Sunday, 13 December 2015

Spelt Saisons

Since the end of the summer, I've made a series of spelt saisons, each with a different combination of saccharomyces strains, and each intended for a different treatment post-fermentation.  I've written here before about the fact that I like to keep unmalted grains around for both baking and brewing.  Pictured below is the lunch I ate while writing this post mid-brewday: the bread was based on a recipe from Chad Robertson's Tartine Book No. 3 for a loaf that included spelt flour and sprouted spelt grains (see here for the process).  The beer was an earlier attempt at a bitter spelt saison.

Speaking of the Tartine book, I made one change to my process this time round, based on some of the techniques used in baking.  Robertson includes a number of recipes for breads that include a sort of adjunct porridge, much like the kind we make when we do a cereal mash, and he mentions in passing that this can be made in advance and kept in the fridge until needed.  Copying this, I've started doing my cereal mashes a day or two before brew day.  As well as saving me some time on the day itself, this means that the porridge is already made by the time I start my step-mashes, which means that the spelt is in the mash for the protein rest at 131°F, whereas before I added the porridge after this step to bring the mash up to saccharification temperatures.  I'm hoping that including the spelt at this earlier stage will lead to an improvement in head retention.

Each recipe was basically the same: a 70/30 split of base malt and unmalted spelt, with the majority of the base malt being pilsner, in some cases supplemented by 5-10% of either Golden Promise or Vienna to see if I noticed and liked the differences these made.  Each beer came in with an O.G. somewhere between 1.042 and 1.044, and each was hopped quite aggressively to around 38 IBUs, although since I used EKG in all cases but one the bitterness should be a bit softer than the numbers might suggest.

This is actually one of the things I'm looking to test here.  My original idea was to dial-in a recipe for a bitter, hoppy saison, with the spelt providing some of the additional mouthfeel needed to balance and round out the bite from the hops.  But some of these beers will be sitting for quite a while before I can package them (simply because I'm running out of heavy bottles, and have a quite a few batches I'd like to condition to 3+ volumes), so I expect that bitterness to soften a bit with age.  I'm inclined to think, without any real evidence I suppose, that the the tannins provided by large doses of low AA hops help beers age gracefully.  I certainly think it provides a different quality of bitterness to small doses of high AA hops.

I'm planning to blend two of these beers with a small amount of pale sour left over from this Autumn's blending session, and I also backed down a little bit, but not by much, on the bitterness of these beers.  Brewing lore has it that sourness and bitterness shouldn't mix, but I have to say I'm not convinced of that: some lambics seem to me to be characterized by a sort of earthy bitterness, as are some well-regarded saisons like BFM √225.  I suspect its more a matter of the character of the bitterness, and the way it balances with any acidity.  

I've included descriptions of the various beers, along with their post-fermentation treatments, in a list below.  Some will be dry-hopped, some are under-going a secondary fermentation by various brettanomyces blends, and it will be some of these beers that I go on to blend with a pale sour for a bit of acidity.  One batch, which was fermented by a blend of Wyeast 3726 and a saccharomyces strain that a fellow brewer isolated from a bottle of Hill Farmstead, has been turned into a sort of small solera, which I may keep going for a few pulls if I like the results.

Spelt Saison 1: Clean

Yeast Strain(s):  Yeast Bay Saison Blend II
Grist: Pilsner, Vienna, Unmalted Spelt.
Hops: EKG
Post-fermentation treatment: This beer will be kept 'clean', besides anything it picks up from my saison equipment.  When I transferred it to secondary I noticed that the gravity was still relatively high, at 1.010, even though most of the yeast had dropped out of suspension.  In an effort to bring it down a few more points, I added some of the still-fermenting wort from Spelt Saison 4, hoping that the saccharomyces strains from that fermentation would attenuate it further.

Spelt Saison 2: Brettanomyces and Dry-Hops

Yeast Strain(s): Wyeast 3726
Grist: Pilsner, Unmalted Spelt
Hops: EKG
Post-fermentation treatment: Wyeast Brett C added to secondary.  Once secondary fermentation is complete, this will probably get a light dry-hop with Styrian Goldings before packaging.

Spelt Saison 3: Brettanomyces and Coupage

Yeast Strain(s): Wyeast 3726
Grist: Pilsner, Golden Promise, Unmalted Spelt
Hops: EKG
Post-fermentation treatment: Yeast Bay Lochristi Blend added to secondary. Once secondary fermentation is complete, this beer will be blended with a small amount of sour beer leftover from the blending session from my pale soleras.  Compare with Spelt Saison 4 below.

Spelt Saison 4: Brettanomyces and Coupage

Yeast Strain(s): Wyeast 3724, Wyeast 3726
Grist: Pilsner, Vienna, Unmalted Spelt
Hops: Crystal
Post-fermentation treatment: Yeast Bay Beersel Blend added to secondary.  Once secondary fermentation is complete, this beer will be blended with a small amount of sour beer leftover from the blending session from my pale soleras.  Compare with Spelt Saison 3 above.

Spelt Saison 5: Solera and Dry-Hop

Yeast Strain(s): Wyeast 3726, HF isolate
Grist: Pilsner, Vienna, Unmalted Spelt
Hops: EKG
Post-fermentation treatment: Blended with two gallons of aged-hop saison.  This was a beer I brewed about twelve months ago.  The original was four gallons of saison cut with one gallon of mixed-fermentation pale sour.  I racked three gallons of the old beer onto about 15g of Crystal dry-hops, and then racked this batch onto the remaining two gallons of aged beer.  In a few months I'll either take off another three gallons for dry-hopping, and add a further three gallons back, or simply dry-hop and package the whole five gallons.

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