Monday, 8 June 2015

AG #2 - Melon Farmer Saison...

This brew came about in a random fashion; the name came first followed by the beer design. You see, my favorite film of all time is Alex Cox’s Repo Man and if any of were around in the days when we had only four television channels, you’ll recall that the BBC used to dub out any profanity from the films it broadcasted. As not to undermine the artistic integrity of the film, the Beeb would give the filmmakers the opportunity to dub it themselves. It was whilst editing Repo Man, Cox found that ‘Melon Farmer’ was a lip-sync fit for ‘Mutha Fucker’. Today, it’s the perfect name for a melon-ladened saison.

With what I thought was the arrival of summer (we had one warm week then it all went to pot) my mind turned once again to brewing a saison. I had brewed a cracking Sorachi saison the previous year and I was looking to brew something similarly tasty. Having only one brew fridge, the plan was always to have one FV temperature controlled and another left to nature’s ambient temperatures, which was obviously perfect for a saison.

With a name already in mind, the recipe was pretty much written; I’d stick with a Vienna malt base (as I always do), but ditch the Danstar Belle Saison yeast in favour of Whitelab’s WPL566 Belgian Saison II. Obviously there was going to be plenty of actual melon involved, but with a stroke of luck there is also a relatively new German hop called Hull Melon that has a “distinctive honeydew melon and strawberry aroma”. It was meant to be! It’s a mellow hop so I planned to bulk it out a with some Topaz. This I had absolutely shitloads of lying around after a bulk club purchase.

After what I thought was a disastrous first brew on the new kit (the resultant beer actually turned out very good!), I was hoping for a more trouble free brewday. Learning from my  previous mistake calculating strike temps, whilst I was waiting for the liquor to get up to temp, I emptied 9 litres of boiling water into the mash tun, just enough to cover the false bottom. I figured this would apply enough heat into the stainless steel vessel to help prevent it sapping so much heat out of my strike water. Feeling confident I went with my usual calculations, but unfortunately I was still quite a way out and ended up having to throw in more hot water to bring the temperature up to a respectable number. Grrr! Still, it’s only my second brew so I shouldn't expect it to be perfect just yet.

Assuming I was over the worse, I foolishly threw in the wrong first wort hops! Instead of throwing in a handful Topaz, instead I added a batch of my prized Hull Melon that had been already been measured for a late hop addition. Thankfully the Melon hop has a low alpha acid meaning it wouldn't add much bitterness so I added the Topaz too, as planned, and adjusted the recipe. I substituted the missing late addition with more Topaz, to balance out the recipe again. Next time I shall label my hops and put them in addition order, lesson learned.

Melon-wise, I went for honeydew and cantaloupe varieties which I chopped and placed in the freezer for a few days. Freezing breaks down the cell walls and extract as much flavour as possible. My intention was to add the melon during the last 10 minutes of the boil and then add the remainder once primary fermentation has completed. I defrosted the melon, blitzed in a blender and placed the pulp into a muslin sack. I kept the leftover juice in a jug, which surprisingly amounted to around 1 litre’s worth!

I was hoping to use “The Behemoth”, the name given to my new bespoke chiller. Unfortunately, I was still awaiting a couple of camlock fittings which meant my old chiller was jerry-rigged for one last run. Other than the aforementioned hiccups, the rest of the brewday went OK. I definitely had a better grip on the kit than the first time and was pleased with the progress. Fermentation finished without a hitch and a few days before bottling I threw in the remainder of the melon juice and pulp.

The end result is a juicy saison that borders on an IPA, just perfect for summer drinking! The saison elements are definitely a lot more subdued than my Sorachi Saison as the yeast haze clears down nicely with a bit of chilling. I’m pretty pleased with this one I've entered it into the Brewdog Homebrew comp… wish me luck!

Note: No brew day photos for this post as I was between phones.

Grain Bill...
5 kg Vienna (77%)
1.5 kg Maris Otter (23%)

Hop Bill...
15 g Topaz Leaf (16.3% Alpha) @ First wort
30 g Hull Melon Leaf (5.6% Alpha) @ First wort
30 g Hull Melon Leaf (5.6% Alpha) @ Hop stand
20 g Topaz  Leaf (16.3% Alpha) @ Hop stand
40 g Hull Melon Leaf (5.6% Alpha) @ Dry hop (2 days)

Misc Bill...
1 kg Melon + Juice @ 10 Minutes (Boil)
1 kg Melon + Juice @ 10 Minutes (Boil)

Single step infusion at 64°C for 90 Minutes
Fermented ambiently with White Labs Belgian Saison II Yeast (WPL566)

OG: 1.052
FG: 1.012
ABV: 5.2%