I was in the mood to freestyle brew a little bit the other day so I decided to make one of the most versatile beers out there – a saison. A saison is traditionally a rural Belgian farmhouse ale from the Wallonia or Flanders regions of Belgium. As you probably guessed yourself, saison is French for “season”. Saisons are arguably the most versatile beer – since the style is so “general”, you have the liberty to play around with it quite a bit – and of course that’s exactly what I did.
Historically, the improvisation inherent to the saison style is probably accurate – prepare for some pseudo-history here: if you were a farmer brewing in rural Belgium 500 years ago, you’d be likely to use whatever grains were locally available to you, including barley, wheat, oats, buckwheat, spelt, and maybe more. You probably would also use whatever spices and herbs were available to you. And finally, you’d probably go heavy on the antimicrobials (aka hops) to prevent spoilage, since you’d likely be storing the beer for awhile in an era before refrigeration. In the spirit of this improvisation, I decided to do my own version of a saison – see below for my white pepper saison recipe:
The base for the white pepper saison recipe comes from William Bostwick’s excellent book Beer Craft:
For 2 gallons:
That said, sorry William, I improvised on a few things, like any saison brewer would do. To start with I switched my hops to:
30 g German Tettnang Hops (3.9% Alpha Acid) – 60 minute boil
30 g Czech Saaz Hops (2.6% Alpha Acid) – 15 minute boil
Why did I switch my hops over? Simple: I had leftover Tettnang and Saaz hops from previous brews that I wanted to use for this beer before they got stale. Again, this is in line with the tradition of saisons – you use the ingredients you have access to at the time.
Finally, for my malt choice, the local homebrew shop was out of Belgian Pilsner Malt so I improvised with 4.5 lbs of German Pilsner Malt instead of the Belgian kind. Man, I hadn’t anticipated getting so authentic with improvisation in my first saison. The mash was done at 147 degrees Fahrenheit in order to extract more of the fermentable sugars from the grains.
Finally, I added a few dashes of McCormick’s Ground White Pepper to the brew kettle after the boil was complete. I have no idea if this is authentic to the saison tradition or not but it sounds good so I went for it.
Stay tuned for the tasting post in a few weeks!
Update: White Pepper Saison Tasting Post