Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Dark Brett Saison: Date and Pomegranate

What started as an annual tradition in 2007 is coming up on its tenth anniversary. That's right, Alex and I have been brewing dark saisons together since the year the first iPhone was released! We've managed to fall a year behind though. We’re just now planning Dark Funky Saison #9, by next year we might be brewing a big batch of #10 at Sapwood Cellars?! I'd love to create similar series of seasonal beers at the brewery, the same concept but continually evolving the base beer and additions. Rich-ponderous beers for the winter, fresh-floral for the spring, and bright-fruity in the summer.

Taking a step back a year to when we brewed Dark Funky Saison #8. It was a “what’s on hand” batch. I had sacks of Weyermann Bohemian malts on hand for Pilsner and Tmave, my House Brett Saison Culture, and Mandarina Bavaria hops. Bootleg Biology is taking pre-orders for the second release of their version of my Brett-Lacto-saison culture this week, 7/5-7/10. Lots of good reports from the first release in this thread.

Rather than the usual dried fruit we added pomegranate molasses and date syrup. I’d brewed an Easter Quad with pomegranate molasses, and my split batch sugar experiment included date sugar. Anytime water is removed from fruit whether by drying or boiling it takes some of the subtle aromatics with it, but the resulting concentrated flavors tend to be more complimentary to dark malts.

We decided to keep the starting gravity low, much lower than Dark Saison 7's 1.071. With the high attenuation even the seemingly session-strength original gravity of 1.045 resulted in 5.6% ABV.

Dark Funky Saison Eight

Smell – Rich aroma of dark fruit, pumpernickel toast, and clay or steel. I don’t get dates or pomegranate specifically, but I don’t think a beer at 1.045 could have that nose without them.

Appearance – The brown color of a brown ale, with rich red highlights. Clear. Pours with a voluminous tan head that sinks over a couple minutes receding to a ring.

Taste – The fruits add an rich, dark, authentic flavor that I usually associate with Belgian dubbels and oud bruins. A combination of date and CaraMunich? Slight cherry or plum, some from the house culture. Mild tartness and funk even after all of this time between the fermentor and bottle. Finishes with a bright fruitiness I take to be the pomegranate.

Mouthfeel – Rounded, firm carbonation at first but it seems to leave the beer quickly.

Drinkability & Notes – Drinks like a bigger beer than it is, in a good way. Reminds me of a less-sour, less-cherry version of Russian River Supplication. Not a wow beer, but it works. The date and pomegranate play supporting roles that could have been taking by candi syrup or another adjunct. My house culture did well, staying restrained despite the age compared to its usual duty.

Changes for Next Time – I can't think of much to change on this beer, maybe pull back on the IBUs to allow a little more lactic acid production from the bacteria. Although the strain in the blend seems to be getting more hop-tolerant with time.


Batch Size: 12.00 gal
SRM: 21.7
IBU: 14.2
OG: 1.045
FG: 1.002
ABV: 5.6%
Final pH: 3.91
Brewhouse Efficiency: 78%
Boil Time: 90 mins

38.1% - 7.00 lbs. Weyermann Floor-Malted Bohemian Pilsner
38.1% - 7.00 lbs. Weyermann Floor-Malted Bohemian Dark
5.4% - 1.00 lbs. Briess Caramel Munich
5.4% - 1.00 lbs. Weyermann Carafa II
8.2% - 1.50 lbs. Alwadi Date Syrup
4.8% - .875 lbs. Alwadi Pomegranate Molasses

1.00 oz. Mandarina Bavaria (Pellet, 6.50% AA) @ 75 min.
2.25 oz. Mandarina Bavaria (Pellet, 6.50% AA) @ 0 min.

5 g Calcium Chloride @ mash
1.00 Whirlfloc @ 5 min.
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 5 min.


Mad Fermentationist House Saison Blend

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest 45 min @ 154F

Brewed 3/12/16 with Alex

16 gallons filtered DC tap water. 5 g of CaCl.

Heated to 165 slowly over 15 minutes. No sparge.

Date syrup added at the start of the boil, pomegranate molasses added at the end. Chilled to 65F. Shook to aerate. Pitched decanted House Saison culture.

1/2/17 Bottled 5 gallons with 4 oz of table sugar and Champagne yeast.

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Zeph Ozaroff said...

Hey Mike - what's a reasonable amount of time to expect the MF Blend to reach terminal gravity? I started at 1.048 but because of my one-gallon batch size, I'm loathe to spend beer on multiple gravity readings (the only reliable way to tell, I know, I know). It's been two months to the day, which, based on the dates on your beers that have used it, seem like a safe amount of time. Just wondering what your experience with the lab culture has been on that front.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Depends on the beer, but 3-4 weeks is usually enough if you have a fermentable wort (reasonable mash temperature, no massive dose of specialty malt etc.). I'd say time to take a sample!

Anonymous said...

Hey Zeph, if your concern is wasting beer on gravity readings, I strongly recommend getting a refractometer. A few drops are all it takes to take a gravity reading. The only downside, in my experience, is that you have to use an online calculator to adjust your final gravity reading, since refractometers aren't designed to give accurate readings once there is alcohol in the mix. To do the calculation, you also need your original gravity reading, ideally in Brix (although this is an easy conversion to do if you know the specific gravity). Here is the website I use, but there are many others:

This would really enhance your ability to measure gravity when you're brewing small batches.

David said...

I'm closing in on year 2 as a home brewer so I still have lots of nub questions. When you bottled this you added champagne yeast, why?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The yeast can be unreliable after months or years of waiting in the fermentor. Pitch a fresh culture can ensure rapid carbonation and reduce potential off-flavors. Wine strains tend to be alcohol and acid tolerant, and not interested in fermenting complex sugars as a fresh culture of Brett might.

Michael Roller said...

Thanks for creating this tradition, there's a great body of knowledge for someone like me looking to brew something this style. My question is about base malt: you've used everything from 2-row to English to Vienna to Munich. Any advice on picking a base malt from all of your experience?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I've enjoyed the blends with a lighter and darker component. Provides a solid base without getting in the way of the specialty malts, fermentation, and fruit/spices. Skip the English, too toasty/biscuity in a distracting way given how dry they finish. Best of luck!