Tasting Notes – Split batch French Saison

In case this is the first post of mine you are reading, about a month back I brewed both my first saison, and my first 10 gallon batch (same brew).  A number of weeks before the brew I posted about the recipe formulation which can be found HERE.

To do a quick recap, I brewed 10 gallons of a pretty simple saison recipe and decided to split the batch in half and fiddle with each separately.  Everything was kept the same through primary fermentation; same malt bill, same hop schedule, same yeast, so on and so forth.  The first batch of the two I decided to add 1/2 lb of wildflower honey and dry hop with 1oz of Amarillo, also keeping in mind that I was planning on trying the Northeast IPA dry hopping technique of hitting it in the last few days of primary fermentation.  The second, I forwent the dry hop and honey, and for a while was contemplating on exactly what to do with it.  Initially, I was planning on keeping it as is straight through, but then again that would be boring.  I decided to also add fruit puree for the first time as well with a little extra twist, vanilla beans!

Batch #1 – Counting to Infinity – Amarillo Dry Hop with Wildflower Honey

Appearance – Pours a nice straw to light gold color with big white fluffy head (contributed by the flaked wheat) that lingers and dissipates slowly into fine white bubbles finally settling to create rafts of foam on the surface.  Fine bubbles rise to the top from the nucleation points on the bottom of the glass.  Pretty hazy, which is appropriate for the style considering both the grain bill and hopping rate.  There is no noticeable hop matter or yeast particulate in the glass.

Aroma – Very aromatic with the honey quite noticeable in the back end.  Clean citrus and fresh fruity esters up front from the Amarillo and yeast.  Nice peppery french character from the 3711 strain complements the citrus hop and honey aromas.  Noticeable saison-type notes all around.  No noticeable alcoholic aromas which is surprising for am 8% saison that was well attenuated.  I would have liked slightly more yeast derived qualities but I fermented in the lower recommended range to keep the ester and phenol production at bay.  I know next time to start a bit higher from the beginning.

Flavor – Low malt flavors but there is a grainy, bready malt presence. Citrus on the front that finished dry as a bone with lingering peppery qualities from the yeast. Hop flavor is moderate to high, which is to be expected, but within reason.  Clean saison character with no noticeable fermentation flaws.  Very tasty! Still would have liked more belgian/saison qualities from higher fermentation temps.

Mouthfeel – Moderate mouthfeel from the flaked wheat which added just the right amount of body for a beer that attenuated this well.  Nice tight effervescent carbonation that adds some prickling acidity that complements the other flavors.

Batch #2 – Counting from Infinity – Blackberry Puree with Vanilla Beans

Appearance – Magenta to light purple/pink in color. Similar head characteristics as the other batch. Color is pretty inviting but it is moderately hazy which almost distracts from the color itself.  Wish it was a tad clearer but with time some yeast may settle out.

Aroma – Similar yeast driven characteristics as the other.  Winey generic berry aroma up front with noticeable vanilla within.  If you handed me a glass at random, I most likely would not have been able to pick out blackberry as opposed to blueberry.  No hop aroma present.  Very light vanilla character which is subdued but is what I was going for.  Sometimes vanilla can be borderline savory in character, so restrained use in a light, fruity beer is right on point. Wish there was more fresh berry characteristics, but using canned blackberries for the puree is most likely the culprit. No alcohol aromas noted.

Flavor – Very faint generic wine-like berry characteristics. Similar levels of yeast derived flavors as batch #1.  Vanilla flavor unfortunately does not follow the nose, however I do pick some up in the finish.  Slight citrusy flavor from the Amarillo used in the kettle.  Tastes pretty good, but again, I would have liked a fresh berry flavor, and a tad more vanilla.

Mouthfeel – Similar mouthfeel to other batch.  There seems to be less carbonic acidity from the carbonation on this one.  Mouthfeel is still moderate and soft.  Very nice, smooth and inviting.

Overall Impression

The attenuation levels for both batches were great!  They finish quite dry without becoming thin.  Batch #1 is the clear winner, but #2 is not to bad either.  Changes for next time for both batches are to increase the primary fermentation temperature to maybe start at 70F and ramp up to the mid 80s instead of starting at 65F and ending at 80F. Batch #1 could use a tiny bit of noble hop character from something like Saaz to complement both the yeast aromas/flavors and the citrus character of the Amarillo.  For batch #2, I chickened out at the supermarket when I looked to use fresh raspberries and instead browsed the baking isle to fined Oregon canned blackberries in light syrup.  I assumed they would hold some of their fresh qualities in the can, but I knew they weren’t at their potential as soon as I opened the first one.  Next time I will definitely use fresh berries; maybe frozen, instead of canned.  Also, I may want to increase the number of vanilla beans to 3 instead of 2 to get slightly more vanilla in the flavor and aroma.


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