Saturday, April 1, 2006

Farmhouse Ale - First Edition

4/1/06 - Farmhouse Ale - Like almost every other brewer who read Phil Markowski's book "Farmhouse Ales" last year I decided that it was time for Smuttynose to try its hand at a saison. An interesting style considering that in reality the guidelines are so broad. There are some classic examples, as well as some interpretations that are becoming so. We began, as all good brewing should, with tasting. Luckily for us our good friend Lindsey Altshul, who runs a beautiful café in South Berwick (SoBo to those in the know) called "Pepperland," has a cellar full of Belgian beers the likes of which would make a grown brewer cry. He brought a dozen or so varieties of saisons including a vertical tasting of Saison De Pipaix, from La Brasserie a Vapeur of which we tried 3, 9 and an 18 year old examples (if my foggy memory serves). If you have the chance to try an 18 year old Pipaix please do, fantastic.

We decided that it was all about the yeast so we had White Labs send us a pitch of their saison yeast, which I believe is in the Dupont vein. Dr. White suggested that we ferment the beer without cooling and let the temperature rise to wherever it wants to go. Easier said than done, believe me.

The grain bill was very straightforward with a bit of Wheat and Aromatic malts for some subtle character and 6% sugar to lighten the body. We used Sterling throughout the hopping. Once fermentation commenced the temperature went up to 92° F or so. The beer itself fermented very quickly but finished around 4° P. I was really hoping for a dryer finish, and will be looking to correct this for next year. We actually brewed this beer in August of 2005, but are releasing it now because we were unsure if the yeast would continue to drop the gravity and cause gushing. No worries, but it ended up a tad sweeter with a fuller body than I was hoping. There's a gorgeous nose from the yeast. No spices added and yet there's a real nice complexity in the aroma.

Pilsner Malt
Aromatic Malt
Wheat Malt
Cane Sugar

OG - 17° P
TG - 3.5° P, ABV - 7.4%

IBU 25
Sterling - Bittering
Sterling - Flavoring
Sterling - Aroma