Brewing Up Saison 27 with Alter Ego Brewing

While my birthday may have already came and gone, that doesn’t mean I can’t still brew my birthday beer.

Last year, I got together with Theo of Alter Ego Brewing, and we threw together the first of many yearly brews we will be doing for my birthday. Meet what I’m calling, “The Saison Series” – a seasonal Saison brewed with help from yours truly that is designed with no parameters other than to make it impossible to replicate.

Each year we’ll use the same basic saison recipe but will be changing portions to create a unique beer year-to-year.

Tierney's birthday beer: Saison 27.

A few weeks ago, we brewed up Saison 27, which we are dubbing “The Year of the Hops.” This year’s version will feature a stronger hopping than the original and includes a strange mystery hop Theo picked up at Scotzin Bros.

As Theo tells it, “I was there and Brad says, ‘Hey I have these unmarked hops that I can’t sell. I don’t have a clue what they are. Do you want them?’”

Who would say no to free mystery hops? Once Theo told me this story I just had to have them in my beer no matter what they were, so the finished beer will truly be inimitable. We even brewed up a batch of hop-tea with a few of the hop pellets to try to get flavors out of them and try to make a prediction. Maybe fuggle? Maybe golding? Your guess is as good as ours!

Mystery hop tea.

Mystery hop tea.

Brewing with Theo is always a learning experience. Every time I think I’ve learned what I need to know about brewing beer, he drops some more knowledge on me.

This time, it was a lesson in grains. Specifically, I learned a fancy new acronym for you – SRM. Standard Reference Method or SRM is a term brewers use to determine and describe the color of a beer. Different grains impart a different color outcome and different SRM number, where the lower the number, the lighter the beer. For example, most pale lagers and witbiers are somewhere around 2-3 SRM and stouts would be 30-40+ SRM. Saison 27 will be around 5.6 SRM, making it a beautiful golden color.

Saison 27's SRM if 5.6, giving it this golden hue.

Saison 27′s SRM if 5.6, giving it this golden hue.

Theo also dropped a bit of a knowledge bomb on me about how malted barley is made. Barley is soaked and allowed to begin growing to just before it sprouts at which point it is quick stopped. This is done to get the grain right at its sweetest point. Some malts are then roasted to create the delicious flavors we find in most of our beloved stouts and porters. What differentiates between those two of course would be the addition of roasted barley. If you add the barley you get a stout, without it it’s just a porter. Knowledge is power, and after a day brewing with Theo I feel like a genius!

While this year’s Saison 27 will only be a 5 gallon batch, expect to sip Saison 28 next year at Alter Ego’s location in Midtown Harrisburg, which is slated to open this fall.

In the meantime, be sure to head to the Brewery at Hershey on April 13 for their Brewing Up a Cure homebrew contest, where I’ll be competing and you’ll be tasting.

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