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Homebrewing a Stout + Saison

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Kevin is a saison man. Alicia is a stout lady. Though both have been known to stray from these styles and enjoy the wide spectrum that craft beer has to offer, they always come back to their tried and true favorite. Inevitably, this has caused it’s fair share of problems within the Beer Loves Company household. There have been many a cold night where Kevin will crack open a Saison Du Pont, eager to pour it into two glasses, only to have Alicia say she “isn’t thirsty” and is going to bed. The empty bottles of Old Rasputin Kevin finds hidden in the trash the next morning, however, tell a different story.

Okay, so perhaps that was a bit dramatic, but the fact does remain that it is sometimes difficult to homebrew with a partner when you each want the end result to be something different. Instead of compromising and brewing a style neither of us would be 100% happy with, we decided to simply combine both our loves into one brew kettle. Thus the idea for a stout + saison hybrid was born.

Though two totally different styles, we felt that they would compliment each other well. The rich, roasted notes of a stout are sometimes a bit overwhelming and heavy, which would be a perfect time for some of the barnyard funkiness from a saison to kick in and lighten things up. In order to produce this craft beer love child, we used a blend of ingredients both traditional to each style. A+K was to be brewed using the same saison yeast we had used for our last several batches of beer. This opened the door for the stout ingredients to play a larger role in our grain bill.

The grain bill is simply a list of the grains, malts and cereals you will mash to create your wort. We began by taking note of what we had on hand which after having recently brewed Sesh-On and Cherry-O turned out to be some base malts and a few darker malts. With this list in hand we headed out to our local homebrewing shop to pick up everything else needed to bring A+K to life. The base of A+K was built with British Pale and German Pilsner malts. These are the backbones of the beer and created the stage on which our specialty malts could express their character. Choclate, Black Roasted Barley, Crystal 40 and Crystal 80 were the malts we selected. Our goal was to have lots of roast, chocolate, body and some caramel character by using these particular ingredients. We also added Flaked Oats which we toasted at the “brewery” aka Beer Loves Company home-base. The oats were used to add more body, a slightly toasted and of course oat like note to the final product.

The whole toasted oats and all of the milled or crushed grain was added to our mash tun (big pot with hot water in it) when it reached the desired temprature. Currently Beer Loves Company uses the boil in a bag method which allows us to use one 15 gallon sized kettle for both our mash and boil. Basically we add our milled/crushed grain (the grist) to our bag which we have placed in the kettle and clipped to the side. This kind of looks like a giant teabag which is open at the top.

When all of the grain and cereal have been added we use our long metal spoon to stir up the grains and to break up any dough balls (clumps of grain with a dry interior) which may have formed. We actually add the grist in stages, stirring after each addition to try and avoid dough balls which we find form far more often when using this method of brewing.

Now that all the grain is in the kettle mashing away we like to double check our temperature and then sit back for a bit. During this time we usually have a snack, chat a bit and maybe crack open a beer. Every so often it is good to wander back over to the kettle and make sure the temperature is holding true adjusting your flame as needed. After the mash is complete the grain is lifted in the bag out of the kettle and held above the kettle so the liquid wort can drain down. We then set the grain and the bag aside, their mission having been accomplished.

Now the propane is cranked up (did we mention we use a propane burner? If not we do) and the wort is brought to a boil. For this and all of the beers we have been brewing recently we have been using locally grown hops which we harvested ourselves. This blend of Cascade and Fuggle hops has been working very well for us adding character but never taking over a beer while providing the right amount of bitterness to balance out the sweetness of the malts. We added our hops in stages with some going in around the 60 minute mark and the rest at 5 minutes through flameout (then end of the boil and for us collection). The wort was then aerated and collected.

With our 5 plus gallons of A+K in our fermentation vessel (a brewing bucket) it’s time to cool the wort down. This is the one step we need to upgrade. Currently we do not have any chilling mechanism so we put the bucket in a sink, surround it with water to which we add lots of ice/icepacks. This works but it is not do so as quickly as we would like. When the beer reached 70+ degrees we aerated the wort again and were good to go for pitching or adding our yeast. Our yeast was collected from Sesh-On (which in turn was collected from Apple of my Chai) and stored in a sealed mason jar which was in our fridge eagerly awaiting it’s next meal. We really thought this yeast was doing a great job on our beers and ciders so we just continued to collect it and reuse it after each batch. The yeast was brought up to temperature and added along with nutrient to our bucket o’ beer then placed into the basement for fermentation.

The room was 65 degrees, steady throughout the time we left in there. After a few days at that constant 65 degree temperature we moved the beer to a room which is in the range of 69-71 degrees. After working at a higher temperature for a while we figured the yeast would like some time in one final warmer spot so it was placed in a room which is in the 80’s so it could really crank some sasion character. After this fermentation period we rack the beer. This is just transferring the beer using a sanitized device called a raking cane into another fermentor (again a brewing bucket) which is also sanitized. Probably the most important thing for brewing a good beer is sanitation. This is then set aside for secondary fermentation back in the 65 degree environment. A+K actually received the longest conditioning period of of any of our beers.

When we thought the beer had enough beauty rest we racked it into a sanitized keg and then force carbonated it. The idea of naturally carbonating it was very appealing and the next thing we brew will probably be carbonated naturally but many factors lead us to “rush” and force carbonate A+K. If you do not know, force carbonating adds carbonation into the solution of your product by cranking up the PSI and shaking or rolling the keg so the Co2 moves into solution.

A+K turned out nicely and we look forward to brewing it again in the future. We both think it has notes of each style without being a comprmise. This beer is a thing of it’s own which we are glad to have.

If you like the way A+K sounds and could go for a stout with some attitude or a saison with some malty depth you’re in luck. We will be pouring samples of A+K at the upcoming The Brewer’s Collective Winter Homebrew Contest. Hoptron Brewtique is hosting the contest on Sunday, January 19, 2014, 3:00pm until 7:00pm. Samples of the beers are Gratis (that’s free to you and me Russ) and the public is asked to judge which beer is best! If you can’t make it to The Brewers Collective Contest on January 19th we will also be pouring samples of A+K at the Rocky Point Artisan Brewer’s Nano Cask Fest on January 25th representing Brewer’s East End Revival.

At both events we will also have our shirts and buttons for sale (woo local commerce). In addition we are planning on bringing bottles of our super weird super limited Fuzzy Juice to these events too. Well, that is if things have gone according to plan. So if this curious ale sounds like something you would like to try come, drink and enjoy what a true union tastes like. We are always eager to meet great people and have them offer opinions on our efforts.

Written by A+K

January 16th, 2014 at 2:21 pm

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