Sunday, June 24, 2018

Centennial Blonde Ale 1.0

Centennial Blonde Ale 1.0
Some time ago, when searching for some good recipes, I found a Centennial Blonde Ale recipe that had been voted the top recipe by visitors to HomeBrewTalk.com. I've wanted to brew it for a while, and finally got around to doing it today.

Ingredients

3 pounds 2-row Pale Ale Malt
5 ounces Cara-Pils/Dextrine Malt
3.5 ounces Caramel/Crystal 10L Malt
3.5 ounces Swaen Vienna Malt
0.10 ounces Centennial hops pellets @ 10.8% AA (55 min.)
0.15 ounces Centennial hops pellets @ 10.8% AA (35 min.)
0.15 ounces Cascade hops pellets @ 6.9% AA (20 min.)
0.15 ounces Cascade hops pellets @ 6.9% AA (5 min.)
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
1 packet Lallemand Nottingham Ale Yeast
3 gallons of starting water in keg

For a mash schedule, I've modified the High-Efficiency Mash Schedule in the Zymatic Recipe Crafter to hold the mash at 150F for 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes at 154F, leaving the rest the same.

Boil schedule will be:
  • 60 minutes:  No hops
  • 55 minutes: 0.10 ounces of Centennial
  • 35 minutes: 0.15 ounces of Centennial
  • 20 minutes: 0.15 ounces of Cascade
  • 5 minutes: 0.15 ounces of Cascade
According to PicoBrew's recipe crafter, the beer should have the following characteristics:
  • Original Gravity: 1.040 SG (actual was 1.043 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 SG (actual was 1.005 SG)
  • IBUs: 22
  • SRM: 4.0
  • ABV: 3.9%  (actual was 4.99%)
  • Volume: 2.5 gallons (actual was approximately 2.25 gallons)
As is my usual process, the beer will be pumped into a sanitized kettle after brewing, the sanitized immersion chiller dropped into it, and the beer chilled to a yeast-safe temperature.  The beer will then be transferred to a sanitized fermenter, yeast and Clarity Ferm added, and a Tilt Hydrometer dropped into it for monitoring purposes.

Post-Brew Notes

06/24/2018:  The beer came up slightly low in volume and slightly high in gravity. I decided to ignore the 3-point difference in SG and the quart of volume to avoid possibly over-diluting the beer, especially given that 3 points of gravity may well be within a reasonable margin of error. The refractometer measured gravity at 10.9 Brix, which (when calibrated) works out to 1.045 SG which also is close to the 1.043 SG that the Tilt Hydrometer measured. This works out to a Brew House Efficiency of 72.1% for this batch. The Nottingham yeast and Clarity Ferm were pitched into the 76F wort before the fermenter was sealed.

Since the Notthingham yeast prefers cooler temperatures for fermentation, I decided to see if I could chill the beer a bit further. I wrapped some ice packs used for a cooler around the fermenter, along with a damp towel. Within an hour the fermenter temperature dropped to 70F and as of this writing is continuing to drop. The ambient 68F temperature in the basement should help to keep the fermentation temperature down a little, but I'll have to keep an eye on it.

06/25/2018:  The ice packs and damp towel got the beer down to around 69F by morning. I replaced the thin ice packs with some thicker ones used for shipping food at around 7:30am. By 11:30am, the temperature in the fermenter had dropped to about 66F. The temperature has held there since then, though I've replaced the ice packs in the meantime. The gravity has dropped from the original 1.043 SG down to its current 1.014 SG. That's about 67.4% attenuation and 3.8% ABV in about 24 hours. If the yeast continues working at this rate, it should hit the expected final gravity of 1.010 SG by this time tomorrow night.

06/26/2018:  The beer's gravity has been holding steadily at 1.008 SG now for about eight hours now. That's 81.4% attenuation and 4.6% ABV. That's a bit more than expected, but not too far out of line.

06/27/2018: The gravity continues to hold steady at 1.008 SG, so it appears that primary fermentation is complete. I'll give it another day or two to ensure it's really finished, then treat it with gelatin finings and cold crash it.

06/30/2018: The gravity has dropped slightly to 1.007 SG, and has been holding there for about two days now.

07/01/2018: The scatter plot below shows the gravity of the beer from the time the yeast was pitched until now. Each dot represents a gravity reading at 15 minute intervals. The yeast seemed to begin fermenting around 3 hours after pitching. It seemed to peak around 15-24 hours after pitching, and had substantially completed fermentation by about 4-5 days.


A teaspoon of gelatin was bloomed in distilled water and heated to 155-160F before adding to the fermenter. The fermenter was then placed in a mini-fridge to cold crash and clear up before bottling.

07/05/2018: The beer is looking pretty clear, and I needed to free up the mini-fridge for the Cream Ale that's right behind it (process-wise), so I bottled the beer today using 4 small carbonation drops per bottle (medium carbonation). Yield was 23 bottles with virtually no extra beer. The yeast was compacted nicely in the bottom of the fermenter. The Tilt registered 1.005 SG at bottling and 38F. Although I'll reserve judgment until the beer finishes conditioning, a sample of the small amount of leftover beer seemed merely "OK" and not particularly tasty (or particularly bad) to me.

07/15/2018: The beer has carbonated nicely and was removed from the 76F hotbox in preparation for labeling and sharing with others.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Study of Tripels - And 2018 Tripel 1.0

2018 Tripel 1.0
Despite having had a Belgian Tripel take fourth place at the Ohio State Fair this year, I've still never really made one that I felt was "perfect" for my taste. I decided before brewing another that I'd study the style a bit, seeing what has worked for other brewers, and try to come up with my own recipe.

I located as many Tripel recipes on the web as I could.  If the recipe was for a commercial Tripel, a commercially sold kit, published in a magazine, or listed as a winner in a home brewing contest, then I included it in the study.  There are many (possibly very good) Tripel recipes listed on the web that don't have a "track record" (for lack of a better phrase) associated with them.  I did not include those.

The Style

The BJCP 2015 definition for the Belgian Tripel style suggests the following:
  • Overall Impression:  A pale, somewhat spicy, dry, strong Trappist ale with a pleasant rounded malt flavor and firm bitterness. Quite aromatic, with spicy, fruity, and light alcohol notes combining with the supportive clean malt character to produce a surprisingly drinkable beverage considering the high alcohol level.
  • Aroma: Complex bouquet with moderate to significant spiciness, moderate fruity esters and low alcohol and hop phenols. Esters are reminiscent of citrus fruits such as oranges, but may sometimes have a slight banana character. A low yet distinctive spicy, floral, and sometimes perfumy hop character is usually found. Alcohols are soft, spicy, and low in intensity. The malt character is light, with a soft, slightly grainy-sweet or slightly honey-like impression. The best examples have a seamless, harmonious interplay between the yeast character, hops, malt, and alcohol.
  • Appearance: Deep yellow to deep gold in color. Good clarity. Effervescent. Long-lasting, creamy, rocky, white head resulting in characteristic Belgian lace on the glass as it fades.
  • Flavor: Marriage of spicy, fruity, and alcohol flavors supported by a soft, rounded grainy-sweet malt impression, occasionally with a very light honey note. Low to moderate phenols are peppery in character. Esters are reminiscent of citrus fruit such as orange or sometimes lemon, and are low to moderate. A low to moderate spicy hop character is usually found. Alcohols are soft, spicy, and low in intensity. Bitterness is typically medium to high from a combination of hop bitterness and yeast-produced phenolics. Substantial carbonation and bitterness lends a dry finish with a moderately bitter aftertaste with substantial spicy-fruity yeast character. The grainy-sweet malt flavor does not imply any residual sweetness.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body, although lighter than the substantial gravity would suggest. Highly carbonated. The alcohol content is deceptive, and has little to no obvious warming sensation. Always effervescent.
  • Characteristic Ingredients: Pilsner malt, typically with pale sugar adjuncts. Saazer-type or Styrian Goldings are commonly used. Belgian yeast strains are used - those that produce fruity esters, spicy phenolics and higher alcohols - often aided by slightly warmer fermentation temperatures. Spice additions are generally not traditional, and if used, should be a background character only. Fairly soft water.
My personal favorite examples include:  Karmeliet Tripel, Unibroue La Fin Du Monde, and Old Dominion's Candi Belgian Tripel.

What I want from my own Tripel is:
  • Appearance:  Anything in the yellow to gold color range, consistent with the BJCP style.  A thick white long-lasting head. This (for me) means including both Melanoidin and Carapils malts in grain bill, as that combo tends to produce the kind of head I'm looking for.
  • Aroma:  Spicy, fruity, and with a definite orange/lemon citrus note.  Optionally a hint of honey and malt sweetness.
  • Mouthfeel:  Medium body with lots of carbonation.
  • Flavor:  Mild peppery spiciness, citrus notes, spicy hop character that's allowing the balance to tilt just a little toward the malt sweetness (which goes against the dry/bitter nature of the style). A hint of honey. No warming note.  I don't want the spices to be obvious, nor do I want it so sweet that it feels like a soft drink.
Any Tripel I produce that doesn't meet those criteria will require changes.

Grains

The recipes I examined contained one or more of the following grains:
  • Acidulated Malt: Primarily used to lower pH in the wort when Pilsner malt is used.
  • Aromatic Malt: Said to provide sweet, toasted flavors and contribute light brown and orange color along with intensely malty flavor.
  • Belgian Cara 8:  A very pale caramel malt said to contribute a subtle caramel flavor. 
  • Belgian Pale Malt:  A fully modified pale ale malt, good as a base malt.
  • Biscuit Malt:  A lightly toasted malt that contributes warm, earthy malt flavors and aromas. Contributes light to medium garnet brown colors and a toasty finish. Some nutty flavors and a baking bread aroma.
  • Caramel 10L Malt:  This light caramel malt reportedly delivers a mellow candy-like sweetness and subtle toffee flavor, and increases foam stability.
  • Carapils/Dextrine Malt:  Contributes unfermentable sugars that add foam stability and fullness to a beer.
  • Caravienne Malt: Adds subtle toffee, caramel, and malty flavors to the beer.
  • Flaked Corn: Adds a mild neutral flavor when used in small amounts, and a moderate sweetness when used in larger amounts.
  • Flaked Wheat:  Increases head retention and body.
  • Melanoidin Malt:  Adds a red color and intensifies malt flavor and aroma.
  • (Belgian and Non-Belgian) Munich Malt:  A bready, sweet malt.
  • (Belgian and non-Belgian) Pilsner Malt:  A light colored base malt.
  • Torrified Wheat:  A whole kernel version of flaked wheat, which increases head retention and body.
  • Victory Malt:  A Biscuit-style malt that brings out nutty, toasty, biscuit-like flavors.  Adds a layer of dry toasted complexity and a russet brown color.
  • Wheat Malt: Improves head retention and mouth feel.
This is not to say that other grains cannot be used, only that these are common.  I'm also not suggesting that a Tripel recipe should have all, or even most, of these grains it... only that these are being used and are worth considering in a recipe because they've obviously worked in the past.

If we look at all the above malts and generalize them a bit, we come down to roughly the following:
  • Pale and/or Pilsner base malt provide most of the grist
  • Caramel, Carapils, and Caravienne add some caramel notes to the base, with Carapils perhaps adding a nice head as well
  • Aromatic, Biscuit, and Victory malts add some malt complexity and bready/toasty notes
  • Flaked Corn and Munich Malt add sweetness
  • Torrified Wheat, Wheat Malt, Carapils, and Melanoidin malt contribute a lasting head and some thickness to the mouthfeel
A good Tripel recipe probably mixes those five categories to some degree.

Hops

The following hops appear in the Tripel recipes I looked at:
  • Crystal:  An aroma hop, said to impart woody, fruity, and "green" aromas.
  • Czech Saaz:  An aroma hop, said to import mild earthy, herbal, and floral overtones.
  • East Kent Goldings: A dual-purpose hop said to include floral, lavender, spice, honey, earthy, lemony, orange, grapefruit, and thyme overtones.
  • Fuggle: An aroma hop said to include delicate and pleasant mint, grass, and floral tones.
  • Hallertau Mittelfruh: An aroma hop said to impart noble, earthy, and herbal tones.
  • Horizon: A dual-purpose hop said to provide smooth bitterness and impart floral bouquet and spicy aromas to a beer.
  • Liberty: An aroma hop said to impart noble, delicate, floral bouquet, and spice aromas.
  • Nugget: A bittering hop said to have mild herbal aromas.
  • Sterling:  An aroma hop said to produce noble and spicy aromas.
  • Styrian Goldings:  Said to impart a spicy aroma with a sweet/earthy edge, resinous with hints of white pepper.
  • Target:  A dual purpose hop said to impart aromas of fresh green sage, spicy/peppery notes, and hints of citrus marmalade.
  • Tettnanger:  An aroma hop said to display noble characteristics and a slight spiciness, with aromas of black tea, pepper, and spice.
  • Tradition: An aroma hop said to impart a harmonic bitterness, with aroma descriptor of floral, herbal, grassy, and fruity.
I've used Saaz, East Kent Goldings, Styrian Goldings, and Tettnanger in the past. A mix of Czech Saaz and Styrian Goldings is my go-to combination for Belgian beers.

There is something about East Kent Goldings I just don't like. I can't quite explain it, but beers containing very much of that hop variety just don't appeal to me. I can tolerate it in English styles, but generally dislike it elsewhere. More recently, I've found that blending a little East Kent Goldings with something else, like Styrian Goldings or Saaz, makes the East Kent Goldings bite more subtle and tolerable to me.

If we paint the hops in broad strokes, there are some definite patterns going on:
  • Fruity, spicy, earthy, herbal, citrus, and floral notes appear in most of the hops varieties used
  • Most of the hops varieties used are aroma-type hops, though a few dual-purpose and bittering hops do appear in the list
When I think about my own recipe, I'm wanting both spicy and citrus notes in the aroma.  I want a softer bitterness that doesn't take away from the malt, so my initial thinking is that I might do this:
  • 60 minute bittering addition:  Target hops - for the peppery/citrus notes
  • 15 minute flavor addition: Styrian Goldings - for the spicy, earthy, peppery notes
  • 5 minute aroma/flavor addition: Mandarina Bavaria - for its fruity, citrus, tangerine flavor and aromas, perhaps mixed with some Saaz and/or Target 
Although I know Mandarina Bavaria isn't a common Tripel hop, but I think the fruitiness it imparts might work really well with the style.

Adjuncts

The Tripel style is, like many Belgian monastery ales, known for containing some percentage of sugar in the grist.  Here are the various sugars I saw in the Tripel recipes I examined:
  • Blanc Soft Candi Sugar:  No flavor addition to the beer.
  • Clear Candi Sugar:  No flavor addition to the beer.
  • Corn Sugar:  No flavor addition to the beer.
  • Demerara Sugar:  A type of cane sugar with a pale amber color. Has a toffee flavor and can be used in place of brown sugar.
  • Golden Candi Syrup:  Adds pronounced caramel and light fruit to Belgian styles.
  • Honey (often Orange Blossom or Clover):  Can knock the bitter edge off hops and add floral notes and aroma. Early in the boil contributes mostly fermentable sugar. Late in the boil or in the fermenter will contribute flavor and aroma.
  • Light Brown Sugar: Lends subtle caramel notes to beer.
  • White Table Sugar: There is a rumor that adding this to beer will lead to cider-like flavors, and there is also evidence to suggest that this is not the case. When I've used it, I've detected no off flavors.
All of these will boost the alcohol content of a beer, lighten its body, and dry out some of the sweetness.

I've used most of these in Tripels, as well as Turbinado sugar in a recent one.  The clear candi sugars and corn sugar don't contribute anything I can detect to the flavor.  The same for white table sugar as best I can tell.

Because I'm wanting my Tripel to come out with less dryness than many of the examples of the style, I think I'll reduce the adjunct amount used. It's common in Belgian style recipes for sugars to make up 15% of the fermentables. I'm going to aim for a much lower percentage, and try to stick with a fermentable that will contribute something to the flavor.  That means probably Golden Candi Syrup, Demerara Sugar, or Orange Blossom Honey... but not very much of any of them.

Spices and Flavorings

I didn't see too many spices or flavorings in Tripel recipes, but I did see:
  • Bitter Orange Beel
  • Fresh Pink Grapefruit (in primary)
  • Coriander
  • Pepper
  • Sweet Orange Peel
I can imagine orange peel helping with the flavor profile I'm looking for, and probably coriander. I am less sure about pepper or grapefruit.  I won't rule them out, though.

I'm thinking a mix of bitter and sweet orange peel would be good, with a very small amount of coriander and perhaps some grains of paradise (which impart peppery flavors).

Yeasts

Where a yeast strain could be identified in the recipes I examined, it was usually one of the following:
  • Wyeast 3522 Ardennes (said to add a citrus/pepper flavor)
  • Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity
  • Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey
  • White Labs WLP500 Belgian Abbey
  • Fermentis Safbrew T-58
I've not used the Ardennes strain in a Tripel. The author of that particular recipe claims that it delivers an ideal flavor complement to the beer, so I'll have to check it out.

Recipe Formulation

Putting all this together, I think my first Tripel recipe for 2018 will be something like this:
  • 7 pounds Belgian Pilsen Malt (a good light base)
  • 8 ounces Munich Light Malt (a little sweetness)
  • 4 ounces Carapils/Dextrine Malt (head retention)
  • 2.5 ounces Melanoidin Malt (head retention)
  • 2 ounces Aromatic Malt (malty flavor and aroma)
  • 2 ounces Biscuit Malt (bready, malty flavor)
  • 8 ounces Golden Candi Syrup, dissolved in the wort post-boil
  • 0.25 ounces Target hops @ 11.5% AA (60 min.)
  • 0.25 ounces Styrian Goldings @ 5.5% AA (15 min.)
  • 0.50 ounces Mandarina Bavaria @ 8.5% AA (5 min.)
  • 0.10 ounces Czech Saaz @ 5% AA (5 min.)
  • 0.10 ounces Target @ 11.5% AA (5 min.)
  • 0.50 ounces Sweet Orange Peel (3 min.)
  • 0.50 ounces Bitter Orange Peel (3 min.)
  • 0.15 ounces crushed Coriander (3 min.)
  • 0.25 tsp. Super Irish Moss
  • 0.25 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
  • Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes yeast
This is for a Picobrew Zymatic 2.5 gallon batch.  The Zymatic web site says that this should produce a beer with the following characteristics:
  • Original Gravity: 1.083 SG (actual was 1.071 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.022 SG
  • IBUs: 22
  • BU/GU Ratio: 0.265 (actual is 0.310)
  • SRM: 7
  • ABV: 8%
  • Starting Water Needed: 3.3 gallons
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was 2.25 gallons)
I used a modified version of the Zymatic high-efficiency mash schedule, which ran as follows:
  • Dough in at 102F for 15 minutes
  • Mash step 1 at 113F for 10 minutes
  • Mash step 2 at 122F for 15 minutes
  • Mash step 3 at 145F for 20 minutes
  • Mash step 4 at 155F for 45 minutes
  • Mash out at 175F for 10 minutes
The boil schedule was set to:
  • 60 minutes: Target hops
  • 15 minutes: Styrian Goldings hops
  • 10 minutes: Sweet Orange Peel, Bitter Orange Peel, Coriander, Yeast Nutrient, Super Irish Moss
  • 5 minutes: Target, Mandarina Bavaria, Czech Saaz
  • Candi Syrup was added after the boil, prior to chilling
Post-Brew Notes

06/16/2018: The Zymatic appeared to get clogged at some point during the mash. The grain bed didn't flood during mash out, and when it switched from "mash out" to "heat to boil" it halted with Error Code 1. When I tried to restart it, it got the same error. After that, I powered the Zymatic off and unplugged it briefly. After plugging it back in and powering it on, I was able to get it to begin the "heat to boil" stage. The Zymatic seemed to have trouble getting the wort up to boiling temperature. When it finally reached boiling, the temperature fluctuated for quite a while before stabilizing. I assume it must have cleared the blockage at that point as the rest of the brew finished without error.

The gravity of the finished wort was low (1.071 versus the expected 1.083), as was the volume. I suspect that this was related to the possible blockage in the system, as it may have prevented full conversion of the wort. A few hours after pitching the yeast, I began seeing the gravity drop. Since the Ardennes strain is rated for temperatures between 65F and 76F, I'll be keeping an eye on it for the next few days. Since pitching, the wort has dropped from 73F to 70F. Gravity has dropped from 1.071 to 1.068 SG. This seems to indicate that the yeast is happy in its new home.

Brew House Efficiency for this batch worked out to 48.8%, which is abysmal. The most likely cause is some blockage in the lines within the Zymatic that prevented it from being able to flow wort through the grain bed well during the mash. I ended up running multiple cleaning and rinsing cycles through it to ensure that the blockages are worked out of it. The brew I did the following week did not exhibit the issues seen with this batch, so hopefully a re-brew of this recipe in the future would yield a higher gravity.

06/17/2018: The yeast has been an impressive worker. Gravity has dropped from 1.071 SG to 1.038 in a little over 24 hours. That's 45% attenuation and 4.2% ABV in about 24 hours. Temperature dropped to a low of 70F overnight and is currently at 77F, just above the recommended top-end temperature for the yeast. I've read that it does fine in temperatures as high as 82F, so I'm going to let it free-ferment as long as it stays below that temperature.

06/18/2018: The yeast has continued to work its way through the fermentables. Gravity is down to 1.021 SG today and the temperature has dropped down to 71F. That is the final gravity I expected it to reach, so it's on target to finish as expected. A sample removed from the fermenter had a nice gold color, a fruity and slighly clove-like aroma, and a dry, fruity flavor to it. It could turn out quite well.

06/21/2018: The gravity is currently reading as 1.017 SG (77.1% attenuation and 7.1% ABV) and has been reading that figure since about 6am this morning. If that continues, as I suspect it will, I'll be treating it with gelatin and chilling it this weekend to brighten it up before bottling.

06/23/2018: The gravity is now reading 1.013 SG and 68F. It's held this gravity since about 5pm Friday, so it will need to hold that for a couple more days before I'm willing to move it to a refrigerator to brighten.

6/24/2018: I bloomed some gelatin in distilled water, then heated it to 158F before tossing it into the fermenter. I then moved the fermenter into my mini-fridge to brighten before bottling. At the time the beer went into the mini-fridge, the Tilt Hydrometer was reading 1.013 SG and 68F. When it comes out, I expect the gravity to read the same, but the temperature to be about 38F. I'm expecting to bottle it Thursday or Friday evening, depending on how clear it's gotten.

07/01/2018: The beer was bottled today, with four or five small carbonation drops per bottle (the number of drops used determined by the strength/thickness of the bottle). Yield was 23 bottles. A sample of the leftover flat beer had a good flavor. I'm hopeful the finished beer will as well. We'll know in a week or two. The bottles were placed in a 76F "hot box" to carbonate.

07/15/2018: The beer didn't carbonate at first, and had to be flipped upside down daily for a few days. Today it was clearly carbonated well enough to serve, so I removed it from the hot box in preparation for labeling.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Tripel Karmeliet Clone v3.0 (Tripel Karmenohio 3.0)

The finished beer
My last attempt at a Tripel Karmeliet clone used what was purportedly the actual recipe from the 1600's. The beer came out darker, heavier-bodied, and far less lemony than the actual Bosteels product. This time around, I reduced the amount of wheat and oat in the mash, and included some Simplicity candi sugar to further lighten the body. To amp up the lemony flavor, I've used a mix of Hallertau Mittelfruh and Lemondrop hops, added lemon peel, and a small amount of coriander.

The last time around, the Zymatic had trouble dealing with the grain bill for the beer (which was a full 9 pounds - the device's upper limit). Dropping a half pound of oats and a pound of wheat got the grain bill down a bit. The gravity should come out about the same, since I've added the candi syrup to the mash water (to give it a chance to caramelize during the boil).

I edited the mash schedule to dough in at 113F, which hopefully will provide several benefits. At this temperature, Ferulic Acid will be created, which can help some yeasts express their full flavor profile. This temperature is also helpful for increasing the extraction from the wheat (and possibly also the oat), and for releasing free amino nitrogen to aid in fermentation. I also adjusted the rest of the mash schedule to mimic that used by Orval, using a first step at 142F for 15 minutes, followed by a step at 154F for 25 minutes, then a step at 162F for 30 minutes, followed by mash out at the Zymatic's default 175F.  I even added a quarter teaspoon of amylase enzyme to the mash to help improve conversion. I'm hoping to do much better than the previous 54% brew house efficiency last time around.

I also added yeast nutrient to help the yeast survive and thrive in its new home once pitched. Combined with the rest at 113F and other changes, I'm hoping it's a very well-converted and fermentable malt.

Ingredients

6 pounds Belgian Pilsen Malt
1 pound Briess White Wheat Malt
8 ounces Quaker Flaked Oats
1 pound Simplicity Clear Candi Syrup (added to starting water)
0.50 ounces Lemon Drop hops @ 5.2% AA (20 min.)
0.50 ounces Lemon Drop hops @ 5.2% AA (10 min.)
0.50 ounces Lemon Peel (10 min.)
0.25 teaspoon Yeast Nutrient (6 min.)
0.75 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh @ 3.8% AA (6 min.)
0.15 ounces Crushed Indian Coriander (6 min.)
0.25 teaspoon Amylase Enzyme (in grain section of step filter)
3 gallons plus 48 ounces of starting water in keg
1 packet White Labs Sweet Mead Yeast WLP720

Mash Schedule (modified PicoBrew "High-Efficiency Mash Profile":
  • Mash In at 113F for 20 minutes
  • Mash Step 1 at 142F for 20 minutes
  • Mash Step 2 at 154F for 25 minutes
  • Mash Step 3 at 162F for 30 minutes
  • Mash Out at 175F for 20 minutes
Boil Schedule
  • 60 minutes: No additions
  • 20 minutes: 0.5 ounces Lemon Drop hops
  • 10 minutes: 0.5 ounces Lemon Drop hops, plus lemon peel
  • 6 minutes: 0.15 ounces Coriander plus 0.75 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh
  • 5 minutes: Lemon Peel
According to the PicoBrew recipe crafter, the beer should have the following characteristics:
  • Original Gravity: 1.085 SG
  • Final Gravity: 1.020 SG
  • IBUs: 15
  • SRM: 4
  • ABV: 8.5%
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons
After brewing, the following measurements were recorded:
  • Original Gravity: 1.086 SG (20.1 Brix)
  • Volume: 2.4 gallons
  • Brew House Efficiency: 62.7%
The choice of the Sweet Mead Yeast rather than a Belgian ale yeast was driven by the Candi Syrup Inc. recipe for a Karmeliet clone, as well as some forum postings suggesting that this yeast produced a flavor profile similar to the real beer. Other yeast strains suggested were Wyeast Forbidden Fruit and White Labs WLP500. I may try those if this recipe doesn't come out as intended.

Post-Brewing Notes

When I last brewed this recipe, the step filter overflowed and wasted a fair amount of the wort. I suspected that part of that was due to the fact that the grist includes both wheat and oats, which can cause a stuck mash. Normally, adding rice hulls is a good way to prevent that, but I wondered if a simpler solution would do the trick. I took a kettle trub filter, covered one end of it with muslin cloth to make it essentially a filtering tube. I placed it so that it provided a channel all the way through the grain bed, as you can somewhat see in the image below (the dark spot near the front of the tray, sitting at an angle, is the tube):


The tube may have helped, as there was no foam-over or spillage on this batch, but that could also have been due to the smaller grist.  

I also added some amylase to the grist to help the starches convert during the mash. I don't know if it helped, but the previous batch had a brew house efficiency of 54.2% while this batch managed 62.7% efficiency. Those are not great numbers, but 9 pounds of grain down to 7.5 was probably a big factor as well, as the Zymatic seems to do better with smaller grain bills.

06/10/2018: By midnight, I heard signs of airlock activity, which was earlier than I expected to hear any. Then again, the mash schedule, yeast nutrient, and good aeration all make for very good yeast growth conditions - so perhaps the yeast are just happy in their new home. A taste of the wort when the original gravity reading was taken yielded a clear but pleasant lemon character. If this carries through to the finished beer, we may have a winner.

06/11/2018: The Tilt is reporting that the beer's gravity has dropped from 1.086 SG to 1.059 SG. The temperature has dropped from 74F at pitching to a low of 71F and back up to 75F at this writing, which is the top end of the yeast's ideal range.

06/12/2018: Last night, the beer briefly reached 76F. At the time, I wrapped a damp towel around the stainless fermenter. Soon it dropped back down to 75F and later 74F. Today, the gravity is down to 1.046 SG and the temperature is 68F now. Since the yeast works best between 70F and 75F, I attached a fermwrap heater to keep it at 71F for the next three days, then raise it to 75F.

06/13/2018: The heat wrap and temperature controller have kept the beer at a near-constant 71F since I attached it yesterday. The gravity has dropped from 1.046 SG yesterday to 1.034 SG as of this writing. That represents 59.6% attenuation and a current ABV of 6.7%. The gravity began leveling off around 4pm yesterday, but is continuing to drop. The expected final gravity for this batch is 1.020 SG, which is just 14 points away from its current gravity. If the last 24 hours are any indicator, gravity should drop to around 1.029 SG tomorrow, and reach 1.020 SG some time on Friday. We'll need about three days to ensure that this is the terminal gravity, which means bottling probably won't happen before Monday unless the yeast is finished sooner.

06/14/2018: The gravity is down to 1.030 SG as of this writing, sometimes dipping down to the 1.029 SG I expected to see tonight. I've adjusted the fermentation temperature controller to raise the temperature up to 74F for the rest of fermentation, to give the yeast a chance to finish out. A sample pulled from the fermenter was a very pale cloudy straw color, reminiscent of the real Tripel Karmeliet. The aroma was slightly fruity, and vaguely citrus-like. The flavor at this point is pleasant, with only the vaguest hint of lemon. Since the yeast is still active, there was a bit of sulfur as well. While it's definitely thinner-bodied than the last version, it isn't light-bodied by any means.

06/15/2018: The gravity is down to 1.029 and has been holding at this figure since earlier today despite the temperature being increased into the yeast's upper range. The Raspberry Pi doing the monitoring apparently crashed early this morning and stopped monitoring around 8 am. Despite that, the gravity hasn't changed for several hours. Fermentation might be nearly finished.

06/16/2018: The gravity has held steady at 1.029 SG now since 11pm Thursday (6/14). The temperature has varied between 74F and 77F, which is near or above the top end of the yeast's recommended fermentation range. I'm hoping this will allow it to ferment out any remaining sugars before cold-crashing and bottling.

06/17/2018: Today, after seeing no change in gravity or airlock activity for three days, I bottled the beer using five small carbonation tablets ("high carbonation") per bottle. Yield was 26 bottles. Somewhere around 6/24 we should have some idea how this recipe is shaping up.

06/24/2018: The beer is nicely carbonated now and any trace of diacetyl or other off flavors related to carbonating no longer exist. The aroma is sweet and citrusy, though it's not the nice bright lemon aroma of a real Tripel Karmeliet. My wife picked up banana and clove in the aroma, which I did not.  The body of this version is lighter than the last, getting it closer to the real Karmeliet beer, though it still seems a bit more full-bodied than a tripel should be. The flavor is malty, sweet, and fruity with a hint of lemon and coriander, though the lemon in this is more like a lemon candy where the real Karmeliet's lemon flavor is more like fresh lemon. That may be because this version is somewhat sweet, or because the Lemon Drop hops are shifting the flavor more toward candy than real lemon. Either way, this is actually a really good tripel.  If I was making this again, I think I would further dial back the wheat malt and maybe switch from Lemon Drop to another lemony hop variety.

06/25/2018:  I labeled the bottles tonight so that I can begin sharing them with friends and family.

07/03/2018:  Tonight I tried this beer on draft for the first time, and it was a very different experience from the bottled version. This recipe is actually very close to the draft version of Tripel Karmeliet, although very different from the bottled version.