Monday, July 8, 2013

Saison with Strawberry and Apricot (Fantôme-ish)

Ask any beer geek, "what got you so into beer?" and you're likely going to hear an answer involving aha moments of when particular beers made a profound impression in that person's life. In my story, one of those moments was when I had Fantôme Saison for the first time. I can distinctly remember the smell of wild strawberries and other nondescript stone fruit busting out of the glass. Once I got past those initial characteristics, spices, earth, and a slight funk were also present. On the palate, those same flavors carried through, but were accompanied by some lactic tartness.

I have been told by people who have asked him, Dany Prignon asserts that there is no fruit in Fantôme Saison. All of the aromatics apparently come from the interplay of malt, yeast and a proprietary blend of spices.

Researching online for a recipe from someone who was familiar with the original beer and who could provide input on their clone attempt, brought me to this thread at Northern Brewer. Very few changes were made to the original recipe. I substituted Hallertauer for Tettananger and used powdered instead of crushed coriander (and less of it). The goal was to make a beer with a similar sensory profile to Fantôme Saison, not to clone it.

At the time that I brewed this beer, I had yet to find a yeast that throws off strawberry esters (until Dmitri of BK Yeast sent me his 2007 Cantillon Iris C2 strain). To achieve that character, frozen strawberries were used because I could not find a strawberry juice that was actually juice from strawberries, and because the frozen strawberries were picked ripe and then frozen, rather than picked green and ripened on the shelf (I couldn't find any freshly picked strawberries at the time that were worth writing home about). Apricot juice (which contained other juices, such as grape juice) from my local health food store was used for the apricot character. A pure, unadulterated apricot juice could not be found.

Fantome inspired
Fantome inspired


Type: All Grain
Date: 5/13/2012
Batch Size: 11.50 gal
Brewer: Luke Hagenbach
Boil Size: 13.98 gal
Boil Time: 60 min Equipment: Blichmann 20 Gal brewing system
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00
Amount Item Type % or IBU
11.50 gal Denver-ish water Water
20.25 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 61.16 %
3.34 lb Munich Malt (9.0 SRM) Grain 10.08 %
1.02 lb Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) Grain 3.09 %
3.75 oz Hallertauer [2.30 %] (60 min) Hops 12.7 IBU
2.00 lb Candi Sugar, Clear (0.5 SRM) Sugar 6.04 %
2.00 oz Hallertauer [2.30 %] (15 min) Hops 3.4 IBU
0.80 oz Orange Peel, Bitter (Boil 15.0 min) Misc
0.48 tsp Grains of Paradise (GoP) (Boil 15.0 min) Misc
0.12 oz Corriander (crushed) (Boil 15.0 min) Misc
1 Pkgs French Saison (Wyeast Labs #3711) Yeast-Ale
1 Pkgs Belgian Saison (Wyeast Labs #3724) Yeast-Ale
6.00 lb Frozen Strawberry (secondary 21 days) (6.0 SRM) Adjunct 18.12 %
64 oz Apricot juice (3.0 SRM) Adjunct 1.51 %
Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.062 SG
Measured Original Gravity: 1.065 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.012 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.003 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 6.58 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 8.10 %
Bitterness: 16.0 IBU Calories: 285 cal/pint
Est Color: 7.1 SRM Color:
Mash Profile
Mash Name: Single Infusion Mash, 1 Step, Light Body Total Grain Weight: 25.11 lb
Sparge Water: 9.90 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F TunTemperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.4 PH
Temperature Mash, 1 Step, Medium Body
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
60 min Saccharification Add 31.39 qt of water at 160.4 F 150.0 F
10 min Mash Out Heat to 168.0 F over 10 min 168.0 F
30 min Fly Sparge Fly sparge with enough water to achieve pre-boil volume 168.0 F

5/13/2012: brew day

Substituted Hallertauer 60 minute addition for Tettananger
Used powdered coriander instead of crushed, and cut it from .29 oz additions to .12 oz.
Cut bitter orange peel from .96 oz to .80 oz.
Used 0.28 mm crush on grain mill. It seemed too fine. Next time ope in slightly.

Measured pre-boil gravity without sugar was 1.052. With sugar it would have been 1.057.
I forgot to add the candy sugar until the last 5 minutes of the boil.
Measured OG was 1.065.

6.5 G fermentor got the 3711 French Saison yeast cake from a previously brewed Sorachi Ace Saison.
6 G fermentor got a 1.5L starter of 3724 Belgian Saison, and was ramped from 73 to 90 degrees over 24 hours.
The Belgian Saison yeast took off vigorously within 12 hours, then subsided within 24 hours. 36 hours later, there was no visible sign of fermentation.
The French Saison yeast took off with a medium krausen (no blow off), and 36 hours later it was still chugging along.

05/26/2012 (13 days) - Pitched 32 oz apricot juice (bottle from local health food store) and 3 lbs defrosted frozen strawberries (Kirkland brand from Costco) into each fermentor. Strawberries were broken up with a potato masher.

06/03/2012 (21 days) - gravity readings:
French saison = 1.003; Belgian saison = 1.029
Will crash cool the French saison for 48 hours, then transfer to a keg. The Belgian saison was moved to ambient heat and will get pitched with the French saison yeast cake.

06/05/2012 (23 days) - Transferred French Saison version to keg and bottled about 3-4 750ml bottles. Transferred the Belgian saison version to secondary and added the washed French saison yeast.

06/17/2012 (35 days) - Belgian saison (pitched on French saison yeast cake) gravity reading 1.011. Bottled 3.17 gallons (12 liters) with 2.4 oz priming sugar, which should calculate out to 2.25 volumes of CO2, unless the Brett takes the FG below 1.011 (edit: it sure as hell did!)
(7) 750ml bottles were bottled with ECY05 (half of a container), and (9) 750ml bottles were bottled with washed cake of ECY20 (from a Sanctification clone). All bottles were bottle conditioned for several months before trying.

7/7/2013 - All of the bottles were super gushers from the beginning. It's actually amazing that they have not exploded. I made a rookie mistake of bottling too early when using Brett and bacteria. Both versions are tart and full of fruit, but there is way too much fruit floating around in the bottles, and due to the bottles being gushers, everything gets stirred up and quite cloudy.

Tasting notes and comments:

Many months have passed since I have had the non-wild versions of this beer, and proper tasting notes do not exist. From memory, I recall the fruit character being a bit overwhelming and gave the beer a sweet characteristic, despite the low 1.003 finishing gravity. Changes that I would make to the recipe would be to scale back the amount of fruit character and change the primary yeast to the now regularly available WY3724. I would reduce the strawberries by 1 lb (2.5 lbs/carboy) and substitute the apricot juice with 2 lbs/carboy of fresh apricots. A version with no fruit and pitching BKYeast C2 in primary alongside WY3724 would also be interesting.

The versions bottle conditioned with ECY05 and ECY20 are coming around nicely, with ECY05 having a slightly more funky character, while ECY20 is more sour.

To refresh my memory, I opened a bottle of the ECY20. Even after chilling in the freezer for 30 minutes, the bottle was a gusher, causing the yeast and fruit sediment at the bottom to mix into solution.

Cloudy reddish amber color with a huge, white, fizzy head that diminishes quickly, leaving behind a modest amount of lacing. The beer is hazy from the yeast and fruit particulates being stirred up by the gushing bottle.

I would be hard-pressed to find a more prevalent and pleasant, fresh-picked strawberry aroma than what is wafting out of this glass. Mixed into the background of the dominant strawberry aroma are fresh picked wildflowers. If I didn't know that Brett was in this beer, I wouldn't have guessed it. Although, Brett's oxygen scavenging capabilities have kept this beer smelling as fresh as the day that I bottled it. Actually, even more fresh and perfumey, if that is possible.

Spritzy, Champagne level carbonation bites at the tongue. There is just enough body to keep the beer from tasting thin on the palate.

The fresh fruit is more muted in the flavor profile than it is in the aroma, but it is still there. There is just enough alcohol present to let you know this beer is not a 4-6% beer. The lactic acid is present enough to qualify this as a moderately sour beer. No acetic acid can be detected. A slight tannic bite on the finish that I can only associate with new oak, persists for several seconds.

I'm quite impressed with how much fresh strawberry comes through on the nose; the smells coming out of the glass are beautiful and captivating (everyone that I have poured this for has made a big deal about the aroma). The slight booziness and tannic astringency on the finish could be done without, and the carbonation is way into the dangerous level for glass bottles.