Monday, December 17, 2018

Oak Aged La Trappe Quad Clone 1.0

Early sample of the finished beer
A couple of years ago, I received a bottle of Oak Aged La Trappe Quadrupel as a gift from a very thoughtful relative. At $15 for a 12-ounce bottle, the beer was both hard to find and hard to justify buying. It turned out to be absolutely delicious, and I've never seen a bottle since. (The Andersons near Sawmill Road carried it at the time, but they are long out of business.)

When I bottled my (non-oak-aged) La Trappe Quadrupel clone on Friday, I decided that I was pleased enough with it to try using the recipe to make a clone of the oak aged version, too. Tonight, I put the Brewie to work on it. My plan is to soak oak chips in Everclear for a few days, then add those late in the primary fermentation. When the desired oak flavor is achieved, I'll bottle the beer and give it some time to age before sharing.

This recipe is a slight change from the previous version, intended to raise the alcohol content but otherwise maintain the flavor of the original.

Ingredients

6 pounds of Belgian Pilsner Malt
3 pounds, 2 ounces of Rahr 2-row Pale Malt
8 ounces British Medium Crystal (55-60L) Malt
2 ounces Belgian Aromatic Malt
2 ounces Victory Malt (substitute for Biscuit Malt)
8 ounces of Rice Hulls
1 pound of Corn Sugar
1 Tablespoon of pH 5.2 Stabilizer
1/2 tsp. Bitter Orange Peel (20 min.)
1/2 tsp. Bitter Orange Peel (5 min.)
1/4 tsp. Coriander, crushed (20 min.)
1 packet (equivalent) Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity yeast (from a starter)
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm (for gluten removal)
0.80 ounces Styrian Celeia hops @ 2.8% AA (60 min.)
0.60 ounces Styrian Celeia hops @ 2.8% AA (20 min.)
0.60 ounces Styrian Celeia hops @ 2.8% AA (5 min.)
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient (20 min.)
4.3 gallons mash water (untreated Dublin Road tap water)
1.4 gallons sparge water (untreated Dublin Road tap water)

According to BeerSmith, the beer should have the following characteristics:

BeerSmith estimated the qualities of this beer as:
  • BJCP Style: 26.D Belgian Dark Strong Ale
  • Batch Size: 2.55 gallons (actual volume was well over 3.25 gallons, with 2.75 gallons in the fermenter and 0.50 gallons stored for future use)
  • Original Gravity: 1.105 SG estimated (actual 1.085 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.012 estimated
  • IBUs: 29.6
  • ABV: 10.9% (adjusted estimate 10.6%)
  • SRM: 13.7
Mash Schedule

I decided to run a long mash to see if I could coax a really high efficiency out of the machine. The mash schedule used was:
  • Mash in and Ferulic Acid Rest at 113F for 10 minutes
  • Mash Step 1 at 148F for 30 minutes
  • Mash Step 2 at 158F for 50 minutes
  • Sparge with 168F water
Brewie estimated that the entire brewing process would take 6.25 hours to complete. Given that I was starting it at about 5pm, that meant it would be after 11pm before it finished.

Boil Schedule

Since the recipe included Pilsner malt, it seemed worthwhile to have a longer boil to drive off any DMS the malt produced. In addition, this would help concentrate the wort if gravity came up low. I could always dilute with distilled water if it came out high.

The boil schedule:
  • 90 minutes: No additions
  • 60 minutes: 0.80 ounces Styrian Celeia
  • 20 minutes: 0.60 ounces Styrian Celeia, plus yeast nutrient, 1/4 tsp. coriander, and 1/2 tsp. bitter orange peel
  • 5 minutes: 0.60 ounces Styrian Celeia, plus 1/2 tsp. bitter orange peel
At the end of the brewing process, I asked Brewie to chill the beer to 70F after the boil. It should have no problem with that, given past experience.

Fermentation Schedule

Given the success of the last batch, I've decided to replicate that batch's (actual, vs. planned) fermentation schedule, which is:

  • Days 1-2 (Dec. 16-17): 65F
  • Day 3 (Dec. 18): 67F
  • Day 4 (Dec. 19): 71F
  • Day 5 (Dec. 20): 75F
  • Day 6 (Dec. 21) through end of Primary (est. Dec. 27-28): 76F (oak chips will be added when attenuation is around 80%)

I'll start pulling small daily samples starting around 12/21 to check the oak flavor level. When it appears to be optimal, I'll bottle the beer with 5 carbonation tablets per bottle (high carbonation).

Post-Brewing Notes and Observations

12/16/2018: At 9 pounds and 14 ounces of grain (plus 8 ounces of rice hulls), this is the largest grain bill I've used in the Brewie, and larger than anything I could have done in the Zymatic.

When I brewed the original clone batch, I split the fresh package of Wyeast 3787 between the batch of beer and a Fast Pitch Starter Wort. After 24 hours on a stir plate, I chilled the flask in the fridge, decanted off most of the clear liquid and kept the rest in a sealed jar. Tonight I split off half the contents of the jar to use for this batch, and put the other half in a fresh starter to keep myself supplied with it. If the amount I pitch into the beer turns out not to be enough, I'll use some of the fresh starter to get the beer going.

I've modified my mash and sparge water calculation sheet for the Brewie based on my recent brewing experiences with it. As with the Zymatic, I always seem to come up about a quart short when the brew is over. After adjusting the sheet, I entered the numbers for the last two batches I did and got back a result that was very close to the actual "wort in fermenter" amount.

Sadly, I've had to adjust the efficiency setting in BeerSmith down to about 50% to account for the low efficiency of the Brewie system. Adding rice hulls and adjusting to a smaller crush last time seemed to improve efficiency some, and I'm hoping this batch will get closer to my gravity and volume targets. Hitting those targets is key to repeating your results and gauging the effect of recipe changes.

11:30pm: The Brewie delivered on its promise to be finished brewing at 11:15pm. At that point it had mashed the grain, boiled the wort, and chilled it down to 70F. I had quite a surprise when I pumped the wort into the fermenter, though. Instead of 2.5 gallons, I ended up with a considerable amount more. I filled the fermenter almost to the top and pumped an unmeasured amount down the drain. I sanitized two quart jars and filled those with wort. That left 2.75 gallons in the fermenter. The gravity of this wort was 1.085 SG, considerably lowed than expected. The question now is whether this was a problem with the calibration of the machine's weight sensors, or a miscalculation in my updated spreadsheet.

I pitched the yeast into the wort and connected the temperature control system, setting it to 65F. I'll have it hold that temperature until Tuesday night (assuming the fermentation is well underway by then).

12/17/2018: The Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity yeast has a reputation for slow starts and explosive fermentation. There was no change in gravity for about 10 hours after pitching some of my reserved and re-grown yeast from the original package. As of this writing, gravity has dropped from 1.085 SG down to 1.078. There is a thick krausen on the beer and the blow-off tube is constantly bubbling in the water bucket. The temperature control system is keeping a consistent 65F as planned. Tomorrow night I'll bump that up to 67F.

12/18/2018: The yeast is going nuts at this point. It's blown enough into the blow-off tube that large sections of it are tan (yeast) colored and the water in the blow-off jar is milky white. Gravity is down to 1.051 SG. I raised the temperature to 67F to help coax the yeast along. Tomorrow night, I'll bump it up to 71F.

12/19/2018: Gravity is registering 1.050 SG today. The temperature has been increased to 68F to keep nudging the yeast along.

12/21/2018: Gravity is down to 1.028 SG today. To help encourage the yeast to keep going, I've raised the temp to 75F.

12/22/2018: Gravity is reading 1.030 SG now.

12/23/2018: Gravity is now down to 1.026 SG.

12/28/2018: Gravity had dropped to 1.019 SG and held there for a while. I transferred the beer to a sanitized secondary fermenter into which I placed a quarter ounce of plain oak chips and a quarter ounce of brandy barrel chips (inside a sanitized stainless steel dry-hop container) to begin the "barrel aging" phase.

12/30/2018: A sample extracted from the fermenter had a decent blend of oak and brandy flavors combined with the Quadrupel itself. I'm hopeful that with another day or two of aging we'll hit a good flavor profile and be able to bottle it.

12/31/2018: Gravity is reading 1.024 SG, which is up from its low of 1.1019 on 12/28/2018 when I transferred it to secondary with the oak chips.

1/4/2019: Gravity has held at 1.024 SG. I've been tasting the beer daily, to see how the flavor is coming along. It's good today, but it seems like it might be starting to pick up some tannins, so it it may be time to bottle soon.

1/6/2019: I rehydrated some CBC-1 bottle conditioning yeast and added some leftover wort to it along with a pinch of yeast nutrient. When it began to krausen, I added five small carbonation tablets to each bottle and a pipette full of the yeast slurry, then capped the bottle. After it was capped, I turned it up and down a couple of times before placing it in a 76F "hot box" to carbonate.

1/12/2019: Today I chilled and poured a sample of the finished beer (see photo at the top of the post). Although the carbonation was a bit lackluster for a Belgian style beer, it was at least carbonated. I suspect the beer needs a bit longer to age and finish conditioning. Regardless, here are my initial thoughts on it:
  • Appearance:  Cloudy, orangey gold color with thin beige head that doesn't stick around long.
  • Aroma: Slightly fruity Belgian yeast "bubble gum" flavor mixed with oak and brandy.
  • Flavor:  Sweet brandy comes through initially, then oak, ending with nicely balanced fruity/malty finish that lingers pleasantly and melds with the oak.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium and honestly a little flat, but a little creamy also. Hopefully with more time in the bottle we'll get more carbonation and a better mouthfeel.
I think in a future version I would add an ounce or two of Special B malt to darken it a little, and maybe add a little complexity on the malt side. I might also consider using gelatin finings to clear it up and bottling with a fresh yeast like CBC-1 to help it carbonate.

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