Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

Whaa choo talkin’ bout saiSon?

Ever since my SaiSon of a Bitch (SOB) batch failed to score well (got a 29/50) at NHC first rounds, I’ve been coming back to that beer trying to find/taste exactly what I got dinged for. Here’s basically the collective feedback from the two judges who tried my SOB:

  • Aroma: pepper notes properly placed followed by phenols that seem out of place
  • Appearance: haze, head retention and color all came across well
  • Flavor: a bit too tart, too much apparent hop bitterness and “earthiness” (likely from the hops)
  • Mouthfeel: slight astringency, “pithy” notes, alcohol apparent
  • Summary: not bad to drink, lacks full attenuation which may be fixed by raising fermentation temp.

I know now that saison yeast really do like higher temps than what my house could offer this batch in mid-February (right around 70*). Heck, BrewingTV even did an episode on how to heat up saison fermentation recently. I will not hesitate to push it to around 80* next time, and will have to reserve brewing these for the summer, as was traditionally done.

I recently put my SOB head to head with Lift Bridge’s Farm Girl (FG) saison just to see how I thought my beer stacked up against a commercial example. Here are my personal tasting notes:

FG:

  • Orange peel/lemon/lemon grass flavor throughout
  • Subtle malt profile
  • Little to no hop flavor apparent
  • Very little head retention, unsure of whether this is appropriate to style
  • Flavors don’t mingle much, very siloed
  • Finishes cleaner than SOB. If I were to compare this to a wine, I’d say Chardonnay.

SOB:

  • Maltier than FG
  • Has some orange peel/lemon flavor at the end
  • Better head retention than FG
  • Many different complex flavors going on in this beer
  • Noticed one weird, brief flavor at the end which is probably the “pithy” or “phenolic” reference the judges were making
I’ll try fermenting hotter and will dial back the hops even more next time. I suspect that will help even out the SOB.
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2 responses

  1. Mat McGowan

    I’m sure you’re a really good beer taster, but comparing your own to another is questionable as a fair comparison. To get a fair comparison, send me two kegs of both.

    Oh, you won’t do that? Ok, failing that, try to identify where in your brewing process you get each flavour, including the unwanted ones, like the phenolics and astrigency the judges mentioned. (Astrigency can be caused by sparge going below 1.008,ph above 6 and temps above 176F, and the phenolics from chlorine in the water. If you think that’s the cause, then adjust the sparge (monitor pH/Gravity/temp) or boil your water (or leave in open air for few hours.)

    July 29, 2011 at 7:04 pm

  2. Are you sure I am a good beer taster, Mat? That is very polite of you to say, but I’m actually really not that great of a beer taster. I should get better. I would like to become BJCP certified as a judge some day. Right now, I am no where near that, admittedly. I’m just trying to create content for people to find online and get discussions going, as beer interests me greatly.

    “Leave my water in open air for a few hours? ” Huh/???? What do you mean? Are you asking that I cool my mash temp?

    Sorry, but your response may have been a bit too… “stream of consciousness” for me to interpret. Please explain further.

    July 30, 2011 at 12:10 am

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