Sunday, April 12, 2015

Rye Saison - Brew Day & Tasting Notes

Brewery: Old North Brewing

Style: Farmhouse Ale / Saison
Brewed On: 01.15.2015
Bottled On: 02.07.2015
ABV: 7.0%

Appearance: Pale gold and mildly cloudy. Huge billowing head stays around for quite a while, eventually settling into a persistent small cap.

Smell: Spicy and earthy. Reminiscent of an herb garden or freshly dug loam. Also a strong note from the rye stands out clearly. Notes of grapefruit peel, hay, dandelion, and coriander emerge as the beer warms. Very much a classic Belgian saison.
Taste: Opens with a peppery note, then races across the palate with notes of coriander, allspice, and a hint of black cardamom. A light tartness emerges along the sides of the tongue. Pilsner malt is very present, with an excellent honeyed bread taste that balances all the funk quite well. Retro-nasally there is almost an orange blossom note, very subtle, but present. Finishes with the peppery note still standing, and an earthy spiciness, almost like petrichor.
Mouthfeel: Light body. Prickly carbonation refreshes the palate. Fairly clean finish, but a sort of peppery note lingers for quite a while.
Overall: A great example of a farmhouse ale. Many layers of funk open up as this beer sits. The spicy notes from the yeast really ties together the rye and pilsner malt. 

One of the worst things I think that a new home brewer can do when designing a recipe is to try to many things at once. The best idea in my opinion is to stick to simple recipes and tweak only one or two things at a time; don't try and brew an untested IPA recipe with a new hopping technique, hop combos you picked from thin air, a new fermentation schedule, and the latest cool yeast. Of course, a fair substitute for trying all of these things out one at a time is to read what other's are doing and tweak one or two things.

This recipe was inspired by two things; Ed Coffey's farmhouse ale brewed with the same strain of yeast and the book Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski. I based my recipe on Markowski's "Classic Saison" recipe (p. 161), but substituted rye malt for the recommended wheat malt, and I used Munich I instead of a caramel malt because I wanted to keep the beer pale, but malty. These substitutions were inspired by Coffey's recipe for "Farmer in the Rye".

The Avangard malt I used in this recipe really caught me off guard. I originally designed this recipe to clock in at a much lower 1.048 OG, and only assumed I would get 68% efficiency. I was guessing that that number might even be high since I was still figuring out my system. Instead I got near 75% efficiency and an OG of 1.057. For some reason my boil-off was also oddly high. Looking back I should have diluted my wort back to something closer to 1.048, but I ended up with a very tasty beer so no complaints.

Overall, this is one of my favorite beers that I have brewed. The natural temperature control that I gained thanks to a poorly insulated room and a warm closet definitely made a difference in this beer. A lot of other little things (mash pH, water chemistry, techniques, recipe tweaks, good yeast) that I have been working on for a while came together to make a really great beer. It's a testament to the fact that all of the little pieces really do make a difference when you bring it all together.

That said, it's pretty obvious from the picture that this beer is pretty darn over-carbonated. I'm not entirely sure why that is. I was originally aiming at 3.0 volumes of CO2 which is a little high but well within style. It's possible that the beer continued to ferment a fraction of a point after bottling (but given I measure the FG at 1.004 I sort of doubt it). I weighed out the sugar and measured using a calibrated bottling bucket. The problem seems to be endemic to the entire batch, so it doesn't seem like I failed to mix the priming sugar well. The only thing I can figure is that I used a sugar which was more fermentable than what I estimate (eg. I accidentally read off the dextrose priming amount while adding regular table sugar).

Batch Size: 5.65 gallons
Measured OG: 1.057
Measured FG: 1.004
ABV: 7.0%
Anticipated IBUs: 42.4
Anticipated SRM: 4.6
Actual Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.9%
Boil Time: 75 mins

79.6% [9.75#] - Avangard Pilsner Malt
16.3% [2#] - Rye Malt
4.1% [0.5#] - Munich 10L

8.5 AAU [0.5 oz, 17%] - Apollo @ First Wort Hop
3.35 AAU [0.67 oz, 5%] - East Kent Goldings @ 30 mins
2.25 AAU [0.60 oz, 3.75%] - Saaz @ 5 mins
2.25 AAU [0.43 oz, 5%] - East Kent Goldings @ 5 mins
2.25 AAU [0.45 oz, 5.4%] - Styrian Goldings @ 5 mins
1.24 AAU [0.33 oz, 3.75%] - Saaz @ Flameout
1.65 AAU [0.33 oz, 5%] - East Kent Goldings @ Flameout
1.78 AAU [0.33 oz, 5.4%] - Styrian Goldings @ Flameout


0.5 Whirlfloc tablets @ 15 mins
0.5 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 mins


The Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse

Winston Salem, NC municipal water (delightfully soft according to city water reports)
4.1 g CaCl
2.4 g CaSO4
3.2 mL 88% Lactic Acid

Saccharification Rest - 18.75 qt @ 151 F
Mash Out - Add 8.5 qt @ 212 F

Decided against building a starter due to anticipated low gravity of brew, and to hopefully stress the yeast into producing more delicious esters.

Mash pH was 5.4.

Sparged to 7.5 gallons of 1.045 wort pre-boil.

Ran out of propane right as boil began. Was able to finish inside on electric stovetop.

Chilled quickly with home-made immersion chiller (thanks to very cold groundwater temperatures).

Started fermentation in a very cold room (65 F ambient), slowly moving into warmer areas over the first week. Finished fermentation in a warm (75 F ambient) closet for two more weeks.

This beer was naturally bottle conditioned to 3 volumes of CO2.

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