Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gilligan's Ginger (and Lemongrass) Saison

Ya, I know, zero points for stupid brew jokes.  This beer is the first Saison of the blog and the first Saison of the summer.  I am certainly a seasonal brewer and it is the season for Saison!  And why is it the summer, I mean season of Saison?  Well the brief overview is quite simple, you had Belgian farmers, some of whom enjoyed a refreshing beer after a hard day in the fields.  These gentlemen would create a wort, put it in a barrel and stick that barrel in a spacious locale, like a farmhouse (or barn if you will).

Now, it just so happens that yeast is carried on dust and such things, and not only one strain of yeast, many strains.  So the strains that worked best under the warm, and sometimes hot conditions of said barn or farmhouse tended to be the winners in the battle of the wort.  Fast forward to today, and the farmhouse yeasts available have been taken from the brewers of those farmhouses, and of which strive in warmer fermentations.  

If you want to drill down further I highly recommend doing your own research or just picking up a book on the subject.  there are some great ones out there including, but not limited to Farmhouse Ales, by Phil Markowski.  Here's an excellent review for your perusal by The Mad Fermentationist

With this history in mind I set out to create Gilligan's Ginger and Lemongrass Saison.  If you haven't used this yeast let me quote my wife, Kerry, after her first sip of a finished, simple Saison, "Now this is what I would have always expected beer to taste like."  Yahtzee I say!  Will you marry me because I dare say that is the most wonderful thing I have ever heard.  And I totally agree (marriages have been built on far less than this I assure you).  

Yes, this yeast is an individual to say the least.  It imparts unique citrus and spice (not hot spice, spicy spice) characters and tends to leave a beer relatively dry.  How?  Well simply put, it attenuates more efficiently/effectively than most Sach yeasts, and under the right conditions, it can leave a beer "BONE DRY," to lend a quote from Jamil Zanashef's podcast Saisons.  Citrusy, spicy, and dry...getting thirsty?  I am!  

So let's dive in. Oh I wish I could actually DIVE into a vat of this glorious nectar...Brew Club Project!

The first Saison of the season is always a simple one so I have plenty of room for repitching the yeast. Two points regarding this opening statement; First, when I say "leave plenty of room," we must keep in mind that when repitching yeast it is in the brewers best interest to pitch yeast from low to high in every category.  Low IBU to high IBU.  Low SRM to high SRM.  And low alcohol to high alcohol.  The reasons and perhaps arguments will vary on this point, but to paraphrase Ockham's Razor), all things being equal, the simplest answer is usually the right one.  Conclusion:  Keeping to this format will give you the closest to your desired result in each repitch.

Second, tribal knowledge will tell you that all yeasts (Both Sach and Brett) seems to find their rhythm around the third pitch; A good thing to keep in mind when it comes to your brew plan, competition brews, what you give to your father-in-law, etc.  My brew plan calls for a Saison-Brett beer later this summer so I'd like to warm up these little guys for the big show to come.

Back to the beer

The perception I want:

1.  I want this to be a sessionable beer, so no more than 6% (what can I say, I learned to brew in Colorado) - Watch the OG and predict a higher attenuation rate than predicted by brew calculators.

2.  I have brewed with this yeast before and so I'd like to spice it up a little.  

3.  I dont want a lot of fusel alcohols (hot alcohol flavor), but I do want it to dry out as much as possible.

4.  Don't overshadow the yeast and spice with the malt, keep it simple.

How to create that perception:

Starter - I don't need one because the OG is going to be low enough that a fresh vial of WLP 568 will be pretty close to the proper cell count to ferment properly.  It is not an uncommon practice to underpitch slightly which will create additional replication which is where a lot of the ester compounds form, and thereby really pushing the expression of those citrus/spicy esters.
Side note:  Doc from the BN once talked about tossing one vial of Hef yeast into a 10 Gallon batch to really push the yeast for this effect.  Talk about stress!!!

Grist - Simple and highly fermentable: Belgian Pilsen malt, sugar

Water - no adjustment  

Mash (Highly Fermentable) - 148 degrees.  I want this thing to end up bone dry and to get that character I need the beer to attenuate as much as possible.  

Boil - clean bittering, with a floral aroma to accompany the citrus on the nose.  Add Ginger (and I have some leftover lemongrass from dinner last night) at 5 minutes just to be sure they are sterile.

Fermentation Profile: I'll pitch at the low end of the yeast's WLP recommended temp and ramp up to as close to 90 s possible over 10 days.  Why 90?  Because it's the hottest I've ever heard of people pushing the yeast.

Recipe Central

OG - 1.047
FG - 1.005 !!!!!  Score! (90% attenuation:)
ABV - 5.6%
IBU - 25
BUGU - .54
Color 3.3

Starter - NA

Belgian Pilsen - 10lb - 85%
White Wheat - 1lb - 8.5%
Sugar - 12oz - 6.5%

Warrior - .3oz - 60
Styrian - .5oz - 15
Styrian - .5 - 1 min

Yeast - WLP 568 Saison Blend


Brew day - solo 
Ginger - 2oz, small cubes
Lemongrass - 1oz sliced
40 min chill down:(

Fermentation - reset red arrow indicator to 5 below "center" this seems to be actual.
Lag - 18ish 
D1 - 74
Added 2 degrees per day to D10, ended at 88. 

7/4/14 - FG at .005, no diacetyl detected (not that I can catch it anyway), so, fermenter in fridge: Crashing to high 30s.  Ginger aroma apparent, but not overwhelming -  glorious.

7/9/14 - on gas - 10psi
7/16 - initial tasting notes - 
A - pale straw, bright - tight bubbles dissipate half way but linger on to the end.
S - ginger is pleasant, lemon also pleasant, not overpowering, yeast character a bit masked by accompanying veggies. No hop aroma though, thought I'd get more flowery, but could just be my nose.  Kerry gets honey, subtle in the citrus, sweet spice.
T - dry start, dry finish.  Maybe slightly astringent, just a touch.  A little Munich maybe to balance.  Not bitter, nicely balanced there with the Citrus notes and ginger lingering lightly.  And of course the Saison spicy, peppery aspect is shining through.  Solid - perhaps just a tad astringent, but solid.  REFRESHING
M - low-high.  A little higher carb might round it down to low-medium.  I think it could use more carb.
O - beautiful.  I love the refreshing aspect as always and think, with a little more carb it'll be in it's wheel house.  Maybe two weeks on gas to settle out a bit, but clarity is surprisingly bright.  The ginger is not overpowering, but complimentary, perfect.  The lemongrass pushed the citrus notes of the yeast and the beer is well balanced and attenuated.  

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