Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Brewday - The Harvester Belgian Saison

With all the interest I've had lately in the saison I figured it was about time I tried brewing my own. I've talked about the history of this style in other posts so I won't go on at length, but it was originally a beer brewed in Spring for consumption by farm labourers during the harvest. Maybe I'm fooling myself, but now that February is here I'd like to think the worst of the winter is behind us, (at least on the Island) and the time is at hand for springtime brewing. The Harvester is the second in my series of blue-collar beers, after the Beast of Burden Brown Porter.

My inspiration for this beer is The Saison de Dottignies from the Belgian Brouwerij De Ranke, a beer that I reviewed last month. Saisons can have a wide range of characteristics, from fruity and overpowering to refreshing and delicate, and it is this latter, more gentle end of the style that the Saison de Dottignies comes from. My goal is to make a beer that is refreshing and crisp and not overpowered by fruitiness, with a dry finish and a considerable hop character. Many saisons are made with spices such as pepper and coriander, but I want the spice character to be understated and so allow the yeast alone to provide a gentle element of Belgian spice. I used a specific saison yeast to provide this character as well as to give the beer a dry finish. Unlike many of my other beers, I did not use powerful Northwest hops, but rather milder European Noble hops in fairly high quantities to provide a moderate bitterness and hop character. The grain bill was simple featuring only Pilsner and Vienna malts, with some wheat malt for head retention. I'll write again when this beer is ready to drink and see if its been a success.

Geek Info

All Grain

8 lbs. Pilsner Malt   70%
3 lbs. Vienna Malt   26%
6 ozs. Wheat Malt   3%

0.8 oz. Zeus (whole)            60 mins - 12HBU 
0.5 oz. Hallertauer (pellets)  15 mins
0.5 oz. Goldings (pellets)     15 mins
0.5 oz  Saaz (whole)            15mins
0.5 oz. Saaz (whole)             3 min
0.5 oz. Goldings (pellets)      3 min
1 oz  Saaz (pellets)               dry-hop

OG                1.045
Target FG     1.005
Target abv     5.4%


  1. Hey John let me kick up the geek factor a step here and ask which yeast are you using specifically? I'm going with White Labs Belgian Wit Ale Yeast WLP400 for my saison. Making the yeast starter now.

  2. No worries, nothing I love better than some beer geek talk. I used Wyeast's French Saison 3711. I looked at the Belgian Saison 3724 as well but heard from the Dank Brewer that it really needs warm temps to get the job done and my house can be a bit on the chilly side so went with the Frenchy. She kicked in within a few hours with no starter so so far so good. Let me know how yours comes along, there's nothing like a good saison.

  3. I was just about to ask which yeast you went with. Good choice man. That yeast is a BEAST. I love it. I'm about to brew up a Saison with 3711 and Brett C. Can't wait to hear how your Harvester turns out!


  4. So far so good. Transferred it yesterday and it tasted great with a nice fruit/spice aroma and a great refreshing taste with a long bitter finish and the saison dryness coming along well. That yeast is a real plow horse, it never seemed to get going like most yeasts I've used, but it has barely slowed down either. An SG of 1.012 yesterday and its still pluggin' along nice and steady. Man I can't wait for this one to be ready. Good luck with the saison and thanks again for the advice,