This is a version of the Brown Saison I made a month or so ago. Dialing in a few recipes is an objective of mine so I can have these beers to lean on and play with for an indefinite period of time stretching off into the future. These “Brown saisons” are basically Special B malt beers, which is one of my favorite malts.

Special B® malt is a dark caramel malt associated mostly with Belgian styles. I like it for ability of it to darken a beer but unlike other grains (chocolate or black barley) it adds no bitterness to the wort or beer. It has been described as being fruity, and I agree with that. Typically, brown sugar, molasses, raisins, or plums are common descriptors that I tend to agree with. Some people say it tastes like black cherries but honestly it isn’t that sweet. It is a roasted grain so it introduces unfermentables into the wort for a higher final gravity. This beer I brewed below bottomed out at 1.010 FG so that isn’t a huge factor in FG since that is pretty low, but still it leaves some sugars behind for some residual sweetness. Some people have claimed that this malt helps with head stability, I have not tested that claim specifically but it is believable.

So the original Brown Saison has aged nicely over the past few months. The beer has developed a nice chocolatey, almost leather, flavor. It is a solid excellent beer in my opinion…that improves with some age on it. Today I will be using Cascade hops again, making the beer a little more bitter than before (but not much more bitter). Keeping the grain bill the same though (well I don’t have Pilsen malt so I’m subbing in 2-row), seems to be working out well for me, why modify it? In the next version of this beer I will add a new malt that I’ve never brewed with, melanoidin.

Batch # 2014.24

5 Gallon Batch
Brew date: October 13, 2014
Bottling date: November 12th, 2014
OG: 1.055
FG: 1.010
ABV: 5%
SRM: 24 L (estimated)
IBU: 46 IBU (estimated)


70% American 2-row
20% Special B
10% Wheat

Mash Conditions:

Mashed with about 4.5 gallons of tap water with a pH stabilizer (5.2) at about 156 F for 60 minutes. Sparged with about 5 gallons of water. Almost 9 gallons of wort was collected post sparge. Both runoffs were vorlaufed for about a gallon until the grain pieces stopped coming through the drain tube.

Brewing Procedure:

Wort was boiled for 60 minutes, chilled by immersion chiller for 40 minutes. No whirlfloc for this beer or any other water additions. I did hit my volume though, so there’s that, a little over my volume actually.

Hop Schedule:

2 ounces of Cascade (6.9% AA) at 30 minutes
2 ounces of Cascade (6.9% AA) at 10 minutes

This is a highly strange hop addition series for me and I’m not sure why I did it.

Fermentation Conditions:

This beer received a portion of the yeast cake from the Chinook Rye Belgo IPA, which is Blaugies yeast I’ve been using more. The fermentation took off fine and chugged along with a nice krausen for a few days but the fermentation persisted for several days longer than I thought. Even though there was airlock activity, I took a gravity reading after almost 3 weeks in primary and the gravity was 1.010…I decided that it was done and bottled it up. I added enough sugar for 2.5 volumes of CO2. This is a little low for a saison but I figured if the FG dropped to 1.008 or so (which I highly doubt) I still wouldn’t end up with bottle bombs. I’m not sure why the yeast slowed down this time, maybe an underpitch? Might be time for some viable yeast counts on these house cultures.


Not a functional note but right as I started to drain the mash tun, it started pouring rain. It lasted through the sparge and then ended…I was soaked and I’m sure some water got in the beer but whatever.

My hop screen clogged again….this is becoming a regular occurrence so I am going to start using hop bags for my pellet hops…I don’t like to since I feel that the more free the hops are the greater the extraction but that is my prejudice and I have no data to support it. So, I think hop bags are in my future. Here is a photo of my hop screen upon draining the pot.

Clogged hop screen
Clogged hop screen

So that sucks. This problem has been getting worse, this was the worst I’ve seen it in a while though. The wort was flowing slowly out of the tube and may have completely drained the pot but I got impatient and just poured the remainder out into the fermenter.

This beer will go to bottles along with the next three beers for reasons that will be revealed shortly. I ordered specialized bottle caps from Bottlemark. I like little touches like that and I recommend them because they are pretty cheap (not the cheapest but still decent), super fast (I got my bottle caps within three days of ordering) and the entire cap is screen printed (this isn’t a sticker). They aren’t paying me for that endorsement, I just like the product.

Tasting Notes:

Brown Saison

Beer served in a mason jar out of a 12 ounce long neck. Beer is brown and mostly clear, a little reddish / amber at the corners of the glass. Nice carbonation, about 2 volumes and a tan head of small and medium bubbles, decent retention, some lacing on the jar.

Aroma is malty, nutty, sweet, with a peppery sense and mild hops. Overall the aroma is a little weak and mostly malt with hints of yeast coming through.

Beer is a little thin, peppery and nicely carbonated on the palate. It is sweet with this nice almost cookie / mild roast / special B flavor (sorry I can’t explain it better than that). There is almost a cured leather sense to this beer but no Brett character at all (sometimes people call one of the Brettanomyces flavors ‘leather like’…this is similar to that but without any of the other Brett characteristics).

Overall, there is very little to complain about in this beer (but I do in the next section so there is that). This is a great beer and I love love love it. Other than a few tweaks I can do in the next section, this is definitely a repeat brew for me and will have no problem giving this beer away and drinking the majority of it myself.

Possible improvements (for future batches):

This is quickly becoming my favorite brown ale, if I may say so. I think there are a few things to do that might improve the beer and I’m going to explore those variations. First, lowering the pH by just a little might give this a little bit of a pop. I’d do this through the addition of lactic acid or a little acidulated malt. Second, I think the FG of this beer could be a little higher, this is easy enough to change. I don’t think I would change the yeast although this grist bill could be interesting with an even spicier yeast (right when I thought I was done with Dupont..I find myself thinking about it). I encourage anyone looking for an interesting brown recipe to try a lot of Special B in their grain bill and see what happens. The hops in the this beer play a minor role, it might be fun to play with the hop bill a little as well, find a more noble variety like hop so I’m not just wasting cascade hops…or try dry hopping with a heavily floral hop. That would also be good. The aroma for me is the weak link in this beer. Maybe adding half a pound of meloidin malt or something similar would give it a little bigger nose or just dry hopping slightly with an unoffensive mild hop. Who knows.

Upcoming brews:

This is a group of four beers that I brewed close together. They are #1 — this beer, #2 — Moteuka Abbey Ale, #3 — Wakatu Saison, and #4 — Galaxy Saison #3. Around mid-late October and November I brew a series of beers for holiday presents to people, a holiday 6-pack if you will. This year will be these saison plus a Brett beer or two, I haven’t decided on the rest. I brewed a Russian Imperial Stout that ended up in a whiskey barrel I was hoping to have ready as this but it is not. So I’m looking at the end of the year, trying to evaluate if I am hitting my goals I outlined in my New Years post from the beginning of the year. I am coming up short but I have gotten a lot done this year for sure. A lot more beer to come, I hope you all stay with me.

Some food fermentation coming up as well, but I’m still working the bugs out of those posts. In short, a lot more to come.

“There is no greater joy than in being a drinker… except for the joy in the wine in the women and being drunk. So I’m for drinking honestly and dying in my boots. “ — Lord Byron


4 thoughts on “Recipe #27: Belgian Brown Saison #2 (Batch #2014.24)

  1. I fear this might be a dumb question but I couldn’t figure it out after reading your post and I don’t do a traditional all grain process. It’s a 5 gallon batch, you use a total of 9.5 gallons of water, and collected 9 gallons of wort after sparging. Where is all your water going?

    1. I’m an educator (sort of) so there are no dumb questions.

      I boil off until I reach my target volume. Usually takes 60 – 90 minutes depending on how hard the wind is blowing and the air temperature. I can easily boil off about 4 gallons in about an hour. I chill the remaining wort and transfer that (usually 4.5 – 6 gallons) to a fermenter.

    2. In fact, the last few batches i’ve been adding some water AFTER I sparge just to bring the volume up a little higher…I kept undershooting my volume by half a gallon or so. So my starting boil volume is close to 10 gallons now.

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