Monday, September 9, 2013

Brew Day--Saison de Potiron

Saison de Potiron
As the weather grows colder and leaves change to their autumnal reds and oranges, we beer lovers need a tasty brew that can reflect the change in the season.  The Franco-Belgian style known as "Saison" (French for "season") is a relatively free-form style from the farmhouses of Belgium known for its spicy, complex, almost peppery yeast character.  The most common versions (Saison Dupont is the most popular) are around 6% ABV, dry and very light in color, with lemon and pepper notes.  However, it is now widely accepted that in the Franco-Belgian farmhouse ale tradition, the saison beer would literally change with the season, with the Saison Dupont style most prominent in the spring.  Summer meant brighter, more wheat-forward, lower alcohol saisons, while wintertime saw a hearty, darker, high gravity saison.  An ideal autumnal saison would be slightly higher in alcohol content, copper/amber in color, malt forward, and perhaps containing some beautiful fall pumpkin (potiron) meat.  As a homebrewer, I certainly couldn't ignore my inner mad scientist, and of course I had to go with the pumpkin option.  Thusly, I have named the beer "Saison de Potiron," which plays on the fact that it is indeed a pumpkin saison beer but also the fact that "saison de potiron" translated literally means "pumpkin season."

The recipe follows a grain bill relatively similar to a scotch ale.  I used Maris Otter, a base malt that I have been borderline obsessed with ever since I started brewing all-grain beer.  A Belgian brewer probably would not use MO (Pilsner malt is the most common base grain for Belgian beers), but I wanted that extra maltiness and depth for the beer, given the cooling weather.  The wort poured out a beautiful amber with bright orange hues in the background...ergo, this beer will be autumn in a glass.  Here is my recipe:

OG: 1.068 (depending on how much the yeast attenuates, should be somewhere between 6.5-7% ABV)

9 lbs Maris Otter
8 oz Belgian Biscuit malt
8 oz Special 'B' malt
8 oz Red Wheat malt
1.75 lbs roasted pumpkin meat

1 lb dark brown sugar

.75 oz Czech Saaz hops @60 min
1.25 oz Saaz @5 min

WLP568 Belgian Saison Blend

Normally, I would use the Saison Dupont strain to get the proper complexity going, but that yeast thrives between 80-90°F, and I just don't have those kinds of temperatures to work with anymore, now that it's September.  WLP568 yeast is said to have the traditional characteristics of the Dupont strain without the finicky nature and need for high temperatures.  This will be perfect for this time of year, and depending on how things work out, I may harvest the yeast and make it one of my "house" strains.  I have had such great luck harvesting and reusing yeast in the past, I definitely want to get into it again.  It saves a lot of money (about $7/batch) and gives me some consistency.  Also, there are a couple of strains (especially WLP002/Wy1968 for English ales, WLP300/Wy3068 for wheat beers, now a huge fan of WLP250 for American/clean ales) that are amazing for some of my favorite styles of beer.  I will use my next two batches of beer, this saison and my Belgian mild, to test Belgian strains and see what I want to have in house for brewing those tasty Belgian styles.  And now...brew day pics!
BrewPal is a wonderful brewing app!  I use it for every batch!

Beautiful whole-leaf Czech Saaz cones boiling away

Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew(ed stout)!

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