Sunday, October 28, 2018

Belgian Golden Strong Ale 1.0

The finished beer
There are few Belgian beer styles that I haven't tried to brew. The Golden Strong Ale is one of those. It's a fairly basic style in terms of the ingredients. It's pilsner malt, sugar, Styrian Goldings hops, and Czech Saaz hops. The yeast should deliver fruity esters but not too many spicy phenols.

According to the Wyeast web site, Wyeast 1762 is one of the recommended strains for Belgian Golden Strong Ales. Their web site says that it's a relatively clean fermenter that produces dried fruit esters when fermented at higher temperatures or in a high-gravity wort. Wyeast 1388 is their recommended choice for the style, but 1762 is also recommended. Since I happened to have 1762 on-hand, I used it.


6.75 pounds of Swaen Pilsner Malt
1.72 pounds of Corn Sugar (dissolved in starting water
3.5 gallons of starting water
1.1 ounces of Styrian Celeia hops @ 2.8% AA (60 min.)
1.1 ounces of Styrian Goldings hops @ 2.8% AA (7 min.)
1.1 ounces of Czech Saaz hops @ 3.0% AA (6 min.)
1/2 vial of White Labs Clarity Ferm
1 packet of Wyeast 1762 past its expiration, raised up in two 1 liter starters

According to the PicoBrew Recipe Crafter, this beer should have the following characteristics:
  • BJCP Style: 25.C Belgian Golden Strong Ale
  • Original Gravity: 1.087 SG (1.074 SG actual)
  • Final Gravity: 1.022 SG (1.010 SG actual - as of 11/1/2018)
  • IBU: 22
  • SRM: 4
  • ABV: 8.5% (8.3% actual - as of 11/1/2018)
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons
The mash schedule for this batch is a modified version of the PicoBrew High-Efficiency Mash Profile, intended to take care of beta glucans and maybe dial up ferulic acid for the yeast:
  • Dough In at 102F for 20 minutes
  • Mash at 120F for 15 minutes (beta glucan and ferulic acid)
  • Mash at 149F for 60 minutes
  • Mash at 152F for 30 minutes
  • Mash Out at 175F for 10 minutes
The boil schedule:
  • 90 minutes: No hops additions (although a 90-minute boil might not be needed to drive off the DMS that's common from pilsner malt, I figured it might help increase the original gravity and give the beer a chance to drop a little clearer)
  • 65 minutes: Styrian Goldings
  • 7 minutes: Styrian Goldings
  • 6 minutes: Czech Saaz
The planned fermentation schedule:
  • Chill to 65F after brewing
  • Free-rise from 65F to "as high as" 80F (the yeast's optimum is 65-75F)
  • When gravity reaches 1.025 SG or lower, raise temp to 75F and hold there until gravity stops dropping.
Bottling will be with 5 carbonation drops per bottle (high carbonation).

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

10/27/2018: The Zymatic glitched a bit during the mash, with the temperature rising to 150F and then suddenly dropping down to 149F before bouncing back up to the 149F it was supposed to be. Whatever happened seemed to self-correct before I got to it to check on it. 

When I went down to check on it during mash out, I found a surprise. It had apparently overflowed the step filter, the drip tray, and leaked around the two plastic bins I'd put under the drip tray to catch any overflow. One of those plastic bins had about an inch of wort in it. The other had none. There was wort across part of the table top, dripping onto the floor, running across the basement floor, under a trash can and shelving unit, and puddled near the drain. Apparently quite a lot of wort had leaked while I was away from the machine. It even looked like some wort might have been dripping out of the machine itself. I spent quite a while mopping that mess up.

Original gravity registered as 1.074 SG and the starting temperature was 74F. I drained most of the wort from a 1 liter starter, then swirled the rest and added it to the fermenter. I'm hoping there's enough live yeast to ferment the beer. We'll find out soon. If not, I have a fresh package I can use.

10/28/2018: The yeast appears to have grown in the starter (or been supplemented/replaced with wild yeast) as the gravity has been dropping steadily since about 3 hours after the yeast slurry was pitched. As of this writing, it's down to 1.052 SG from the initial 1.074 SG. That's roughly 30% attenuation and 2.9% ABV in under 24 hours.

10/29/2018: The gravity is now down to 1.033 SG and continues to decline. That's roughly 53% attenuation and 5.1% ABV in about 48 hours.

10/30/2018: The gravity is down to 1.016 SG. I raised the temp to 76F to get it to finish out fully.

10/31/2018:  The gravity has dropped to 1.012 SG today, and the temp is down to 73F. That's 82.2% attenuation and 7.9% ABV.

11/1/2018:  The gravity is down to 1.010 SG. That's 86.3% attenuation and 8.3% ABV. It looks like the gravity may finally be bottoming out.

11/3/2018: Gravity is down to 1.008 SG, which represents 89% attenuation and 8.5% ABV.

11/4/2018: Since I have it on-hand and have never used it, I decided to add Biofine Clear to this batch to see if it will drop nice and bright for me. I added a teaspoon to start, and may add more if needed later.

11/08/2018: I moved the fermenter into my mini-fridge to cold-crash and clear up.

11/14/2018: The fermenter was removed from the mini fridge and the beer bottled using five small carbonation tablets per bottle (high carbonation). The bottles were moved to my 76F hot box to carbonate.

12/13/2018: Tonight, I chilled and poured a bottle of the beer, as seen in the photo at the top of the post. Here are my tasting notes, in an approximation of BJCP scoring format.

  • Aroma (7/12): Mix of fruity, caramel, and hoppy notes. Lacks the peppery and perfumy notes typical of the style.
  • Appearance (1/3): Gold color with spotty lacing. Head isn't very long-lasting and not as effervescent as it could be. Cloudy rather than clear, which the style calls for. Gelatin finings might fix that. 
  • Flavor (14/20): Fruity and citrusy with a clear hop bitterness. Warming alcohol presence that gives it a peppery note. 
  • Mouthfeel (3/5): Medium bodied, a touch creamy. Not as effervescent as the style normally should be. Alcohol warmth is present but not intense.
  • Overall Impression (6/10): The lower carbonation, lack of clarity, and a hint of diacetyl take away from what is otherwise a good Belgian Golden Strong. Needs a bit more peppery notes i the aroma and maybe a perfumy yeast or hop. That said, the flavor is pretty good otherwise. It's a bit sweet, fruity, slightly hop-forward, with warming alcohol notes. 
  • Total: 31/50
I think the following changes are needed in version 2.0:
  • Increase the amount of corn sugar to lighten the body a little and reduce the sweetness some.
  • Switch to a different yeast to see if we can get the perfumy and fruity aroma notes right.
  • Use gelatin finings to clarify the beer.
  • Increase the priming sugar to improve the carbonation.
  • Add in some Carapils to improve head retention, and maybe a touch of melanoidin.
05/12/2019:  It turns out that the bottling wand used to fill the bottles with this beer was infected by an unknown strain of bacteria. The entire batch had to be dumped. Every bottle gushed its contents out after opening.  Worse, the affected wand was the one I used most often, so most of the batches I've brewed in the past year were infected at bottling and have had to be trashed.

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