Brew Log: Wet Hop Saison

Pictured above: Fresh-picked hops going into the boil at 5 minutes.

“So my neighbour has some hop plants in his backyard…” began my friend and labmate, who coincidentally owns a rather nice homebrewing setup he has never used.

Say no more. I’d been on the fresh hop hunt for weeks and here was the opportunity. The owner of said hop plants wasn’t entirely certain as to what varieties they actually were (Willamette and “North Star” were mentioned). I was hoping to make some kind of big IPA with a hint of fresh hops, but smelling the hops themselves led us somewhere else entirely. One hop variety had a hint of citrus, but the healthiest and most abundant headed somewhere more noble-ish in character – spicy, earthy and grassy. These are not IPA hops, so we had to head into murkier waters style-wise: a wet-hopped saison.

I’m a big fan of adjuncts in saisons, especially oats and rye – oats can add body to an otherwise excessively thin and dry beer, and rye can provide both body and a hint of spicy graininess that should compliment the hops well.

The brewday was a beautiful near-fall-ish day, our mash time spent picking hops and our boil time spent tearing the hops in half to check for resident insects. We picked 13 ounces of hops (two varieties) and used them all. The hydrometer sample at the end of brewing had a layer of hop pollen floating on top. I’d call that a fresh hop success. Hopefully the yeast brings this one home for us.

Fresh-picked hops with a vibrant spicy-earthy aroma which should be well-suited to a Saison.

Fresh-picked hops with a vibrant spicy-earthy aroma which should be well-suited to a Saison.

Recipe: Fresh Hop Saison (5 gallon)

Estimated OG (70% efficiency): 1.063

Actual OG: 1.068
Estimated IBU: 22

Fermentables:

9 lb Pilsner malt
1 lb light Munich malt
1 lb flaked rye
1 lb flaked oats
0.5 lb acidulated malt

Single infusion mash at 148F for 60 minutes (batch sparge)

Hops:

1.5 oz / 22 IBU Saaz (4.7%AA) (60 minutes)
13 oz Fresh/Wet hops (Varieties uncertain) (5 minutes)

Boil 90 minutes, chill to 72F, aerate by shaking and pitch yeast.

Yeast: Blend of WY3711 French Saison and a bottle culture of Saison Dupont yeast.

Extras:

1 tsp yeast nutrient (15 minutes)

Brew Log: 

2014/09/07: Not my usual brewing setup. Grains were milled at a commercial brewery. Mashed in with 4.16 gallons of 160.5F water to achieve a mash temp of 148F. This dropped to ~145F after 60 minutes. pH a little low at 60 minutes – ~5.1 at ambient temp. Sparged with 5.8 gallons of water split in two batches, maintaining a mashout temp of ~168F to produce a preboil wort of 7.35 gallons and gravity of 1.047 – so our mash efficiency was 75%. Not bad for a first time brew on an unknown system! Boiled for 90 minutes, adding yeast nutrient and the chiller at 15 minutes left, with the (massive amount of) fresh hops added to a BIAB bag clipped to the kettle at 5 minutes. We let the wort sit hot for about 5 minutes after flameout, and began chilling the beer. Beer was chilled to 180F, the hop bag was pulled out and let drain, then a cover was placed on the pot and it was chilled to 72F. Wort was drained into a glass carboy (yielded about 4.5 gallons – lost some wort to the hops) and aerated by shaking. OG was 1.068! I think we got a bit more boiloff than anticipated, explaining the higher OG and lower volume. So this might end up being a big saison. Pitched ~120 billion very fresh yeast cells, a 1:1 mix of WY3711 French Saison and Dupont yeast. Fermented semi-open (foil covering the carboy mouth) for three days, then airlocked (all at ambient temp).

2014/09/28: Gravity reading – down to 1.008 (about 89% apparent attenuation and 7.9% ABV). Wort still has lots of yeast in suspension so it might drop a few more points. Beautiful, textbook Saison aroma – fruity, spicy and earthy with a blend of the French Saison and Dupont character. Lots of earthy hop bitterness, which carbonation and temperature should balance out. Somewhat hot, which is to be expected with a young, fairly high ABV beer. Some more aging and this should good to go!

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