Brewing a Saison

I recently brewed a Saison, it was the first beer I’ve brewed using all grain (no malt extract) and also my first attempt with the Brew In A Bag method of brewing all grain.

Let me start by saying it wasn’t a complete disaster because I did make beer, and I think it will taste pretty good. Of course I did do a few things wrong.

First off, I didn’t start with nearly enough water. The link above says you need to start by adding all of the water. All of the strike water, all water for any infusions, and all of the sparge water. Since I’ve never brewed all grain before I didn’t really know what this meant and, like an idiot, I didn’t really research it to find out. Because of this I ended up having a pretty poor efficiency (~50%) in my mash and when all was said and done I had about 3.5 gallons of boiled wort instead of the 5 I was planning for. I ended up adding 2.5 gallons of water back to my wort and adding some corn sugar to beef up the gravity.

I should have had a gravity of around 1.060 but instead ended with 1.045 after adding the corn sugar.

The other problem I ran into was burning a hole in my bag. I was using a large wire strainer to keep the bottom of the bag off the bottom of the kettle but some got around the strainer and melted. So that was fantastic. Fortunately I didn’t lose too much grain out of this hole, but the bag was shot after that. I wasn’t able to detect any burn/melted polyester flavor in the wort so I guess it’s not so bad. I’m considering just converting a cooler into a mash tun, but if I were to Brew in a Bag again, I would make a bag out of cotton fabric.

Now, about the beer: I brewed a Saison. Saison is an old style of farmhouse beer from the area of Northern France/Southern Belgium. It was brewed in the spring as a beverage for the seasonal farm workers during the summer (hence the name). I based my recipe on a Belgian Saison from Brasserie Blaugies called Saison d’Epeautre. The grain bill calls for 33% Spelt (Epeautre), many saisons use adjunct grains since the farm was basically making beer out of what it had on hand.

A few months back I had a bottle of Bam Biere from Jolly Pumpkin Brewery and I harvested the yeast from the bottom of the bottle and fed and cared for it. I used that yeast to ferment my saison. It worked pretty quickly and added some great sourish and spice notes to the beer (based on tasting at bottling). I’m pretty excited for this beer to be ready in a few weeks or so.

As far as All Grain Brewing goes it wasn’t too bad even with my mistakes. I’m not sure if I’m going to bother with brewing in a bag again or not though.