The Saison Experiment
Originally this Rotherham home brew project was called ‘Saison D’avoine‘, a tribute to my favourite style of beer, the mighty Saison. My second beer project of the year, the first being a accidental failed attempt.
The name of this beer was simplified to ‘Oats So Saison’ as to not confuse my sample beer drinkers. The primary aim of this beer was an experiment to see how a large proportion of Oats would fair in a Saison style beer, using the glorious Lille Saison beer yeast by the Crossmyloof brewery.
LILLE SAISON CLASSIFICATION: French Saison's a top fermenting ale yeast with a distinctive dry, peppery and citrus farmhouse ale vibe. Designed to work with maltose and simple sugars it has high attenuation and can reach abv's of up to 11%. It'll finish off nice and clear too with good flocculation & ferments quite nicely between 17-28c. A more estery brew can be achieves at the higher end of fermentation temperatures. SAISON STRAIN CLASSIFICATION: Saccharomyces cerevisiae. RECOMMENDED TEMPERATURE RANGE: 62 - 82°F (17 - 28°C); ATTENUATION: (81-90%); FLOCCULATION RATE: 68%; VIABLE YEAST CELLS: >20 x 109; GMO STATUS: GMO Free; Max brew strength per sachet in a 23 l brew - 7.6%/8.9% ABV (Double pitch if a higher abv is required)
A fascinating article from ScottJanish.com (Permanent PDF link here) really spiked my curiosity in brewing with oats, specifically, how far you could push them in home brewing. Oats have always been a staple grain in my home brewing recipes since day one. I’ve always been a massive fan of porridge for breakfast, including the health benefits of beta-glucans in your diet. This translates pretty well to the overall health of your living, breathing beer, with oats adding improved beer stability, and improved yeast health as just a couple of benefits.
I’ve typically used flaked oats for around 10 – 20% of my malt bill recipes in the past, due to the added mouth feel and improved body to the final brew. I love a good beer head on my brews and the high fat content is well known as a ‘head killer’ so i have been reluctant to use any more than necessary. The clear and present danger of using too many oats is also the possibility of a stuck mash. This is essentially mash ‘porridge’ that will prevent the wort filtering through the grain bed properly. In this brew, I used 200g of rice hulls to try and increase wort flow and filtration.
So here’s the ‘Oats So Saison’ recipe (with brewing sugar improvised along the way)
3.0 kg Rolled Oats (from the supermarket)
3.0 kg Pale Irish Malt
1.0 kg Chateau Blanc Wheat Malt
200g Rice Hulls
1.0 kg Brewing Sugar @ 10 mins
Leafy Kazbek Hops (8.0%) 50g @ first wort
Styrian Goldings hop pellets (2.8%) 12g @40 mins
Styrian Goldings hop pellets (2.8%) 16g + *Spices @10
2 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 10
2 tsp Agar Agar powder @ 10 (no Irish Moss available)
Styrian Goldings hop pellets (2.8%) 72g after 5 days brewing for 5 days
*10g Coriander Seeds @ 10 mins
1 old Lemon Zest (lost oils) @ 10 mins
A few grinds of black pepper @ 10 mins
The Beer Brewing Process:
I was hoping for an ultra pale ale wort, with the ingredients strongly suggesting that’s what I would get. I was slightly concerned about the lack of acidulated malt effecting the initial brew pH, with all my hopes resting on the IBU present in the Irish Pale Malt that made up around half or the beer recipe. The strike water on the stainless boiler was set to 80°C, due to it being a slightly colder day with a good breeze flowing through the brewery (garage). The water was untreated, with an initial pH of 7.2. The mash tun was pre heated with a kettle full of boiling water prior to filling. The pre-mash water measured a temperature of 76°C and after adding the grain, the temperate sat at a respectable 66°C. After a good stir through to avoid dough balls and circulate the mash, pH now measured 5.8 (with temperature correction calculations). A little high, but as expected!
After an hour of mashing and a temperature drop to 65°C (you have to love insulated stainless steel!) the porridge was about ready for 1st running’s into the kettle. The rice hulls had all but risen to the top of the mash, raising some concerns about how ‘stuck’ this mash would be.
The first running’s Hydrometer reading was cooled to around 18°C and gave a respectable reading of 1.060 gravity. This reading was not indicative of the overall gravity of the wort. The appearance was golden and creamy in colour, exactly what I hoped for. The initial run off gave around 10 litres of wort from a 30 litre sparge! the water retention of the porridge was clear and apparent in all its horror.
The beer wort was quite foamy, perhaps due to the increased protein element of the oats.
The grain bed was ultra compacted following the first immersion sparge. The second immersion sparge was dumped in from the boiler at around 76°C to rinse off the remaining ferment-able sugars, using around 20 litres of water. I also did the dreaded ‘stir’ of the grain bed to enable the break up of the porridge. (i apologise!) but this was necessary in the circumstances. Second runnings from the immersion sparge gave an OG of 1.060 (after cooling) again, suggesting that the mashing process with the grain was far from complete. Next time I will possibly consider a third sparge, or consider buying a larger mash tun, >40L.
The second sparge topped up the wort in the kettle to 35 litres. The combined gravity from both immersion sparges gave a final gravity of 1.045 using the cooled hydrometer sample. This would give a final beer strength of around 4.6% ABV which was a little low for the Saison style. Brewing sugar was close at hand. I tend to use a proportion of brewing sugar for my Belgian style recipes, as this adds a little extra fermenability and lends to a tradition that the Belgians use for many of their brews.
The sight glass on the boiler, demonstrated just how clear this beer wort was.
This beer would have around 40 minutes of actual boiling, so the 50g of leafy Kazbek Hops (8.0%) were added at first wort. These were contained in a stainless steel filter to prevent additional mess when it came to clearing up. The beer was brought up to the boil using a gas burner. It was fairly breezy, so I added an aluminium wind shield to prevent the wind from buffeting the flames too much. At boiling point, I added the 12g of Styrian Goldings hop pellets (2.8%) to the boiling wort in a stainless steel tea strainer.
The copper cooling coil was added about 15 minutes before turning off the gas burner to sterilise, followed by the 16g of Styrian Goldings hop pellets (2.8%) + Spices, together with 2 tsp’s of yeast Nutrient and 2 tsp’s Agar Agar powder.
It was at this point that I added the 1.0kg of brewing sugar to boost the gravity. I created a slight whirlpool effect by stirring boiled wort for around five minutes for the agar agar powder to mix in and circulate the hops on flame-out. Following a 40 minute cooling process with the copper coil system, the final gravity read at 1.060 and the pitching temperature was 18°C. I was surprised at the amount of trub and residual protein in the bottom of the boiler, as shown here:
The warm wort was then transferred into the stainless fermenter at height, to allow aeration of the wort for the Saison yeast to eat through.