Thursday, 10 July 2014

Tasting Notes: Table Beer II

Here’s some tasting notes on the second of the two table beers I brewed earlier this summer.  This one was inspired by Jester King’s Le Petit Prince: its a low-gravity saison fermented with WY3711 and dry-hopped fairly heavily with Saaz.  The result is a very drinkable beer, one of the best I’ve made with this yeast.

A quick note on WY3711: I have an ambivalent relationship to this strain. It’s easy to work with, in the sense that it reliably attenuates all the way down to 1.000 without much work on my part; but coaxing a flavour profile I actually enjoy out of it is a different matter.  The first time I brewed with it (the first saison I ever made in fact) I blithely followed the general advice for the Dupont strain, cooling the wort to around 70°F and then letting it free-rise immediately to wherever it wanted to go.  The result was a lot of fusels and hot alcohol flavours, and the beer stayed basically undrinkable for over a year.  As a result I’ve come to associate some of the citrusy flavours the yeast spits out with fusel alcohol, even when a beer is fermented at lower temperatures and isn’t particularly ‘hot’, so that what I’m actually tasting is probably just esters and phenols.  This detracts from my enjoyment of any beer brewed with it (not just mine---I get it in commercial beers that I think use it too).  My problem is that these aren’t so much bright and zesty citrus flavours; they are more like stewed oranges with pepper (and sometimes hot alcohol) mixed in.   (Interestingly I don’t get this from the Jester King beers I’ve had, and I know they use a variant of this yeast.)

For this beer I used the fermentation profile I use on all of my saisons: pitched and held in the mid 60s, and then allowed to free rise after 24-36 hours in the fermentation chamber.  None of the unattractive flavours are apparent, but I do get them from another (higher gravity) saison I brewed at around the same time. I don’t know if it’s the large dry hop covering them up, or if I just prefer the flavours this yeast creates in lower gravity wort.  In fact, maybe the problem is that with higher gravities the fermentation takes longer, so that more of it is happening at elevated temperatures given the way I handle the yeast.  Perhaps the answer is to keep stronger beers cool for longer than 24 hours.

IMG_1869Appearance: Glowing yellow.  Very slight haze.  Head dissipates quickly.

Smell: Spicy hops with lemony citrus mixed in.  Some bready pilsner beneath it.

Taste: Lemon rind, grass, and pepper, with slightly sweet malt.  A bit of soapiness that I’m not keen on in the aftertaste (I haven’t noticed this so much in earlier bottles).

Mouthfeel: Prickly carbonation.  I suppose its fairly thin, but for me this lends to its drinkability.  Bitterness is firm and maybe a little astringent in combination with the carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes: Very drinkable: the best testament to this is how quickly I’ve got through the batch.  This is the first time I’ve been really happy with WY3711---the citrus is more lemon rind than stewed orange, and there’s none of the hot alcohol I associate with this yeast.  I would like the malt to be cleaner, and the hops brighter, but this is a good start.

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