This was a fun beer to brew. I was inspired while at my favorite LHBS talking to the shopkeeper. I told him I wanted to make a Belgian strong and he immediately pulled out Wyeast’s 3711 French Saison yeast. He told me that it is Portland’s own Upright Brewing who uses this as their house strain. Having just had several amazing Upright brews over the past few months, I couldn’t say no.
He said it was one of the highest attenuating strains that Wyeast produces, often getting up to (or beyond) 83%, and that it often didn’t even taste like a saison strain, but that it was very dry and clean tasting. I loved it. And since my mission on this brew was basically to get the highest ABV possible and to push an ale yeast as high as it will go, I went for it.
It wasn’t long until I did a little research and found a blog post by Alex Ganum (owner and head brewer at Upright) entitled Unconventional Yeast. It’s in this very long, very nerdy post that he outlines just how extensive his history with 3711 really is. Apparently they’ve used it since day #1 at Upright (early spring 2009), and it’s become the bane of his existence.
While it often produces amazing tastes, esters and that classic spicy saison flavor, it is also one of the strangest strains he’s ever worked with. He’s had problems with harvesting it during fermentation, over-attenuation (basically eating all of the sugars available), over-carbonating during bottle conditioning, and just overall inconsistencies across the board. Hooray…
I’m hoping that because I’m only doing 2.65 gallons* and that I’m not running a brewery, I shouldn’t need to worry too much about consistency. The only problem will come when this is inevitably the greatest beer I’ve ever brewed and all I want to do is rebrew it again someday…but alas, 3711 is an crazy, zombie yeast that cannot be wielded. (The quote about 40 seconds into this video just came to my mind. Love it.)
Overall, I’m just hoping this thing’s drinkable.
*the reason I brewed this amount was because it was the most I could fit into my 5 gallon brew pot on the stove (Strike Water + Grains). It was pushing overflowing a few times, but we made it work. Here’s a great calculator for figuring out strike water for BIAB by Beer Review Dude.
Batch Size (Gal): 2.65
Total Grain (Lbs): 4.38
Starting Water (Gal): 4.21
Pre-boil Water (Gal): 3.5
Anticipated OG: 1.078
Anticipated FG: 1.004
Anticipated ABV: 8.6%
Anticipated SRM: 5.6
Mash Efficiency: 68%
Wort Boil Time: 60 min
52.4% – 3.50 lbs. 2-Row Base
0.5% – 0.50 lbs. Vienna
1.9% – 0.12 lbs. Wheat
1.9% – 0.12 lbs. Honey (malt)
1.9% – 0.12 lbs. Crystal 10L
34.5% – 2.3 lbs Pilsen Light Malt Extract
0.4 oz Nugget (whole, 13% AA) @ 60 mins
0.4 oz Fuggles (pellet, 6.7% AA) @ 15 mins
1 Whirfloc tablet @ 15 min
Wyeast 3711 French Saison (77-83% attenuation, 65-70°F)
40min @ 147°F
40min @ 155°F
4/7/12 – Brewed 2.65 gallons (BIAB). Step-mashed at 147° for 40min and again at 155° for 40min. OG: 1.077 (close enough). Fermented constantly/visibly for 5-6 days.
4/17/12 – Gravity reading: 1.012, tasting great, a little hot probably due to the ~9% alcohol, and definitely has a bit of that spicy flavor of a saison.
5/2/12 – Gravity reading: 1.008.
5/8/12 – Took a one bottle sample and carbonated it with a Cooper’s carbonation tablet/drop. Will have a taste in 2 weeks (if I can wait that long). The wife and I have been thinking of doing a Hendrick’s gin-inspired ale (complete with Hendrick’s classic rose and cucumber flavors). At first we were thinking of doing a really hoppy IPA because of the juniper in gin, but then we realized that perhaps a cleaner, more subdued yet more complex Belgian might be the answer. Plus, with 9.5% ABV of this guy, it might be a great candidate. So when we open up this one bottle sample, we’ll use half of it for blending and messing around with the roses, gin, and cucumber flavorings. Gravity reading: 1.008.
5/23/12 – The single bottle was great–no official tasting notes, but good enough to bottle. Bottled half (see below), and saved the other half for a gin-infused beer experiment…hopefully.
Bottled a dozen 12-oz bottles (Sorry to say that “ten bottle” isn’t accurate this time around). Carbonated all of them with Cooper’s carbonation tablets b/c it worked so well the first time around.
6/4/12 – Was lucky to open up the first bottle of this batch with my brother in town (a fellow homebrewer). Tasting notes here.