Ramble On

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Saison at 8.4% ABV

(Woo Hoo)

At long last, Saturday was bottling day for the holiday saison ale that I began brewing in early December.  This was a seasonally featured offering from Northern Brewer called Saison de Noel.  I wanted to try something besides the typical ales I’ve been working with and the ad copy for this one sold me:

Deceptively dark and beguilingly complex, this holiday specialty is brewed in the tradition of Belgian farmhouse ales.  Unlike most saisons, intended to refresh and sustain farmers doing manual labor, this one is engineered to complement rich holiday fare and sustain you through long winter nights.  A generous malt bill with highlights of butter toffee, chocolate, dark fruit, and bread tangles with the earthy, spicy funk of Wyeast’s French Saison strain and a single addition of bittering hops to strike an evolving balance.

Now, there is a word of warning in there for home gamers – this one has the potential to reach 9% alcohol by volume (ABV) – it’s pretty strong, so my thinking on “sustaining you through long winter nights” should be translated into “you’ll finish one and probably want to knock off early” - "don't operate heavy machinery after this one." 

The beer started fermentation with an O.G. of 1.070, and it finished at around 1.008.  By my calculations, that means we’re sitting pretty at around 8.4% - and given that this is my first time doing that particular calculation I am satisfied that we are definitely looking at more than 8% and less than 8.5%.  I’m happy with that.

The strain of yeast used here – a liquid smack pack from Wyeast – was absolutely robust.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing already by the morning after I got this started in primary, and it was still going strong after two weeks, so I left it in primary for another week.  I then moved it to secondary for two weeks, and that brings us to Saturday, when I did the bottling chore. 

I’ve got some photos of the process here – the bottling tree, the hydrometer measurement, and the finished bottles.  With such a strong beer, I’m going to let it sit in the bottles for two weeks before I even think about moving them, and when I share them, I’ll be sure to let folks know it needs to rest in the fridge overnight before opening.

But for my part, I’m looking forward to this.  It appears it will be ready for opening around Inauguration Day!

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