Belgian Beer Saison

It’s saison season!

Saison is one of my favorite styles, and frankly, when I’m drinking saison I don’t really care whether the beer I’m served historically accurate or not. I mean, sure, I’m interested in the history of the style, but authenticity in beer isn’t something I crave. In fact, I love how wildly adaptable a template saison is. I love how dry and refreshing the finished beers are, and how rich with flavor they end up being despite the dryness. I like ’em clean, I like ’em with Brett, and I even like ’em sour.

I also love that most saison yeast strains take off like a Tesla in Insane Mode, and that I can ferment them in my garage without temp control in the middle of the summer.

A couple months ago I brewed my first saison of the year, using my usual saison grain bill and some interesting modern noble hops: Huell Melon and Hallertau Blanc. The idea was to blend the usual saison phenolics with some fruitier hop flavors, which those two in particular are known for.

The result exceeded my expectations, and is a beer I’m pretty sure I’ll brew over and over again with slight variations.

What’s in it?

The Vitals

  • Method: BIAB, no sparge, squeezed to heck and back
  • Batch size: 3.5 gallons
  • Mash: 75 minutes @ 149F
  • Boil: 60 minutes
  • Ferm temp: 70-78F
  • OG: 1.056
  • FG: 1.004
  • ABV: 6.9%
  • IBU: 29

The Grain

  • 4 lbs. Mecca Grade Pelton (pilsner malt)
  • 1 lb. Mecca Grade Rimrock (rye malt)
  • 1 lb. Mecca Grade Shaniko (white wheat malt)

The Hops

  • 7g Pekko [16.8% AA, 19 IBU] @ 60 minutes
  • 28g Hallertau Blanc [9.7% AA, 6 IBU] @ Whirlpool, 20 minutes, 170F
  • 28g Huell Melon [6.2% AA, 4 IBU] @ Whirlpool, 20 minutes, 170F
  • 28g Hallertau Blanc @ Dry Hop, 3 days
  • 28g Huell Melon @ Dry Hop, 3 days

The Rest

  • Water: 4 gallons Bend tap water + 0.25 tab Campden, 3g lactic acid (88%), 0.5 tsp CaCl2, 0.5 tsp gypsum
  • Yeast: 1 packet Danstar Belle Saison, sprinkled dry into chilled wort

How’s it taste?

After pulling the first pint, I stared at my keezer, trying to come up with a name for the saison I’d just tasted. The only thing that came to mind was “Fruit Basket.” This beer was just bursting with ripe fruit flavors, all layered gently on top of the typical banana and clove you get from Belle and other saison yeasts (particularly the “French saison” variants).

Appearance: This was my first time working with Belle in a long time, and while it fermented brutally fast and produced a very nice flavor profile, it took forever to flocculate. Honestly, it didn’t really ever finish before I kicked the keg. As a result, the beer was a hazy gold, which honestly looked pretty great—at least once I stopped picking up sediment through the liquid out tube. Like other saisons I’ve made with wheat and rye, this one had phenomenal head retention and density (marshmallow-like), with beautiful lacing.

Aroma: Pure saison phenolics here: clove, banana, and a little black pepper. The fruitiness came through, too, but sort of indistinctly. Just… fruity. Almost like jackfruit, which, if you didn’t know, is what Juicy Fruit gum is supposed to taste like. There was a hint of alcohol, as well, but nothing too overbearing.

Taste: This beer was a party in my mouth, from the aforementioned clove and banana, to the layered jackfruit, white grape, and honeydew. The Pekko bittering addition—while “just” 19 IBU—also provided a solid backbone of bitterness that, with the ultra-dry finish, left me craving another sip.

Mouthfeel: Again, despite finishing close to bone-dry, this beer didn’t feel thin. It helps that it was a relatively big saison at almost 7% ABV, and that the wheat and rye left some proteins to bulk up the body. High carb also played a role—I aimed for around 3 volumes of CO2, though with the burst carb method I lazily use, it’s anyone’s guess what I actually hit. Anyway, it was really pleasant.

Would I brew it again?

For sure. I plan to try making it again soon with Nelson Sauvin and Ella hops, the former of which I happen to have a ton of thanks to my LHBS closing. (RIP The Brew Shop, gone too soon.) Saison is infinitely variable and infinitely drinkable, and I have a lot of drinking left to do.

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