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Survey of Homebrewing Saison Yeast Strains 2015

by Hugh Evans

It’s hot out, and that can pose challenges for home brewers without temperature control for their fermentations. Never fear however! High temps mean that it’s time to start making saisons. These refreshing beers originated in Belgium and Northern France, and were actually originally brewed in the cooler winter months. The idea was to brew a bunch of beer, typically by farmers themselves, that would then be consumed by workers and field hands during the hot summer months when working in the fields all day could take a toll and the men needed something light and refreshing to drink.

These days however, saisons have, due in large part to yeast derived from the DuPont brewery’s famous strain, become something that is actually brewed in the summer months. This is because the DuPont strain and those derived from it are very tolerant of higher fermentation temps. This makes them great for home brewers in the summer, because even if you don’t have AC and your house is almost as hot inside as it is out, these strains will (for the most part) thrive and make some tasty, refreshing brew to be consumed on those long, sweltering summer evenings.

So, let’s dive in and explore each of these strains individually. There is quite a range, with some significant differences between them, but with a little more reading you can find one that will work for you.

White Labs 565 Belgian Saison I
Attenuation: 65-75% Flocculation: Medium
Temp. Range: 68-75°F Alcohol Tolerance: Medium

Classic Saison yeast from Wallonia. It produces earthy, peppery, and spicy notes. Slightly sweet. With high gravity saisons, brewers may wish to dry the beer with an alternate yeast added after 75% fermentation. Note: This strain tends to stall out in fermentation and then restart as long as two weeks later. Make sure the wort is well-oxygenated and allow the temperature to free rise in order to ensure complete fermentation. Some brewers add WLP001 to finish.

White Labs 566 Belgian Saison II
78-85% Flocculation: Medium
Temp. Range: 68-78°F Alcohol Tolerance: Medium

Saison strain with more fruity ester production than with WLP565. Moderately phenolic, with a clove-like characteristic in finished beer flavor and aroma. Ferments faster than WLP565.

White Labs 568 Belgian Style Saison Ale Blend
70-80% Flocculation: Medium
Temp. Range: 70-84°F Alcohol Tolerance: Medium

This blend melds Belgian style ale and saison strains. The strains work in harmony to create complex, fruity aromas and flavors. The blend of yeast strains encourages complete fermentation in a timely manner. Phenolic, spicy, earthy, and clove like flavors are also created.

White Labs 585 Belgian Saison III*
Attenuation: 70-74% Flocculation: Low-Medium
Temp. Range: 68-75°F Alcohol Tolerance: Medium

Produces beer with a high fruit ester characteristic, as well as some slight tartness. Finishes slightly malty, which balances out the esters. Also produces low levels of clovey phenolics. Great yeast choice for a summer Saison that is light and easy-drinking.

White Labs 590 French Saison Ale*
Attenuation: 73-80% Flocculation: Medium
Temp Range: 69–75°F (20°C–24°) Alcohol Tolerance: 5-10%

Unique yeast strain producing farmhouse-style beers with a phenolic “bite” and moderate ester compounds.  Producing a cleaner aroma profile than other farmhouse styles, this yeast is versatile and highly attenuating.

Wyeast 3031 Saison-Brett Blend*
: 80-90% Flocculation: Low
Temp. Range: 65-80°F Alcohol Tolerance:12%

A blend of Saison yeast and Brettanomyces creates a dry and complex ale. Classic earthy and spicy farmhouse character meets tropical and stone fruit esters; aging brings elevated Brett flavor. Expect high attenuation with this blend.

Wyeast 3278 Belgian Lambic Blend™
70-80% Flocculation: Variable
Temp. Range: 63-75° F Alcohol Tolerance: ~11%

This blend contains yeast and bacteria cultures important to the production of spontaneously fermented beers of the Lambic region. Specific proportions of a Belgian style ale strain, a sherry strain, two Brettanomyces strains, a Lactobacillus culture, and a Pediococcus culture produce the desirable flavor components of these beers as they are brewed in Brussels. Propagation of this culture is not recommended and will result in a change of the proportions of the individual components. This blend will produce a very dry beer due to the super-attenuative nature of the mixed cultures.

Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes
72-76% Flocculation: High
Temp. Range: 65-76° F Alcohol Tolerance: ~12%

One of the great and versatile strains for the production of classic Belgian style ales. This strain produces a beautiful balance of delicate fruit esters and subtle spicy notes, with neither one dominating. Unlike many other Belgian style strains, this strain is highly flocculent and results in bright beers.

Wyeast 3711 French Saison
77-83% Flocculation: Low
Temp. Range: 65-77°F Alcohol Tolerance: 12%

A very versatile strain that produces Saison or farmhouse style beers as well as other Belgian style beers that are highly aromatic (estery), peppery, spicy and citrusy. This strain enhances the use of spices and aroma hops, and is extremely attenuative but leaves an unexpected silky and rich mouthfeel. This strain can also be used to re-start stuck fermentations or in high gravity beers.

Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison
76-80% Flocculation: Low
Temp. Range: 70-95°F Alcohol Tolerance: 12%

This strain is the classic farmhouse ale yeast. A traditional yeast that is spicy with complex aromatics, including bubble gum. It is very tart and dry on the palate with a mild fruitiness. Expect a crisp, mildly acidic finish that will benefit from elevated fermentation temperatures. This strain is notorious for a rapid and vigorous start to fermentation, only to stick around 1.035 S.G. Fermentation will finish, given time and warm temperatures. Warm fermentation temperatures, at least 90°F (32°C), or the use of a secondary strain can accelerate attenuation.

Wyeast 3725-PC Biere de Garde™*
Attenuation: 74-79% Flocculation: Low
Temp. Range: 70-84°F (21-29°C) Alc. Tolerance: 12% ABV

Low to moderate ester production with subtle spiciness. Malty and full on the palate with initial sweetness. Finishes dry and slightly tart. Ferments well with no sluggishness.

Wyeast 3726-PC Farmhouse Ale™*
Attenuation: 74-79% Flocculation: Medium
Temp. Range: 70-84°F (21-29°C) Alc. Tolerance: 12% ABV

This strain produces complex esters balanced with earthy/spicy notes. Slightly tart and dry with a peppery finish. A perfect strain for farmhouse ales and saisons.

Omega Yeast 500 Saisonstein’s Monster *NEW*
80-90% Flocculation: Low
Temp. Range: 65-78°F Alcohol Tolerance: High

This strain is a genetic hybrid resulting from the mating of various popular saison strains. It was created by and is available exclusively from Omega Yeast through fine homebrew retailers such as the Homebrew Emporium. Some brewers have noted that it has less phenolic and more fruit character than Wyeast’s 3711 French Saison while exhibiting some of the bubble gum character of Wyeast’s 3724 Belgian Saison strain. Unlike a blend of these two, the Saisonstein’s Monster will breed true, producing consistent results in subsequent generations.

Lallemand Danstar Belle Saison
Attenuation: High Flocculation: Low
Temp. Range: 63-85°F Alcohol Tolerance: High

Belle Saison is an ale yeast of Belgian origin selected for its ability to produce great Saison-style beer. Aroma is fruity, spicy and peppery due to ester and phenol production, and does not display undesirable odors when properly handled.

Fermentis Safale T-58
Medium Flocculation: Low
Temp. Range: 55-75°F Alcohol Tolerance: High

A specialty ale yeast selected for its estery, somewhat peppery and spicy flavor. This yeast forms a solid sediment at the end of secondary fermentation, and is therefore widely used for bottle and cask conditioning.

* Yeast strain is produced seasonally and may not be available at your local Homebrew Emporium. Please call to check availability. We may be able to order some in for you if it is still in season.

In the end, modern day saisons are so distinct from their historic roots that the brewer should not worry too much about being “true to style” and instead should focus on brewing a beer that suits their own tastes.