Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Perfect Day to Brew (Saison and Belgian Tripel)

Could today have been anymore perfect? In my world, no, I don't believe it could have been. I left good ole armpit Bakersfield at 7 a.m. and pulled into Long Beach about 8:45...already perfect. This is normally a two- to three-hour drive. Did I mention there's a nice marine layer and it's a cool 65 degrees outside? Oooooh yah ... perfect.

Our brewing session was to start at 9 a.m. and who had his backyard all set and ready to go? That's right, Josh. Another perfect moment. Here was the setup:

As the sun peeped above the rooftops, Josh and Tom started that old ritual of sanitizing and boiling water. They're brewing a saison and a tripel for an upcoming extract competition. Here are the recipes:


Muntons extra-light DME
Clear Belgian Candi Sugar

Styrian Goldings
German Hallertau Hersbrucker

Sweet Orange Peel

Belgian Abby Ale

Wheat LME
Munich malt
Rye malt

Candy Sugar (clear)


Belgian Saison Blend

Let's go into these beers a bit.


Saisons are also known as "farmhouse saisons." Why? Because they were originally brewed in farmhouses in Wallonia, Belgium (French-speaking Belgium) during harvest season. Saison means "season" in French, p.s. It's generally a low-ABV pale ale.

Today, saisons are brewed everywhere and usually have a higher ABV than their ancestors, anywhere from 5% to 8%.

So why is it called "season?" Because the original brewers had to brew during fall or winter in order to keep the ale from spoiling when stored. The threat of water-borne illness to farm hands was avoided by giving them this low-alcohol beer. They used to be REALLY hopped in order to act as a preservative, and hops also has antiseptic properties. Hence the reason they were often dry-hopped and still are.

According to the "BJCP Style Guidelines," saisons are to be "high in fruitniness with low to moderate hop aroma and moderate to no herbs, spice and alcohol aroma." On color: "Often a distinctive pale orange but may be golden or amber." On flavor: "Combination of fruity and spicy flavors supported by a soft malt character, a low to moderate alcohol presence and tart sourness ...

"... Hop flavor is low to moderate, and is generally spicy or earthy in character."

Saison = Delicious

Basically, a tripel is a strong pale ale. Remember my definition of Trappist ales? Well, the tripel is known to have been brewed by the Trappist brewery, Westmalle, in 1956 (For more info, go here.)

The name refers to the strength of the beer or the original gravity. ABV for these brews are 3 percent, 6 percent and 9 percent. In other words, according to the great Michael Jackson, beer king, the term tripel is "usually applied to the strongest beer of the house." I concur.

According to the "BJCP Style Guide," a Belgian tripel's aroma is "complex with moderate to significant spiciness, moderate fruity esters and low alcohol and hop aromas." On appearance: "Deep yellow to deep gold in color. Good clarity." On flavor: "Marriage of spicy, fruity and alcohol flavors supported by a soft malt character ... Esters are reminiscent of citrus fruit, such as orange or sometimes lemon."

Belgian tripel = Amazing

Check out our wonderful day in pictures!

The tripel, doing its thang...

...and the saison, workin' it.

If you know Roxy, you know why she's licking her chops!

Something you don't see in Long Beach everyday - clean, sanitary water.

Yours truly - fools in back.

This clarifier doesn't look very clarifying, but I promise, it is!

Birds-eye view of the freshly poured tripel.
Nah, it's cool guys, I'll just use my mouth.

A frighteningly low 1.094

Tom, doin' it the right way. :)

Check out that form! No, it's not cottatge cheese.

The saison's original gravity was 1.084 ... oooooh yah!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Now That's My Kind of Sky!