By Greg Carlson
“About the Beer” is a blog series about the vision and design behind our beers, and the techniques we used to bring them to life.
It’s time to bring a little oomph.
Our introductory beer lineup — a golden ale, IPA, hefe, and dry stout — were exercises in balance, tradition, and absolute drinkability. This is good and important, but as we expand our offerings, we want to have some fun and deliver some big, big flavors.
Enter Big Brains: a double-dry-hopped super saison that clocks in at 7.1% abv. Given the relative informality of saisons as a style, they’re extremely attractive to brewers looking to fuck around a little, and fuck around we did!
Cool side-note about super saisons — I had first seen them around at least 5 or 6 years ago during craft beer’s ABV Wars, and assumed they were a typical American bastardization of a historical style (which I should disclose I was 100% There For at the time). It wasn’t until I read Phil Markowski’s Farmhouse Ales a few years ago that I learned that it’s actually a traditional form of saison itself! Belgium! What a country!
Anyway, here’s how we made it:
The grain for Big Brain is 100% sourced from our friends at Valley Malt in Hadley, Mass (#local). Like basically every brewery in Mass., we’ve long been fans of their Warthog Wheat and Danko Rye speciality grains, so they obviously went into this beer. Farmhouse-style ales have traditionally been brewed with a smorgasbord of different cereal grains, so we also took this as an opportunity to play with some of their more unique products, like triticale and Naked Crystal Oats, as well as their base malts (we used two of their pale malts for this). The resulting mash provided a soft, bready, and complex body that lays the foundation for the stars of the show: the hops and the yeast.
The key to Big Brains’ big flavor is the combination of a classic saison yeast strain with a massive dry-hopping of modern German hops. We dry-hopped Big Brains with Mandarina Bavaria and Hallertau Blanc, which impart well-defined orange, apricot, and white grape, aromas, as well as a bit of classic floral German hop notes.
Big Brains is fermented with a common and reliable saison yeast, which give it traditional banana, pear, clove, and white pepper notes. What’s cool about strains like it is that they can attenuate more highly than most brewing yeasts, leaving fewer residual sugars in the beer, but also create more of a body-forming compound called glycerol. This means the beer is pleasantly dry, but not entirely thin, which in my opinion, is perfect.
With Big Brains, we busted out the most dynamic yeast, the most amount of hops, and the most diverse grain bill we’ve used yet. So this dude packs a punch. Hope you enjoy it.