Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Tasting Notes: Bitter Saison

Or rather, not-so-bitter belgian pale ale.  This is the beer I brewed with yeast grown up from a bottle of De La Senne Taras Boulba.  I was going for something similar to the original beer---pale, bitter, and hoppy---and also trying to get a sense of how their yeast strain performed.  Its a pleasant enough beer (J really likes it), but not what I was going for.  It has a nice gentle bitterness and noticeable hop character, but is a pale imitation of the characterful qualities of beers like Taras Boulba or XX Bitter.

The De La Senne yeast did reasonably well.  At first the beer had lots of sulphurous off flavours, but these have dissipated over time.  It didn't attenuate as much as I expected, ending at around 1.010, and I was also surprised that it didn't seem to be a good top-cropper (though now I think about it I've no reason to think that DLS do this).  I wish my brewing schedule had allowed me to brew several beers with this pitch, as I suspect I'd need to let it go through several generations before it would really come into its own (as far as I know, De La Senne have been repitching it since they opened Looks like I was wrong about that, but they do repitch through up to 30 generations).  I have some of the yeast cake stored in the fridge, and I may try growing it up in a month or so after I finish my current cycle of beers.

Appearance: Pale yellow colour with a slight haze.  From memory, I'd say its pretty close to Taras Boulba.  Tight head with fairly good retention and some lacing down the glass.

Smell: Grassy and floral, with a gentle pepperiness (white pepper); sweet and bready pilsner malt beneath it.  A bit like De Ranke XX Bitter if it was dialed down significantly.  Slightly plasticy aroma in the background as it warms that I don't like.

Taste: Herbal and peppery at first (but again, white pepper, not like the phenolic character I dislike in strains lime 3711); then slightly sweet and crackery malt before a dry and gently bitter finish.  Reconizable DLS yeast character.

Mouthfeel:  The mouthfeel is a little thin: surprising considering it finished higher than most of my saisons do.  Higher carbonation might help here, but I think if I brewed this again I'd also use more wheat.

Drinkability & Notes:  This batch didn't turn out how I wanted, but we're getting through it pretty quickly.  I was considering entering it in a competition as a Belgian Pale Ale, but I don't really know what judges expect from that style, and since J likes it so much I don't think I'll waste the bottles.  As I said, it does make me want to experiment more with this yeast strain, perhaps in combination with some fresher and more citrusy hops.


  1. A month or so ago I got hold of Taras Boulba on a trip to Chicago. I haven't cracked it open yet (a shame) only because I'm waiting for my schedule to open to harvest the yeast. Thank you for the inspiration!

    Earlier in this thread you mentioned you swapped in the wheat for spelt of a previous recipe. Do you think that sub was enough to cause the thin mouthfeel in this beer? I've never got a sense of fullness from malted wheat. It also sounds like you are using quite an expressive pilsner malt as well.

    1. I hope you enjoy the beer! You have to keep an eye on the bottling dates around Chicago. Some stores have some pretty fresh bottles, but today I picked up one that must have been a few years old.

      I'd be very curious to hear how the yeast performed for you. I used both unmalted spelt and unmalted wheat in the previous recipe, and in higher proportions than I did here. I think I'll go back to that in future.

    2. Eh, I think the yeast bit the dust. You are right, I did not mind the bottling date, which ended up being 2013 for crying out loud. Bought at Binny's. Had to thwap myself after seeing the date for the first time...on the cap staring right at me! To make matters worse, the beer itself was probably a shell of its former self, not much to speak of.

    3. How annoying! Binnys really needs to get those bottles off the shelf, I see them sitting there every time I visit the one by Goose Island Clybourn.

  2. Hi,

    Curious were you heard that de la Senne have repitched since day one? I think Yvan mentions that he uses two strains in the interview with Shelton Brother.

    Cheers, Olof

    1. I think I got that impression from something they posted on their Facebook page a few months ago. Also I thought the Shelton Brothers video (the one on YouTube?) was from before they moved into their own brewery, so I figured maybe they moved to a single strain after that.

    2. Ah, I found the post I was thinking of: it says they repitch up to 30 generations rather than indefinitely (I think---My French isn't great):

      "Premier cliché officiel de notre levure. Elle a l'air d'une jeune première vue comme ça, mais elle a déjà plus de trente générations! Générations de levure bien entendu: nous ensemençons notre moût de bière avec la levure du brassin précédent. Jusqu'à trente fois dans ce cas ci."

  3. Yeah, you might be right. That YouTube video is pretty old.

    I wonder were they got the yeast from originally.