Comparing Saison Yeasts (and What’s on Tap)

Recently I gave the recipe for Saison Wry , the beer that won a gold medal in the recent TRASH beer competition.  I recently re-brewed the recipe, splitting the roughly six gallon batch into two fermenters. In the first carboy I used my standard Wyeast 3711, French Saison yeast.  I love this yeast. It is rock solid and I believe it could ferment your concrete garage floor down to 1.002 or so.  It is the yeast I used in the medal winning recipe.  In the second carboy I pitched Wyeast 3726, Farmhouse Ale.  The 3726 is a limited release strain, and according to Wyeast it has an expected attenuation of 74% to 79%, versus the 3711 which claims 77% to 83%.

To make starters, I split active Wyeast smack packs into two, 2 liter soda bottles with about 1 liter of starter wort in each.  I noted the 3726 was a very powdery yeast; it settled OK but was much easier to disturb than the 3711.  In the end, I ended up with about 40 ml of fairly solid 3711 yeast but about 120 ml of very powdery 3726 yeast.  The 3711 smack pack was a few months older so perhaps some of the volume difference simply could be due to viability, but I think most of the difference was due to the 3726 not settling as well.

The wort had an initial gravity of 15.4 °P (1.063), and after pitching I aerated each carboy with pure oxygen for 90 seconds.  The wort was about 16 °C (61 °F) at pitching but I let the controller to 19°C (66 °F), and let it rise to 22°C (72 °F) by the third day.  The 3711 finished at a very typical 1.0 °P (1.004) for an apparent attenuation of 94% and 7.9% ABV.  The 3726 finished at 2.8 °P (1.011) for 83% attenuation and 6.9% ABV.

Today, here is the beer fridge, it is “Farmhouse vs. the French”:

So, which yeast “wins” ?  Both yeasts cleared well and both beers turned out very clear:

The Farmhouse Ale is softer and rounder, and perhaps a bit fruitier than the French Saison.  The French Saison is spicier and definitely drier and has a noticeable bend toward the higher alcohols.  In fact it has a slightly solvent like character that is stronger than I remember.  I guess I need to compare it to a bottle from the first batch to see if I am remembering correctly.  Which do I prefer?  It is funny, I seem to prefer the one that I pour first.  If I try the Farmhouse first,  then the French seems a little rough.  If I start with the French, then the Farmhouse is not a crisp and tart as the Farmhouse.  Which will I use going in the future?  Well, the Farmhouse is a specialty strain and not regularly available, so it will probably be the French Saison yeast.  And that is OK with me.

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