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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