saison

DOWN HOMEBREW | TART CHERRY SAISON

 
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This beer was brewed for the holiday season, which stands as evidence of my lack of blogging activity lately. . . blame the baby! (Just kidding, don't blame her for anything.) Instead of your usual sweet, spiced Christmas Ale (see: Great Lakes' version), I wanted to keep playing around with saison—the chameleon of classic beer styles. So, I brewed up my standard saison recipe and poured in a bottle of tart cherry juice once active fermentation had slowed down. The yeast made quick work of the sugars, leaving behind a nice, tart pairing for family gatherings & holiday treats. Whether it was the flavor, the rich color, or merely the intention behind it, this Tart Cherry Saison made for  a wonderfully festive Christmas companion!

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Tart Cherry Saison

Appearance: Crystal clear! Deep orange color; addition of tart cherry juice resulted in darker color than previous saisons.

Aroma: Cherry—hooray!

Taste: Tart, some clove (see: Paulaner comparison), finishing dry-but-not-too-dry.

Mouthfeel: Full, round body with lively carbonation.

Style: Saison

ABV: 4.7%

Hops: Saaz.

Malt: Pilsner, Vienna, Flaked Wheat.

Overall: Reminiscent of Paulaner Hefeweizen, but with that snappy saison finish.


—M

DOWN HOMEBREW | PETITE SAISON

 
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♩♩'Tis the Season of Saison ♩♩. . . well, actually, that's nothing new around here. In my second year as a homebrewer, I have been in hot pursuit of My Perfect Saison. It is, perhaps, the best style for experimentation and has called brewers around the world to a virtual infinity of interpretations. My first iteration, full of folly & flavor, was the Dandelion Saison. This little one came along next—a bit lighter, and buoyed by some new flavors courtesy of a wild yeast strain. Next up: a Christmas version, happily bubbling away in anticipation of the holidays . . . Hark!

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Petite Saison

Style: Saison

ABV: 4.7%

Hops: Saaz.

Malt: Pilsner, Vienna, Flaked Wheat.

Overall: A nice little beer, crisp as the December air. This one's right at home in the pale afternoon light of the shortest days of the year.

Appearance: Pale, pale gold; a touch cloudy; with a head that likes to jump out of the glass.

Aroma: Me: "What does it smell like to you?" Sam: "...I don't know. Sunshine?"

Taste: Bright, floral; light and crisp; a toasty lil cracker.

Mouthfeel: Lively champagne-like carbonation; dry as a bone.

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—M

DOWN HOMEBREW | DANDELION SAISON

 

The tale of the Dandelion Saison started peacefully enough. I woke up early on brew day, and though it was a rare day off from the farm, I pulled on my boots and walked out to pasture. It was mid-May and the fields were painted yellow with dandelions, as far as the eye could see. With a canvas tote slung over my shoulder, I set about harvesting the flowers. I watched as a bumblebee drifted from plant to plant, busying itself by my side. The sun rose over the mountains, greeting a new day. True serenity.

Cut to seven hours later.

I walked down the barn stairs to the milking parlor, where Sam was working in my absence. Slouched over and flush from the 90-degree heat, I was dejected. Mere minutes before the end of the brew, my glass thermometer had broken in the kettle, spilling lord-knows-what into the batch. Sam tried to talk me down, but I was having none of it. The batch was ruined. All of that meticulous recipe planning, the hand-selected ingredients, the hours of research on brewing techniques for a more perfect beverage: all of it, down the drain. Because of a thermometer.

Alas! After contacting the manufacturer, I learned that the thermometer was, of course, food-grade: No mercury, no lead, no poisoned beer! And to make matters even better, the broken glass could be strained out before bottling. A beer without glass shards is highly preferable, no doubt. I patiently waited as the French Saison yeast worked its magic in the fermenter. The weeks rolled by, milking & pasture season ramped up, the dandelions in the field went to seed and blew away with the wind. All the while, a faint *bloop* *bloop* could be heard in the corner of our one-room house: yeast, busy at work. Finally, as the calendar turned to July, the Dandelion Saison reached maturity and made it into bottles: free of any glass or poison. This trouble child creation of mine was finally coming to fruition.

Cut to one week later.

The patience I had so gracefully exhibited during fermentation ran out. I had just walked in the door after a long day on the farm. A long week, really: the barn had flooded, there were wagons full of hay to unload, new employees to train in the milking parlor. A post-work beverage sounded nice, and though I knew it took three weeks or so for beer to carbonate in the bottle, it couldn't hurt to test one early—right? Worst case scenario, a flat beer. So I grabbed a swing-top bottle off the shelf and popped it open . . .

*POP!* *PSSSHHHHHHHH!* 

What followed can be described with a whole lot of onomatopoeia, but just one actual word will suffice: Geyser. The second the bottle was opened, beer sprayed everywhere, and with vigor—we have the ceiling stains to prove it! So, of course my split-second reaction was to stick it in my mouth . . .

*GURGLE *

That didn't last long. I ran to the shower, leaving a shower of saison in my wake. . . Good news, though: the beer tasted great! In the end, I learned three things: 1) Those extra weeks in the bottle give time for the carbon dioxide within to dissolve into the beer. Open the bottle too early and that gas will all be stuck in the head space, giving you a rare glimpse of "Old Faithful" far, far away from Yellowstone. 2) My wife is an incredibly good sport. Faced with the grim reality of a homebrew-drenched house, all she did was laugh and help me clean up the mess I'd made. 3) This is my favorite beer that I've brewed to date. Historically, saisons were brewed by farmers in the French-speaking region of Belgium, primarily for the consumption of their seasonal farmhands, or saisonniers. This beer follows that tradition: it is dry and refreshing, ever so slightly tart, and has a much lower alcohol content than modern saisons. It is a beer fit for a farmer, brewed by a farmer. 

Cheers!


Dandelion Saison

Appearance: Cloudy, pale gold; capped with a big ol' fluffy head.

Aroma: Rising bread dough, with maybe a hint of dandelion petal.

Taste: Floral, fruity yeast flavor, and pleasantly tart. 

Mouthfeel: Lively carbonation, low bitterness, finishes dry.

Style: Saison

ABV: 5.0%

Hops: Saaz.

Malt: Pilsner, Vienna, Flaked Wheat.

Overall: For a beer that was anything but easy to brew, it sure drinks easy after a day spent in the field, under the sun!


—M