Samurai Saison

My most recent brewing session was influenced by re-reading both the fine books “Brewing with Wheat” by Stan Hieronymus and “Farmhouse Ales” by Phil Markowski. While I do enjoy a lot of the Abbey style of beers that came out of and were inspired by Belgian brewers, it’s the other styles from that fine brewing nation that really draw me in. And like those brewers who were quick to experiment with what they had on hand, not allowing themselves to be shackled to a style, I decided I wanted to have a little bit of fun with it. It didn’t take much looking through my hop collection to get an idea going.

The grist is primarily made up of Belgian Pale malt and white wheat malt. I did add some flaked barley partially because I had some left that I wanted to use up, and partly it fit in with the idea that a lot of the farmhouse brewers would use unmalted grains grown on the farm in the brewing of their beer. It will also help the beer have some body despite the likelihood of it being fairly dry beer. I also tossed in a very small amount (approximately 2.5% of the grist) of acidulated malt. I don’t want the tang of a beer that has been fermented with a pitch of lactobacillus, but I’m hoping to give it a slight edginess on the palette. It’s something I want to play with in Saison design, but this is my first time actually homebrewing with the malt. I knew my yeast was going to be Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast as I have had amazing luck in the past getting incredibly low gravities even when the temperature hasn’t been too high. It’s not as flavorful as other saison yeasts, but it is much easier to work with. That brings us to the hops.

I was looking to do something a little more unique. I didn’t want to do the traditional noble hops or something like French Strisselspalt that I might have used if I was trying to be truer to the Continental examples of this beer. I wanted a bit of that American brew bold brashness, but not so over the top that it resembled some West Coast hop bomb. No, the hops are to be noticeably present, but not dominating the show. I wanted something that would compliment the touch acidity and the bit of saison funkiness. I wanted something that was going to really be accentuated by the round and soft flavors of the wheat. The hop I wanted was Sorachi Ace. I’ve only had a small handful of beers that had utilized this hop that has its origins in Japan and has a flavor like no other hop out there. I hadn’t used it in homebrewing prior to this beer. When I opened the bag I was hit with this wonderful aroma of lemon zest, fresh melon, and some tropical fruit undertones. I didn’t want to take my nose out of the bag. It was really one of the most complex hop aromas I had ever been hit with. It’s noted for big lemon characteristics so I utilized it for very late hop additions to got those aromas and some of that flavor in the finish of this beer. I only used an ounce as I didn’t want hops to dominate the beer. Just enough to give it some character, make people thing maybe there were some spice additions or a little lemon zest added to it.

It’s now fermenting away. I had to use a space heater to keep the fermentation around 70 as the basement is currently sitting in the low 60’s. I know this yeast can easily be fermented warmer to bring out more character, but I’ve always enjoyed the results when keeping it in the 70 – 72F fermentation temperature range. It’s a nice low gravity beer so it should ferment out pretty quickly. It’ll have a brief rest at ambient temperature once it’s kegged, but it will soon go on tap, and I know I’m looking forward to it!

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