Friday, September 30, 2011

Dreg Series: Achouffe Belgian Pale Ale

Here is the 3rd batch all from the same Belgian Pale wort mentioned in the first post. This batch followed the same procedures as the Rochefort dregs. The only difference was that the dregs came from a 750 ml bottle. For obvious reasons like more yeast and a bottle big enough for a good starter I would suggest using these if trying to pitch bottle dregs.

It will be interesting to taste the difference in this yeast versus the others because as far as Belgian yeast goes this is on the other end of the flavor spectrum. I tend to favor the fruitier flavors that you get in Chimay and some in Rochefort beers. But the Achouffe yeast is much more focused on the traditional Belgian phenols (pepper, spice). By testing this yeast with bottle dregs I'll be able to know if I may want to try WLP550 yeast in the future.

The starter was made 3 days ahead of time right in the 750 ml bottle. There was some activity in a couple days. Just like the Rochefort dregs as soon as it was pitched into the gallon of wort it had strong activity in 24 hours. Also pitched at 64 and allowed to free rise.

This has been bottled and a three way taste will be conducted shortly.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dreg Series: Rochefort Belgian Pale Ale

I have started to use dregs from non-sour beers recently because my stock pile of sours is starting to outweigh my supply of everyday drinkers. Believe it or not I don't want a sour beer everytime I have a beer. Plus being a homebrewer with thirtsy (but not always adventurous) friends means I need to have some beer that can please the masses.

The easiest beers to do this with are Belgian beers since almost all of them are bottle conditioned. And usually with the primary strain. My original goal was to brew enough batches to try all the Trappist breweries. And then eventually use each strain to brew a separate 1 gal batch with all the same wort. And then brew a batch were I blend all the strains or just blend my favorites. Stay tuned to see how this all works out.

I planned to brew the main batch with the White Labs 540 Abbey IV (Rochefort) yeast. And then also have a gallon of the same wort fermented with dregs from a bottle so I could compare. But since the Limited Edition WLP540 was not out yet, this did not work.

I made a 6 oz starter with frozen 1.030 wort from a previous batch. This was boiled for 10-15 minutes with 1/8 tsp Wyeast Nutrient.  I then poured the wort right into a small bottle after flaming the lip (the actual beer bottle can be used if large enough (i.e. 750 ml)). I will usually start this about 5-6 days before brew day. This is for a couple reasons:
1. If the dregs end up being bad (dead, contaminated) then there is time to change the plan. Smell and taste your starters!
2. I like to try to build the yeast up again with another 6 oz of starter to make sure they are going strong when pitched into the 1 gal container.

The Rochefort dregs showed some activity after about a day. The starters were shaken as often as possible. Then the whole starter was poured into the Belgian Pale Ale wort and there was strong activity in 24 hours. As I have read in Brew Like a Monk most brewers recommended starting the yeast in 64 degree wort and then letting it free rise. No temperature control was used for the 1 gal batches. They fermented out in about 3-4 days. The temperature rose to 70 in the first 24 hours and finished in the higher 70s.

I will do a tasting with all 3 batches from the same Belgian Pale Ale wort.

Update 11.09.11 - Tasting Notes

Friday, September 23, 2011

Belgian Series: Belgian Pale Ale

For this year's round of Belgian beers I decided to start off the series with a Pale Ale instead of last year's Single (which I did really enjoy). This beer is a bit higher in gravity, but will still be a good batch to build yeast for the following batches.

The big decision this year was what yeast to try. I liked the Chimay yeast from last year, but early on it was too fruity (banana ester). But later on, like 6 months down the road the fruity esters calmed down and a bigger bubblegum flavor (that I really taste in Chimay Blue) came out. This year I didn't want to have to wait 6 months before the beer was in my sweet spot. So it was time to try a new yeast. I decided to stick with White Labs yeast because I like their product and its good to support a local company. So that meant my choices were (chart comparing White Lab Belgian Strains):

WLP500 - Chimay - Described above - Fruity end of spectrum
WLP530 - Westmalle - More of a balanced yeast with esters and phenols between 500 & 550
WLP540 - Rochefort - "Fruit character is medium, in between WLP500 (high) and WLP530 (low)" - Special Edition
WLP550 - Achouffe - Opposite end of the spectrum from 500 - more spicy phenol and less fruit
WLP570 - Duvel - Balanced, cleaner ferment, and slight tartness
WLP575 - Blend of 500, 530, 550 - Let Chris White Explain in this audio clip

My taste for Belgian beers does lean toward the fruity side, but as noted above the Chimay strain was over the top for me. So for this next series I was between 530, 540 (limited) and 575 (blend). I did what every good homebrewer does and let the stock at my LHBS do the picking.

And it decided I would brew with WLP575 Belgian Style Ale Blend.

Next onto Belgian Pale Ale recipe design. It just so happen that I received a copy of Brew Like a Monk for my birthday. This is a great book and in the past few months I have read it several times (there is so much info you really need to). It also has a very nice section on recipe generation for Trappist beers.

After reading the book you get the sense that most of the Trappist breweries use very simple grain bills and rely heavily on the yeast or candi sugar to produce most of the flavors. And on the other side, most homebrewers use pretty complicated grain bills and usually only simple sugars. And a lot of these homebrew recipes are from award winning beers so there is a reason for the complex malt bills. My thought is that the Trappist breweries have really figured out how to ferment these yeasts and may use yeasts that are slightly different then what we have available.

My grain bill is a bit complex, but I have reasoning behind each addition.
Pilsner - Traditional base malt
Biscuit - Helps to boost the malt backbone
Aromatic - Traditional specialty malt and I think this malt really takes the beer aroma to the next level
Caramunich - Helps get that orange color I love in Belgian Pale Ales
Flaked Barley - My new staple because a rocky head is so important for a Belgian beer

Water profiles are also a big deal for these types of beers. I reviewed the profiles of the Trappist Breweries and tried to create something close. My water in San Diego is about as far away as possible so that means I need to dilute a lot. And if you read through Brew Like A Monk the Trappist brewers are very convinced that their water makes a big difference.

Recipe: Belgian Pale Ale
O.G.-1.054  F.G.-1.010   IBU-27 Size -7 gal
SRM-8   ABV-5.%  

Grain Bill (76% Efficiency):
11 lb Belgian Pilsner (8%)
.5 lbs Flaked Barley (4%)
.5 lbs Caramunich (4%)
6 oz Aromatic Malt (3%)
6 oz Biscuit Malt (3%)


.45 oz Magnum, 13.5%, pellet, 90 min, 22 IBU
.5 oz Saaz, 3.7%, pellet, 30 min 3.6 IBU
.5 oz Saaz, 3.7%, pellet, 15 min 1.7 IBU

1 Liter Starter w 1 vial WLP575: Belgian Style Ale Blend

Brew Day:
Brewed: 7/9/11

See Profile above

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1 qt/lb
Mash Volume: 3.5 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 152F @ 60min

Sparge Volume: 6.5 ga
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 8.5 gal
Boil Time: 90min
Post Boil Volume: 7 gal

Ferment Details:

Ferment Temp: Pitched @ 64F (ramped up 1F/day up to 68F, then Day 5 free rise)
Primary Length: 21 days (more laziness than necessity)

The reason for the 7 gallon batch is because I also fermented 2 - 1 gal batches with dregs from Rochefort 8 and La Chouffe. Posts to come on those 2 batches.
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