Thursday, January 28, 2016

German Pilsner and Brett Saison (Same Wort)

Netting 12 gallons of wort from each brew day I’ve had to get creative with my recipes and fermentation (parti-gyling, staggering hop additions, and doctoring). This split batch of Pilsner and Saison was pretty straight-forward, identical worts (including dry hopping) with two diametrically-opposed yeasts: one a lager (WLP800 Pilsner Lager), the other a Belgian mixed-culture (3031-PC Saison-Brett Blend). No better example of the old adage that “Brewers make wort, but yeast make beer!”

German Pilsner

Appearance – Clear (nearly crystal) bright yellow, just a shade darker than my Berliners for palest. Fantastic head retention, dense sticky white, with a full covering down to the last sip.

Smell – Nose is clean, the herbal-lemon hoppiness comes through fresh and energetic. The best nose on any Pilsner I’ve brewed. Maybe a hint of diacetyl as it approaches room temperature, although my wife (and chief diacetyl tester) has yet to note it.

Taste – Flavor is similarly clean, no yeastiness or yeast character. The hop bitterness is firm, but not rough or lingering. Malt adds a faint fresh-baked white bread flavor in the middle, not grainy. Hop flavor is saturated, without being grassy like noble hops tend to be when used for dry hopping.

Mouthfeel – A hair full for than a classic German Pilsner, perhaps mid-way to Bohemian (thanks to the yeast, and/or higher chloride). Still medium-light and pleasant for my palate. Slightly stinging carbonation, but nothing approaching the carbonic bite of my least favorite pale lagers.

Drinkability & Notes – Chock another one up for Firestone-Walker, Saphir will be my new go-to for Pilsners! A wonderfully drinkable beer that doesn’t cross into being an India Pale Lager with a distinctly American-hop character and assertive bitterness.

Pilsner on the right, Saison on the left.

Brett Saison

Appearance – Appears a shade golder thanks to the haze (and wider glass). Head retention is slightly lower, but the lacing is clingier.

Smell – The hop aroma doesn’t come through nearly as clearly. It’s hiding behind the yeasts’ green apple skin, peppery-spice, and melon. The Saphir does add a delicate herbal-liveliness that too many “Bretted” saisons lack, especially as it warms. A bit more ethanol too, thanks to higher attenuation (and a warmer fermentation).

Taste – Apple is there again, although a bit more bruised than in the nose. Typical French Saison-type tropical fruit and spice. The Brett finally shows up in the finish, all leather and horse blanket. This blend does a lovely job balancing the “saison” and the Brett, not going fully wild-funkmotron as too many Brett Saisons do. Mild acidity, not enough to clash with the solid hop bitterness. The maltiness from the Pilsner is obscured. Bone dry.

Mouthfeel – Leaner mouthfeel, not tannic or drying though. Same carbonation, thanks to the manifold.

Drinkability & Notes – I’m reasonably pleased with the Wyeast Saison-Brett Blend given the relatively short turnaround on this batch! The Brett provides depth without dominating the saison-iness. I think the Saphir does well here, although not in a starring role like the Pilsner.


  1. Awesome Mike! I need to make my first Lager with some Saphir. Did you use any finings to get that beautiful clarity?


  2. Do you know what strain of brett this is Mike? My saison is at 1.002 and has nice fruit and spice flavors, but none of the barnyard brett flavors I expected. Debating if I should keg it up for a party this weekend or let it sit and see what happens.

  3. No idea. That is one thing I tend to dislike about blends, most yeast labs are tight-lipped about strains, ratios etc.

    You could always bottle off a six-pack and then serve the rest?