The Saison is a hazy Belgian beer that’s perfect for the summer. Saison is French for “season.” We thought it wise to explain how to brew Saison beer as you prepare for the summer season.
We’ll outline all the ingredients and equipment needed for this brew. We’ll also explain the step-by-step process of brewing your own Saison beer. You can also expect some useful hacks and tips for brewing Saison.
But first, below is an overview of the Saison beer style:
|Saison Style Guidelines|
|Color Range||Pale Saison: 3-14 SRM|
|Dark Saison: 15-22 SRM|
|Original Gravity||1.048-1.065 OG|
|Final Gravity||1.002-1.008 FG|
|IBU Range||20-38 IBU|
|ABV Range||Table: 3.5-4.9% ABV|
|Standard: 5.0-6.9% ABV|
|Super: 7.0-9.5% ABV|
|Mouthfeel||Light to medium body|
|Serving & Storage Temperature||Serving Temperature: 45-55°F|
|Shelf Life||Bottled: 36 months|
|On Tap: 12 months|
|Food Pairings||Meal Pairings: Mussels, roasted chicken|
|Cheese Pairings: Brie, parmesan|
|Dessert Pairings: Lemon Ginger Sorbet|
I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but beer is brewed from four primary ingredients. They include water, malt, hops, and yeast. Let’s look at these ingredients from the lens of Saison brewing.
Water makes up about 95% of beer. As a Belgian beer style, Saison brewing requires water with a similar profile to Belgian water. The southern region of Wallonia, Belgium, is synonymous with hard water. The hardness helps accentuate the dry finish and bitterness of Saisons.
Many Belgian breweries tend to use this hard water with no adjustments. You can make your brewing water hard by adding gypsum.
Malt and Fermentables
Martin Keen shoots for an original gravity of 1.055 OG in his recipe. To brew his pale-style Saison, Martin uses American Pilsner malt for his base. This pale malt makes up 67% of his grain bill. Pilsner malts are known to promote crispness in Saisons.
He also adds Munich Type I at 19% of his grain bill. Munich malts impart a strong and sweet malty flavor to your Saison. Martin’s grain bill also contains 9% White Wheat Malt. This addition adds body and head retention to your Saison while imparting a strong wheat flavor.
Martin adds corn sugar to the tune of 5% to boost his final gravity. Below is a table highlighting the constitution of Martin Keen’s grain bill:
|Malt/Fermentable||Quantity in Pounds||Percentage of Grain Bill|
|American Pilsner Malt||7 lbs||67%|
|Munich Type||2 lbs||19%|
|White Wheat Malt||1 lb||9%|
|Corn Sugar||8 oz||5%|
Saison, like other Belgian styles, is a malt and yeast-centered beer. Hop bitterness helps balance the malt sweetness. Martin Keen only uses the Austrian hop, Styrian Golding, for his recipe.
Belgian-style Saisons are famous for their tart, acidic character. To achieve this flavor profile, you need the right yeast. For his recipe, Martin Keen settles for Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison Yeast.
Wyeast 3724 is a warm-fermenting yeast. It requires relatively high fermentation temperatures, typically between 70-95°F. Lower fermentation temperatures risk a stuck fermentation. The recommended sweet spot of this yeast is around 90°F.
Wyeast 3724 offers a high attenuation along with fruity, spicy, and earthy flavors.
To successfully and consistently brew a beer, you need the right equipment. Below is a list of all the brewing equipment used by Martin Keen in his brew:
- A 240V ClawHammer Brewing System
- Spike Conical Conical Fermentor
- A pH Meter
- A Hydrometer
- A Fermenter
- A Grain mill
- A Wooden Spoon
*Note: You also don’t need a grain mill. You can buy already-milled grains from your local homebrew store.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Brewing Saison Beer
Let’s move on to the brewing process; we’re using Martin Keen’s recipe as a reference. Below are the steps to follow when brewing a Belgian-style Saison:
Prepping Your Ingredients
Regardless of your intended beer style, you must sterilize your equipment before starting your brew. To sterilize your brewing equipment, boil the pieces in water or disinfect them with sanitizer.
Malt preparation involves milling the grains. You don’t have to mill the corn sugar. During mashing, enzymes break down the starches in the malt into fermentable sugars. Milling helps increase the surface area for enzyme-led saccharification.
Tip: You can buy already-milled grains from your local homebrew store.
You also need to prepare your water for brewing. The Belgians use hard water to brew Saison. If you have soft water, you can harden it by adding gypsum.
Take the water’s pH readings. Our target pH is 5.5-5.8. If you obtain higher readings, adjust them with some lactic acid. Add your hard water to your brewing kettle and heat to 155°F.
With your strike temperature at 150-155°F, install your grain bag and add your grist. We won’t be adding the corn sugar at this stage. Gently stir your mash with the wooden spoon. Stirring helps eliminate hotspots that may develop in the brewing kettle. Let your mash cook at 152°F for 60 minutes.
At the end of the mash, withdraw your grain bag to separate the spent grain from the wort. Install your hop basket. Our brewmaster, Martin Keen, only uses one hop variety for bittering and flavoring.
Bring your wort to a boil and add one ounce of Styrian Golding. This addition is for bittering. We intend to let it boil for 60 minutes. After 50 minutes, add another ounce of Styrian Golding. The second hop addition is for flavoring, and it will boil for the final 10 minutes.
At flameout, withdraw your hop basket and add your corn sugar. Stir the solution as the corn sugar dissolves. Let the wort cool.
The Belgian Saison is a warm-fermenting beer. Failure to maintain warm fermentation temperatures may result in stuck fermentation. Martin Keen’s fermentation setup involves two conical fermentors, a heating pad, and a glycol chiller.
To heat the fermenting wort, Martin uses a heating pad. And to maximize heat retention, he slips the fermentor into its jacket. Wyeast 3724 works best at 90-95°F. In Martin’s setup, the heating pad warms the wort to 90°F. Should the fermentation temperature exceed 95°F, the glycol chiller kicks in.
With the fermentor set up, he transfers the wort into his fermentation vessels and pours in one packet of Wyeast 3724. Martin Keen lets his beer ferment for a few weeks before cold-breaking the fermentation process.
Brewing Saison Beer: Adjusting Your Recipe
Now, let’s look at some helpful tips to help you develop your Saison recipe.
Pale Ale or Pilsner malts are the usual base malts for Saison brewing. You can also use a combination of both to induce various effects.
Pale Ale Malts offer more flavor, while Pilsner Malts offer more crispness. For the best result, your grain bill should contain at least 65% Pale Ale or Pilsner malts.
Vienna and Munich malts are common additions. They make 10-25% of the grain bill. Vienna adds sweet, grainy, and malty characteristics to your Saison. Munich malt imparts a sweeter and maltier flavor with a less grainy profile. Using both malt varieties in the same grain bill would be unusual.
Vienna and Munich malts are also available in Cara versions. You can use these Cara varieties to add color, character, and sweetness to your Saison.
It is common to use wheat malt in a Saison. Keep your additions below 20% to adhere to the beer style. Wheat additions under 5% help add body and head retention without imparting a full wheat flavor.
Sugar additions are common among Belgian-style beers. Sugars lower the body and boost beer drinkability. They can also be used to add color. For Saisons, you can use sugars up to 20%.
You can introduce sugar in different forms, including syrup or candy sugar. You can also use other sources of sugar, like honey.
It’s challenging for yeast to ferment unrefined sugars completely. Avoid these types of sugars when entering any BJCP competitions. Regular table sugar will do as it is fully fermentable.
Crystal malt also features in many recipes. It is used in small amounts, typically below 5%, to balance color if large quantities of wheat are used. In the case of low-wheat additions, we use lower-color Crystal malts to help with body and head retention.
For specialty malts, you have many options at your disposal. The best choices are those of Belgian origins, including Special B, Aromatic, and Abbey. For this Saisons, stick with either one or two specialty malts.
Hop additions for Saisons are 60 minutes for bittering and 15 minutes for flavoring. Common hops used for this style are European, including:
Recommended Saison yeasts include:
|Dry Yeast||Liquid Yeast|
|Lallemand Belle Saison||Wyest 3711|
|Safale BE-134||White Labs WLP565|
The Belgian Saison is a warm fermenting beer. With these instructions and Martin Keen’s recipe, you can brew your own Saison at home. Our hacks will also help your brew within style even as you seek to enter your beer in BJCP competitions.