PM#18 – Vingt-Sept Belgian Ale

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I’ve got about 600ml of WLP550 yeast slurry that I saved from my Bastogne Pale Ale and I need to do something with it soon while the yeasties are still healthy. I pored for a long time over the Belgian styles in the BJCP guide before deciding on a saison. The WLP550 is not a “traditional” saison strain, but it is recommended for saison brewing by Phil Markowski and scored a 2/4 for saisons on the WhiteLabs website. It’s got plenty of spiciness but is not as fruity as the traditional saison strains. On the plus side, it’s a lot easier to work with than WLP565 Saison 1 and should ferment out completely in a comparatively short length of time.

So, given that this beer uses the same yeast as my Belgian Pale Ale, what will make this a saion? Well it will be much drier for a start; there’s little or no caramel malts in the this recipe (only a little CaraMunich for colour) and there will be a significant percentage of corn sugar which will help to keep the beer dry and refreshing. I’ll also be taking steps to mash at low-medium temperature and create more of those fermentable sugars, again to keep the beer dry. I’ll be using some rye malt to add some further spiciness and a rustic, earthy grain flavour. I want to counter this with some fresh orange peel and a little coriander seed too. This recipe is a complete original, but contains a lot of classic Belgian ingredients, so hopefully it will turn out well.

I’ll also be using different hop varieties than in the pale ale – Hallertauer Hersbrucker for bitter and two additions of Styrian Goldings for flavour and aroma. Both are varieties commonly used in Belgian saisons.

Recipe

Boil Size: 17.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 15.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.056 SG
Estimated Color: 6.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 26.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Ingredients

2.00 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM), 54.2 %
0.50 kg Rye Malt (4.7 SRM), 13.6 %
0.35 kg Munich Malt (9.0 SRM), 9.5 %
0.04 kg Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM), 1.1 %
0.50 kg Wheat Dry Extract (8.0 SRM), 13.6 %
0.30 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) (0.0 SRM), 8.1 %
25 g Hallertauer Hersbrucker [4.00 %], 21.9 IBUs
20 g Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] – Boil 10.0 mi, 4.3 IBUs
7.00 g Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 mins)
0.75 Items Orange Peel, Sweet (Boil 5.0 mins)
20 g Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 11 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Belgian Ale (White Labs #WLP550) – 500ml of yeast slurry from Bastogne Pale Ale

Brew Day 30/09/2013 – Very straightforward brew day for this “faux” saison. The wort looked quite murky which I can only attribute to the rye malt, which I’ve never used before. I realised that this beer is somewhat of a leftovers beer. I’ve had the rye malt for quite a while now; I intended using it in an American-style rye pale ale. The bag of Hersbrucker hops have been open in my fridge since I did my hefeweizen some months ago. And I also got to use a 500g bag of wheat spraymalt which I’d bought to do another hefeweizen which was then abandoned. My understanding is that traditional saisons would have had something of a “leftovers” vibe about them as they would been brewed with whatever was lying around the farm in terms of grains – rye, wheat, spelt etc. I’m sure they would have used whatever hops were handiest or freshest also. It was a great feeling to be putting orange peel and coriander into a brew. I hope I get plenty of flavour out of these to complement the rye.

I used about 500ml of yeast slurry from the Bastogne Pale Ale. The slurry was sitting in the fridge a little longer than I wanted it to, but the fermentation had taken off within a few hours anyway. Incidentally, I decanted about 250ml of Bastogne Pale Ale off the yeast and into a Belgian beer glass and it is really delicious. Plenty of fruitiness there and some nice Belgian character. It was uncarbonated and a little bit yeasty, but I think it’s going to be very tasty.

Thinking about it, 70g of hops is a fair amount to use in a 15 litre batch of Belgian ale. There was certainly a lot of hop material left over at the end of the boil. But given that saisons were traditionally brewed during the winter for consumption during the following harvest months, I presume they would have been well-hopped in order to preserve them during the extended aging period.

02/10/2013 – There’s a fairly vigorous fermentation going on with this. At least 3 inches of kreusen on top. Could this be the simple sugars? More likely is the large percentage of wheat malt extract in the beer. The aroma from the fermentation is quite sulphurous also.

20/10/2013 – Bottled with 115g of dextrose (13 litres at 2.8 vol) and got exactly the number of bottles out of the batch as expected – 6 x 500ml, 13 x 750ml. Taste from the trial jar was pretty good – the pilsner malt gives a nice sweetness and there’s some rustic grain flavours there which I’ve never tasted before so I can only assume it’s from the rye malt. I also took a final gravity reading of 1.008. I saved two bottles of the yeast slurry but I had to use tap water to loosen the slurry as it was so thick. Hopefully I can get my AG system up and running in time to make use of this slurry in a Belgian IPA.

23/10/2013 – I’ve been doing a bit of internet research on what BJCP category to place this beer in. I suspected I might have trouble if I entered it in the “saison” category – maybe judges might frown on the fact that it contains rye malt. Also, if the coriander and orange peel flavours are too prominent, it might get dinged for that reason also. It’s true that the BJCP guides make no specific mention of rye in the entry on saison. From what I’ve read online, I might be better off entering this in the “Belgian Specialty Ale” category, where pretty much anything goes. I’m just not sure myself how I’d describe the beer to a judge. A Belgian rye pale ale? A wit-spiced rye saison?

“This is a Belgian Blonde Ale with an extra grain complexity from the high proportion of wheat and rye malts. The earthy, spicy flavours from the rye malt is accompanied by citrus notes from the “wit”-style spicing – coriander and orange peel.”

It all depends on how prominent the spicing and rye flavours are after a few months aging. If they’re not too strong then this can be entered in “16C Saison”, otherwise it’s the “16E Belgian Specialty Ale” category.

07/12/2013 – The first taste of this is actually quite promising, though I don’t believe it’s at its peak yet. It’s paler than I expected with some very good head retention, probably due to the wheat malt extract. I’m not picking up any rye malt, though this might become more evident as it ages. The coriander and orange peel is definitely there in the flavour, but in a subtle way. It doesn’t immediately scream “SPICES!”. Some herbal flavours from the hops there along with plenty of Belgian esters. I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops in the bottle.

31/12/2013 – Time for some critical appraisal to decide which BJCP category (if any) this beers fits into. First off, beautiful appearance – Great thick head, although it doesn’t last too long. Really clear with orange colour. Candy-like sweetness on the aroma. Distinctive pilsner malt flavour. I can’t say I’m getting any of the signature flavourings that I hoped would be prominent in the flavour of this beer – the rye malt, the orange peel, the coriander. Nice dry finish. Sweetness in the middle. Would it be wise to just not mention the special ingredients and just put it into a regular Belgian ale category – blonde ale, maybe even saison?

05/01/2014 – I have to say, the rye malt is suddenly a lot more prominent in this. It’s actually quite a delicious beer. I might be better putting it in the specialty category, saying that it’s a composite of different Belgian beers.

16/01/2014 – I had a taste of this last night while visiting someone’s house and I thought it was really, really good. It’s absolutely crystal clear for a start. That rye malt is definitely there, though I don’t know if it’s prominent enough to mention it when entering it into the BJCP competition. There’s a definite spiciness there but it’s hard to tell whether it’s grain-derived or yeast-derived. There’s definitely a lot of citrus there from the orange peel and coriander. Very fruity. And it has quite a mature Belgian flavour. I think I’d brew this again.

20/01/2014 – “This is a Belgian Ale made with a small proportion of rye malt. The earthy flavour from the rye malt is accompanied by fruity, citrus notes from the “wit”-style spicing – coriander and orange peel.”

25/02/2014 – This is really enjoyable. It’s not a beer I’d pick up every day, but it makes a lovely addition to the cellar. There’s still bags of citrus flavour coming from the orange peel and coriander additions. Very Belgian nose. The rye flavours are negligble, which makes me think it’s going to get dinged by the judges this weekend, as I specifically mentioned rye malt in the description of the beer. Sparklingly clear and fantastic head retention. Very good, I’d do this again, I think. But I’d have to (at least) double the percentage of rye malt in the grist.

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