It’s my season for saisons. Having brewed my first in mid march, I wanted to make another attempt since I had harvested the wyeast french saison (3711) from the first attempt. My plan was to brew something similar to to the Mad Fermentationist’s rye saison with brett. It’s a simple grain and hop bill, and leverages a long secondary w/ brett. I plan on deviating from Mike’s recipe a bit, first I added 1/2 lb of acid malt to improve my mash ph. Such a light grain bill, can result in a much higher ph which can slow enzymatic action in your mash. My other changes were to using Styrian Aurora, instead of Styrian Goldings, 3711 as primary yeast, and using the dregs of Oak Senex Torva for an extended secondary on some toasted oak. I do still need to source the oak (mike?). My goal is to have a funky beer to celebrate my third anniversary brewing, hopefully it will be something special.
Brew nights around here tend to be a bit hectic, this night was no different. I usually try to squeeze dough in after dinner, but before we put the girls to bed, to leverage the inactive time. This night I needed to mill and dough in. I thought I could save some time by hooking up a drill to my grain mill. I was wrong. I loaded up the hopper, and pulled the trigger, but the drill motor wasn’t strong enough to start the mill with any grain in it. I needed to remove the mill from the bucket, and dump it. Then try again. One hand on the drill trying to moderate speed, the smell of a struggling electric motor, grain being flung everywhere as I try to feed grain with my free hand. This is not as easy as it would appear. I must have lost 1/2 lb of grain to the floor before I swapped back to the hand crank.
When it eventually came time to dough in, due to my extended milling session, I had over heated my strike water. In a rush to get upstairs to tuck in a pair of kids, I cooled the strike water to the best of my ability, and mashed in high. I hoped I’d those extra degrees over the course of 75 minute, and I’d be close to the target mash temp of 150. However that wasn’t going to be the case. When I retuned (much later) the mash temp was still a few degrees high. I checked conversion, and it showed 100% converted. The conversion check with store bought iodine and a few drops of the first runnings is a new step for my mash process. After missing a few efficiency targets I thought I’d add a check to my brew process.
With conversion passed, I ran off first runnings, while I was trying to heat the second batch sparge. My reading of 1072 from my first runnings was also right on target, but using the hydrometer method, I didn’t know this until it cooled. The second batch sparge water was delayed in coming up to temp, so I felt rushed during my second mash/sparge. At this point I had my first runnings on high, rapidly approaching boil. I made two mistakes during that second batch sparge, I miscalculated the second batch volume, and I jumped the gun, and ran off the second runnings too early. This resulted in a weak 1030 reading, leaving my preboil gravity a few points low. Thankfully the style guidelines for saisons are broad.
Boil was not far off, and I prevented a boil over adding in the remaining wort. I’m not really used to having that much wort in my kettle, and still had a boilover. Having so much wort wasn’t an entirely bad thing, as the recipe called for a 90 minute boil due to the pilsner grain bill, so I’d need some additional volume. By now, it was 10:15, and I’m eyeing the clock doing math. Boil was complete by 11:45. Chill to 165 in less than 20 minutes (I’m really going to miss winter ground water temps). My post boil volume was high, 7+ gallons. Even with trube loss, I easily filled my fermentor, as well as 3 quart jars and half of a growler. With all that excess volume, my post boil gravity was low (1058). I shook the fermentor a while, and added the decanted the 3711 starter. I was right on time for a 1:30 wrap up.
The final push to any night brew is an exercise in extreme patience. At the end of a long night, waiting to chill, while trube settles, and while the kettle empties are all tough. The last thing you want to do after spending 4 hours making a batch of wort is cut a corner, or make a mistake that costs you a batch. All said and done, this was a successful brew night. I feel I am closer to my desired brew process now. I believe I would have hit my expected efficiency, if you account for the extra gallon or more of wort (I checked the math). The fermentor was bubbling away less than 12 hours later.
Changes for next time:
Measure my batch sparge volumes more accurately.
Hit my mash temp.
Try not to rush any steps, and avoid making simple mistakes.
Continue to use acid adjustments (acid malt or lactic acid).
I’d love a pair of digital thermometers with alarms.
I could also use a refractometer to make those SG calculations.
Update: 4/14/13 – After 8 days, primary complete at 1.004, the french saison is just a beast. I transfered it to the 5g bug glass, and added some dregs built up from dregs of Oak Senex Torva. I need to read more about bugs and brett before doing this again, because I’m unsure my starter was a waste of time.