The origin of the farmhouse saison leads us to the southern Belgian countryside circa 1700. Saisons were traditionally brewed in the fall and stored in the cold winters to be used as a safe form of drinking water in the spring and summer for seasonal farmworkers or ‘les saisonners.’ This style takes on as many forms as there are farmers. Variation is at the core of this beer, and that gives us a lot of wiggle room as homebrewers.
In the past, these brews tended to be lower in ABV, but today we see saisons from 5% to 8.5%. Color can range from pale to dark amber. Saisons can be full- or thin-bodied, sweet or dry. Flavors can be dominated by clove, pepper, banana or malt. There’s a really wide net we cast when we talk about brewing a saison.
One common thread, however, is that they tend to be spicy in some way. Some brews rely on additional spices to achieve this, others rely entirely on the yeast. People have their opinions about whether or not you should add spices to your saison brew and the real answer is; it’s entirely up to you. I personally, do not have a yeast strain that I have repitched for years that gives me the funky terroir of my house and garden. I do however have an idea about how I want to use my garden to give my beer a little spice. Berries will be in season soon and today I feel like brewing a biscuity saison with blackberry and coriander, dry hopped with sorachi ace. How ‘bout that?
Award-winning homebrewer Paul Zocco (Zok) shared a saison recipe modeled on Saison Dupont, the definitive example of this beer style. This saison shows complex fruity esters with floral and grassy notes. The appearance is cloudy with golden hues. A lower mash temperature (145°F/63°C) would assure a very dry finish, typical of this style of very food-friendly beer. We at Fifth Season have added our own flair to this recipe using fresh blackberries which are flowering now and should be ready to eat/brew within a few weeks.
This recipe is scaled to 5 gallons (19 liters) with a brewhouse efficiency around 80 percent. We recommend using soft, low-mineral water throughout the brewing process.
11 lb (4.9 kg) Pilsner malt
0.5 lb (227 g) Vienna malt
0.25 lb (113 g) Munich malt
0.5 lb (227 g) Caramunich malt
0.5 lb (227 g) Wheat malt
1 oz (28 g) East Kent Goldings pellets [6.1% AAU] at 60 minutes
0.5 oz (14 g) Styrian Celeia pellets [2.6% AAU] at 5 minutes
1 oz Sorachi Ace dry hop (second fermentation)
Additions (because we can)
½ lb of fresh pureed blackberry at 15 minutes
½ oz. of cracked coriander 15 minutes
Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison or White Labs WLP565
Mash the crushed grains at 150°F (66°C) for 60 minutes. I use the rate of 1 pound (454 g) of crushed grain per quart (946 ml) of water that is heated to 15°F (8°C) higher than my targeted mash temperature because there will be about a 15°F (8°C) drop in temperature when the grains are added. Mix well and adjust the mash to the chosen temperature with hot or cold water. Mash in an insulated vessel for 60 minutes. Vorlauf until the wort runs clear. Sparge with 168°F (76°C) water until you get 6 gallons (22.7 l), which will be boiled down to 5 gallons (19 l). Boil the wort for 60 minutes following the hops schedule. Use a straining bag to add your blackberry puree and cracked coriander at 15 minutes (this will help rid your puree of any unwanted bacteria). Add your berry and spice blend at 15 minutes. After chilling the wort to below 80°F (27°C), pitch the yeast.
Ferment at the recommended temperature for your yeast strain (refer to the yeast lab specs, roughly 65–70°F/18–21°C). Transfer the beer to a secondary fermentor after 10 days of primary fermentation. Add your Sorachi Ace hops after you have transferred to your secondary fermenter. Continue fermenting at 65–70°F (18–21°C) until all signs of fermentation are gone, usually another 2 weeks. On bottling day, condition with ¾ cup of corn sugar (dextrose) or 1¼ cup of dry malt extract (DME). Rest bottles at 65–70°F (18–21°C) for 10 days until you achieve carbonation. Then enjoy.
Partial-mash brewers can calculate the amount of dry or liquid malt extract (DME or LME) to use in place of the base grain. Though DME is a bit more malt rich, use the same calculation. To get the amount of DME or LME to use, multiply the base grain amount by 0.75. Your OG will be basically equivalent. For a partial-mash brew, mash the Vienna, Munich, Caramunich, and wheat using the method in “Directions” and simply sparge the runnings into the kettle along with the DME or LME.