Monday, October 11, 2010

Gluten-Free Brewing: Sisters Saison

GF Sisters Saison

On Friday - in anticipation of watching some football this past weekend - I did a post about cooking up your own batch of chicken fingers from scratch. And what goes better with football and chicken fingers than beer? They're almost a holy trinity of fall season spectator sport enjoyment.

While there are an increasing number of gluten-free beers hitting the market, I've been continuing to experiment with brewing my own gluten-free beer, partly because I enjoy making the foods I eat from scratch, but also because I'm interested in brewing GF versions of beer styles that haven't yet hit the market (and probably won't anytime soon in a GF iteration). Witness my Sisters Saison.

Saison is a beer style native to Wallonia, a French-speaking agricultural corner of Belgium. It was traditionally brewed during the winter, so that it'd be ready to drink during the summer, especially around harvest time. It was refreshing and low in alcohol, and was something of an "anything goes" style, because - since saisons were brewed during winter - these "farmhouse ales," as they were known, contained whatever grains were leftover from the previous year.

The style has more recently undergone a resurgence in popularity, especially abroad, and especially in the United States. Here, the beer retains much of its traditional character, although we've pumped the alcohol content a bit. Most US saisons are in the 5-8% ABV range.

For my GF saison, I used:

5-6 gallons distilled water
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp gypsum
12 pounds sorghum syrup
1 oz sweet orange peel
1/2 oz crushed coriander seeds
1 oz Czech Saaz hops
1 oz Amarillo hops
1 tsp Irish moss
White Labs Saison yeast blend

The table salt and gypsum - added to the water - gave me the proper pH and balance of minerals. The sorghum syrup provided the fermentable sugars. The orange peel and coriander rounded out the flavor profile. The Saaz hops were my bittering hops. The Amarillo hops were my aromatic hops. And the Irish moss helped to clarify the beer.

My goal was to create a hoppy, flavorful GF beer in the 7-8% ABV range. At the end of the brew day, things were on track. The starting gravity of the beer was a high 1.076, which only makes sense, because to get higher alcohol content you have to start with higher sugar content. Afraid that the full 5 gallons of sugary wort would shock the yeast, I first made a one pint starter with a little bit of wort so that the yeast could "wake up" and multiply before I added them to the full batch. Then it was time to wait and let them do their thing.

Fermentation took forever (so it seemed). It was six full weeks before the beer was ready to finally bottle. All the while, the yeast were churning away on the sugars, converting them to alcohol. The final gravity for the beer came in around 1.027 - still a bit sweet, but also about 7% ABV, right where I wanted to be. Then I bottled the beers, and a few weeks later, they were ready to drink.

How satisfying the beer is now! Ready to drink at harvest time, and named the "Sisters Saison," since the beer was brewed and bottled over the course of us having our second daughter, Charlotte.

The beer is hoppy, and strong, and quite tasty. The Amarillo hops really come through. The beer did end up a little sweeter than I would have liked. And it has some subtle cidery notes owing to my use of sorghum. But on the whole, it's good stuff!

- Pete


gfe--gluten free easily said...

You are definitely the brewing and beer guru for gluten free, Pete! You know I'm not much of a beer drinker, but this does look excellent. :-) I'm sure my husband would love it. Whenever we make it to Colorado, we must stop by. ;-)


glutenfreeforgood said...

Just checked out the chicken fingers and they look amazing. I've never made chicken fingers before, but this healthy version looks worth trying. I think I'll pair them with a nice pinot noir rather than a GF beer. =) But I must say, your beer sounds interesting and looks great (love the Upslope glass). I like the idea of the sweet orange peel, but only 1 ounce? Wow, that's not much considering the 12 pounds of sorghum syrup. Why is that (not that I'll be brewing beer anytime soon), but I am curious?

Now I understand why you always end your communication with "cheers." You're tipping a homemade brew while writing. =)

Great post, think I'll share it on Facebook since I posted the GF beer article from the Denver Post this morning. I'll add this to it.


Anonymous said...

Are you going to try to brew a home brew using the Brewer's Clarex used to brew the Daura??

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the White Labs liquid yeast include malt as a nutrient?

peterbronski said...

Hi Shirley... Glad you can appreciate my home brew, even if you're not a beer drinker yourself!

Hi Melissa... The chicken fingers are delish. I'm already craving another batch (though tonight we had a fabulous crock pot curry with rice, lentils, spinach, and chicken thighs...yum). Re: the beer. Small quantities of aromatics such as the orange peel go a long way, since they're added at the end of the brew day. Although 12 pounds of sorghum compared to 1 oz of orange peel sounds like a Goliath versus David kind of thing, most of sorghum's sugars get digested by the yeast during fermentation, while the orange peel gives character to the finished beer.

Hi Anonymous... For now, I have no plans to use Brewers Clarex. I'm content brewing GF beers from GF grains at home. I like the challenge of it. Yes, White Labs' liquid yeasts, such as the saison blend I used, are propagated on a barley substrate. However, the amount of gluten that comes through in a batch of yeast results in less than 5 ppm gluten in a finished 5 gallon batch of beer, so I was satisfied that I could brew a safely GF beer. To date, Kelli and I have shared 24 or 25 bottles of the GF saison, with no ill effect.

Cheers, Pete

Tony Asmus said...

Did you happen to use a priming sugar just before you bottled it? or did you just bottle this after the fermentation was done?