Monday, October 13, 2008

St Phillipe Dubbel, Part two

I was given a copy of The Brewmaster's Table recently. It's got some beautiful photography in it, but that had been about as far as I'd gotten until a week ago. We're having Thanksgiving at our house this year, and it occured to me that it would be the perfect time to start delving into food/beer pairings. And luckily for me, turkey goes best with the types of beer I've been working on brewing the most: Belgians.

My St. Phillipe Dubbel that I did a while back turned out pretty good, but needed some tinkering. I had previously said that I like the Wyeast Abbey Ale II yeast, but having brewed a few beers with it, I kind of revised my opinion. It comes from a Trappist brewery, so it's obvious that you can make good beer with it, but it seemed to bring certain flavors to the fore that I wanted in the background, and vice versa. I had said that my first Saison tasted somehow kind of thin, and I had chalked this up to the large amount of Acidulated Malt that I used, but when I did the Wedding Saison, it had that same sort of alcoholicky banana flavor right up front. They were decent, very drinkable beers, but I wanted something different.

St Phillipe, Part 2-

Belgian Pilsner Malt- 8 pounds
Vienna Malt- 1 pound
Belgian Aromatic- 8 ounces
Carapils- 8 ounces
Special B- 5 ounces
Dark Candy Sugar- 1 pound

Mt Hood- 1 ounce- 60 minutes
Crystal- 1 ounce- 15 minutes

Wyeast Trappist High Gravity- pitched right from the smack pack

128/150/167- Hot water infusions with a decoction mash out

So, the recipe itself saw some adjustments from the first St. Phillipe. The main reason was that I was able to actually procure some of the dark candy sugar as opposed to clear, so I substituted the Dark Munich malt with Vienna. The rest of the grains were pretty close, with an extra ounce of Special B. The hops were the same type, but I added an extra quarter ounce of Mt Hood at the 60 minute mark. The yeast is new, and for the first time, I didn't use any sort of starter. Mainly because I completely forgot to. I had read that some Belgian brewers underpitch on purpose, as it gives them some esters that they wouldn't get with the proper amount, so I will have to see how that goes. Again, this beer was done for Thanksgiving, so it'll be two weeks in the primary, two in the secondary, and three in the bottle to condition. It's not as long as I'd like to have it in the bottle before initial consumption, but time was short. I can't wait to see how this one ages, and be able to do a side by side tasting with the first version.

Brewing for me now is basically at the point where I don't need to spend too much time on the technical aspects of the brew day, which is nice. This one went so smoothly that I was able to paint our picnic table while I was brewing. And I still nailed my starting gravity exactly.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bugs in the brewhouse

That's right. I've got bugs in my brewhouse. No, this isn't a sort of Monday Night Brewery standard operating procedure type infection. I brewed me up a wild beer.

My lovely wife is, both fortunately and unfortunately, not a fan of beer. She is, however, a big fan of Framboise, specifically of the Lindemann's variety. Given that my beer brewing addiction has essentially consumed my waking thoughts for over a year now, I decided to brew something that she might like as well.

The deeper I delve into Belgian brewing, the more smitten I become. I just finished reading Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow, and it was another eye opener. As he says in the book, this sort of brewing isn't a product of a throw it in a fermenter under unsanitary conditions and let it ferment sort of idea. It's artistic, calculated, and harrowing all at the same time. Especially when you consider that it's going to be at least a year before what you brew is drinkable, and even then, you may need to blend it with a beer you are going to brew a year from now before you get a product that is good if not great. So here it is, my attempt at a Flanders Red:

Vienna Malt- 5 pounds
Flaked Maize- 2 pounds
Belgian Aromatic Malt- 8 ounces
Carahell Malt- 8 ounces
Caravienne Malt- 8 ounces
Special B- 4 ounces

Crystal- 1.25 ounces- 60 minutes

Wyeast Lambic Blend- This was a smack pack, and I pitched straight from the pack. Sparrow recommends not making a starter with yeast/Brett blends, as sometimes the quicker growing beer yeast will overwhelm the bacterias before they have a chance to get a foothold.

122/148/162/170- all hot water infusions

The grain bill was almost straight out of Wild Brews. I haven't experimented or consumed enough of this style of beer to really know my way around what to include. If anything, this will give me a good base to work off of a year from now. Doing a two hour boil should give it the classic red color. It also gave me a long time to prepare my carboy, and clean up most of the brewing equipment before I was ready to chill it.

The lag time on it was over 24 hours, which is weird if you pitch big happy starters like I usually do. I was actually starting to get little nervous when I hadn't seen any activity a full day after I brewed. The next morning though, there was a nice familiar fluff of krauesen on top. Phew!

This batch is going to get split into two when I rack to the secondary. As I stated at the beginning here, the idea was to brew something Kerry would like as well, so half of this is going to get a 2 pound charge of raspberries. The other half will get a chance to age on it's own. I'll probably bottle some of that straight up, some will be blended with other Flanders beers, and some with other sorts of beers suitable for blending.

Thanks to Ted for the inspiration to do a wild beer. I had a bottle of his Ancient Ale, and it was easily one of my favorite beers I've ever had. Also big BIG thanks to Mike for coming over to help brew. I seriously could not have managed to brew without him. Hopefully I will have a pump soon, and once my new brew setup is built, all we'll have to do is fill it full of grain and water, then sit back and watch.

As far as recent other brews go: Black Dog Stout is great. Brown Ale not so much. Seriously though, I may play with the stout a little bit, but it's delicious as is. Fresher yeast maybe. But the bitterness is just right, and the roastiness and mouthfeel are spot on. The Brown Ale needs to go back to the drawing board. Maybe a better name would improve it a bit. Age may as well. Fingers crossed.