Chris Betts, brewmaster and founder, Transient Artisan Ales
Chris Betts of Transient Artisan Ales (Bridgman, Michigan) provided this recipe for their versatile saison. Transient has created multiple iterations of it using variations of hops, yeast, Brett, fruit, and barrels.
Brewhouse efficiency: 75% OG: 1.063 FG: 1.002 IBUS: 18 ABV: 7.2%
8 lb (3.6 kg) Pilsner malt—the highest quality you can find. With so little in this beer to hide behind, ingredients matter. 1 lb (454 g) wheat malt (typically flaked or
torrified to give some extra heft/mouthfeel) 8 oz (227 g) oats (usually flaked, but Golden
Naked is a great choice if you can get it) 6 oz (170 g) sugar (in the boil to help dry
the beer out entirely)
HOPS AND ADDITIONS SCHEDULE
0.25–0.35 oz (7–10 g) Galaxy, Magnum, or
Warrior [18 IBUS] at 60 minutes 2 oz (57 g) Galaxy at flameout 2 oz (57 g) Galaxy dry hop for 6 days when
beer is where you want it
Saison yeast (Blaugies, Dupont, or French) Brett (see “Directions” for more information)
Use 1/3 gal/lb (1.3 l/454 g) water to grain density. Mash at 148°F (64°C) for 60 minutes. Boil for 60 minutes, following the hops schedule.
Primary ferment for 3 days with the saison yeast (our preference is the Blaugies strain, but Dupont and French will work as well). Add Brett 3 days into fermentation. (We use Fantôme and Jolly Pumpkin strains for this, but you can also add dregs from any bottle-conditioned Brett beer you like.)
Ferment until entirely dry (1.002 or below), then dry hop or age longer in oak. Much of the Brett character will come out better if you bottle-condition this beer.
BREWER’S NOTES We adjust our water with roughly 2 g of calcium chloride and 1 g of calcium carbonate, as well as 3–4 g of lactic acid for a mash ph of 5.2. we added some fruity citrus zest. But for the main one, Galaxy, we use a couple of really fruity strains of Brett.”
Betts explains that each strain of Brett imparts different flavors depending on when it’s added and what’s available at the time. If funky flavors are desired, Brett is added later, toward the end of the life cycle. When it’s added earlier, it provides fruitier flavors. “We use a few strains of Brett early in fermentation, and at that point we still have a little bit of sugar to ferment, but it’s not really taking over the entire character of the beer at that point.”
For the homebrewer, multiple strains of Brett might not be readily available at the local homebrew shop. Betts has some words of advice to get around that. “Brew the beer as normal with Galaxy hops. Then drink your favorite Brett beer and add the dregs from the bottom to your homebrew a few days into fermentation—we do it about three days in.”
The great thing about this particular recipe is that it can stand up to dry hopping and various styles of barrel aging without losing its character. It’s a pretty straightforward recipe that uses a single hops varietal, and it’s a great base for experimentation for Transient. They use Pilsner malt from a local maltser, which can be difficult to secure at times, so when that fails, they go for a German or Belgian malt. Wheat makes up 12−15 percent of the grain bill, and oats 3−5 percent. The simplicity of the grain bill lets the yeast and Brett…or the barrel… take center stage.
“It’s difficult to get the barrels because they’re so high in demand. We’ve had to source barrels in any way we can. We’re in southwest Michigan, which has a bunch of wineries, and we’re tapping into that now.” The quality of the barrel has a great impact on the final result, so they have to take extra care to ensure it’s not dried out and that it’s been cleaned so that extra bugs don’t make their way into a batch. “We have a lot of room for barrel aging and just tried some absinthe and maple syrup—there’s lots to work with.”
And what’s the best way to enjoy Obelus? Most of Transient’s batches are packaged in larger bottles, and the beers are meant to be shared. Betts says, “The best place to drink it is with other people who are into trying new and different beers. We serve it in 10 oz tasters that are somewhat in the Belgian bulb style. But we don’t discriminate.”
Clockwise from Top Left » Transient’s coolship rests in a open-air container behind the brewhouse; hot wort pumps into the coolship for spontaneous fermentation; the Transient taproom is a great place to sample a taste of the local terroir.