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Dark Abbey Ale 1.1

Earlier this year, I won the 23rd Annual Homebrewing Competition at Barley's Ale House across from the Columbus Convention Center. The beer I won it with was a Belgian Dark Strong Ale, a favorite style of mine. There are only a few bottles left of the winning batch, and I have several friends and family who would love to try the beer. That means it's time to re-brew.

I brewed the winning batch in November on The Grainfather. While I could fire up the device and brew a new batch following the old recipe, I'd rather work out how to brew it on the PicoBrew Zymatic, as that would be a much easier and more repeatable way to make it in the future.

I used the Zymatic Recipe Crafter to scale the original recipe to the 2.5 gallon size and match the original beer's gravity. Then, because I've come to believe the Zymatic's recipe crafter drastically underestimates the bitterness of a beer relative to what I see in BeerSmith (where the original recipe was created), I used BeerSmith to help me dial in the bitterness. I'm hoping the result is a beer that closely matches the original flavor and bitterness of the winning batch.

Ingredients

6.5 pounds Belgian Pilsen Malt
1.0 pounds Caramunich Malt
0.5 pounds Melanodin Malt
0.5 pounds Special B Malt
0.25 pounds Carapils/Dextrine Malt
2 ounces Belgian Chocolate Malt
8 ounces D-180 Candi Syrup
1.5 tsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1 packet White Labs WLP540 Belgian Abbey Ale IV yeast
0.55 ounces Styrian Goldings hops @ 6.2% AA (60 min.)
0.55 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh hops @ 3.8% (20 min.)
0.30 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh hops @ 3.8% (5 min.)
3 gallons 48 ounces starting water

According to the Zymatic Recipe Crafter, the beer's characteristics should be:
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons
  • Original Gravity: 1.090 SG
  • Final Gravity: 1.020 SG
  • IBUs: 22
  • SRM: 28
  • ABV: 9.1%
I used a modified version of the High-Efficiency mash schedule:
  • 20 minutes of Dough In at 102F
  • 30 minutes mash at 154F
  • 35 minutes mash at 160F
  • 10 minutes Mash Out at 175F
This was followed by a 60-minute boil with Styrian Goldings added at the 60-minute mark, and Hallertau Mittelfruh added at the 20-minute and 5-minute marks.

After the boil, the wort was pumped to a sanitized kettle and the D-180 syrup stirred into it. With the D-180 dissolved, a gravity reading was taken.  It registered 21.2 Brix.  Sterile distilled water was added to try to dilute the beer down to the 20.7 Brix the recipe called for. Unfortunately, I added too much and dropped the gravity down to 19.2, despite not hitting the 2.5 gallon volume.  The wort was then chilled to 71F. Clarity Ferm and the yeast were added.

Post-Brew Notes

05/27/2018:  The grain bill pretty much thoroughly filled the step filter of the Zymatic. There was a minimal amount of foaming during the Dough In stage. More foaming occurred during the first mash step, though not enough to spill over the edge of the lid.

When the brew was finished, I found enough in the drip tray that it almost (but not quite) dripped over the edge onto the table. The beer was apparently "big enough" that it overflowed slightly out of the step filter and into the drip tray.

After brewing and adding the D-180 candi syrup, the beer registered 21.2 Brix. Diluting it with distilled water dropped it lower than intended - down to 19.2 Brix, without reaching the 2.5 gallon volume. I suspect the lost wort from the drip tray might have made a difference.

05/28/2018: The airlock is showing regular activity, so the yeast is clearly doing its job.

05/29/2018: Airlock activity is slowing down, so I decided to sneak a taste of the beer out of the spigot to see if the flavor and bitterness profile match up to the contest-winning version. Although the beer is still young and a little sweet, the flavor profile and bitterness level seem spot on. I'm hopeful that the finished beer will be a good reproduction of the winning batch

06/02/2018: The beer was bottled today with 4 small carbonation tablets ("medium carbonation") per bottle. Yield was 27 bottles. All were placed in the 76F "hot box" to carbonate for a week or two before taste testing. The refractometer reported final gravity of 12.5 Brix before adjustment and conversion to SG. After adjustment, that's a final gravity of 1.030 SG and an ABV in the 7% range.

05/12/2019:  There is a good chance I bottled this one too soon. There is a smaller chance that a bacterial infection crept in. Bottles of the beer now gush when opened. I've dumped the batch just to be safe.

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