Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sage Saison

There is something special about cooking with fresh herbs harvested straight from your garden. Run outside and cut some Chives for your morning omelet, spruce up some store-bought salsa with fresh Cilantro or add a few springs of Thyme to a hearty stew.

Of all the herbs in my garden Sage is my favorite. I like the sharp aroma and earthy flavor that it adds to foods, especially meats like sausage and lamb.  So when I decided to brew my Saison receipt, for what would be the sixth time, I wanted to add Sage. 

I'd thought about how bold Sage is and worried about how it would pair with the delicate farmhouse character in Saison. My worries were calmed by DJ turned brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisinal Ales and a bottle of his Cellar Door, an American farmhouse ale with white Sage.

Sage Saison (10 Gallons)
  • 10 lbs Pilsner Malt
  • 2 lbs Flaked Wheat
  • 2 lbs Light Candi Sugar
  • 2 oz Sirachi Ace (1oz @ 60mins) (1oz @ 0 mins)
  • 4 oz Citra (1oz @ 60mins) (1oz @ 0 mins) (2 oz dry hop)
  • Saison Yeast Blend (WLP565, WLP566 and White Labs 3711)
  • 4 oz Sage, fresh picked (2 oz @ 0 mins) (remainder @ dry hop)
  • Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
  • Whirlflock tablet
  • Mash at 148° F for 90 mins.
  • 90 min boil

The simple grain bill of the beer really lets the the yeast character and hop flavors shine.  The low mash temp helps to ensure the wort is highly fermentable and will allow for the characteristic dry finish found in so many great Saisons.

Having brewed this recipe several times with small adjustments to yeast, hops and specialty grains each time, I've settled on this malt bill and yeast combination.  I previously had a pound and a half of Munich malt in the bill, but opted for a cleaner malt base and cut it out.  I've struggled with WLP565 (Saison) reaching the level of attenuation I want, but really like the flavor profile it creates.  The WLP566 (Saison II) is more forgiving to work with, but lacks the flavor profile I get out of the WLP565.  I've found that the Wyeast3711 (French Saison) is a good middle ground between the two White Lab strains, providing both high attenuation and notable farmhouse flavors and aromas.  It was the combination of a last minute brew day and a low inventory of yeast at my local homebrew shop that lead me to blend all three yeast strains.  I'm very happy with the results and plan to keep using the blend. 

I don't like to over control the fermentation temperature of farmhouse style beers.  Historically they would have been exposed to the daily fluctuations of temperatures and I think this works well for the style.  The batch was split between two 6-gallon Better Bottles. I started the fermentation on a cement basement floor that was around 65°F and kept it there until after high krausen.  Then I moved it onto a rubber mat to insulate it from the cool cement and the temperature crept up to 68°F and I held it there for 3 days.  After that it was moved to a warmer location of the basement that varies from about 75° to 80° throughout the day.  Here it sat for a month before half of it was dry hopped with the remaining Sage and Citra hops, the other half received no additional Sage or hops.  Ten days after dry hopping, both were bottled and labled either as the dry hop version or what I call the nude version.

The scientific name for Sage is Salvia officinalis, derived from the Latin, salvere, which means "to be saved." Let's hope I can manage to save a few of these bottles for myself.