Recommendation: No late hop additions
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"Overall Impression: Most commonly, a pale, refreshing, highly-attenuated, moderately-bitter, moderate-strength Belgian ale with a very dry finish. Typically highly carbonated, and using non-barley cereal grains and optional spices for complexity, as complements the expressive yeast character that is fruity, spicy, and not overly phenolic. Less common variations include both lower-alcohol and higher-alcohol products, as well as darker versions with additional malt character." BJCP, 2015, p. 50-51
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.048 – 1.065 (standard); IBUs: 20 – 35 FG: 1.002 – 1.008 (standard); SRM: 5 – 14 (pale); ABV: 3.5 – 5.0% (table); 15 – 22 (dark) 5.0 – 7.0% (standard) 7.0 – 9.5% (super)
Saisons can have a wide range of non-barley grains, which are often unmalted. The historical precedent is that farmhouse ales were brewed with whatever grains were readily available. The use of wheat, oats, and rye was common. The amount of non-barley grains can range from 0 to 30%. Zainasheff recommends using 10% (2012). Kilned malts like Munich and Vienna are less traditional, but are present in many modern recipes.
Grain bills with significant amounts of non-barley grains can be challenging to mash. The easiest approach is to use flaked grains, which are pregelatinized, and longer mash times (90 minutes). More complex approaches might be worthwhile for significant amounts of raw grains. These include cereal mashing or stepped mashes with protein, beta-glucan, and/or ferulic acid rests. Rice hulls are recommended for preventing a stuck lauter.
Saisons have a wide range of possibilities. This style can be brewed in strengths of table, standard, and super. Some versions use spices such as ginger, coriander, orange peel (bitter or sweet), grains of paradise, and cardamom. Darker specialty malts such as Munich, Vienna, Caramunich, and Carvienne are possibilities for darker versions of this style. The default grain values are relatively traditional and are based on the recipe provided by Larsimont (2018).
The hops used in saisons are the standard European noble hop varieties: Hallertau, Tettnang, Saaz, Kent Goldings, and Styrian Goldings. A single bittering charge is sufficient because this is not a hoppy beer style. Many recipes have a small late hop addition at the end of the boil.
Using an authentic saison yeast is a critical part of the style. These yeasts have a spicy character and may attenuate 80 to 90%. Saison yeast strains ferment at temperatures a bit warmer than most ales, like 75F (24C) to 80F (27C), and possibly even higher for some strains. Zainasheff (2013) recommends starting at 68F (20C) and letting the temperature slowly increase. The Dupont strain sometimes shows sluggishness at gravities around 1.030.
Saisons have a high attenuation and finish with a low gravity. Strategies for achieving this goal might include low saccarification temperature mashes and the addition of sugars (10%). Saison yeast strains will also aid in achieving high attentuation.
Saisons should be served highly carbonated. The traditional packaging is champagne-style bottles.
Dornbusch, H. (2006, December). Saison's greetings: Belgian farmhouse ale for the holiday season. BYO, 19 - 22.
Heniff, M. (2005, July-August). Saison: A farmhouse brew for all seasons. BYO, 45 - 48.
Larsimont, J. (2018, March-April). Saving saison: Belgium's forgotten style. BYO, 50 - 55.
Strong, G. (2013, May-June). Saison: A beer for all seasons. BYO, 32 - 41.
Zainasheff, J. (2012, May-June). Saison: Spring and summer sipper. BYO, 19 - 23.
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