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It's summer, and that means that my basement is too warm for English and American ales, but I did make a really fine French farmhouse ale (saison) at fermentation temperatures of about 75F. I've heard tell (via Stan Hiernymous) that I can get better results by starting the fermentation off at a lower temperature (60F) and letting the fermenter slowly come up to temperature.

Has anyone done this before? How long do I need to keep it cool before letting it warm up? Are the results worth it?

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Just a note on the wording of the initial question. I would necessarily do this method on all belgians. Not all belgian style beers need this type of treatment. Certainly the Saisons seems to work well this way. – brewchez Jul 20 '10 at 16:35
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I do this. I start it at 62-65F, I hold it for 3 days that way. Then I remove the temperature restriction and let it start to free rise up to where ever it wants to go, say 72F. Then I start to actually drive it to 75F or more with a heating pad and thermo controller.

I have had good luck with a saison this way, and a couple brewing buddies do it the same way.

Yes the results are worth it. Seems to have fewer higher order alcohols, cleaner drinking quality to it (sort of intangible) and it goes to completion a little easier. The slower start also seemed to help with the fruity ester complexity a bit too. I think maybe the yeast are a little to aggressive with a warm start and they might actually use up some of the precursors to the nice flavor compounds you want.

I have a friend that just jumped in with an 80F ferment and his stalled out a little early and it didn't seem to be as crisp or bright on the palate.

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