Friday, February 18, 2011

For lack of a better name-My Dark Saison.

My love obsession with saison continues. I cannot get enough of this beer and the more interpretations I have, the more I love it. If I have one that isn't that great, it only bolsters my desire for the ones I enjoy. As I mentioned earlier, this beer style varied from brewery to brewery back when they where brewing them for the farm workers in Belgium. The style also varies from season to season with the brewers now. A good example is Fantome: the beers change to suit the season. We see that on the whole with craft beer; fall seasonals are spiced accordingly and seasonal ingredients-like pumpkin or squash are added. The beer takes on the tone of the season. Its very cool. Its parallels why it feels especially good to eat pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, or drink egg nog at Christmas. Yes, its tradition, but the flavors also help evoke the season. What is fascinating about saison is that this one style of beer can cover this seasonal terrain. You don't really see that with other beers.

A while ago, we were fortunate enough to get a couple of kegs of New Belgium's Dark Heather Saison in Springfield. This is definitely a seasonal offering and it was certifiably cool. I loved the warming feeling of this beer with the spicy yeast notes that saisons all have. Ever since I've been wanting to do a dark-black like saison. Recently I tried Goose Island's Pepe Nero and was not as taken as I was with the DHS, but still its a great drink. What I especially like is how this beer plays on expectations. Your ideas of "traditional"-orange or yellow- saison must be challenged, not to mention your expectations of dark beers-this one isn't "heavy" or roasty, or "stouty". Its clean and crisp still. Both of these dark saisons had some warming and spicy notes, with slight, slight, hints of roast and finished very crisply. I currently have the Fantome Noel in the fridge which I am just waiting for something super awesome to happen so I can enjoy. This beer's ingredients change with each year. Usually they contain some sort of fruit juice addition, but its tough to tell. There's usually quite a buzz that surrounds this beer, so if you find it, buy it and love it.

My approach to the dark saison is leaning somewhere towards the American approach, which is actually a bit conservative compared to Belgians like Fantome. This beer was my first attempt at formulating my own recipe too, so I wanted to keep it simple...somewhat. The trouble I had was wanting the black color, but not imparting too much roast flavor, as it could clash with the pepper qualities of the yeast. Upon the "quality control" I did last post, I would make changes now. Here's the recipe in all its weird formatted glory:

1. Belgian Pils 9 lbs 37
  1. German Malted Wheat                  1.5 lbs             39
  2. Toasted German Wheat (350F)       1 lbs               37
  3. Melanoidin                                     .5 lbs               32
  4. Cara-Pils                                        .5 lbs               34
  5. Belgian Special B                          .25 lbs             30
  6. Black Barley                                  .5 lbs               29
Hops: Amount Time %Alpha Acid
1. Styrian Goldings 2 oz 90 minutes 3.4%
  1. Czech Saaz .5 oz 90 minutes 3% 
  2. Czech Saaz             1.5 oz                          10 minutes                   3 
  3. Original Gravity: 1.060
    Final Gravity: 1.002 
    ABV: 7.7%
 Given the tasting, I would drop some of the complexity of the malt bill. It seemed like there might too much going on. On the cutting board would be the Melanoidin malt and probably the Special B. I was hoping those would provide more sweet complexity, but I think it just was too much. The hop flavor is pretty nice right now too, so I think I'll keep that on this one. As for the strong fusels I was getting...I got up into the mid 70's during fermentation. This wasn't a big deal I thought, but it may be a lot of little things working in conjunction? Possibly too much oxgenation (only did 2 minutes though) combined with some of the roasty flavors might produce this? We'll see if it settles out. For now, I must leave off and go check out a Beer Engine at our local Gastropub. Next dark tasting may be the half of this I wood aged...

Currently Reading-Dharma Bums-by Jack Kerouac

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