Sunday, November 22, 2015

Belgian Single Version 1.1

Back in late July, I made an extract-based Belgian Single using a recipe from E.C. Kraus.  The beer turned out to be one of the better ones I've made, and we've gone through (and given away) almost all of it, so I decided to try brewing a second batch.

In my notes from the original version, I noted that I would dial the hops back slightly and add some sugar to dry out a little of the sweetness.  Here is the updated version 1.1 recipe:
  • 1 pound Biscuit Malt
  • 8 ounces Aromatic Malt
  • 3 pounds Golden Light DME (early addition)
  • 3 pounds Golden Light DME (late addition)
  • 1 pound Brewer's Crystals (to boost fermentables)
  • 0.5 ounces Styrian Goldings pellets (6.2% Alpha) - 60 minutes
  • 1.0 ounces Czech Saaz pellets (3.2% Alpha) - 15 minutes
  • 1.0 ounces Czech Saaz pellets (3.2% Alpha) - 5 minutes
  • 1 package of Wyeast Belgian Abbey II yeast (1762)
  • 0.5 ounces of Coriander, crushed
  • 0.5 ounces of Sweet Orange Peel, crushed
  • Yeast nutrient (based on package directions and kettle volume)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet
  • 1 vial of White Labs Clarity Ferm
The changes made in this version versus the previous:
  • The first hops addition was switched from a pre-boil addition to a post-boil addition.
  • Hops amounts at the 60-minute and 15 minute levels were dialed back to reduce the undesirable bitterness I perceived last time.
  • Safbrew Abbaye yeast was swapped out for Wyeast 1762 which was in the original Kraus recipe but not available to me when I made version 1.0.
  • Brewer's Crystals (a sugar mix replicating the fermentable sugar in barley malt) were added to boost the alcohol content and maybe dry it out a little.
  • Coriander and Sweet Orange Peel were added to add some complexity to the flavor
Reducing the hops amounts meant that I was going from a calculated 28.8 IBUs down to 21.1 IBUs.  The original beer had a gravity of 61, so its BU:GU ratio was 28.8/61 or 0.47.  The new recipe has an estimated original gravity of 53, so its BU:GU would be 21.1/53 or 0.40.  That's a pretty significant drop but my suspicion is that the Wyeast product might ferment out more of the sugar as I plan to give it more time in the fermenter than I gave the Safbrew Abbaye and will be oxygenating it to help it along.  I'm also using temperature control on the fermenter to keep the yeast at the upper end of its temperature range, which may dry the beer out more and increase ester production.

Brewing Process

Following is the brewing process for this beer:
  • Smacked the Wyeast package to activate the yeast while gathering and measuring ingredients, to ensure it had time to warm up, activate, and become ready to use.
  • Put 3 gallons of water into the Grainfather and heated it to 152F
  • Added the specialty grains in a steeping bag into the water and steeped them for 20 minutes.
  • As the grains steeped, I heated 3 gallons of water on the kitchen stove to near-boiling and removed it from the heat.  I dissolved 3 pounds of DME into it.
  • Discarded the steeping grains.
  • Poured in the 3 gallon batch of dissolved DME and made sure the water level in the Grainfather registered 6 gallons.
  • Set the Grainfather to boiling and brought the wort to a boil.
  • At boil, added the Styrian Goldings pellets in a bag
  • After 45 minutes, added 1 ounce of Czech Saaz pellets in a bag, along with yeast nutrient and sweet orange peel
  • After 50 minutes, hooked up the counterflow chiller and began recirculating wort into the kettle to sterilize the chiller.
  • After 55 minutes, added the last ounce of Czech Saaz pellets in a bag along with the coriander
  • At 60 minutes of boil, turned off the heat.
  • Turned on the cold water supply to the counterflow chiller and continued recirculating wort into the kettle until the Grainfather kettle temperature read 140F.
  • Turned off the pump and moved the cold wort out line into the fermenter.  Turned the pump back on and pumped wort into the fermenter.
  • Fermenter temperature read 70.2F when all the wort was pumped into it, making it an ideal temperature for the Wyeast yeast (which has a range of 65-75F).
  • Using an oxygen tank and stone, oxygenated the wort for 60 seconds.
  • Took an original gravity reading and volume (5.7 gallons at 15 Brix or 61.1 SG).
  • Pitched the yeast packet into the wort and sealed the fermenter.
Now it was up to the yeast.

Fermentation

My primary fermenter for this batch was an SS Brew Tech Brewmaster Bucket.  This is a stainless steel conical fermentation bucket that I recently acquired and think is one of the best pieces of brewing equipment I own.

I wrapped a fermentation heater around the fermenter and attached it to a temperature controller.  The temperature controller was set to keep the fermenter in the 73-75F range.  The temperature probe was inserted into the Brewmaster Bucket's thermowell to get an accurate temperature.  Throughout the first week of fermentation, I periodically checked the temperature against the Brewmaster Bucket's own thermometer and it always matched up to the temperature controller's display.  (I'd never used this temperature controller or wrap before and wanted to be sure that they didn't cook the wort and yeast.)

In the version 1.0 beer, I got a bit more carbonation than I expected and the beer was a little sweeter than I thought it should be.  For that reason, I decided to keep the fermenter at the upper end of the range for the first two weeks of fermentation, then remove the temperature control and allow it to spend an additional week at the basement's ambient temperature of 68F.

Tasting Notes

At the left, you see a glass of the finished beer.  It turned out only very slightly hazy, with a finger-thick white head that lasted several seconds before reincorporating into the beer.

The carbonation level was good, not overly bubbly or particularly flat.  The use of bottle conditioning yeast and fermentation drops seems to have worked well.

The aroma is malty but not sweet, and slightly fruity.

Compared with version 1.0, it's much less sweet and the bitterness from the hops is well-balanced against the malt.  I wondered if the coriander would be an obvious element of the flavor, but it's barely detectable, which is what I'd hoped to accomplish.  The sweet orange peel doesn't come through, however.  There is a roasty element to the flavor, probably from the aromatic malt.

Had this come from a micro brewery in town, I'd have rated it an 8 out of 10, so I am very happy with it.  It's a very easy to drink beer, with a little complexity in the flavor and no serious flaws.

Post Mortem

If I was to brew this beer again, here are changes I think I might make:

  • I would definitely increase the amount of sweet orange peel.  I like the flavor it lends to a beer like this, and I would like it to be just barely detectable in the finished product.
  • Although I like aromatic malt, I think the recipe includes too much of it.  It's a dominant element in the aroma and flavor.  I'd like it to be a bit more subtle.
  • I might consider going back to the Safbrew Abbaye yeast, as it's less expensive and I don't feel like the Wyeast Belgian Abbey II contributed much to the flavor.
  • I might also consider carbonating the beer with a clear or amber candi syrup to increase the Belgian-like flavor a bit more, or adding some late in the boil.
  • I will probably convert to an all-grain recipe next time as well.
All this being said, I'm very happy with how this turned out and I think it's a definite improvement over the original version 1.0.

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