Sunday, May 24, 2009


The Belgian Dubbel is probably one of my favorite styles to drink, and to brew. It's got everything in it, although to be fair, probably not a hop head style. The malts are upfront, the Belgian yeast gets free reign to express itself, and there's the signature dark candi syrup to boost the alcohol and keep it light. Seriously. If you stuck me on a deserted island for the rest of my life, and the only beer I had access to was Chimay Red, I'd probably be cool with that.

Also: I really enjoy using Special B for some reason.

Belgian Pale Malt- 7 lbs.
Munich Malt Dark- 2 lbs.
Special B- 12 oz.
Aromatic- 4 oz.
Homemade Candy Dark Candi Syrup- 1 lb.

American Kent Goldings- 1 oz.- 60 minutes
Mount Hood- .875 oz.- 14 minutes

Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale- yeast cake from the Belgian Pale Ale batch

151/165- Hot water infusions

Gravity- Target/Actual/Final/ABV-

There are a few departures from the previous versions I did. I changed the Vienna malt to Dark Munich which should give it a hint of roastiness along with a little extra color (my previous versions turned out orange as opposed to a deep brown that I had been shooting for). New hops, new yeast, but the best part was the sugar. Belgian candi sugar at a homebrew shop is tremendously expensive (something like $5 for a pound), and the candi syrup that they use in Belgium is even worse (more like $9). I've read up quite a bit about it, and every source seemed to say that these were basically cooked up versions of regular sugar that you can buy at the grocery store for a few bucks for a five pound bag. In Brew Like a Monk, Stan Hieronymus even talked to a brewer who had an analysis done by Archer Daniels Midland, and they told him it was regular sugar, so just buy sugar. So I cooked this one up myself. The result so far: I am never buying sugar at the homebrew store again. It took a little longer to cook up than I was expecting, but I got a nice dark color out without roasting it. All for less than a dollar.

A very successful brew day, and I'm very much looking forward to tasting this. My last one I did for Thanksgiving last year didn't have as much time in the bottle to condition, so I want to see what the yeast can do with a proper long storage period.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Single- Belgian Pale Ale

This beer is the first in my Gay Beers 2009 series. As I said in my last post, my plan is to do three successive beers on the same yeast, each getting stronger and bigger. It's a page out of Ted's book, and he brews some damn good beers, so I'm guessing it'll be a success. I'm not bothering with names for these, so this one is simply called the Single.

The Single-

Belgian Pilsner Malt- 6 pounds
Munich Malt- 2 pounds
Cara Pils- 8 ounces
Belgian Aromatic- 8 ounces

Fuggles- 1 ounce- 60 minutes
Simcoe- .875 ounces- 15 minutes

Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale- pitched straight from a smack pack

151/168- Hot water infusions

Gravity- Target/Actual/Final/ABV

I was so pumped to start brewing my Belgian beers this year. I love the spicy beery deliciousness they bring to my belly. I hadn't brewed this style before, so I turned to Michael Jackson (the other one) for most of my recipe notes. Pilsner Malt for most of the gravity. Munich for a little extra kick, sweetness and color. Cara Pils for some body, and Aromatic for...umm, I forget, but I'm sure it'll add something. My plan was to use Fuggles all the way through (more on that in a minute), but I'm interested to see what the Belgian yeast will do with the Simcoe's, which are really a classic western IPA hop. And of course, the lovely yeast. I am always so impressed with what flavors and aromas a Belgian yeast can squeeze out of what you throw in a carboy. I picked the Strong Ale yeast partly because I hadn't used it before, and partly because the successive beers I'll be making with it will be pretty high octane, especially the tripel. Lower pitching rates tend to add esters to a beer, so I deliberately pitched without a starter to maximize the effect.

Most of brewing at this point is a lot of waiting around, which is great, because there is loads of free beer, and that means there's plenty of time for drinking some while I'm watching the beer brew itself. Most of what needs to be done is in the last fifteen minutes. I had been waiting for a repair guy to show up at the house for several hours, and of course, he decided to pull up 18 minutes before the end of the boil. I was dry hopping an IPA, and had two varieties of hops on my table. Of course, instead of throwing 1 ounce of low alpha acid spicy Fuggles in at the fifteen minute mark, I threw in 7/8 of an ounce of high alpha acid fruity Simcoe. Needless to say, I was pretty upset for about an hour. Which is when I ran into Chris from Three Floyds. While our dogs sniffed each others backsides, we discussed the recipe, and my mistake. His response was that is exactly the sort of thing they would do at his brewery. Apparently, Fuggles and Simcoe go well together, and are complementary when blending. So there you go. Happy accidents.

Next up: The Dubble

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gay beers

If you've seen the movie "In Bruges," you will know exactly what "gay beer" stands for. If you haven't seen it, you should (this means you Grandma).

In the film, one of the main characters keeps referring to Belgian beers as gay beers, and his beloved English Pale Ales as regular beers. Truth is, the gay beers are the best beers (I know of at least 7 Germans who will be seriously disappointed by that statement, but it's true). My buddy Ed said before I brewed my first beer something to the effect that brewing is all about making a nice environment for your yeast. Belgian beers are about the character of the yeast driving the flavor and aromas more than any other. And despite the strict nature of the guidelines for beers in general, I feel like I have the most freedom to experiment with these.

Brewing here is highly contingent on temperature control of fermentation, of which I have none. So it's all seasonal. Belgian yeasts have a tendency to be able to deal with higher temperatures, so it is the time of year where Brauerie LaVoy turns into Brasserie LaVoy. Where I go from making Bölkstoff to making something a bit finer.

I'm going to do my gay beers in two parts. Ted has been doing series of beers with the same yeast, and I will try something similar here. The first part will be a series of Abbey style Belgian Ales, a single, a dubbel and a tripel. The second will be a series of Saisons. Some of what I'll be doing will be building on what I've done before. I've done a couple of dubbels, and a couple of Saisons. The overall approach will change a bit. Instead of expensive candi sugars from the home brew store for the higher octane brews, I will be using sugar concoctions that I cook up on my stove. I'm going to experiment with some different grains for the Saisons, especially with spelt (which is an heirloom varietal of wheat).

Needless to say, I am really excited about this. I was driving Kerry crazy last week mulling over whether to start these beers last weekend or not. I decided to wait, because I wanted to be fully ready for these. GAY BEERS!