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Notes on a Brewday: Saison Regalitarian

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Distressing over the fact that most of my beers are either Belgian-inspired or IPAs, I decided to purchase a sack of Castle Pilsner malt. I should declare an aside here - this is currently my favorite malt, in part because it makes a great base for any pale Belgian-style recipe, and in part because it always yields perfect runoff at the proper crush - no vorlaufing needed.

Right, so I've got 55 pounds of great malt, divided into parcels according to my usual grist weight, but I need to decide where to put it. I could make the Houblonmonstre, it's a very good recipe and always gets rave reviews from customers. I could make a fine, if slightly strong, Belgian pale ale, something I've declared my affection towards on this very article. I could make a great Orval clone, using the Omega Yeast Belgian Ale O strain and some of those aging US Goldings whole leaf hops.

Of course, I could also throw all of those ideas away in favor of a Tourpes-style saison, personalized with a dose of Cascade hops, elegant and flavorful, yet balanced, and everyman. I shall call it "Saison Regalitarian," since du Bocq just had to be around since 1858.  Additionally, I'll be conducting a traditional saison mash schedule in a 5 gallon Igloo cooler, which is what this entry is really supposed to be about.

Recipe

12 lbs Malterie du Chateau Pilsner malz
90 minute boil
1 oz EKG 7.5% 60min
1 oz Cascade 5.2% 20min
1/2 oz EKG 7.5% 15min
1 oz Saaz 4% 10min
1/2 oz EKG 7.2% 0min
42 IBU, 1.061 SG

Ideal Mash Schedule
Rest at 113F for 30 min. (Protein)
Rest at 131F for 15 min. (Peptidase)
Rest at 144F for 30 min. (Saccharification)
Rest at 154F for 15 min. (Dextrin)
Rest at 165F for 15 min. (Mash out)

Actual Mash Schedule
Rest at 117F for 30 min.
Rest at 128F for 15 min.
Rest at 143.8 for 30 min.
Rest at 147 for 13 min.
Rest at 153 for 18 min.
Rest at 164.2 for 5 min.

Since all of these infusions were calculated as requiring a gallon of boiling water each, obviously space would be limited in my measly 5 gallon cooler. To circumvent that problem, I began my protein rest with as thick of a mash as I could handle - roughly 1 qt/lb. Proceeding to the next few rests actually wasn't too terribly difficult, although I will say that in the future, I'd want to have at least 5 gallons of water already boiling before beginning the protein rest. That 30 minutes passes really quickly, especially when heating water on a glass electric stove. My first bump in the road came when going for the increase from 144 to 154 - I simply didn't have any room in my mash tun for more water. Luckily, I had a spare insulated cooler I use for micro-mashing. After running off about 1.5 gallons of murky, whitish sweetness, I managed to fit enough water to get up to the dextrin rest, with a stop at 147 along the way. However, this meant the problem came back, so more milky runoff ran into my spare cooler collection vessel.

After all that infusing and stepping, I was ready to collect some runnings. I was a bit dismayed, as the runoff so far was very milky and opaque. The color was perfectly light, almost clear, but it was imbued with what appeared to be silty bits of grain. Regardless, I soldiered on, and ended up collecting the perfect amount, hitting my pre-boil gravity of 11.5 Brix. As the boil started approaching, I got an absurd amount of hot break which I skimmed. Normally I'm not a skimmer, but I ended up collecting about 2 quarts worth of goopy silt, so I'm glad I did. I'd imagine this material was released by the lower temperature rests, and I'd be interested in what, if any, difference leaving it in would make. Once the boil began, my wort looked like egg drop soup, with big chunks of protein gyrating around. This continued to be a theme through the chilling process, and as my 1.4L starter of WLP 550 went to work.

Update 6/24: Fermentation lasted approximately 36 hours, achieving a 1.008 gravity. This puts the attenuation at 88.5% (apparent), down from 1.061 - approximately 7.2% ABV! My best estimates put the fermentation temperature somewhere in the mid- to high-80s. The sample I took had a good amount of banana ester presence, but with a very nice dry finish, and little to no alcohol presence. As it ages, the hop presence should show up to balance some of the fruitier esters. The part I'm most interested in won't be known until later: whether my head retention and mouthfeel suffered as a result of using a modern, highly-modified malt with such a dated mashing schedule.

Update 7/19: Regalitarian is now in a keg, carbonating. Initial (warm) pull indicates brilliant clarity, complex malt character, notes of fruity banana and cherry esters in the background, grassy hops, and killer head retention. I'd say this is a winner of a mash schedule, and a real good recipe to boot.