Friday, February 25, 2011


In the past, when deciding what to brew, I fought against an urge to brew what I really wanted (IPA! DRY-HOPPED PALE ALE! PILSNER! PILSNER! IPA!) to try other styles. For example, the beer that became 2Wicky (a French-style Black Saison with Star Anise, Grains of Paradise and molasses) started out as a standard Saison with just 2 oz of Apricot flavoring so you'd think "Huh? What was that?" The grains weren't very traditional. Only 21% Pilsner malt was used, and instead I went with Marris Otter as the primary base malt (at 55%).

In an enclosed hotel rooftop swimming pool in downtown Indianapolis, I started thinking about the base recipe of the 2Wicky as a simpler Saison. There were posters around the swimming pool that appeared to be some kind of old-timey vacation ads for places in France. I noticed how "Maison", meaning "house" or probably "home" was one letter away from "Saison". I thought that if I made a Saison beer, I would call it "Saison de Maison". As I decided what beers to make this year, the names were made simpler, into one or two-word titles, and "Maison" was born.

I brewed this beer on my birthday in 2010, opting to try another open-fermented, late-sugar addition beer. My buddy, John Hayes, bought me the ingredients for this one.

5.5 gallon batch
OG: 1.069
SRM: 4.9
IBU: 49.6

90 minute boil

5.0 lbs 2-Row Malt
5.0 lbs Pilsner Malt
0.5 lbs CaraVienne Malt
2.0 lbs Demerara sugar

1.5 oz Perle (8.25%AA) @ 60 min.
2.0 oz Strisselspalt (2.6%AA) @ 5 min.
2.0 oz Mt. Hood (4.6%AA) Dry Hop

Wyeast 3711 French Saison

I do a 75 minute infusion mash at 149-150 degrees Fahrenheit. Batch sparge. I made a 2-quart starter for the yeast. This beer spent 2 weeks in primary fermentation, and then 3 weeks in secondary because I went to Florida over the Thanksgiving holiday, and didn't bottle it until the very first week of December. The sugar was added after 48 hours of fermentation via 1 quart of water and all 2 pounds added to that, boiled, chilled and added with the lid placed on the fermenter. The beer finished with an OG of 1.006.

As of February, I think the beer is good. It might improve over the next few months, but I figured about an 8.3% ABV for this one, so it's very likely it will become more estery. It's definitely free of fusel alcohols, though, and ended up a bit darker (I think due to the Demerara sugar) than calculated by promash.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Belgian Strong Dark - The 8-Ball

The last time I posted, I talked about adding sugar later in the fermentation, as opposed to at the end of the boil so as to allow for the yeast to eat all of the simpler sugars (matlose?) before they got to their dessert of the sucrose. You know how lazy you get after eating dessert. Yeast are even simpler creatures.

As I also stated in that article, I performed open fermentation on this beer, another technique that I had yet to try. This is where you leave the lid off the bucket after you add the yeast. Keep animals and small children away, and you should be all right.

Here's the recipe:

6 gallon batch
OG: 1.078
SRM: 15.8
IBU: 26.1
12.0 lbs Pilsner Malt
2.0 lbs CaraMunich Malt
2.0 lbs Demerara sugar (I got mine at a local grocery)
0.5 lbs Corn sugar

1.0 oz Tradition (6.2%AA) @ 60 min.
0.5 oz Hersbrucker (3.3% AA) @ 30 min.
0.5 oz Hersbrucher (3.3% AA) @ 5 min.

Wyeast 1762 - Belgian Abbey II - 2 quart yeast starter

When I got the ingredients, I didn't look closely at the hops. I had the ounce of Hersbrucker, but instead of Tradition hops, Midwest Supplies sent me Tettnanger. These had a lower alpha acid %, and probably would've been all right, but I had a lot of Perle hops left over, and I thought their alpha acid % (8.2%) would've served this better, so I adjusted it to 0.75 oz of Perle instead. It turned out well.

Since I was using Pilsner malt, I also opted for a 90 minute boil. In case you haven't seen it a million times already, this is supposed to reduce the dimethyl sulfide (which can impart a "corny" taste to your beer). I haven't been brave enough to experiment with this.

The OG without the sugar was 1.058. A 2-quart yeast starter was therefore a good size starter for this beer.

After 2 days of open fermentation, I put 2 quarts of water in a pan, added all the sugar, brought it to a boil for 5 minutes, chilled it to about 70 degrees F, and added it to the fermentation bucket, and put the lid on. In about half an hour, the ferment lock was popping like a machine gun.

After 5 days of fermentation, the lock showed no signs of fermentation. Usually, you can watch the lock for 2 minutes and see a bubble, but this was DEAD. I still let it stay in the primary bucket for 2 weeks. I checked the gravity (1.008) and then transferred it to secondary. Then I lagered it for 2 weeks and bottled with 5 oz of corn sugar.

The beer has been in the bottle almost 6 months now. It has finally become very good. When I tried it during the first few months, there wasn't much of a scent on it. Now, you can smell the esters. At 25 IBU, there isn't a lot of hop bite, what shines through is a raisiny malt profile with a caramel backbone.

At 9.2% ABV, this one should've been aged at a minimum this long before opening. That's my opinion. Bigger beers need to age so they can actually become good.

I will likely make this again, but I think I will leave it sit in the bottles for a good 8 months before trying it.