Brewing Saison

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monkeymath

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I've never had any peated or smoked beer that actually worked for me

Have you tried the Märzen by Brauerei Spezial in Bamberg? That's a marvelous smoked beer imho. Not that I've had too many of those - Schlenkerla sort of persuaded me not to explore Rauchbiers in depth.
 

Miraculix

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Have you tried the Märzen by Brauerei Spezial in Bamberg? That's a marvelous smoked beer imho. Not that I've had too many of those - Schlenkerla sort of persuaded me not to explore Rauchbiers in depth.
I only had a Schlenkerla Rauchbier and it was ho-rri-ble :D.

..... Really bad. Personal taste, obviously.
 

Protos

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I don't even think of brewing a Rauchmalz Saison.
The level of smokiness in every Beech-smoked malt I know is so weak, it barely survives the fermentation by the most delicate yeasts, like Lager or Köln strains.
Pull that faint Rauchmalz through a mighty characterful hot Saison fermentation - and the smoke is gone, I'm sure.
That's probably what happened to my Château Peated Malt, which was very lightly-smoked in the first place.
 

monkeymath

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I don't even think of brewing a Rauchmalz Saison.
The level of smokiness in every Beech-smoked malt I know is so weak, it barely survives the fermentation by the most delicate yeasts, like Lager or Köln strains.
Pull that faint Rauchmalz through a mighty characterful hot Saison fermentation - and the smoke is gone, I'm sure.
That's probably what happened to my Château Peated Malt, which was very lightly-smoked in the first place.

I'm honestly beginning to think your perception may be a factor here. Maybe the combination of yeast phenolics and smoke phenolics somehow merges into one in your olfactory senses and that's why you feel the smoke disappeared?

I recently found a faint - and unexpected! - smokey note of campfire in a dark mild I made. I only get it for a very brief moment, as I tilt the glass towards my lips, but it's like a tiny electric buzz and so distinctive.
After making some "malt teas", I realized the flavour came from the Crisp 150 crystal malt, which contains a few burnt grains.

What I'm trying to get at is: smoke is a rather particular flavour that can really trigger your senses, allowing you to pick it out distinctly even in just small amounts. (There's probably some sort of questionable evolutionary explanation for that, smoke being an indicator of potentially lethal danger etc.)
So if you're saying, the fermentation scrubbed it out, I'm sort of sceptical, but rather think that it's very much still there, just mingled with other sufficiently similar sensations, thereby misleading your olfactory system. I remember being at a beer bar years ago and I ordered a saison (oh the pleasures ot being outside Germany!), and a colleague asked to try it because he had never heard of it. When he tasted it, he looked a bit confused and then asked cautiously: "is that smoke?". The beer was not actually smokey, he was just struggling to sort the impression of yeast phenolics - mostly clove in that beer - into a fitting category.
Have you had other people taste this beer you made? Did they share your impression?
 

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I realized the flavour came from the Crisp 150 crystal malt, which contains a few burnt grains
Very interesting!
Time to time (not often at all) I catch slightest whiffs of "smoke" in my beers where the smokey notes aren't to be expected. I always blame it on the phenols that somehow (because of slight wild yeast insemination or fermentation temperature fluctuations) popped up during the fermentation.

When he tasted it, he looked a bit confused and then asked cautiously: "is that smoke?". The beer was not actually smokey, he was just struggling to sort the impression of yeast phenolics - mostly clove in that beer - into a fitting category.
Have you had other people taste this beer you made? Did they share your impression?
Perception of phenols as smokey might well be a genetically-determined individual variation. If it is, I have it. In Anthropology, a testing method exists, so called PTC-Testing: there's a certain substance that people of different genetic heritage taste as bitter or don't taste completely depending on their genetic background. (Just imagine the Ultimate Racially Divisive Beer bittered with it; I won't share here my ideas regarding the name and label for such a beer! 🤣).

No, the few people that have access to my beers didn't share any impressions. I'm a good enough friend to not doing experiments on them with the "acquired-taste" brews, like Saisons, Sahtis, Bretts, Rauchbiers etc. Nice Light Lagers and Ordinary Bitters is all what I treat them with :)
 

CascadesBrewer

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The last time I brewed a smoked beer was a Porter several years ago. The feedback was consistently either "I don't get any smoke", or "HOLY! this tastes like an ashtray!!!"

There is a recipe in the current Craft Beer & Brewing magazine from Josh Weikert with 97% Briess Cherrywood Smoked Malt. The notes on the recipe say that if you want to cut the smoke character, you should drop it to 20% or lower. "There is not a substantial difference in smoke intensity when you go from about a third of the grist up to near 100 percent--but at the 20 percent level, the intensity drops off."

I did not see the recipe online, but this is the accompanying article: Make Your Best Rauchbier
 

CascadesBrewer

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Maybe more on topic... I am not a massive sour beer drinker. I have made a few batches with Philly Sour, but I have not invested the time and effort into either kettle sours, "real" sours, or using Brett. Making a Brett Saison has been on my list for a while, and it is something I need to dig into.

I picked up a bottle of Bam Biere from Jolly Pumpkin on a recent trip to Michigan (actually, purchased in Toledo). It is definitely a beer I could see myself making and drinking. At at 4.5% I could drink several of them. There is a clone recipe (requires membership) at the AHA for this one: Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Bam Biére

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mashpaddled

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Pull that faint Rauchmalz through a mighty characterful hot Saison fermentation - and the smoke is gone, I'm sure.
That's probably what happened to my Château Peated Malt, which was very lightly-smoked in the first place.

No, it's not like the smoke flavor turns into a cloud of smoke in the fermentation vessel and gets blown out during fermentation. I've fermented smoked saisons a 89F and retained the smoke flavor. I think this is a perception issue.
 

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What was your impressions from your Smoked Saison? Was it good? Did the combination of yeast and smoke phenols work well? Was the smoke flavour weaker or stronger than in a Smoked beer fermented with more neutral yeasts?
I'm very interested in brewing a Smoked Saison.

Strange, I perceive smokiness with no problems in other smoked products and in smoked tobaccos like Latakia, Kentucky and Fire Cured.

What if the main culprit is not my palate but the freshness of my smoked malts... I store them canned hermetically in glass jars but I have no idea and no control how old they are upon the purchase.
 

monkeymath

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For what it's worth, barley contains more of the precursors for 4-vinyl-guaiacol than wheat (not sure about rye), so you might consider brewing a 100% barley saison to really ramp up those phenolics. Might not make a huge difference, but eh, worth a shot.

On a side note, it's sort of funny how almost all homebrew saison recipes - my own included - call for some alternative grain, even though the iconic example of the style, Saison Dupont, is just 100% pilsner malt. (How they achieve that level of head retention is a mystery to me, but oh well.)

I'm a good enough friend to not doing experiments on them with the "acquired-taste" brews, like Saisons, Sahtis, Bretts, Rauchbiers etc. Nice Light Lagers and Ordinary Bitters is all what I treat them with :)

Well, thanks, now I feel shitty for, how do I put it?, "Sharing my beer journey" with my friends. Incidentally, the one beer that received the highest individual praise was a Grodziskie. But yeah, my Czech pilsner was the bigger hit overall...
 

CascadesBrewer

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On a side note, it's sort of funny how almost all homebrew saison recipes - my own included - call for some alternative grain, even though the iconic example of the style, Saison Dupont, is just 100% pilsner malt. (How they achieve that level of head retention is a mystery to me, but oh well.)
Speaking of Saison Dupont...these are worth a watch. I suspect their gas fired copper kettles are a part of the complexity. I think the guy said they do a 2 hour boil.



 

Protos

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Well, thanks, now I feel shitty for, how do I put it?, "Sharing my beer journey" with my friends.
Hi, I'm Protos and I have had Sharing-My-Entire-Beer-Journey-With-My-Friends Disorder too.
I realy did it when I was a n00b, just imagine.
My friends (all wine-drinkers, who touched beer only occasionally and were as naive and innocent beerwise as to be unable to distinguish good from evil) have been good friends enough to stoically persevere through the flooding waves of my weirdest concoctions without saying a word.
Now I'm wiser and much better at brewing Light Lagers and, I hope, a better friend.
So I feel it's now my turn to return the grace.
:)
 

CascadesBrewer

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On a side note, it's sort of funny how almost all homebrew saison recipes - my own included - call for some alternative grain, even though the iconic example of the style, Saison Dupont, is just 100% pilsner malt. (How they achieve that level of head retention is a mystery to me, but oh well.)

Also, I have been iterating over a house Saison recipe for a dozen or so batches. My goal is not a Dupont clone, but I do really love that beer. I was pretty happy with this grain bill: 73% Pils, 9% Munich I, 18% Rye Malt. The Munich was in there to give a little more color and complexity like what is in Dupont. I like the little dry/earthy character from the Rye. I tried to swap in Spelt, and it just felt a bit too sweet.

Last batch was an OG of 1.056 with a FG of 1.008 (6.3% ABV), fermented with harvested WLP565. Some feedback from knowledgeable judges was that it was maybe a touch sweet. I might try swapping some of the Pils for Sugar to dry it out a little, or I might just reduce the gravity a little. I would not mind pulling the ABV into the mid 5% range.

I also might swap out the Munch I for maybe 4% Melanoidin Malt. Would that better represent the character that Dupont gets from their boil kettles? I am a big fan of Dingemans Aromatic Malt, so I might try that in there at some point. Also want to try a Belgian Pils (or Belgian Pale Malt?).

My hop schedule for my Saisons and some other Belgian beers has mostly been to bitter with German Northern Brewer and to add some Hersbrucker late. A few years ago I tried out some different hops, liked the Hersbrucker character, so I ordered a 1 lb bag. It ended up being 2.2% aa, so using 8.6% Northern Brewer seemed like a better option for bitterness.
 
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I have found the smoked malts from my LHBS to be rough, no matter the wood or the maltster that produces them. When I make my smoked porter (Ould Porter), I smoke the dark grains myself and then age them in the keezer for a month or more before using them. The smoke flavor moves in and out depending upon the age of the beer: young=super strong smoke, middle=no smoke at all, old (~3 months or more) balanced smoke flavor with the rest of the malts and hops.
 

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For what it's worth, barley contains more of the precursors for 4-vinyl-guaiacol than wheat (not sure about rye), so you might consider brewing a 100% barley saison to really ramp up those phenolics. Might not make a huge difference, but eh, worth a shot.

On a side note, it's sort of funny how almost all homebrew saison recipes - my own included - call for some alternative grain, even though the iconic example of the style, Saison Dupont, is just 100% pilsner malt. (How they achieve that level of head retention is a mystery to me, but oh well.)



Well, thanks, now I feel shitty for, how do I put it?, "Sharing my beer journey" with my friends. Incidentally, the one beer that received the highest individual praise was a Grodziskie. But yeah, my Czech pilsner was the bigger hit overall...
I've witnessed similar head retention in Czech pilsner in Czech Republic.

I just read Scott Janish's hot ipa book and one paragraph about head retention from malt sparked my interest and might be of relevance here.
He basically said that a certain level of undermodification enhances a certain range of proteins which enhance head retention. This is why chit malt works the way it does.
Maybe the breweries have their pilsner malt made according to their specific specification which might include a certain level of undermodification. This would make a really good head retention possible while staying with pilsner malt.
 

monkeymath

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I've witnessed similar head retention in Czech pilsner in Czech Republic.

I just read Scott Janish's hot ipa book and one paragraph about head retention from malt sparked my interest and might be of relevance here.
He basically said that a certain level of undermodification enhances a certain range of proteins which enhance head retention. This is why chit malt works the way it does.
Maybe the breweries have their pilsner malt made according to their specific specification which might include a certain level of undermodification. This would make a really good head retention possible while staying with pilsner malt.

It's sort of a dick move to just blame it on the maltster, but more and more I've come to be convinced that there is significant variation between base malts from different maltsters, that these differences are an integral part of what distinguishes one beer from the other and there are certain things that just can't be done if you only have access to, say, Weyermann. The malt character you find in a Franconian Kellerbier is so fundamentally different from that in a Munich Helles that I don't see how they could be made from the same malt.

As Jeff Alworth aptly points out in "The secrets of master brewers", not many of the iconic breweries in Germany appear to be using Weyermann. Most source their ingredients from smaller maltsters, sometimes even several.
Undermodification plays an important role as well, as attested by various brewers. I don't know what malt Dupont uses, but I'm fairly certain that a "modern", fully modified malt would be obliterated in a mash as intense as theirs (iirc they start at something like 45 Celsius and then slowly ramp up to 72 Celsius over a period of two hours or something like that).

I recently found a small maltster nearby where I live that makes (only) pilsner malt from locally grown barley. According to their website, Augustiner and Ayinger are among their customers. Unfortunately, I couldn't obtain a malt spec, but flavour wise, this is very different from the pilsner made by Bestmalz or Weyermann, much more rustic, more intense.
I think the latter two are perfect if you're trying to make a very (c)lean, elegant and refined German pilsner or even international lager, with a subtle malt note. But for something more rustic like a saison or Kellerbier, they don't offer the right depth of flavour.

Of course, all of this is entirely guesswork and my own personal impression. I have no real insight into the commercial brewing or malting business, I'm just an average homebrewer and beer lover. Even with the right ingredients, I couldn't coax out the flavour, much less preserve it throughout the entire process, which certainly also has to do with my inability to keep out oxygen. So in no way am I saying I was a great brewer and Weyermann was to blame why my beers came out lacking - you can certainly make much better beers than I do from those.
I just don't think brewing process alone accounts for the dramatic differences between different beers which are all made from "pilsner malt".
 

Miraculix

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It's sort of a dick move to just blame it on the maltster, but more and more I've come to be convinced that there is significant variation between base malts from different maltsters, that these differences are an integral part of what distinguishes one beer from the other and there are certain things that just can't be done if you only have access to, say, Weyermann. The malt character you find in a Franconian Kellerbier is so fundamentally different from that in a Munich Helles that I don't see how they could be made from the same malt.

As Jeff Alworth aptly points out in "The secrets of master brewers", not many of the iconic breweries in Germany appear to be using Weyermann. Most source their ingredients from smaller maltsters, sometimes even several.
Undermodification plays an important role as well, as attested by various brewers. I don't know what malt Dupont uses, but I'm fairly certain that a "modern", fully modified malt would be obliterated in a mash as intense as theirs (iirc they start at something like 45 Celsius and then slowly ramp up to 72 Celsius over a period of two hours or something like that).

I recently found a small maltster nearby where I live that makes (only) pilsner malt from locally grown barley. According to their website, Augustiner and Ayinger are among their customers. Unfortunately, I couldn't obtain a malt spec, but flavour wise, this is very different from the pilsner made by Bestmalz or Weyermann, much more rustic, more intense.
I think the latter two are perfect if you're trying to make a very (c)lean, elegant and refined German pilsner or even international lager, with a subtle malt note. But for something more rustic like a saison or Kellerbier, they don't offer the right depth of flavour.

Of course, all of this is entirely guesswork and my own personal impression. I have no real insight into the commercial brewing or malting business, I'm just an average homebrewer and beer lover. Even with the right ingredients, I couldn't coax out the flavour, much less preserve it throughout the entire process, which certainly also has to do with my inability to keep out oxygen. So in no way am I saying I was a great brewer and Weyermann was to blame why my beers came out lacking - you can certainly make much better beers than I do from those.
I just don't think brewing process alone accounts for the dramatic differences between different beers which are all made from "pilsner malt".
That pretty much sums it up I guess!

Head retention alone is already a huge topic which includes basically every single step from barley variety over malting to mash temperatures and conditions and length.

Same applies for every other parameter of the finished beer. It's all connected! Where about do you live? Trying to find the maltster :D

Care to share their link?
 

monkeymath

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That pretty much sums it up I guess!

Head retention alone is already a huge topic which includes basically every single step from barley variety over malting to mash temperatures and conditions and length.

Same applies for every other parameter of the finished beer. It's all connected! Where about do you live? Trying to find the maltster :D

Care to share their link?

Yeah sure: MALZ & MORE

I live in Munich, sort of at its northern boundary, and Oberschleißheim (where they're located) is a tiny suburb just north of Munich. I'm afraid they don't ship their malts, but if you're interested, I can send you a 5kg bag. Just drop me a PM ;)
 

Miraculix

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Yeah sure: MALZ & MORE

I live in Munich, sort of at its northern boundary, and Oberschleißheim (where they're located) is a tiny suburb just north of Munich. I'm afraid they don't ship their malts, but if you're interested, I can send you a 5kg bag. Just drop me a PM ;)
Thanks! A bit far away from Bremen for local pick-up.

I'll let you know if a beer pops up that would benefit from it. At the moment it's all about stock depletion due to possibly moving houses in the near future.
 

Protos

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Gentlemen, what's your general opinion on adding Spices to Saison?
Is that authentic to the style or is that more of a modern American thing?
I know what the BJCP says on this subject, and I read Markowski, and Hieronymus, and Mosher, and some other dedicated books and articles.
Still I have that gut feeling telling me "save your Spices for your Trappist Ales and leave Saisons alone".

---
I'd like to add, this August I'm going on a Saison spree, brewing me FOUR Saisons for the coming year, each with a different yeast:
- another better version of my Peated Rye Saison (M29)
- spiced Saison de Pipaix (M31, already in primary, seemingly overspiced but we'll see)
- light and bright Saison d'Épeautre of 33% Spelt (BE-134)
- a slightly altered version of Saisoon Buffoon from R. Mosher's Radical Brewing, which I prefer to name Belle Saison Épicée. Lightly spiced, much lighter than S. de Pipaix. That's what makes me to ask the question above. Belle Saison is a bland yeast, why not to spice it up with some Pepper, Sweet Orange and Coriander (plus "your mystery ingredient", as the author suggests, for which I'd choose Clove)? Something inside me, however, says "PLEASE DON'T". What would you have answered to that inner voice?

(There might also be the fifth Saison added to the line: as long as the weather is hot I need to try Lalbrew Farmhouse yeast for the first time, so I'm still choosing whether to try it in a Saison from the Elsäßbrau recipes or in a "French Rustic Ale" - actually a Thiriez’s La Blonde d'Esquelbecq clone - from BYO).
 
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Miraculix

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Gentlemen, what's your general opinion on adding Spices to Saison?
Is that authentic to the style or is that more of a modern American thing?
I know what the BJCP says on this subject, and I read Markowski, and Hieronymus, and Mosher, and some other dedicated books and articles.
Still I have that gut feeling telling me "save your Spices for your Trappist Ales and leave Saisons alone".

---
I'd like to add, this August I'm going on a Saison spree, brewing me FOUR Saisons for the coming year, each with a different yeast:
- another better version of my Peated Rye Saison (M29)
- spiced Saison de Pipaix (M31, already in primary, seemingly overspiced but we'll see)
- light and bright Saison d'Épeautre of 33% Spelt (BE-134)
- a slightly altered version of Saisoon Buffoon from R. Mosher's Radical Brewing, which I prefer to name Belle Saison Épicée. Lightly spiced, much lighter than S. de Pipaix. That's what makes me to ask the question above. Belle Saison is a bland yeast, why not to spice it up with some Pepper, Sweet Orange and Coriander (plus "your mystery ingredient", as the author suggests, for which I'd choose Clove)? Something inside me, however, says "PLEASE DON'T". What would you have answered to that inner voice?

(There might also be the fifth Saison added to the line: as long as the weather is hot I need to try Lalbrew Farmhouse yeast for the first time, so I'm still choosing whether to try it in a Saison from the Elsäßbrau recipes or in a "French Rustic Ale" - actually a Thiriez’s La Blonde d'Esquelbecq clone - from BYO).
I got the same feeling about spice additions. If used at all, use very little.

Imo the yeast should be the driving flavour force in a saison. I also have the suspicion that Americans played a role in the saison spice wars. After all, saisons used to be very simple farmhouse beers.
 

monkeymath

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Gentlemen, what's your general opinion on adding Spices to Saison?
Is that authentic to the style or is that more of a modern American thing?
I know what the BJCP says on this subject, and I read Markowski, and Hieronymus, and Mosher, and some other dedicated books and articles.
Still I have that gut feeling telling me "save your Spices for your Trappist Ales and leave Saisons alone".

---
I'd like to add, this August I'm going on a Saison spree, brewing me FOUR Saisons for the coming year, each with a different yeast:
- another better version of my Peated Rye Saison (M29)
- spiced Saison de Pipaix (M31, already in primary, seemingly overspiced but we'll see)
- light and bright Saison d'Épeautre of 33% Spelt (BE-134)
- a slightly altered version of Saisoon Buffoon from R. Mosher's Radical Brewing, which I prefer to name Belle Saison Épicée. Lightly spiced, much lighter than S. de Pipaix. That's what makes me to ask the question above. Belle Saison is a bland yeast, why not to spice it up with some Pepper, Sweet Orange and Coriander (plus "your mystery ingredient", as the author suggests, for which I'd choose Clove)? Something inside me, however, says "PLEASE DON'T". What would you have answered to that inner voice?

(There might also be the fifth Saison added to the line: as long as the weather is hot I need to try Lalbrew Farmhouse yeast for the first time, so I'm still choosing whether to try it in a Saison from the Elsäßbrau recipes or in a "French Rustic Ale" - actually a Thiriez’s La Blonde d'Esquelbecq clone - from BYO).

For all the fun I make of the "Reinheitsgebot", I am pretty German in my attitude towards spices and other additives. I like when a stout emulates flavours of chocolate and coffee - but feel like it's cheating when it actually contains those ingredients. That sentiment is even stronger with beers like saisons, where the flavours don't have an apparent source like specialty malts or hops, but are produced in this magical process called "fermentation".
Pushing it to the extreme, you might then just brew a single flavourless beer and then add seasoning to make it a stout, blonde, saison, ... So I feel vaguely that an "unadulterated" beer is the more "authentic" product.

With that said, spices such as coriander seeds can be a great addition, and I wouldn't want to deprive myself of the nuances they can add purely for ideological reasons. When you have your saison recipe dialed in, and you feel that the beer would be just that tiny bit better to take it from "great" to "outstanding" if you added a pinch of star anise and pink peppercorn - then what's holding you back from doing so?
I'm sure those mythical farmers of the Low Countries wouldn't object, even if spices were mostly unavailable and/or prohibitively expensive to them.
 
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