Thursday, March 29, 2012

Petite Raspberry Saison

Saison is a style Ive always liked quite a bit, but I don't like the direction that most homebrewers take with it.  My biggest complaint is the high gravity of the beers that are brewed.  Saisons are said to be what many farm workers drank to quench their thirst during long hot days in the field.  I have a really hard time believing that they were in 7%abv + range that many homebrewers and  commercial breweries are putting out.  If I was working in the yard all day during the summer and slogging down beers that were 7%abv I think I would pass out drunk about 1/4 of the way through the day! Even if I wasn't working outside I would still pass out if I drank them all day long.

Another one of the things that irks me about they style, especially on the hombrewed level, is the use of spices. I generally am not one to use spices in beers, but when I do I make sure to use a very light touch. Somehow just about every saison Ive tasted at brew clubs etc is over the top with spices.  Some of the worst ones Ive tasted were orange blossom water (waaaay too much), chamomile(soap-like), licorice, and kola nut.  Again I'm not against someone using those spices (well except for the chamomile - I hate that stuff), but please use restraint.  In my opinion in most beers if spices are used I should just barely be able to notice it. They should be more of a compliment to the yeast flavors than anything else.

My approach to saisons is very different than many homebrewers, I like a very simple grain bill, a relatively low gravity, no sugar, and no spices.  Completely omitting sugar isn't necessary but I like to adjust the mash temps accordingly then.  Most saison yeast strains devour any and all sugars in wort, so ending up with a low finishing gravity is pretty easy (even for 3724), but having enough residual body to balance the flavor and mouthfeel is necessary as well.  If I use sugar in a saison I up the mash temp to keep a bit more body to the beer, otherwise I still probably use a higher mash temp than most brewers, but like I mentioned before saison yeasts eat through just about anything.  Its no longer available, but there was a thread on BA (before it went down) that the poster did a 50% crystal malt saison and it still finished in the low single digits.

For this beer I was looking for something that would be light, and thirst quenching for those late spring days.  I was thinking about styles to brew up and just ideas in general when I was at a local grocery store, when I noticed that they had a bunch of really ripe raspberries in stock.  It hit me that moment, a petite saison with a very light touch of raspberries.  I thought that just a kiss of raspberries could really set off the great spicy and fruity flavors of a saison yeast.  Event typing it here the idea sounds brilliant.  Googling around there seems to be some examples out there, which I haven't personally tried, but it seems like most examples have far too much raspberry in them.  Raspberries are one of those fruits that you should probably use with restraint, as their flavor is so potent.  It doesn't take much to make it over the top to the point it dominates the beer/wine/mead and doesn't really taste right (something I learned early on with a raspberry mead).

Petite Raspberry Saison
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
Amt (oz)TypeTime
0.75EKG's (5.1%)60
2.0EKG's (5.1%)KO<170F
Mash Schedule
170F1.9qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastBelgian Saison WY3724 (0.6L Starter)
85% effIBU13
7gal BoilFG
Notes: Raspberries were frozen prior to adding to the beer after primary fermentation had died down;  20L was added to give the beer a slight sweetness to balance the acidity of the berries; Mash temp of 152 was to give the beer a bit of body when it ferments out because of the low OG and the fruit addition

Review - 9/1/012 - Notes & Thoughts


Jeffrey Crane said...

I am right there with you on the low gravity - table strength Saisons.

One thing that I like in Saisons is to experiment with other grain types. I believe you've done that in the past, what are your favorite types and what do you think they add?

Ryan said...

Thats a good question.

Ive played around with a few different grains now; Spelt, quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, oat malt and I feel like at least one or two more.

When I brewed with them it was a fairly basic recipe to get a feel for the grains. Each grain had fairly unique characteristics that you could develop a recipe to highlight

Buckwheat - very earthy and rustic, super thick, more body than oats, toasted gives a slight nutty herbal quality that emphasizes all of the flavors a bit

Millet - Spicy and herbally, adds a bit of its own bitterness, good to highlight with earthy hops

quinoa - slightly bland when not toasted, nutty when cooked to a nice brown color. make sure to rinse or it has a strong really terrible bitterness

Amaranth - very distinctive herbal flavor with a hint of sweetness

oat malt - extremely rustic and strong oat aroma. Could be very nice in a pale blonde beer. Doesnt leave haze if mashed properly

I have a couple more that I plan on trying, but like anything else I dunno when I'll find the time. Have you used any interesting adjuncts besides gooseberries?

Larry D said...

I'd like to try this recipe for a summer session brew. Did you do anything to sanitize the raspberries before adding to the primary, or just freeze/thaw them and add to beer?

Ryan said...

Larry - I just add them after the primary fermentation has died down, in my experiences with fruit there really is no reason to "sanitize" it, as if its added after most of the fermentation has completed the beer is a pretty hostile environment to any infecting organism.

This isnt to say that something cant take hold in the long run(1yr) but its unlikely unless there are a ton of residual sugars

BTW I just tasted this one last night and it is awesome! doubt it will last more than a week

Jim Lemire said...

I like the idea of using some C20 to balance the acidity in the fruit. I'm planning on using cranberries in a beer that uses some crystal malts...maybe a brown offset the cranberriness.

Ryan said...

Jim - a cranberry brown sounds pretty good, i could see it pairing well with fall meals, and turkey day

Just a thought but you might want to add less bittering hops when brewing the recipe because of all the tannin in the cranberries

Stephan said...

Just the read is... mouthwatering. I think I will try my hand at this one!

One question, you mention adding the raspberries to fermentation (late primary or secondary), but they are also mentioned under 'grain bill' - but I'm assuming you did NOT add them to the boil, is that corect?

Ryan said...

Stephan - You got it right, the raspberries were added after the most of the fermentation had finished. I just listed them in the malt bill for simplicity

Stephan said...

thanks Ryan! Another question - what do you mean by 'KO<170F'... aroma hop at flameout?

Ryan said...

KO<170F means that I added the hops after I turned the burner off and the temp of the wort had dropped below 170F - it helps retain more hop aroma

Stephan said...

Finally brewed this last friday. OG was 1041, it's now down to 1030, so it has a long ways to go.

What's more worrying is that it has a absolutely horrible stench to it. This is my first Saison so I'm hoping it will clean up a little over time :D

Ryan said...

stephan - what do you mean by "horrible stench" there really shouldnt be any bad smells coming off, the only thing that even comes to mind in hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs) but with this yeast and an AG wort that shouldnt be an issue. What does it smell like?

Stephan said...

That's a good question, I have to say it's hard to describe. I have heard people describe saison beers as 'farmhouse ales' and reminiscent of "stables" and all sorts of farm animals related terms (but also: dry and fruity).

If I had to put to the taste (after 3 days of fermentation) into words it would be something like "sourish", "ashes", "earth", "manure". Although that last one might be a bit of stretch, haha and rotten eggs would fit in aswell.

Which is a huge contrast with the anticipation of a fresh and fruity raspberry beer. (I haven't added the raspberries yet, btw)
Not a pleasant surprise.

However, that was about a week ago so who knows what it's like right now - I read somewhere that this yeast does particularly well at higher temperatures and I figured that if it's already ruined then the damage is already done and a little heat can't hurt anymore, so I cranked the temp up to 32C/89F. to boost fermentation. See what happens.

Honestly, I fear the batch is infected.

I'll have another look tomorrow.

Ryan said...

I don't know that I would categorize sasisons as remeniscent of stables, that's more of a brettanomyces flavor profile. And while a saison may have brett, and APA might too, and in general I wouldnt call APA's funky

To me it sounds like it could possibly be infected, but Im not sure how it would take hold so fast. Was this yeast repitched?

Ive never had to ramp the temps that high for this yeast, but it cant hurt too much now. Id be curious to hear how it tastes now

Stephan said...

Thanks. Definitely sounds like Brett, yeah, but I've never tasted or smelled brett in young wort, so maybe that's why I don't recognise it as such.

The yeast was pitched directly from a Wyeast activator package (smackpack).

I'll keep you posted - and if the batch fails we'll try it again later.

Stephan said...

taste again this morning, sourish and earthy/ashy (as in: it tastes like taking a bite of dirt out of the ground).

It has a thick layer of yeast floating on top (brown)

Looks like the temperature did some good, it's down to 1018.

Martin said...

Ryan, your recipes, notes and reviews are quite thorough,however I would find it very beneficial to know your fermentation schedules on your brews, you put a lot of info out there and I feel a bit sheepish asking yet more.

Ryan said...

Martin - Its not a problem. Ive generally been a bit vague on ferm temps and time because I dont take a whole lot of notes on this. I generally ferment things on the cool end for all yeasts.

This beer was fermented at ~68-72F for about 3-4wks at which time I racked (kicked up fermentation a bit) then kegged about 1wk later, and was drinking in 2-3wks(carbed and chilled during this time @~50F)

Stephan said...

Hi Ryan, just wanted to let you and your readers know that we had another go and this time the result was far more pleasant.

We added 200 grams and removed them after a day, for fear of rotting/infection - seems like that turned out great, it's a decent saison with just a kiss of raspberry.

The beer (my first saison) is still aging, it's a bit too young to tell. Had expected it to be a bit drier, but maybe that will come with time.

It appears the nasty off tastes in our first batch were due to an infection.


Rowan said...

Hi Ryan,

I have only tried a few saisons and they have varied greatly, but want to brew one soon. Of what I've had, I've enjoyed the tart/sour examples the most. Saison Dupont was alright, but not something I want to emulate. I want to get an idea of what different ingredients contribute to the flavour of a saison.

So I'm wondering - Would this recipe still be tart without the raspberries? Or is that where all the tartness comes from?


Ryan said...

Rowan - In this recipe the raspberries account for a majority of the tartness, however all saison strains will produce a touch of acidity, some more so than others

And some saisons have a slight lacto touch to them as well

What saisons have you enjoyed the most?

Rowan said...

Thanks Ryan, much appreciated. Apologies for the double post.

When I say "a few saisons", I really mean two. The first, and most enjoyable, was put out by Red Oak (a brewery in Australia). As it was quite tart I expected other saisons to be the same. It was 6.5%ABV though, so not exactly quaffable. The lack of tartness in Saison Dupont was disappointing (just because I was expecting it). I've got a bottle of another saison in waiting that has five different kinds of berries in it, so should be more up my alley.

I plan on making a batch using your recipe as a guideline, but will use Motueka instead of EKG (because I have it on hand) and 3711 instead of 3724 (because it's less likely to get stuck). What do you think of that? This will be my first all grain brew.

Ryan said...

Rowan - Im not familiar with the aussie brewery, but could it be theres a touch of a lactic bacteria prensence in the beer? Fantome saison is usually tart because of this, and is bottle conditioned = possible to use in your own beers

As to your recipe, the switch of hops shouldnt make any real difference, but dont switch to 3711, its a bland one dimensional yeast that doesnt even come close to the character of 3724

I know ppl like to say its a great yeast, but its not even close. 3724 also really isnt that big of an issue with sticking. Just dont be in a rush (let is sit 4-6wks, add berries last week or so) and pitch a nice size starter (1L)

Just an FYI, but Ive brewed this beer with 3711 and will never do that again!

Rowan said...

Haha! Too late, already pitched 3711. Oh well. Thanks for the warning though; hopefully we'll disagree.

Do you remember what temperature you fermented at when you used 3711? Maybe if I go a little higher than you did I can squeeze out some more interesting flavours.

Aaron said...

I see you said you might add some sugar next time. What kind and when in the brew process would you add it? To the boil?

Justin said...

Just brewed my first saison. Like you said, I was against the idea of doing a higher gravity saison. the one I made is just divine. it is a perfect thirst quencher on these hot summer days. Lemony, crisp perfection in a glass.

I brewed more of a craft brew version as well, but it's only been in bottle for two days at the moment. slightly higher alcohol % but should only be about 5.5% or so as well. I got the beer more of an orange color by using some munich malt and 50L, and I added ginger and orange zest. I usually don't add anything but grains, hops, and yeast (ok, I do use irish moss); however, after the reviews I saw for an orange, ginger saison I had to give it a try.

Chris said...

Hey Ryan- How long did you leave the raspberries in the fermenter? If you did this recipe again, would you leave them in for the same length of time?

Chris Walsh said...

Hey Ryan, how long did you leave the raspberries in the secondary before removing? We're the raspberries thawed to room temp?

Ryan said...

Chris - I usually leave them in around a week or so, you'll be able to tell that they have had enough time in the beer because they turn white and start to fall apart. I highly suggest using something on the end of your racking cane to keep out the raspberry mush. I like to use a fine mesh hop sock

Chris Walsh said...

Hey, thanks Ryan! I ended up buying frozen raspberries (1.5 lbs), thawing them, placing them in a sanitized bowl and inside a sanitized fine mesh sock, partially mashing them with a potato masher (some smashed, some intact), refreezing them, then thawing to room temp before adding to the primary fermenter (after primary ferm finished). I left them in for 3 days, and when I removed them, they were total mush, no color, and covered by the yeast. The color of the beer shifted from a wheat color to a reddish orange, a beautiful color. I can't wait to taste this beer. I'll report back to let you know how much raspberry flavor ended up in the beer with this approach.

Also, I pitched White Labs 585 - Saison III. It has some amazing aromas at the 1.5 week mark. It began fermenting after 3 hours, and went like mad for 3 days, driving gravity from 1.044 down to 1.014.

Ryan said...

Chris - Hopefully this beer is drinking well for you right now. I know if it had been on tap at my house it would be gone by now!

Simple Pleasures Brewery said...


Great recipe for a saison which I am going to brew. Never added fruit before - did you just add your raspberries whole frozen after primary. Not mashed or pureed? I have a conical fermenter that allows me to do primary and secondary in one - do I need to strain this beer on bottling or will the fruit float to the top? I am planning to cold crash and fine with gelatin (do not do this for Wheats) is this okay for this beer? Apologies for all the questions ...

Ryan said...

Simple Pleasures - I now just toss in whole and frozen, though if your worried about dropping your temp too much you can thaw them first

I typically try to filter this beer through something coarse and/or give it plenty of time to settle out. If your raspberries stay mostly intact then racking alone is enough, but if they disintegrate you need to be careful

I wouldnt fine this beer, part of the character comes from the yeast in suspension, without the yeast you'll be missing some of the flavor

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