Wyeast 3724, Belgian Saison, is a yeast that gives wonderful results. My Belgian Saison is fruity, spicy, tangy and quite possibly my best beer to date. There’s another batch of it in the refrigerator turned fermentation chamber downstairs – the Inkbird temperature controller allows me to heat as well as cool to keep the temps within about a 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degree Celsius) range so I’m holding it at 30 degrees C (about 86 degrees F). The stuff is amazing – you’d guess at that temperature it would be a fusel bomb, headache in a glass, swamp water, anything but a very good Saison. The yeast thrives on temperature, throwing spice at low temperatures and fruits at high. But the yeast has a down side. If not handled very carefully, it tends to stall at about 1.030-1.035.
The strain is reported to be related to red wine yeast and in our other adventure in alcoholic fermentation, we use red wine yeast at about 30 degrees C. Red wine yeast is also sensitive to pressure. So here’s what I do to keep it going past the stall point: I keep the yeast very warm, warmer as fermentation progresses, ending up in the 90’s F if possible. I have two ways of getting to that temperature. One is the refrigerator mentioned above, the other is even simpler: I fill a cheap plastic cable tub with just enough water that the carboy doesn’t float, throw in a 200 watt aquarium heater and warm the water to the temperature I want. The heater controls the water even more tightly than the refrigerator with temperature controller. Once the water is warm, I put the carboy in and let it continue to ferment. To make sure the pressure isn’t an issue, I replace the airlock with aluminum foil crimped over the top. I never bother to sanitize aluminum foil or plastic wrap, considering them sanitary off the roll, and have never had problems.
Last batch, the yeast, treated with proper care, fermented through from about 1.070 to 1.006 without stalling. It slows down immensely after the first week but keeps chugging away. This batch continues to ferment away, it’s down to 1.022 since last Sunday. It still has a lot of residual sugar courtesy of a late addition of turbinado syrup last Wednesday (+3 days) and the initial flavors seem to be going as I’d like and as they did last time. Repeatability is the measure of how well we brew. If we can brew the same thing twice and have it come out the same, we’re doing it right. This batch seems like it will be roughly the same as last and I’m satisfied with that.
If the yeast stalls completely, you can warm it, rouse it and see if it starts to ferment again. If it won’t finish, I’ve done batches using champagne yeast and White Labs’ San Diego Super Yeast (WLP 090). My recommendation is the White Labs strain. It seems to finish cleaner than the champagne yeast. In either case, if you use a finishing yeast, make a starter and pitch at the height of fermentation for best results.
Link to the “90 Degree Saison” recipe: