Monday, September 05, 2005

Homebrewing Update

As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm making my first foray into the world of Belgian style beers.

After outlining the extract/grain bill, calculating how much of what kind of hops for bitterness, and deciding on a modest slate of "extras" (orange peel, coriander, and candi sugar), I had to figure out the what yeast to use.

I don't want to speak ill of my local brewshop, which is excellent 95% of the time (and one of the places I will truly, deeply miss when I leave this town), but the truth is I got some bad advice there this time around. It happens; the place is staffed by mostly part-time hobbyists--which is really the point of the store to begin with--and I should have done my homework. A visit to White Lab's very informative webpage would have sufficed.

To make a long story short: I described the beer I wanted to make to the guy working at the store, and he suggested that I use the Saisson yeast. Now according to this chart, this strain will work well at the temps I have to work with (I figure the average ambient temp in my house these days is about 78), and it does emphasize the spicier notes I was looking for, but the attenuation and alcohol tolerance are just too damn low for the beer I'm trying to make.

The result: after 24 hours of "off to the races" fermentation, it stopped dead. As in no pressure on the airlock whatsoever. I sampled a bit and found that it had only fermented to about 2.9% ABV, which considering I started at 11.8% potential ABV, was not good at all.

I gave it a couple of days, hoping to see a second phase of fermentation. No luck.

Time to call in reinforcements.

So on Day 7, I added the White Labs Trappist Ale Yeast, and it seems to be working well (it's now Day 9). I'm pushing my luck a bit on the temperature (hopefully it will end up much more "fruity" than "solvent"), but it's worth a shot. The Saisson certainly wasn't going to cut it.

On a positive note: the color is exactly what I was aiming for. And even in it's mostly unfermented state, I really did like the direction in which it was going.

Without further delay, here's the recipe. As always, this assumes a rudimentary knowledge of homebrewing techniques and terminology, but please don't hesitate to ask for clarification in the comments section.

Also, you might want to wait for me to see how this tastes before trying it at home.


4 lbs. plain pale malt extract (Munton's)
4 lbs. plain extra pale malt extract (Munton's)
1/2 lb. 20L American crystal malt
1/4 lb. Belgian Caravienne malt
1/4 lb. Belgian biscuit malt
1 lb. clear Belgian candi sugar
1/2 oz. sweet orange peel
1 oz. coriander seed (not cracked)
1 oz. U.S. Saaz (all hops are pellets)
1 oz. U.S. Hallertau
1 oz. German Hersbrucker

Grains were steeped in ~2 gallons, 150 degrees F, 30 minutes. After sparging, the pot was brought to a boil, extract and candi sugar were added, and brought to a boil again. Saaz were boiled for 60 minutes, Hallertau and Hersbrucker for 30 minutes, corander and orange peel for 15 minutes. After removing from heat and cooling, the wort was diluted to 4.5 gallons, specific gravity 1.085 (pot ABV: 11.8%).

The S.G. of the boil was 1.107, ~ 3 gallons. Estimated IBU (per Daniels, "Designing Great Beers") are 24.4.

Saisson Yest (White Labs WLP565) was pitched; vigorous fermentation occurred for about 24 hours, followed by rapid attenuation and "stuck" fermentation. Racked to secondary on Day 4, added Trappist Ale Yeast (White Labs WLP500) on Day 7. Fermentation resumed at a moderate rate ~24 hours later.

Wow--I just realized how much this reads like the methods section of one of my papers!

Update (2.21.06): Not to toot my own horn (which is to say, to toot my own horn), a friend writes:

Sweet nectar of the gods -- it was amazing. Absolutely fantastic. Clean yet strong. Not overpowering. The kind of beer you want to drink for the rest of your life if you only could pick one. Kind of like the marriage that inspired it -- go figure.

I'm blushing.

*The beer's name should be a pretty obvious reference to friends--Marsha and I are getting married on September 24, about the time I expect this beer to be ready. Also, "matrimoniale" happens to be the French word for "matrimonial", which is appropriate for a Belgian beer and because we are honeymooning in France. This also seems appropriate for a beer made with two yeasts instead of one, though I didn't plan it that way. Anyway, screw you if you don't think this is clever, because it is.


  • At 1:05 PM, Blogger Lisa said…

    awesome! I can't wait to try it!

    And if the beer doesn't turn out, I can help peel off beer labels off Miller lite bottles and glue stick some of your own labels on. I'm crafty like that.

    ok, ok... budlight, whatever you want. You're so picky.

  • At 1:41 PM, Blogger chris said…

    Lisa- Actually, unless he has a fancy bottle capper he can't use either of those twist-off bottle top brands.

    B - I could have told you how to find a specialty yeast. I usually order now because the nearest shop is 45 minutes away (too much gasoline, shipping is cheaper). I've read a lot about the yeasties in the interim as well.

    I just pitched my new (and hopefully improved) true German style hefe weizen. Even brewed in accordance with German purity laws. But I was sort of lazy and used DME. Is that a strike?

  • At 1:44 PM, Blogger chris said…

    And Jesus Christ! I just noticed your starting gravity. Expecting a big %abv or a dentist's nightmare?

  • At 2:32 PM, Blogger Brian said…

    I figure this way, even if it tastes not so great it'll get you drunk in a hurry.

  • At 4:54 PM, Blogger Lisa said…

    I know he can't use twist offs... I was just teasing since I know how much of a dream of his it would be to have his beer interchanged with miller lite.

    Brian, I love the name. Reminds me of a story I read about -- when Rogue's master brewer got married, he also made a beer to mark the occasion, calling it Love & Hoppiness.


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