Aug 25 2009

Brett and Sour Saison Split Batch Experiment


**2/22/11 Update** 

I sent the Brett B version of the saison (renamed Monsoon Season) to the Batch 300 competition put on by The Bruery. It didn’t get Best of Show, but it did come in first in Category 16. All and all, very cool. The results. 

The second split batch experiment happened on Sunday night with my latest saison. 

I’ve done a few saison homebrews, and I always find I enjoy the bretted and soured batches just a little bit more. Saisons are not complete strangers to wildness and sourness, and some of the more famous examples of the style from Brasserie Fantôme and Brasserie à Vapeur  are amazing because of those notes.  I think it adds more complexity to the beer, and I find myself ramping up the acidulated malt that I put into the mash a little more each time.  The idea behind this experiment was to ferment a saison and then to add a pure brettanomyces culture to one and brett and some souring bacteria into the other. 

The beer started out as one of my standard saison batches with the not-so-secret ingredient of some acidulated malt.  It started out with an OG of 1.068, and I fermented it at around 80 degrees.  It dropped down to a 1.006 less than a week later, and then I let it sit for another week just to clean itself up and let the yeasts drop out.  (I say “yeasts” because I pitch a saison yeast, in this case WLP565, and then a clean Cal ale yeast, the Safale US-05, 48 hours later to insure the beer dries out enough.) 

On Sunday (8/23/09), I split the batch evenly between two 3-gallon carboys.  Into one carboy I pitched a vial of White Labs Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (WLP650), and into the other I pitched a starter I had ramped up from the dregs of an Avery Brabant.  (Yes, this is deviation from the original souring gameplan.) 

 Split Brett Saison Batch

The Brett B is a pure culture of that brettanomyces strain and it is often used for secondary fermentation of Belgian beers and lambics.  It creates a medium intensity funk, and it is some pitched at bottling by brewers.  The Avery culture is a bit more of a wildcard.  It is my understanding that the Brabant undergoes a secondary fermentation brett b, too, but it isn’t the same culture as the tube.  The bottle dregs likely include lactobacillus (lacto) and pediococcus (pedio) bacteria. These can add extra tartness and perhaps add a vinegar quality to the beer. 

Since the final gravity of the beer was so low, the bretts shouldn’t have too much to feast upon and that should control the funkiness to a certain degree.  As of two nights later, the brett b carboy doesn’t appear to be doing anything visually, but its airlock seems to be under a bit more pressure.  The Brabant carboy is getting a white foaminess to it, and may be forming a pellicle.  

I’m not sure how long I will let these beers age and evolve.  I will likely taste them every so often and see if they are in a place where I want to bottle them.  

We’ll see where this one ends up.  

As a sidenote, I did use my wine thief a few weeks ago to fill up a few bottles of the pre-brett saison for tasting and a homebrew competition.  I tasted one right before the split and it was very, very good.  It made it harder to pitch uncertainty into what was an amazing beer, but at least I know I have the recipe I want dialed in for the future. 

The recipe for giggles: 

Le Moribond – (Saison) 2009

Starting Gravity: 1.068 (8/2/09) Days @ 80° F
Final Gravity:  1.006 (8/23/09)
8.15% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation: 90.71
Real Attenuation: 73.35

Mash (147° 60 min)
10 lb Pilsener Malt
2 lb Golden Promise
1 lb Munich Malt
0.75 Wheat Malt
0.25 CaraMunich 40
0.25 Acidulated Malt (Sauer)
1 lb Cane Sugar

Boil (70 minute boil)
2.0 Hallertauer Leaves (4.3 AA) (60 min)
0.75 Hallertauer Leaves (4.3 AA) (0 min)
1 tablet Whirlfloc (Boil – 15 min.)
½ tsp Brewer’s Choice Wyeast Nutrient Blend (Boil – 10 min.)

Primary (>80° F)

White Labs WLP565 – Starter made
Safale-05 – Packet pitched after 48 hours in primary


Aug 6 2009

Soured Saison Split Batch Experiment

This update is more thinking (or is it typing?) out loud about split batches.  In an effort to get a lot of brewing experimentation and testing done in a short amount of time, I’m splitting batches and that began not long ago with the splitting of my barleywine.  Part of that beer was bottled according to plan and a portion of the barleywine is being aged a little longer on bourbon oak cubes.

Right now, I have a traditional saison in primary and I’m determining how I want to break that one apart.  I’ll post the recipe for it on a later update, but it is your garden-variety saison homebrew from the 10,000 foot view.  Lots of pilsner malt, some wheat, a pound of cane sugar (to dry it out) and a few other specialty grains.  I also threw in 2 pounds Golden Promise just to add a little malt weight to the mix. 

The secret ingredient for my saisons is a touch of acidulated malt.  The acidity of that specialty grain adds a subtle complexity in the finished beer, but sticking your nose in a bag of this malt is like inhaling fresh sourdough.  At first I only used 2 ounces per 5.5 gallon batch, but lately I’ve been using 4 ounces.  I might have gone a little higher with this brew, but part of the experiment is the souring of the saison with brett, and I didn’t want too much noise coming from the sour malt.

I brewed up a 5.5 gallon batch on Sunday (8/2/09), and it has been in primary for four days.  The original gravity was 1.068, I pitched a built-up starter of WLP565 into the carboy once it got down to 75° F, and then I pitched a package of Safale-05 after the first 48 hours of active fermentation.   Saison yeasts are notorious for pooping out too early, and I have been burnt before, so I usually pitch something strong and neutral to bat clean up for the saison yeast if it decides to die on me.

At this time, I’m looking to split the batch three ways:

  • Segment A (Control): 1 gallon will be bottled and carbonated in the usual way for the style
  • Segment B: 3 gallons will be racked in a smaller carboy and I will pitch brettanomyces bruxellensis (medium intensity brett – WLP650) on that and let it sour
  • Segment C: 1 gallon will be racked it a wine jug and I will pitch the dregs of a bottle of Jolly Pumpkin La Roja (American-made Flanders Red) on that

I’ve tried the Bruery’s Saison Rue a few times over the last few months, and I like that beer a lot.  It is unusual because of their use of rye malt in the brew, but they also add brettanomyces at bottling to sour it ever so slightly.  It is a solid and very balanced beer, but I wanted a little more sourness in my version.  For that reason, I want to give segment B a little extra time before bottling for the brett to do its thing.

Segment C is just a spur of the moment decision since a good friend brought down some Jolly Pumpkin beers, and I’ve been loving then so far.  Building up and pitching those dregs should add JP’s brett, pedio, and lacto cultures to the saison, and I’m most excited to see how that segment turns out.


Down the road, I’ll be looking to use the 10 pounds of cherries I acquired a few weeks ago, but I think those are better used on a Belgian dark strong or golden ale.

Stay tuned, and any thoughts or comments are welcomed.