Thursday, June 2, 2016

Tasting Notes for a Bière de Coupage Saison!

I love the process of Bière de Coupage.  I like that it lets you experiment with blending while also having the opportunity to enhance a base beer.  Some of you reading may know or have seen posts by James Sites in the Milk the Funk group.  He is a wealth of knowledge and has a ton of brewing experience.  He also seems to be a brewing scholar always researching and sharing information.  He sent me a few beers to try and asked if I'd give some tasting notes on them.  Since he sent a Saison brewed in the Bière de Coupage tradition, I thought I'd do a post here with my tasting notes and thoughts on the beer.  He also sent along a couple other sour beers I can't wait to get into.

I'm not sure of the details of James's process but I do know he said he brewed a Saison and a quick sour to blend in with it.  If he shares more details, I'll update the post.

The Stellmacher Brewing Co - Mercedes

Decided to pop this one while I was feeding my new sourdough starter.

Appearance: Slightly hazy deep yellow in color.  Not cloudy really but not brightly clear.  White to off-white head full of tiny bubbles with a few larger ones mixed in here and there.  Carbonation is streaming up the edges of the glass and there was a solid pop when I pulled the cork.  Head dissipated to a cap and eventually a ring on the glass as I drank.  Pretty decent lacing on the beer too.

Aroma:  First impression is an earthy, spicy Saison nose with a bit of almost woody note.  Cedar-ish if you will.  Light lemon and stone fruits like peach with a touch of pear.  As it warmed up it had some tart green apple character.  But not in an off way, more like a Granny Smith Apple way.  Just a slight touch of honey and/or malt character in the nose.

Just a little bit of condensation on the glass.

Flavor:  Again, very Saison forward with just a touch of tartness.  A very light tartness though.  Not something I would consider sour at all.  First sip has almost a white pepper finish and is really dry in the finish.  (I like dry, REALLY dry.)  Second sip more of the fruity flavors show up.  That hint of pear/apple is there but more peach or even a touch of white grape is there.  Not a bit of alcohol detected.  I'm not sure what the ABV on this one is but you can't detect any alcohol at all.

As it warms a good bitterness shows up and the pepper shines through more.  There is a slight vegetal note on the finish with just a touch of astringency.  But it isn't offensive at all.  It's something I tend to get in Saison from time to time.

Mouthfeel:  Perfect prickly carbonation, medium mouthfeel and a really dry drinkable beer.  Carbonation lends to a smooth mouthfeel that I really love in Saison. 

Overall:  This is a super nice beer that was executed really well.  The cutting of the base with the acid beer has surely brightened up all the flavors and it still maintains the Saison qualities which is very important to me.  If there is too much of the cutting beer, then you can lose what you started out with.  There could be just a hint more sourness in there but that may not have been what James was going for.  He did tell me he used a quick sour to blend and I think those are perfect for brightening up a Saison.

The differences in this beer and my main beer, Kathleen, I use Bière de Coupage with, are that mine has a bit more fruity flavors and less pepper in the base beer.  I don't actually prefer either one, but the yeast strains I've used the past few times have added more fruit tones than pepper notes.  That also may be due to my fermentation temp of usually over 80F for each one.  Again, I don't know all of James's process but those are just impressions.  Kathleen also has a bit of funk to it due to the beer I blend in it being a mixed culture fermentation that has matured for a minimum of a year usually.  Same type process with different beers can yield varied results.  That's one thing I love about the Coupage process.  It really depends on your goal with the beer is and what you have to work with.  I'm sure that the mature beer I used had a lot to do with the fruity aspects as unblended Kathleen doesn't have near the stone and tropical fruit flavors that Coupage'd Kathleen has.

I'm really glad he sent me another bottle of this so I can see how/if it evolves over time.  Saison tends to have a longer shelf life than other beers and the lower pH from adding in the acid beer will help even more with storage.  Thank you, James, for sending me the bottles and I'm looking forward to popping the others soon!  If the others are as good as this one, I know I will enjoy them at least as much!


James shared the recipe information so I thought I would add it in.

- Grist consisting of 70% Pils and 30% Wheat to an OG of about 1.065/16P
- Mash at 158F until fully converted
- One hour boil with the first runnings, simply for concentration, with no hops
- One oz. per gallon each of Cashmere and Archer hops added at 170F
- Cooled and split between ECY08 - Saison Brasserie and WLP566 - Saison II with three strains of Brett pitched in each half (B, C, Drie)
- Ferment until terminal then blend the two halves and do two, three-day dry hoppings with 0.5 oz. per gallon each of Cashmere and Archer.
-Second runnings will be boiled for a short time then cooled and racked into an already inoculated oak barrel to sour.
- Blend the first and second runnings once stable terminal gravity is reached, probably around 1.002/0.5P, at a rate to be determined, but probably around 3/4ths hoppy brett saison to 1/4th sour base.
-Bottle condition

Good things!

Andrew "Gus" Addkison
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