So recently I had another brilliant idea, shocking right? There is so much to learn and know about beer from styles to how it's brewed, etc. Giving our readers a resource for all their beer knowledge needs is our goal and so I asked my buddy Scott Shreffler, a Certified Cicerone, and Regional Brewery Rep for Schlafly Beer, if he'd be willing to contribute to an ongoing article series called, appropriately, Ask A Cicerone. For those of you who are not familiar with what a Cicerone is follow the link for more info, but basically know that it is the equivalent in the beer world to a Sommelier in the wine world. The following are the first questions submitted to us that we had Scott answer for us. If you have a beer question feel free to pass it on to us via the Lville Beer Facebook page, Twitter account, or email us at Lvillebeer(at)yahoo(dot)com and we'll get it to Scott to answer.
@afoltz2 asked on Twitter: I’d love to know what gives a Saison that little extra zing, for lack of a better term. Is it more carbonated or an ingredient?
• It’s a tough question to answer without actually sitting down face to face, since how we taste and perceive beer is so different from person to person.
There are many factors that contribute to the overall flavor profile of Saisons. Probably the biggest would be the yeast strain. The Saison strain is more resilient to higher fermentation temperatures than some other ale yeast strains, so the fruity esters that it produces can be very different than other Belgian yeast strains. The yeast tends to produce some fruity, tart, mildly acidic characters to the beer.
But, to more specifically answer your question of whether that “little extra zing” comes from, carbonation or an ingredient, it’s likely both. Saisons range in IBUs (International Bittering Units) from 20-40. For a beer style that ranges from 5-8% ABV, those IBUs could definitely be on the high side, especially for Belgian style beers. Saisons, stylistically, are also very highly carbonated. That high carbonation can accentuate both the hop character of the beer and the tart fruit esters produced by the yeast.
It’s most likely not just one aspect that contributes to that unique character of the Saison, but rather it is more a sum of its parts.
@Dragonwolf77 asked on Twitter: I’ve seen Original Gravity numbers listed for some craft beers. What do the #s mean?
• To put it simply, an Original Gravity reading tells brewers how much sugar is in the Wort, prior to fermentation. Brewers will also take a Final Gravity reading, once fermentation halts. The difference between to the two numbers will tell you how much sugar was consumed by the yeast during fermentation. When yeast eats sugar, one of the byproducts is alcohol. If we know both the Original and Final Gravities, we can calculate how much alcohol was produced.