Saison de Mars — Brewday

Saison de Mars --- aka "Mud Saison"

In Maine, we have several different seasons.  Yes, you have the standard definitions of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, but there are subseasons here that tend to really explain how things work.  The dominant season, particularly for the local economy, is “Tourist Season”.  Running from Memorial day to the End of September, this is when the population of the state doubles, and all those people come to their “camps” and “cottages” for the Summer.  They may spend time hiking the mountains, canoeing a remote river, or watching the iconic lobster boats ply their trade in the coast waters.  Everything LL Bean is selling you does exist, especially if you have the money.  It is truly glorious, the weather is warm during the day and cool at night.  No one has air conditioning, so you just open your windows and bring the outside in for those 4 months.  Next, you have “The Color”.  This is a very elusive season, running about 3-4 weeks in October.  The air turns crisp, the farmers markets are exploding with the fall harvest, and the forests turn brilliant shades of reds, yellows, and browns mixed with the retreating greens.  The “Leaf Peepers” show up in droves, driving over the backroads enjoying the view.  Now, several cruise lines have ships come into Portland and work their way up to Bar Harbor to take in the sights.  Fall is my favorite time of the year, and “The Color” is its pinnacle.   If you ask most Northerners who moved to the South what they miss about the North, I bet they will say Fall.  Then you hit Winter, which is why all the Northerners do move south.  Winter here is long, starting in December and the snow still flies well into April.  It can be brutal, not just because of the cold and snow, but because it is dark.  It is pitch black at 4:00pm at the end of December, and there are weeks where if you work 8-5, you will not see the sun except for on the weekends.  This combination of cold and dark prompted a from Geary’s.  used to be brewed only in the winter, and was released with the slogan “Available only when the weather sucks!”  It is available year round now, which I think has kind of ruined its mystique, but I still enjoy it.  This then leads up to the final season, Mud Season.  This is when the snows recede, and the plants are starting to turn green, but the ground is still frozen solid, and the water from the melted snows turns the top inch or two into a morass of primordial goo.   Mud Season is good for one reason, you have to go through it to get to Summer.

I was originally going to brew a beer for Mud season, and I thought it would be fun to play on Saison, and make a “Mud Saison”.  Well, that did not sound very appetizing, but I liked the idea, and decided to turn to Biere de Garde for inspiration.  Biere de Garde is a style of beer from northern France, on the border with Belgium.  These beers were brewed in the winter to be cellared and consumed in the warmer summer months when brewing was not very effective due the warm weather and the spoiling microbes that came with it.  A substyle of Biere de Gard is Biere de Mars, a beer brewed as a sort of “yeah, winter is over” mentality.  Biere de Garde is a maltier style, but still fairly highly attenuated, with a much cleaner yeast profile then Saisons.  Several breweries have jumped on this, and you can find examples from (which is certainly not an example of a clean beer), , and .  I decided to go for a more malt driven beer, still with a decent hop bitterness to balance it.  I selected Kent Goldings as the hop because I think it tends to meld wonderfully with richer malty flavors, and it is one of my favorites.  I also decided to use the , but ferment it as a lower temperature then the 80F I have in the past, to try to get a bit of a less estery, more spicy profile.  I wanted caramel malt for the sweetness and tobacco notes I get from the darker roasts, and pale chocolate was to bring a bit of a nutty quality to the beer.    For an added twist, I did a cereal mash with 2# of raw buckwheat I got from the local whole foods store.  Buckwheat is a traditional food in the northern part of Maine, particularly among the people of French decent.  I wanted to see what that would bring to the table.  I also decided to shoot for a lower gravity then would be traditional for a Biere de Garde, because ECY 08 is a very high, 90%+ attenuator, and I did not want a 7.5% beer.

The recipe is as follows:

7.00 lb       Pale Malt (2 Row) Malteurop (1.8 SRM)     Grain        70.00 %
2.00 lb       Buckwheat – raw                      Grain        20.00 %
0.25 lb       Caramel/Crystal Malt (50.0 SRM)           Grain        2.50 %
0.25 lb       Caramel/Crystal Malt 150L (150.0 SRM)     Grain        2.50 %
0.25 lb       Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM)                Grain        2.50 %
0.25 lb       Chocolate, Pale (225.0 SRM)               Grain        2.50 %
1.50 oz       Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %]  First Wort Hops  26.8 IBU
1.0 oz       Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %]  Flamout  Hops         0.8 IBU
1 Pkgs        Saison Blend (East Coast Yeast ##8)       Yeast-Ale

The mash was odd.  It is very cold, and my insulated cooler could not maintain temps in my garage, where I brew.  I went from a mash in temperature of 154F down to 144F in 1 hour.  I usually expect a drift of 3-4 degrees over the hour, but this was excessive.  To compensate, I took 1 gallon of water, brought it to a boil, and added it to the mash to bring the temp back up to the low 150′s, and let it sit another 15 minutes.  In retrospect, I probably should have just tested to see if mashing was done with iodine.  Anyway, this was sparged, and after a 60 minutes boil, I added the flame out hops, let them sit in the hot wort for 10 minutes, then whirlpooled and chilled.  In the end I got 5.25 gallons of clear wort at a gravity of 1.050.  I aerated, and pitched the yeast from a 1500 mL starter that I built during the week from a slanted yeast specimen.  I use an and a Ranco, which doubles as my HLT temperature controller, to maintain a constant fermentation temperature in the winter.  My basement is currently 53F.  In this case, I set it for 73F, let it go for 4 days, and after primary started to calm down, I turned it up to 75F.  That is the bottom end of this yeasts suggest range, so I hope to let it finish out but keep it on the smoother side…if that is possible for a Saison.


Edit 3/4/12 — The tasting notes can be found here.

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