Posted in Beer & Brewing, Life
November 9, 2012

Recipe: Northern Brewer Saison de Noel

With Christmas coming up (and a little Thanksgiving/Christmas shindig we’re putting together here at the Metzger house), I wanted to have some season-appropriate beers in the bottle by the time people came.  And this is one kit I picked up at the Northern Brewer shop here in Milwaukee, and my second overall beer.

One small niggle at the NB shop, however…they didn’t have the “recommended” yeast the kit called for (Wyeast 3711 French Saison).  So, at the recommendation of the guy behind the counter, we made the swap for White Labs WLP565 (Saison ale), one of the yeast starters in what looks like an unblown 2-liter bottle.


Once again, I stuck strictly with the NB kit’s recipe guide, with two small, and unintentional exceptions.  One was the yeast, that I already mentioned.  The other is the steeping temps.  The guide called for bringing the water up to a boil and then steeping the specialty grains until the temp dropped to 170˚.  That seems to be their recommendation on any extract recipe kit that has specialty grains.

At the store, when we did their brewing newbie class, the guy running it recommended just bringing the water up to 170˚, and then steeping for about 20 mins in order to avoid extracting harsh tannins from the grain.  That’s what I did with the NB White House Honey Porter kit I already brewed.  However, this time, after I placed the grain bag in the water, the temp somehow climbed up to 182˚, putting me in what I can only believe is a tannin danger-zone.  I don’t know how I managed that, but I did.

That being said, here’s the recipe, and MAN is it a sugar bomb!

Specialty Grains:

  • 0.5 lbs Belgian aromatic malt
  • 0.25 lbs Weyermann Carafa III
  • 0.25 lbs Weyermann CaraAroma


  • 6 lbs Pilsner LME (at 60 min)
  • 1 lb D-90 Candi Syrup (at 60 min)
  • 1 lb Briess Pilsen DME (at 15 min)
  • 1 lb Dextrose/Corn sugar (at 0 min/flameout)


  • 1 oz US Magnum (at 60 min)


October 21, 2012

The steeped water, without fermentables, looked very dark.  When I pulled the grain bag, some of it got on my finger and looked darker than I remember the White House Honey Porter finished wort looking.

After adding the base malt/sugar (the Pilsner LME and the Candi), the wort just smelled sweet.  No DME or dextrose added yet, but the smell was very pleasant.  Bready and chocolately.  The Candi, despite having a very noticeable taste (I had to try some out of the bag) didn’t seem to add anything to the aroma.  However, I’m sure it’s going to do plenty for the taste.

Also, unlike the White House Honey Porter brewday, I remembered the Fermcap-S.  And it was a godsend.  Simply put, I was able to do much closer to a full boil without fear of boiling over.  Okay…the fear was there…it just wasn’t realized.  And that’s what counts, right?

I got more than four gallons of boil in a five gallon pot.  It didn’t even really foam at all.  Good stuff.  If you don’t have it, get it.  If you’re worried about what it will do to your beer, just remember, it’s in the craft beer you’re already drinking (it’s not listed since it’s a processing agent, and not an “ingredient,” per se).  Good stuff.

Shortly after the first hop addition, at the 60 minute mark, I could smell a mild, floral, hoppy addition to the aroma, but it was very neutral.  Hops are not a major element of this beer, and this was already apparent.  But since there’s a truckload of sugar in this recipe, the bitterness is going to be very needed in order to balance the flavor.

At the 15 minute mark, that’s when I added the supplemental Briess Pilsner DME.  The hop aroma is almost completely gone.  The aroma is 95% malt, I would say.  Depending on how well the yeast performs, it’s going to be interesting on just HOW sweet the final product is going to be.

However, the first (and only) chink in the Fermcap-S armor was found here.  As you’re supposed to, I removed the pot from the burner to add the DME.  When I returned it to the heat, the foam suddenly arrived, very quickly, and almost led to a boil-over.  I already had my mitts on (since I hadn’t taken them off from returning the pot to the heat), so was able to remove the pot from the burner before a sticky disaster struck.  After the foam dissipated, I returned the pot to the heat…and it just acted like nothing had ever happened.  It was just jerking with me.  Crisis averted!

At 0 minutes (dextrose add/flameout), the hop aroma was all but gone.  I’d say down to 1%.  Just enough to know I added hops, but nothing else.  Very dark wort, though it did lighten up from the initial grain-steeped wort.  Hazy too.

In the end, I collected 3.5 gal of fully-boiled wort.  Topped off with cold water to 5 gal.

Vitals (according to the EXTRA handy Brewer’s Friend):

So, it looks like this is going to be strong, and if the yeast performs like it should over the three week fermentation, it should be more balanced than I originally thought.  I’m looking forward to knocking one of these back!

I have one more Northern Brewer kit I want to run (in order to know I have the methods down) before I start designing my own recipes.  But I have one already in mind that I’m working on.  Stay tuned!

EDIT: Updated the Vitals calculations with the change to the new Brewers Friend recipe calculator, that I will be going with for the foreseeable future.  The original TastyBrew stats are listed below.  You’ll notice the differences in OG, SRM, and ABV are relatively minor.  But differences in FG and IBU are HUGE.  And, as you will soon see in the tasting of this beer, are much more in tune with the final product.  Here’s the originals:

Vitals (according to the handy TastyBrew.com):

  • OG: 1.073
  • FG: 1.018
  • IBU: 70
  • SRM: 29
  • ABV: 7.1% (holy cow, this one will keep you warm in winter!)

Update: Here’s how it tasted!

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