Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Update II: Yeast Bay Saison/Brett Blend

It's been almost seven months since I brewed these saisons with the saison/brett blend from The Yeast Bay, so I thought I'd post a second update on how their flavours have changed (my first update here, and links to original beers below).  Since my batch size is so small (and these all tasted pretty good young) I only have a few bottles left of each, so this may be the last update I post on them.  If you can't be bothered to read it all, the gist is as follows: the hops have faded, and the more fruity flavours from the brettanomyces are now accompanied by a fairly pronounced funk; it works well in some of the beers, but is too much (for me) in others.

Spelt Saison

This was one of my favourite home brews when it was young.  You can read my earlier tasting notes here.

Appearance: Hazy yellow colour.  Billowing head, but it dissipates almost entirely.

Smell: Still that slightly citrusy fruitiness, but with a musty funk behind it.  Like gym socks maybe?  Its a smell I get from some cheeses I think.

Taste: Citrus rind bitterness still, accompanied by general fruitiness.  Musty funk at the finish.

Mouthfeel: Dry but not thin.  Bitterness is still pronounced, but the beer has enough body (from the spelt?) to support it.  Mid to high carbonation works well.

Drinkability & Notes: I still really like this beer, though I can't imagine serving it to many other people.  The bitterness is very firm, and there's still some of the same citrus character it had when it was  young, along with a new level of musty funk.  I've brewed a few saisons that have this combination of lingering and persistent bitterness with low-level funk, and loved every one of them.

Traditional Saison

My original tasting notes are here.

Appearance: Beautiful, glowing gold.  Brighter than before, but still with a slight haze.  Frothy head that recedes to half an inch but lingers for a good while.

Smell: Fruity up front, but with a more pronounced and pungent funk beneath it now.  Gym socks again (!) and damp leaves, but at low enough levels that I can enjoy it.

Taste: Follows the smell, but with the fruitiness a little more pronounced and the funk right in the background.  The fruitiness combined with the slightly metallic bitterness really reminds me of some kind of berry---strawberries maybe.

Mouthfeel: Slightly higher carbonation than before really helps this beer shine.  Dry but not thin, pleasant and lingering bitterness mixed with the fruitiness of the beer.

Drinkability & Notes: This one is definitely drinking well at the moment, and I'm sorry I have so few bottles left.  I suppose it doesn't taste much like any commerical saison I've had---but to be honest, I'm starting to realize that I don't like a lot of them, especially interpretations I've tried by US breweries that are readily available around Chicago.  So, if you like saisons, take everything I say with a pinch of salt!

New World Saison

My original tasting notes were part of my last update on this blend.

Appearance: Again a beautiful, glowing gold colour, and a lingering frothy head.  These beers differ more than the photos show, but not by much.

Smell: I feel like the fruitier aspects of the Nelson Sauvin come out more now than they did before, and the garlicky/green onion smells have faded a bit.  But not entirely, and they're now joined by the sweaty foot locker smell of the brett.  Intriguing at first, but ultimately a bit too funky for me. (I remember thinking the same thing about the last bottle of Prairie 'Merica I had.)

Taste: There's that green onion taste!  Mingled with the musty funk of the brett, I'm just not a fan.  I want the fruitiness more prominent, and the funk as a complement in the background.  In fact, you know what it smells like?  The mix of garlic/onion and body odour that you get from aged Limburger.  I like the cheese when its just beginning to turn that way---and I think I'd feel the same about this beer.

Mouthfeel: Solid.  Decent carbonation and not too thin.  I'm just not enjoying the beer.

Drinkability & Notes:  I don't know if its just the fact that my hops were a little old (though properly stored), or that I just don't like this combination with the brett---either way, this beer is too much for me.  Maybe someone else would enjoy it---as I said, I think I might have felt the same way about Prairie 'Merica in the end.


  1. Thank you for the update. These were all smaller 3 gallon batches? I noticed the blend is listed as having 58 billion cells, so I also assume you did not perform a starter for that initial batch and pitched comparable amounts for the successive batches? It seems from your tasting notes that the blend may not have changed much in character from each batch, which is interesting. When bottling, how are you accounting for the additional fermentation you expect to get from the brett? I don't have the strong bottles so it would be a bit dicey for me if I went with my standard glass.

    1. Hi Brad. That's right, 3 gallon batches---so no starter for the first one. Earlier on I thought the later batches were slightly funkier, but not by much (and with the last one that impression was a combination of the yeast and the hops).

      As for bottling, the beers all attenuated by around 90%, and seemed pretty stable after a month or two. Since they were tasting good, I went ahead and bottled them, carbonating as I would normally (probably around 2.4 volumes for a saison). For each batch, I bottled some portion in heavy bottles, and the rest in regular ones. My plan was to drink the regular ones relatively quickly, then to save the heavy ones for aging.

      The carbonation has increased slightly over the last few months, but not by much. At this point, it looks like the heavy bottles weren't necessary. But that's just my experience.