AG#35 – Dimanche Grisette

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After a couple of years of disappointing summer brewing, I felt that I approached things correctly last year. Instead of doing my usual styles of beer like pale ales and IPAs, I concentrated on using yeasts which thrive under warmer conditions. I did some Belgian/Trappist beers with excellent results and I also did some wines and turbo ciders. It’s a good approach and one I was determined to take again this year. As the summer approaches I’ve decided on doing a series of saison ales, a Belgian farmhouse style which must be fermented at warm temperatures.

The classic strain for saison is the so-called “Dupont” strain, available from WhiteLabs as WLP565. However, this particular strain is known to be a little finnicky – often stalling at higher gravities and leaving an under-attenuated beer. Heavy aeration in conjunction with controlled, elevated fermentation temperature can eliminate these issues, but some brewers opt to finish the beer by pitching a neutral ale yeast which produces the dry beer that is required. In contrast, WhiteLab’s WLP566 Saison II strain (reported to be another strain isolated from the “Dupont” multi-strain culture) is reported to be less troublesome, giving the beer a classic saison character but attenuating fully in a timely fashion.

This recipe was inspired by the description of grisette beers in the excellent book, “Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition” by Phil Markowski. The book describes the beer style as being the traditional beer of Belgian miners who would exit the mines after a long shift to be handed a glass of this beer by the local young ladies. The ladies were clad in grey uniforms, and were known as the “grisettes”, “gris” being the French translation for “grey”. The beer style is intended to be low-alcohol, light-bodied, refreshing, but full of flavour. In effect, they’re a low-gravity saison.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 27.90 l
Post Boil Volume: 23.40 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.044 SG
Estimated Color: 6.8 EBC
Estimated IBU: 21.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 71.1 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Ingredients

3 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash 60.0 mins)
4.052 kg Bohemian Pilsner Malt, Weyermann, 90.0 %
0.450 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (3.9 EBC), 10.0 %
38g Styrian Goldings [3.0 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 15.8 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
20 g Saaz [4.80 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 2.8 IBUs
20 g Styrian Goldings [3.0 %] – Boil 2.0 min
1.0 pkg Belgian Saison I Ale (White Labs #WLP565 Yeast)
1.0 pkg Belgian Saison II Yeast (White Labs #WLP566 Yeast) (1.2 litre starter 25/05/2015)

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 4.502 kg
Mash In           Add 12.61 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun , 20.30l) of 77.0 C water

29/05/2015 – Was a bit worried that the starter hadn’t finished so I took a gravity reading. Delighted to see it was down to 1.008. Taste was a bit tart but this could have been down to the yeast still in suspension.

31/05/2015 – Pitched yeast around 11am and was fermenting by lunchtime. Really pale wort, lovely spicy aroma from the hops.

01/06/2015 – Ffs! It’s only just over 24 hours since pitching and the airlock has gone dead already. The airlock was like a machine gun for 24 hours but I wasn’t expecting the fermentation to be finished this quickly. Took a temperature reading of 21.7c which should be fine for both yeast strains. Have a blanket wrapped around the fermenter.

10/06/2015 – Tentatively took a gravity reading to see what is going on with this. I was expecting an under-attenuated mess but it’s down to 1.004. It’s the palest beer I’ve done in a long time. Yeast hasn’t fully dropped out yet so I might cold crash it for a few days to see if that helps. The most satisfying thing, however, is that it tastes fantastic already. Dry, spicy, grainy, fruity. Just like a saison really.. I’m very excited about the brews i can do with this yeast during the summer. Might do the spelt saison next.

21/06/2015 – Racked this to a secondary fermenter because I wanted the yeast cake for my spelt saison. I was expecting it to be pretty yeasty because there was a lot of yeast floating on top of the beer, but this thing is clear as glass. A little bit tart, lots of Belgian flavour, and the aroma, although a little sulphurous, is amazing. For a 4% beer it’s got bags of flavour. I checked out the recipe in BeerSmith this morning and noticed that the expected FG on this is 1.014. No way is a saison supposed to finish at 1.014! Will bottle in the next day or two.

23/06/2015 – Primed with 169g corn sugar (18 litres at 3.2 vol). 12 x 750ml bottles and 18 x 500ml bottles.

16/07/2015 – Pretty impressive first taste andI’m glad to have it tasting so well after only a few weeks in the bottle. At least now I’ll have a nice Belgian sipper for the summer months. It’s a beautiful colour – pale straw with a nice little haze to it. It’s light-bodiesas you’d expect, low malt flavour, but plenty of Belgian yeast character shining through. Carbonation level seems fine, but the head is low. Despite the low head, the lacing down the glass is very impressive. Very happy with this. The starting and finishing gravities on this give an ABV of 5.2%, a long way away from the 4.% predicted by BeerSmith. But I was using the wrong mash temperature in my calculations, which affected the attenuation a lot.

22/07/2015 – This is a great beer but next time I think I’d put a little Munich in to boost the malt flavours. I like the light body, but malt-wise, it’s a little one-dimensional. I’d also love to see what some light Brett notes would do for this beer. Carbonation is actually good, and the head retention is pretty good, unlike the first bottle I opened. This will definitely disappear in short order.

14/09/2015 – Really enjoyed this, though the tartness is probably a little overwhelming.

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