Monday, July 28, 2008

Saint Phillipe- Belgian Dubbel

As I started getting into the whole process of starting to brew at home, I had discussed it quite a bit with my dad (reformed Busch drinker...sort of). He had expressed some interest in brewing as well, so for Christmas last year, I got him an IPA kit from Northern Brewer (since he lives in the Pacific Northwest, I thought if he didn't brew something hoppy, they'd never let him brew again). He's really gotten into it, to the point that some of my rantings on the phone influenced him to try brewing a couple of Belgians. I don't know that he'd ever tried a Belgian before brewing one, but he did it any way. So in the spirit of doing things even if you don't really know what you're doing, I give you Saint Phillipe.

Saint Phillipe Dubbel-

Belgian Pilsner- 8 lbs
Dark Munich- 2 lbs
Carapils- 4 oz
Special B- 2 oz
Belgian Candi Sugar (clear)- 1 lb into the boil

Sterling- 1 oz- 60 minutes
Vanguard- 1 oz- 10 minutes

Wyeast Belgian Abbey Ale 2- 1200 ml starter

129/151/167 decoction mash out

So the recipe is pretty straightforward as far as a Dubbel goes for the grains. A nice base of the pilsner malts with some dark Munich to give it some color. Cara pils for some head retention (most Belgian beers seem to want to try to see how patient you are if you decide to wait for the head to subside), and a touch of Special B, a classic Belgian Dubbel ingredient to provide a hint of raisin flavor/aroma. I threw the sugar in right at the beginning of the boil to try and squeeze a little color out from caramelizing the sugars to counter act the fact that I only had clear instead of a darker sugar. The recipe departs from traditional Dubbels with the hops. Belgian brewers are always harping on using what you've got, and these two new style hops are what I had. I didn't set out to brew a clone, so I'm not going to worry about what a judge would say about it.

The brewing went pretty smoothly for the most part. My lautering had a few of the old problems creep up again, but I managed it, and came out with a very respectable 80% efficiency from the mash. That's the third time in a row that that has happened, so I may want to adjust my recipes a little to account for it.

I did this beer on Saturday, so fermentation is well under way. In fact, the first night, it got so violent that the carboy cap shot off. It was still pumping out CO2 at a pretty good clip on Sunday when I got around to fixing it, so I'm not terribly concerned about an infection. I guess that's what happens when you make a big beer and pitch a big starter. I guess you could say I've now tried my hand at open fermentation. If only I had done it in a bucket, I could have also tried top cropping some yeast. All I'd have left is to take vows of silence, chastity, and poverty (so far I'm only working on one out of three), and I'd be ready to move to Westmalle.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Wedding Saison

Two of Kerry’s friends (and now, by extension, also my friends) are getting married soon. Possibly this coming weekend. I should know this, but do not. John Pat and Lara are really nice people, who have also given me some nice reviews of beers I’ve made earlier. John Pat really likes Belgians, so as part of their wedding present, I made a special Saison for them.

Most of my beers so far this year have been pretty bare bones as far as the grain bill goes. The idea being to get good at doing simple beers, and let the yeast do the work. The result has been some decent, and one really good one (the Rye Ale). I think the main problem has been an overall lack of complexity. For example, my first Saison was tasty, but somehow…thin. My tendency has been to use at least a full pound of every grain that I use, as I can’t really buy less than a pound of any one thing, so it's kind of tough to get the different tastes and aspects that you look for in certain grains. The beers need a little something extra, and this special occasion calls for a beer that is a culmination of what I’ve learned in my all grain brewing up to this point.

The Wedding Saison-

Belgian Pilsner- 8 lbs
Cara Pils- 4 oz
Vienna Malt- 8 oz
Faucetts Crystal 40- 4 oz

New Zealand Hallertau- 1.25 oz- 60 min
Kent Goldings (US)- 1 oz- 10 minutes (actually 9:30, but that’s nitpicking)

Wyeast Belgian Abbey Ale II- 600 ml starter

130/148/168- decoction for the mash out

I think this could well be my best beer yet. The grains are all among the sort that would easily be procured by classic brewers of the style. I’ve switched up a few times in the past to the detriment of my brews. The hops are not Belgian per se, but they are acceptable substitutes, given the current hop purchasing situation. The yeast is the same one I’ve used for my previous Belgian efforts.

I brewed this on Friday, and as I write this, the primary fermentation has basically finished. I would say the brew day itself was probably the smoothest I’ve ever had. I’ve basically solved my stuck sparge problems, I hit all my temps nicely, and basically after dough in, it was all very methodical. It was also the first time that my target gravity in the fermenter was exactly what I was aiming for, a solid 1.047.

Big thanks to my brewing assistant, Kathy McGraw (Kerry’s mom). She was in town for the 4th, and was very interested in how you turn a sack of grain into beer. Curiously, she was nowhere to be seen when it was time to clean up (joking), but I was grateful for the help.