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Belgian Single v2.3 (Lonely Monk)

The Finished Belgian Single
I've been tweaking my Belgian Trappist Single recipe for some time now. Each iteration has gotten me a little closer to my goal, which is a Single that I'm happy to drink and which (I hope) would do well in competition.  My last version, made in July 2017, came the closest yet.

The previous version could have used more floral/herbal notes in the aroma, so I've added a late hopping with Hallertau Mittelfruh to provide that.  I include coriander and sweet orange peel in the recipe to help provide some fruity notes, too.

I've also included a ferulic acid rest in the mash to provide the yeast with the precursors needed to increase esters and phenols.  I recently read that this is common in many Belgian breweries.  The same source also suggested a two-step mash, with the first step at 145F and the second at 162F, so I included those in the mash as well.

It wasn't as clear as it could be, so I'm treating it with White Labs Clarity Ferm in primary and plan to add gelatin finings before cold-crashing it.  Hopefully that will provide the missing clarity.

The last version could have used a touch more hops, since the style is intended to lean toward bitterness. I've increased the hops slightly in this version to add bitterness.

Recipe

3.75 pounds Belgian Pilsen Malt
4 ounces Aromatic Malt
3 ounces Carapils/Dextrine Malt
3 ounces Melanoidin Malt
0.50 ounces Styrian Goldings @ 6.2%AA (60 min.)
0.50 ounces Czech Saaz @ 3.0% AA (15 min.)
0.50 ounces Czech Saaz @ 3.0% AA (5 min.)
0.35 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh @ 4.0% AA (2 min.)
0.60 ounces Sweet Orange Peel (5 min.)
0.20 ounces Coriander (5 min.)
1/2 packet Mangrove Jack's M31 Belgian Tripel dry yeast
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
3 gallons, 16 ounces of water

The mash schedule used begins as the High Efficiency Mash profile in the Picobrew Recipe Crafter.  It's then modified to:
  • Dough In:  102F for 10 minutes
  • Ferulic Acid Rest: 113F for 10 minutes
  • Mash at 145F for 30 minutes
  • Mash at 162F for 36 minutes
  • Mash out at 175F for 10 minutes
This is followed by a 60-minute boil with hops, citrus peel, and coriander additions as noted above.

The Picobrew recipe crafter estimates that the beer will have the following qualities:
  • Original Gravity: 1.047 SG (actual was 1.050 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.011 SG
  • ABV: 4.6%
  • IBU: 28
  • SRM: 5
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons
  • Starting water: 3.1 gallons
After brewing, my refractometer measured the wort's original gravity at 12.1 Brix. When the wort correction factor is applied and the measurement converted to SG, it works out to an original gravity of 1.050, just a hair above what the recipe called for.  That worked out to an efficiency of 72.4%.  The final ABV might end up being closer to 5.5% than 4.6%. That's still well within the style.

Fermentation

I pitched the yeast and half of a vial of White Labs Clarity Ferm to remove gluten.  I plan to treat it with gelatin in secondary to further improve clarity.

It's been my experience that you get better flavor and aroma out of a Belgian yeast by fermenting at the high end of its temperature range. I've set the temperature control on this batch to hold the beer at 77F at a minimum and to allow it to go as high as it can.  With ambient temperatures below 65F in the basement and plenty of free space in the fermenter, the beer will probably not go too far over the yeast's upper limit of 82F - but I'm fine with that if it does. It may produce some warming notes, but given the low gravity of the beer, that's unlikely.

Brewing and Tasting Notes

01/07/2018:  My last couple of Zymatic brews have failed to fill the grain compartment with water, resulting in the gravity being quite low and a fair amount of grain dry (or at best feeling slightly "steamed"). After reviewing forum posts online, I decided that the most likely cause was that my grain crush was too coarse. I had the mill set to 0.063.  Forum posts suggest that the ideal size is 0.043 to 0.045.  I had to eyeball it, but I think I got the mill setting close to that.  This time around, the grain compartment flooded as expected - though this grain bill was smaller than those.

There was a small amount of foaming in this batch, but not enough to do more than accumulate on the top of the grain compartment's filter.  I tried to reduce this by following several suggestions in the forums. I added slightly more water than the recipe crafter asked for (just 3-4 ounces).  I made sure the dip tubes inside the keg were positioned properly and the correct lengths. I tightened the posts on the keg and the lines where they go into the machine. I also wrapped the fittings with Teflon tape to (hopefully) minimize air leaks.  While I didn't completely eliminate the device's tendency to suck in air with the wort, it's been reduced somewhat.

01/14/2018:  The airlock has seemed lifeless for days, so I conclude that primary fermentation has ceased on this one. I'm going to treat it with gelatin finings and move it to lager in a cooler area of the basement for a week or two before cold-crashing it.  The Mangrove Jack's yeast definitely seems to make a cloudier brew than I'm used to seeing based on samples extracted from the fermenter for gravity testing.

01/21/2018:  I've prepared gelatin finings for the beer and dropped them into it today. I moved the beer into my mini-fridge, since the weather forecast for the next week or so has our local temps between 25F at night and 50F in the day.  The mini-fridge should keep the beer closer to 34-36F which will help the gelatin to work.  I'm expecting to bottle the beer on 1/27/2018 or 1/28/2018.

01/27/2018:  The beer has clarified some, but is still quite hazy. I decided to bottle it anyway and just give it an extended period of refrigeration once carbonated, to see if that clears it up.  I'm expecting carbonation to be complete around 2/10/2018.  The beer's flavor at bottling was a dry and bitter, which is consistent with the style description.  If it remains that way at bottling it should be good.

02/04/2018:  The beer is now nicely clear and a bit overcarbonated. I used 2.5 ounces of corn sugar to bottle it, but the beer pours more as foam than beer.  Although I will probably still enter it into a competition this year, I'm hoping to brew another batch and get the carbonation right.

04/07/2018:  Opened a bottle today for the photo at the top of the post.  It pours a deep amber color with thin white head that dissipates at a modest pace and leaves behind rings of lacing. The aroma is a bit spicy with a hint of citrus (more lemony than orange). The flavor starts with a strong hops bitterness which remains throughout and into the finish. The middle gives way to malt and orange briefly. In terms of the BJCP criteria for the style, it's a bit too dark to be considered pale.  The flavor is definitely bitter and hoppy, with high attenuation and a modest malt backing.  I'm planning to enter it into competition though I'm not sure how well it's going to do.

04/09/2018:  Three bottles of the beer were left at Barley's Ale House for their annual home brewing competition. I should have the results in a couple of weeks.

04/24/2018:  Before I go through the judges' notes on this one, my thoughts are that this is way too hoppy for what I wanted from it, though probably not for the style. Because it came out too hoppy, the bitterness overshadowed the coriander and orange peel that normally come through.  The yeast I used on this one didn't seem as expressive, either.  If I was scoring it for someone else I would probably give it something in the upper 20's or lower 30's.

The Barley's judges gave this beer total scores of 27, 25, and 29. That's in line with my own take.  Their individual comments and scores were:

  • Aroma (scores 6, 6, and 4)
    • Subtle grainy dryness, odd fruit (some spoiled apples?). Hint of citrus, touch of pears, slight hint of hop spice, herbaceousness
    • Good, spicy, not a strong yeast smell
    • (??) malt, even through head. No off notes but no depth or complexity once head fell.
  • Appearance (scores 2, 3, and 2)
    • Large head (fluffy white), bubble curtain, slight haze
    • Great head, color
    • Tall, dense head. Beyond style. Steady microbubbles. Light gold. Light haze. Lace - I think. Head doesn't leave much cup to judge.
  • Flavor (scores 6, 12, and 9)
    • Malt forward but neutral (or ?? by age). Light oxidation. Hop contribution there but muted. Alcohol. Lacks malt complexity and a clear hop (??) of style.
    • Bitter (slightly astringent), slight fruit presence, flavors remain subdued. Flavors push beneath bitterness.
    • Not strong fruit flavor. Not strong Trappist yeast overtones overall.
  • Mouthfeel (scores 2, 2, and 3)
    • Carbonic! Thin soft clean finish. Alcohol hidden. Builds to heat suggestive of fusel.
    • Thin, bubbles help but it becomes watery at end of drink
    • Overcarbonation, the champagne of beers, good finish
  • Overall Impression (scores 5, 5, and 4)
    • I think this is a good beer past its prime.The flavor seems to have gone to CO2 and alcohol.
    • Everything is there, but bitterness is a bit too much. Overpowers delicate flavors. Some oxidation in bottle could have hindered.
    • Drinkable but didn't get a lot of Trappist flavor

The judges' scores were close to my own estimate for the beer.  It was definitely overcarbonated, and that impacted the scores.  When I make this again (and I've had good batches in the past so I will make it again), I'll dial the hops back quite a bit. I'll also dial back the carbonation sugar.  I will also use a better yeast strain - the Mangrove Jack yeast didn't express like a good Belgian yeast should. 

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