Thursday, July 10, 2014

Science & Art #2: Tasting Notes

This is my second in the line of "Science & Art" beers, which will be an ongoing project involving blended saisons with Brett and/or wild ales.  This particular version is a blend a Dionysus #2 and Citrine.  Dionysus #2 (tasting notes to come) is a version of Namur that was originally brewed with White Labs Belgian Saison III (WLP585), and then aged on white wine-soaked oak cubes and Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois (WLP644) for about six months.  Citrine is my evolving blond sour ale, mostly utilizing dregs from various lambics, as well as previous batches of Citrine.

This beer is essentially the result of fermenting WLP585 too low.  I didn't have temperature control (heating) available in the basement over some of the colder months last year, and decided to use the 585 at around 68*F.  After 3 weeks of primary, the gravity wasn't terrible (1.010 or so, if I recall), but the was an overabundance of phenols compared to the fruity esters that I prefer from saison yeast.  Knowing that the Brett would be able to take some of these in a different direction, I added plenty of Brett Trois and some oak cubes and let it sit for six months.  Since I've got a bit of 585 frozen in a glycerin solution, I'll have to make sure to do this again soon, maybe doing a 5-gallon portion at a low temperature and then aged on Brett, and then starting the other portion out at 70-72*F and then letting it free rise, then kegging on its own.

The Brett portion will then be ready to blend with some Citrine, which I now plan to always keep on hand.  The young Citrine (around 6 months) is generally slightly acidic with a nice lemon kick, and is great for blending, especially since I usually only have to use 0.5-1.0 gallons of Citrine in a mix with saison.  Then, I can let the other half of the 10-gallon Citrine batch age for eventual blending gueuze-style, or incorporate in some fruit.  The last time I brewed Citrine I incorporated plenty of spontaneous fermentation, and plan to do so from here on out, weather permitting (generally would like the overnight temperatures to be 50*F or below).

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Bright golden-orange with a nice fluffy white head.  Thick foam and nice retention.  Fairly clear, but still a bit of haze.

Nose: Starts off with a light lemon acidity underneath a bit of melon, mostly honeydew.  Notes of oak, especially as it warms.  Not much in the way of white wine, even though the cubes had been sitting in the wine for nearly a year.  Very faint peppery spice.

Flavor: Oak, melon, citrus, and a bit of Brett funk start things out.  A nice body that carries the flavors through, even though this blend finished out damn near 1.000.  Perhaps residual glycerol production from the saison yeast (I'm not sure where 585 ranks on this skill), but more likely from the oak, as there's also a faint hint of vanilla and tannin.  The oak is just about where I want it to be, rounding out Dionysus #2, which is too oak-forward in my opinion, and I'm planning to use mostly for blending.

Mouthfeel: Very dry and crisp with a light acidity, despite the perceived body through the initial taste.  Quite refreshing, though with enough oak such that it's not entirely quaffable.  After the oak and honeydew, there's a bit of lingering earthiness.

Overall: I'm quite happy with where this beer turned out, and definitely plan to try it again.  As much as I've enjoyed brewing with the dregs of Crooked Stave, Jolly Pumpkin, Tired Hands, Fantôme, and others with my wild saisons, it's satisfying knowing that I can absolutely source the strains that I used again and replicate these.  Of course, there's something magical about using all sorts of dregs and only vaguely knowing what's fermenting a given beer, so I'll never be able to give that up either.


  1. Question about your beer brewed with 585 that came out too phenolic. What sort of phenolics were you tasting? I've tried pitching some Brett in beers with an overly phenolic taste - mostly plastic (band aid) and overly smoky. I haven't had good luck with the Brett changing those phenols into anything palatable, but then again this experience is limited and was only done with a couple Brett strains. How did that beer change over the 6 months and did it still need some blending to help balance the phenols still present?

  2. Luckily it wasn't anything objectionable (Band-Aid, plastic), but was more of the clove and spice than I was really looking for, and it did a good job of altering those, or at least covering them up with added complexity. That beer ended up being a little too oaky, which is why I ended up blending it with the Citrine. I'm still a bit surprised it turned out that way, as I only used an ounce of cubes in 5 gallons, which has normally been a good ratio for me in the past.

  3. Thanks for the feedback. Your experience matches up well with mine. There are not a ton of people trying the same things with beers, so it's helpful to have more data points to know what works.

    I'm surprised by the over oaking as well. I'm pretty right on with .2 oz/ gal with pale bases and .25 oz/ gal or more on darker more malt forward beers. It depends a bit on how long you leave the oak cubes on the beer and if you do any pre-boiling. I'll usually pre-boil cubes and find that after 6-8 wks the oak flavor is the most dominant and starts to meld by about 6 months.

    Keep up the great brewing, its fun to follow.

  4. Good to know that things match up. Agree again on the oak, that's my standard rate, and always boil for 10 minutes or so before adding to beer or spirits.

    Keep up the great work yourself!