Homebrew to Style: Saison

Homebrew to Style: Saison, 4.7 out of 5 based on 11 ratings
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saison

Homebrew to Style: Saison

Saison is French for “season”, and generally Saisons are viewed as a summer / spring style. I do not agree with this and prefer the perhaps less accurate translation “drink all the time” for the term saison. I brew a saison every month, at least I have for the past several years. It is by far my favorite style of beer. What is a saison then?There has been a lot of dilution of the word “saison” in the past 10 years or so. As far as I can tell, people call a beer a “saison” if it is fermented with saison yeast. Generally though, saisons are medium gravity, light, effervescent beers that are mildly hopped. The purpose of a saison is to accent the characteristics of the yeast strain and whatever special ingredient you are throwing in there. Saison yeasts are more aromatic than say an American or English strain, so a saison should showcase those flavors.

Standard Saison Guidelines:

  • Bitterness: 15 – 32 IBU
    • Traditional Hops (Saaz, East Kent Goldings (Belgian), Styrian Golding, Hallertauer)
    • Experimental Hops *mostly flavor/aroma* (El Dorado,  Citra, Amarillo, Simcoe, Sorachi Ace, Mosaic)
    • Dry Hopping: Optional
  • SRM: 3 – 18 SRM
  • Saccharification Temp Range: 143 to 147
  • Additives: Spice blends may vary (if adding spices, bring down IBU to lower levels) (suggested: add last 10 min of boil)
    • Common spices (Coriander, Cumin, Bitter/Sweet Orange, Ginger, Grains of Paradise, Star Anise)
  • Starting Gravity: 1.042 – 1.064
  • Apparent Final Gravity: 1.0 P – 1.2 P (1.004 – 1.005)
  • Co2 Volume:  Carbonation level of 2.5 to 3 volumes

All Grain Recipe Saison Recipe:

Below is a simple recipe and tips for brewing and fermenting a saison, this is base recipe to give you a general idea of the style.

  • Malt Bill:
    • 8.5 lbs of pale malt (pilsner or 2-row)
    • 1 lb wheat malt
    • 0.5 lbs flaked oats
  • Hop Additions
    • Bitter: 1 ounce of Czech Saaz at 60 minutes
    • Flavor: .6 ounces of either (Saaz, Styrian Golding, Hallertauer) @ 15 minutes
    • Aroma: 1 oz blend of (20% Saaz, 50% East Kent Goldings, 30% Styrian Golding)
    • Apparent Final Gravity: 1.0 P – 1.2 P (1.004 – 1.005)

Saison Brewing Procedure

Wort should be boiled for a full hour (or even 90 minutes if you are using pilsner malt as your base malt). Saisons can be naturally hazy, this one will be from the flaked oats but you still need to chill rapidly after boiling.

Fermentation conditions: Saisons are a great style for homebrewers because the yeasts can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. After you’ve chilled your wort to 65 F, pitch an appropriate amount of yeast. I typically use the Dupont saison yeast which is pretty aromatic and can ferment up to 90 F. The fermentation of a 1.050 to 1.055 wort should be completed by the Dupont strain (WLP565) in 7-10 days. Some people report that this yeast “stalls out”, doesn’t finish the fermentation. This isn’t my experience but if you are worried about that I’ve also used WLP566, it is similar to the Dupont strain but doesn’t reportedly have this problem.Overall notes and impressions: Saisons are a great style to accent a lot of different flavors. They are light and refreshing beers. This is just a starting out point but the nice strong yeast character and simplicity of the grain and malt bill provide a blank canvas to do all sorts of interesting things. I often throw in a late hop addition at 10 minutes or flame out to capture some great hop aromas. A few ounces of citra, amarillo, simcoe or mosaic at the end of the boil will really push this beer into something really special. Add spices at the end to experiment with different flavor profiles as well. Experimentation is the nature of homebrew and this is a great “base beer” to use.

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