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Style Matters - Saisons
In each issue, CBQ spotlights a particular beer style and provide
tips from an ingredient and fermentation perspective. In this issue we
take a closer look at Saison beers.
Malt Notes: Originally brewed in farmhouses in
the French speaking part of Belgium, the Saison style, like many Belgium
styles, is not well-defined. Saison can be full bodied or thin, pale, or
dark, or in between. Generally the style is interpreted as spicy, estery,
hoppy, and alcoholic, but there are notable exceptions. The beauty of
Belgium beers is, after all, their diversity. When creating a Saison,
keep in mind the ultimate goal of the interpretation of the style you
wish to express, and formulate around it.
The grist for a Saison should take into consideration
your goal. If you are producing the more classic version with a color of
10 – 14 SRM we would have two suggestions. The first would be the use
of caramel malts at 5 – 15% of the grain bill. This will give the
desired color, with a bit of sweetness to accent a spicy or estery
version of the style. Another way would be the use of Vienna, Munich, or
Aromatic malt for a more bready sweetness – perhaps for a hop-oriented
interpretation. Of course many Saisons use a blend of both types of
specialty malts, and, in keeping with the Belgium tradition, many fine
examples are produced without any specialty malts at all.
If your goal is to brew a Saison as it would be
produced in Europe, we would recommend the use of Dingemans malts.
Operated by the Dingemans family since 1875, they are Belgium’s sole
specialty maltster, and produce a wide variety of 2-row spring barley
malts under their own name. Particularly well-suited to Saison would be
Cara 20 and Cara 45 caramel malts, and Munich or Aromatic malts. For a
pale Saison or as a base malt, Dingemans Pilsen malt is used by many
Another consideration for the grain bill is the
Belgium penchant for adding malted wheat, raw grains, flakes, or
adjuncts to their beers. Here again, there is no fixed rule. The use of
these grains will lighten the body of the beer, as well as add flavor
nuances characteristic of the grain chosen. When mashing and lautering
with adjuncts keep in mind they generally do not have enough enzymes to
self convert, and their lack of husks can make lautering tricky. For
most adjuncts we recommend a maximum of 40% of the grain bill.
— Cargill Malt
Hop Notes: For bittering the hops are
traditionally Styrian Golding or UK Fuggle. Brewers can also use German
Tettnang or the US varieties Willamette or US Fuggle, with a possibility
of Glaicer. For the aroma, traditionally brewers have used Czech Saaz or
UK Kent Goldings. Other options include Polish Lublin, German Hallertau,
UK Progress or the US varieties Sterling or US Goldings. The hops are to
impart an earthy as well as the citrus and fruity notes. Should be
moderate aroma and IBU level of between 20-45.
Yeast and Fermentation Notes: Yeast plays a very
important role in Saisons. The flavor should exhibit the estery profile and
some higher alcohols characteristic of Belgian yeasts.
White Labs has a number of yeast strains well-suited for
Saisons, including Belgian Saison I Yeast, which is a classic Saison yeast
from Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium. It produces earthy,
peppery, and spicy notes, and is slightly sweet. The second best option for
Saisons is Belgian Ale Yeast, which has a great diversity of uses. It is more
easy to use than the Saison yeast, because the Saison will sometimes stick at
50 to 60 percent attenuation. While this is normal for the Saison strain, it
creates a more difficult fermentation.
Other good Saison yeasts include Abbey Ale, Belgian Golden
Ale, Belgian Wit Ale, Belgian Wit II, and Trappist Ale.
— White Labs