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!

Ryan said...

How versatile is this strain for other styles of beer than farmhouse/saison/grisette? Does it work well with hops? I've got a batch of saison in primary now and moving it off to be soured soon. I'm thinking of splitting an APA (Cascade & Centennial) and putting half on the dregs, going for a white IPA thing. Thoughts?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Saison III? This is the only beer I've used it in. Certainly had a fruitier flavor that I think would mesh well with hops compared to a more phenolic sasion strain. If you try it, please report back!

Ryan said...

I've now made two beers with the III yeast. The first was a split witbier recipe (pils, pale, wheat and oats with fresh orange peel and Indian coriander); the second was an American IPA with homegrown Cascades and Centennials. The second beer was made with the saved yeast from the first.

Both beers ended .5% higher abv than their respective split brethren and were fully attenuated (1.005 (wit) & 1.004 (IPA)). The III creates a very dry beer, with fruity characteristics reminding me of apples, grapes and stone fruit rather than citrus or tropical fruit. Grapefruit flavors from the hops are present in US-05 IPA that aren't present in the III split version. This flavor was ever present in both beers, despite different recipes.

While the wit is characteristically hazy, as is the IPA, the III yeast dropped completely clear with large clumps of yeast at the bottom of each bottle. Pils clear.
This was really interesting to me because out of secondary it was this clear - not my usual experience with saison yeasts. The yeast really sticks to the bottom of bottles too, for what its worth.

Both III beers have an orange hue and are darker than the split beers. The straight wit is blonde, and you can't tell by looking at it next to the III that it's the same beer. The IPA is pale, carapils and oats, and US-05 version is much lighter in color than the III as well.

The IPA is slightly grassy in the US-05 version, but not at all in the III version. The bitterness in both the III wit and the III IPA is scrubbed clean, which was unexpected. Higher carbonation in the III wit brings some of it back, but not nearly what you'd expect. The wit is ~24 ibus; the IPA ~64.

I enjoyed this year, and both III beers are great, but White IPAs do they not make. IIt makes great hoppy saisons or lawnmower beers, but it seems one-noted in its flavor, similar to my experiences with the French Saison. Both beers were held at 69 for two weeks and bottled at 65.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Thanks for the write-up! I wonder if the color difference is a result of clarity? That could also partly explain the difference in bitterness as yeast take hop compounds with them when the drop out.

Unknown said...

I have used Saison III in a number of hoppy beers and the results are always positive. They turn out almost like belgian NEIPAs. Take the Sacch Trois and magnify the funk.

I only get the beers to clear after a month or more, and after they drop clear the flavor greatly diminishes. Perhaps the flocculation is pulling out the hop matter? The "clear" saison reminds me of a more bland, sweetish Belgian beer like a Leffe. Invert the bottles or pour in the yeast and the beer returns back to its hazy, funky, tart, hoppy glory. So it seems that the tart flavor comes from the suspended yeast solids.

I will be using this yeast in a more traditional saison setting this fall - grisette (5.0%) and strong (8.5%). I'm hoping the tartness will offset the restrained use of hops.