Monday, July 30, 2012

Saison d'Etre (update and move to secondary)

     This has now been in the fermenter for exactly four weeks and, as ambient temps have been in the 78-85 degree range for that length of time, I started to worry a bit about autolysis (the process of yeast cells dying, decomposing, and throwing all sorts of disgusting burnt rubber flavors and aromas).  I figured that, if the beer wasn't done yet, I'd rack this to a secondary and get it off the yeast cake, thus reducing the threat.  Secretly, I was hoping the beer would be close to finished, and that perhaps I could just cold crash it and keg it, but I should have known better. 
    High krausen fell after maybe 2-3 days and, for the majority of the four weeks, this has been bubbling along at a rate of about one bubble every 8-10 seconds, slowing ever so slightly over the four week period.  Ignoring all of the literature about this yeast's finicky nature, I figured that meant it might be getting close to being finished.  Imagine my surprise when, in the middle of last week, the blow-off tube started bubbling at a rate of a bubble every 4 seconds or so, and kept that up every day.  I was initially worried about a possible infection, but everything smells fine.  This truly is a bizarre yeast!
     There is still a lot of yeast in suspension.  By a lot, I mean that there's a little bit settled out on the bottom of the fermenter and everything else is an opaque, murky haze.  This should be expected, I guess, if the yeast is still going strong, but again, it's fairly unusual.  High krausen is long gone, but there is a thin layer of white foam on top of the beer, suggesting ongoing fermentation.  I decided to (for once) do things right and actually make sure my sample was at 60F in order to get an accurate hydrometer reading.  Again, thanks to my folks for the awesome probe thermometer!
     The verdict? After 4 weeks at ideal temperatures, this is only down to 1.023, which puts this at about 4.3% abv with an apparent attenuation of only 57.6% at this point.  In other words, it has a long way to go yet.  The good news is that it smells wonderful; it's full of the Juicy Fruit gum, tropical fruit, and spice aromas that make Saison Dupont such a great beer.  The flavors follow suit, with a vibrant, classic mix of fruit and spice.  There's also a firm hop bitterness, and herbal hop finish as well.  I only bittered this to around 31 IBUs, but used lower-alpha hops (in greater quantities) to do this.  The hopping's almost a bit much at this point, although if I can get this to dry out significantly, I think the hop presence will compliment the beer nicely, when balanced by further attenuation and the presence of more alcohol. This one's going into the secondary today, and will get some more time. If this hasn't dropped much in the next two to three weeks, I may consider moving it into the garage for the remainder of the fermentation, to really boost the temperature.  All in all, though this is coming along slower than I'd like, there's a lot to be optimistic about here. 

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