similar effect, but will actually lead to a thinner beer as they provide no dextrins.

Anonymous said...

Hey there! I was looking for the Bob's rolled spelt, but could only find the spelt flour. Is there a way to gelatinize the starches in the flour to make them accessible for the enzymes in the pils I plan on using?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Boiling in water is the best way to gelatinize starch, but that could be tricky with flour. If you don’t use enough water you’ll make dough, which would help the mash. Maybe boil the flour in the entire volume of water used for the mash for 10 minutes, let it cool to your dough-in target, then mix in the Pils?

Honestly though, we didn’t get much out of the spelt that you wouldn’t get from wheat. I’ve got the second batch of this recipe fermenting now that I swapped in flaked wheat, and doubled the corn. Wheat seems like a much easier option, especially without a compelling reason to go through the effort of using spelt flour.

Anonymous said...

Groovy. Looks like I have some spelt bread to bake, then.

Any reason to use flaked wheat over malted? I have half a sack of pale wheat malt left over from a bulk buy a couple months back.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

They have slightly different flavors, but I think either would make a great beer! The wit I'm brewing this weekend (with 3711) will have flaked wheat for that doughy flavor and malted for its cleaner contribution.

PMI said...

Just ordered some spelt. I have 6 row any reason not to use that in this recipe. Im using 3711. I want something unusual for state fair comp.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Honestly I don't think I've ever brewed with 6-row. It is a bit grainier, which could work well in this beer. Could be a bit husky when it dries out, let me know how it goes.

PMI said...

First taste? Really great. Some spiciness. Fruity nose. Not fully carbed yet. Really solid. Used 6 row and bumped the corn to .5lbs. I'll update later!!! Thanks for the great recipe.

PMI said...

For 5 gallons that is

PMI said...

3711 certainly produces a tropical saison with some spice and tartness. For me that a plus. I love the grainy and and touch of corn sweetness. Only finished @ 1.007. My buddies said it was a beer they could drink all day. Curious how this might work with Brett Trois?