Brewing a Hoppy Saison with Equinox

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I apologize for the poor quality of this picture. I was well into my brew day before I remembered I didn’t have my camera with me, and my phone had to do.

Last July I finally made the move to kegging, my motivation to make that move because I wanted more life out of my hoppy beer. I was continually getting frustrated waiting for a bottle to condition, and by the time it did, the hops had faded considerably within two weeks. Not to say there’s anything wrong with bottling beer, and kegging certainly has its own issues. But I was ready to move away from bottling in the hopes kegging would give me some improvement with the life of my hop forward styles. Well, it did…eventually.

The first beer I ever kegged was a single hop Saison with Nelson Sauvin. I never felt like I got the carbonation quite where I wanted it to be but I did enjoy the beer nonetheless. I knew I would come back to brew something similar some day, but as I always have a long list of ideas running (I’m sure most home brewers do) it got put on the back burner until now. I actually wasn’t looking to brew a hoppy Saison at the time. I was going through my hop inventory and I noticed I had quite a bit of equinox on hand. If you haven’t brewed with equinox I highly recommend it. It’s advertised to have citrus, tropical fruit, floral and herbal characteristics. Specific descriptors include lemon, lime, papaya, apple, and green pepper. That’s right, green pepper, which doesn’t sound like something you’d want in a hoppy beer but it’s subtle, unique and it works, somehow. Last summer I brewed a session IPA based on this recipe and it turned out well, but I didn’t want to brew the same thing again. I rarely brew the exact same beer twice, for better or worse. I had thought about a Belgian IPA, but matching a hop to an expressive yeast can be tricky depending on how it’s treated during fermentation. So I decided on my favorite Saison strain, Wyeast 3711 French Saison. It has some spice, and esters typical of a Saison strain, but they are fairly subtle. I think this makes 3711 work really well with hops that have citrus traits and it attenuates well. What’s not to love?

The grain bill is pretty standard for the style, Pilsner malt making up the majority, wheat malt for mouth feel, and acid malt for water chemistry adjustment. Every time I brew with wheat malt I include a small amount of rice hulls to prevent a stuck sparge. Not that I think the addition of 11% wheat malt to the grain bill would have definitely lead to a stuck sparge, but I’d rather not have to worry or spend the time to deal with one.

I had recently read about some home brewers adding their first charge of dry hops just as primary fermentation is completed. The reasons stated were that the yeast would have more interaction with the hop oils, producing more pronounced flavor and aroma. Even though I have finally settled on a dry hop method and schedule, I thought a single hop beer was a great chance to put this to the test,especially since I know what to expect from this particular variety. So my plan was to put aside a quarter of my dry hop allotment for this batch and add it approximately three to four days after pitching 3711.

Recipe Targets: 4.0 gallons, OG 1.058, FG 1.008, IBUs  33, SRM 3.9, ABV 6.5%

Grain:

3.2 kg Bohemian Pilsner (75.7%)

0.48 kg White Wheat Malt (11.4%)

0.12 kg Rice Hulls (3.0%)

0.1 kg Acid Malt (2.4%)

 

Hops:

4g Magnum (13.5%) @60

16g Equinox (14.5%) @5

32g Equinox (14.5%) 15 minute steep

32g Equinox (14.5%) chiller addition

28g Equinox (14.5%) @ Day 3

42g Equinox (14.5%) Dry Hop 5 days

42g Equinox (14.5%) Keg Addition

Extras:

1 Whirlfloc tablet @ 5 minutes

1 tsp yeast nutrient @ 5 minutes

Yeast:

Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Brewed by my son and I. Mashed in with 11L reaching target temp of 149F, mashed out with 6L, and finally batch sparged with 2.8 gallons @170F. 75 minute boil. OG a point high at 1.059. Fermentation was vigorous within 18 hours of pitching. Within three days primary was winding down and first charge of dry hops were added. Second charge added one week later. Transferred to co2 purged keg four days later, last dry hops added to weighted bag in keg, SG all the way down to 1.003! I love this yeast strain, though this did bump my abv higher than I expected or planned.

B&W

Appearance: Pours pale yellow (lighter than pictured) with a very slight orange hue, medium head that lasts for a few minutes before fading to a quarter finger.

Aroma: Mainly fruit and citrusy hops, lime specifically. Shortly after kegging it was also slightly dank, but that dissipated within a couple of weeks.

Taste: Initially a little dank but that faded as mentioned above. Citrus, lime again, with some fruity hops backed up with a small amount of spice. Mid taste I do get some alcohol notes, not heat necessarily but something a little off.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation with medium light body that finishes dry, but not as dry as you’d expect for 1.003.

Overall: I like this beer, anyone familiar with equinox would pick it out instantly. Unfortunately that possible alcohol flavor in the middle really took this beer down a notch or two for me. While the Equinox is quite present, I think I will go back to my previous dry hop method of half in primary at day 10, and half in keg. A week prior to brewing I had planned on doing this as a lower abv Saison, I’m not sure why I decided to brew this in the 6.5% range. This beer also finished 5 points lower than expected which pushed the ABV over 7%. I think I’ll re-brew this with my initial plan of a hoppy session Saison for the summer, likely with Equinox or maybe Azacca. I’m guessing that will be great for the hotter weather and help the hops shine through just a little more.

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