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update: high-citrus saison

August 6, 2012

Today marked two weeks since Chris and I brewed our Citrus Saison.  Fermentation seems to be mostly complete.  While the French Saison yeast is, by all accounts, a beast, it isn’t necessarily the fastest moving strain.  It’ll drop the gravity about 90% of the way there in a few days, but it will take several more to get that last 10%.

In all honesty, I’m not sure where my terminal gravity is, as it is reading below 1.00 – my initial reaction (which I’m sticking to) is that my hydrometer is shot.  A piece of glass with some lead in the bottom and a piece of paper stuffed into it doesn’t strike me as being manufactured to the highest level of scientific precision.  Judging by mouthfeel (even more scientific), I’m calling it 1.004.  Good news is, I don’t really care.  It’s dry, it’s estery, it’s a saison.


Not likely.

More at the jump.

So tonight, I racked the beer over to a sanitized secondary fermenter and stole a small taste.  Very nice, very promising.  Unfortunately, the citrus is subdued.  I think boiling the zest (for ~2 minutes) probably cooked off some of the more volatile oils/aromatics and we lost them.

It was always a strong possibility that more citrus was going in, so this only fortified that thought.  But adding zest directly to the secondary is risky – certain strains of Lactobacillus thrive on the rind of citrus fruit, and I really don’t want this one to get infected.  My solution was to soak the zest in some vodka for a few hours, which should pasteurize it enough for my purposes.  We’re all kinds of scientific this time around.

OK, here’s scientific for you.  Shaun Hill from Hill Farmstead Brewery and some of the fellas from Mikkeler pioneered a new measurement for citrus additions called ICU (international citrus units).  The base thinking, which I obtained from embrace the funk, is that 1g of citrus zest added to 1 litre of liquid would be 1000 ICU’s.

Following that math, this beer received roughly 72.5 grams (7250mg) of citrus zest.  Therefore, in a 5 gallon batch (18.95 litres), we had roughly 383 ICU’s (7250/18.95).  Pretty cool.  I expect to use this more in the future.  The ounce of Citra doesn’t hurt either.

The citrus of choice for this addition is tangerine.  I microplaned the zest off of the whole fruit, saving it in a small, glass, sanitized jar:

,

I then added 1 oz of vodka, capped, swirled and allowed to stand for ~5 hours.  I used unflavored Three Olives vodka, which I think is pretty good for the price.  I don’t drink a lot of vodka – my heirarchy goes something like: Beer > Beer > Whiskey > Red Wine > Rum > Vodka.  I do usually keep some around, but I didn’t have any today.  I wound up grabbing a 750 ml for about $17 at Gate’s Circle Liquor.

This was finally added to the secondary, along with an ounce of Citra (dry) hops (not pictured):

While the taste I had was great, it was certainly lacking.  A few hours after the Tangerine and Citra went in, the aroma is off the charts.  This is really going to be wonderful, and probably a near-term re-brew.

In unrelated news, my better half decided to make some fresh tomato sauce today.  I planted some basil a few weeks ago and it’s been doing great in the heat.  She snipped a pretty good sized stalk and added the leaves to the pot.  This’ll probably be dinner for tomorrow, and I’m pretty excited:


Apparently real homemade tomato sauce is not bright red, as that hue comes from the use of tomato paste.  Who knew?

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2 Comments
  1. charles permalink

    How did this turn out? I’m doing a saison myself with 500icu dry hopped with citra and galaxy a couple weeks before keg or bottle. Primary fermentation with Brett c. Any tips?

    • pjdunn permalink

      Hey Charles. This one turned out pretty well. The biggest issue was that at 90+ degrees fermentation and a fairly high OG, this wound up being fairly “hot”. The hot alcohol subsided after a few weeks. The 3711 yeast, at that temp, made for a really nice spicy saison.

      Sounds like you’re doing something akin to a Crooked Stave beer (maybe WWBO?), or HF Mimosa or Juicy. I haven’t gotten around to doing one myself, but I love the idea. I do have a few tips:
      1 – I’d add the zest sometime after the flame is off. It seems to me that the oils are fairly volatile and will cook off at boiling (or near boiling) temps.
      2 – if you’re using the juice as well as the zest, be sure to monitor your pH. The citrus juice will add a fair amount of citric acid, which can get kind of overwhelming. Adding something basic like chalk could help keep it in check.

      Good luck! I’d be interested to hear how it turns out, as a similar brew is on my radar.

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