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Belgian

It’s almost February, and since coming back from Chile (a few more reviews are yet to come!), I’ve already brewed three times. When I first started homebrewing, I referenced a bunch of beer blogs as sources for recipes, and while I’m grateful for the start those gave me, I’ve kind of decided that no one but myself really cares about the details of the recipes I’m brewing, so I’m not going to bother with the effort that is required in being terribly systematic about posting the recipe, review, and collating it all on a separate recipes page. Apologies if anyone actually was looking for that; but to be fair all my specialty malts are homemade and as such most of the recipes are un-replicable anyway. Mostly, I just prefer to read style profiles and reference books for inspiration.

But, it’s still nice to write about what I’ve been brewing in narrative form at least. A couple weeks ago I brewed a double mash (as always) that I split into a wild saison called Three Years’ End and my personal Sisyphean beer, Honey Sage Tripel. Three Years’ End is inspired because we’re here in Bolivia on a three year contract, which will end just under a year from now, so I wanted to brew something particularly special to celebrate when we leave, taking into account a triple theme. Gimmicky, yes, but I think it should turn out well. It has three malts (pilsner, vienna, crystal 15L), three sugar adjuncts (honey, homemade candy syrup, and turbinado/raw sugar), three starches added into the boil for the brett to eat up later (wheat starch, corn grits, and yucca starch), three hops (Cluster, Palisade, and Saaz), and three yeasts (T-58 for 3 days, Wyeast 3724 Saison for 3 weeks, and Brettanomyces Clausenii for 3 months). The Honey Sage Tripel is based on the Honey Sage Seasonal kit from Brooklyn Brewshop that was, I think, the second beer I brewed, and possibly my favorite. I’ve tried replicating with no success at least three times, but this one seems promising.

Last week was the Plurinational State holiday here in Bolivia, and I took the opportunity to try my first turbid mash and brew 8 L of lambic wort. I’ll do this again in May or so and then in August, and throughout the year I’ll blend it in a few ways to end up with an unblended Lambic, Gueuze, Faro, and fruited Lambic (obviously all young, but I’m working on a time limit). Today I racked the wort from the primary fermentation on S-33 to two 5L fermenters that have yeast cakes for Roesalare blend and Brett C. The Roesalare fermenter was recently vacated by a Dubbel that had been sitting on it for a couple months, and the Brett C fermenter housed a SMaSH beer made with pilsner and Columbus hops–it smells like pineapples and pine and I can’t wait to open a bottle of it.  As always, thanks to Jeff at Bikes Beer and Adventures for sending those to me!

Two lambics getting ready for the longer haul.

Two lambics getting ready for the longer haul.

This past Friday I brewed 5 gallons of wheat wine wort with a recent brewing friend, Pablo at his (stellar) setup. We used Brain Sparging on Brewing’s wheat wine recipe as our starting point, but with some chocolate malt thrown in for another dimension. We also bottled and mini-kegged 5 gallons of Gose (I suspect he has a legitimate claim to brewing the first Gose ever in Bolivia). Back in December, we’d tried to brew 10 gallons of a Duvel clone, but something went horribly awry with our conversion and extraction, and we ended up with a wort that was around 1.060 instead of 1.080. We cut some corners and didn’t bother to cool it quickly, came back the next day and it was obviously infected–but, we pitched the Wyeast 1344 yeast to see what happened anyway. Yesterday we bottled a couple gallons of it and put the rest in secondary, and it’s utterly delicious. I finally tried Duvel while I was in Chile, and while it was a great beer, I can’t say I understand the universal acclaim; tripels and golden strongs are some of my favorite styles, but I failed to see why Duvel gets that extra bit of love. Granted, Chile’s pretty far from Belgium, so I’ll say that freshness and storage are factors to consider. Nonetheless, when we sampled our “failed” brew yesterday, it smelled of an aromatic perry and was a real revelation in flavor. Intriguing.

Finally, I’ve gone through most of the wheat beers I brewed early on in summer, and the results of the sour mash have received nearly universal acclaim. The Motoyoe Berliner Weisse has gotten lots of rave reviews: fresh it was a bit smoother and the fruit really came out, with a month in the bottle there was some tartness to round out the flavor. It’s counterpart, the Honeyed Chamomile Wit tastes like pure vanilla cookies. The Sour Saison Blanche tasted a lot like the clean Saison Blanche, but again, one month and it suddenly brightens up with some tartness to round out the flavor. So, a 10 hour sour mash gives you just enough acidity to brighten the flavor. Good to keep in mind.

I almost forgot to mention this, but in December I brewed a batch of Belgian pale ale wort boiled with lavender and thyme that was first fermented on T-58, and then half was bottled along with an infusion made from dried coffee berry skins (you can buy it in all the markets here and people make a tea out of it–when infused at less than 80 C, it tastes like slightly overaged Chardonnay), and the other half had saison yeast added to it to yield a Saison de Provence. I’ve found that when I run my saison yeast nice and hot (i.e. up to 34+ C), it tends towards lemon pepper, so those ought to pair with thyme and lavender. We’ll see.

Looking ahead, in the next few weeks I hope to brew a few things. First, I’m craving something chocolatey, so I think I’ll try something porter-like (although it’s still smack in the middle of summer), and then I need to clear out some hops, so I think I’ll try a pale ale that loads on the late boil additions, with most bittering hops around 30 minutes. And then, some friends’ grape vines have finally yielded, so I have an idea in mind for that I’ll get to soon as well.

The "drink soonest" box in my aging room. Mgo = mango cider, D6 = dubbel 6, BPA = Belgian pale ale, MBW = motoyoe Berliner weisse, BPAC = Belgian pale ale with lavender, thyme, and coffee berry skins, Na = gose, Wild = brett + lacto pale ale, T5 = tripel 5, DR = dubbel with roeselare blend, BW = Berliner weisse with banana passionfruit.

The “drink soonest” box in my aging room. Mgo = mango cider, D6 = dubbel 6, BPA = Belgian pale ale, MBW = motoyoe Berliner weisse, BPAC = Belgian pale ale with lavender, thyme, and coffee berry skins, Na = gose, Wild = brett + lacto pale ale, T5 = tripel 5, DR = dubbel with roeselare blend, BW = Berliner weisse with banana passionfruit.

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Today’s project has been a fun one to think up and design. In a nutshell, I’m brewing a 50% pilsner, 50% unmalted wheat mash and splitting it three ways to come out with a saison, berliner weisse, and a very light witbier.

I’ve been devouring Hieronymous’s Brewing with Wheat since I got it this weekend, and even though I’ve coincidentally been brewing more frequently with wheat lately than I ever have (because I found a reliable source of flaked wheat), I’m all the more interested in it. Couple this with having just opened up the “hefeweizen” I brewed a month ago and been so disappointed with it (apparently Erdinger bottles their Pikantus with a very neutral and clean ale yeast) for the lack of any kind of ester action, and I want to try some things out. I also recently bottled a kiwi witbier based on the recipe from Calagione’s Extreme Brewing alongside an astringently sour Berliner weisse that spent a couple months on banana passionfruit.

First off, the gem of a fact that mashing in at 41-43 °C in the 5.7-5.8 pH range for 10 minutes will bump up the presence of 4-vinyl guaialcol, responsible for the clove flavors in a wheat beer was enough to give that a shot. (Granted, my pH test strips bottom out around 6.0, so it’s hard to get this right at the moment.) Second, the excessive/pungent/acetic sourness of my attempts at Berliner weisse and Oud Bruin have made me want to give a shorter sour mash a try. Credit to Brain Sparging on Brewing for the very useful primers on sour mashes. Third, the Saison Blanche I brewed a bit ago has been absolutely delicious and I want to keep working with it.

So, all that in mind, here’s what I came up with:

  • A mash based on the Saison Blanche’s: 50% malt and 50% wheat. But, to get enough wheat I have to use what I have on hand, which is flaked soft white wheat, flaked hard red wheat, torrefied wheat, and whole wheat flour. So, so more complexity in the wheat additions.
  • Implement the “clove rest.” To do this, last night I milled the grain, mashed in the wheat, rice hulls, and a quarter of the pilsner malt at 43° C, and then because it was late, I let it sit all night. (Surely this will affect the chemistry of the mash, but I don’t know how. It was still warm to the touch this morning, so perhaps some early souring action?–hopefully this would further bring down the pH of the ridiculously hard tap water.)
  • Got up early this morning, heated the sweet, wheat-filled porridge on my stove up to 70° C and mashed in with the rest of the grains. Held the mash for 1 hour, then pitched some ice out of the freezer and tap water into the mash and brought it down to 54° C, which is about as high as lactobacillus cares to go. I covered the mash tun in a black garbage bag and left in on the hot, sunny porch (it’s about 34° C out today) to sit all day.
  • Tonight, I’ll boil up the sparge water to mash out, lauter and sparge and then do the boils.
  • I’ll split the wort into two pots of equal strengths. The first pot will be the saison, get a single hop addition of Willamettes at 60 minutes, and then 100 g of candi syrup.
  • The second pot will end up as the Berliner weisse and wit. I’ll boil for 45 minutes with a couple grams of Cluster hops, just enough for some mild preservative action. At the end of the boil, I’ll again split this batch and dilute each with 2.25 L of water, to end up with two 4.5 L batches of wort that is half the strength of the saison, right on for a Berliner weisse and very light for a wit.
  • I’ll ferment the Berliner weisse with the same clean yeast that came out of the Pikantus, while the wit will receive 50g of honey, a pinch of coriander, and a few grams of chamomile at the knockout.

I suppose I’m breaking some kind of cardinal rule of “crafty” brewing by diluting my beers down like this, but I’m not sure why I should care. Mostly, I’m interested to see how an 10ish hour sour mash will turn out on what otherwise should be some great beers to drink over summer.

A larger brewing session fell through yesterday, so I went ahead and threw together a very quick brew that I’d been prepping for for a while now. Thus, a SMaSH beer utilizing a brettanomyces claussenii (the British fungus) culture sent to me from Jeffrey Crane of Bikes Beer and Adventures, 1.6 kg of Bolivian pilsner malt and lots Columbus hops, since it takes a small batch brewer like myself ages to go through 1 lb of 14.0% AA American hops.

Once again, I still don’t have a hydrometer, but hopefully I’ll get a refractometer next time somebody I know comes down from the US and can ferry another order for me. So, I’ll certainly have to sit on this beer for a few months to let it finish anyway. One thing not mentioned in the recipe is that I pulled off the first 2 L of sparge and boiled them down for 90 minutes before adding it to the cooled wort. Somehow I managed to collect around 7 L of wort, so this might be a bit lighter than I anticipated, but that’s fine. Perhaps I’ll transfer 5 L to a smaller secondary fermenter and bottle the difference without priming sugar and open bottles every few weeks to see if it will prime itself on residual sugars. We’ll see.

  • TypeAll Grain
  • Efficiency 75.0%
  • Batch size6.0 L
  • Boil time60 min

Fermentables

Name Amount Use PPG
Pilsner Malt 1.6 kg100 % Mash 37

Hops

Name Amount Time Use Form AA
Columbus United States 2.0 g 60 min Boil Pellet 15.0%
Columbus United States 2.0 g 30 min Boil Pellet 15.0%
Columbus United States 2.0 g 20 min Boil Pellet 15.0%
Columbus United States 4.0 g 5 min Aroma Pellet 15.0%
Columbus United States 4.0 g 0 min Aroma Pellet 15.0%
Columbus United States 4.0 g 3 days Dry Hop Pellet 15.0%
Columbus United States 4.0 g 7 days Dry Hop Pellet 15.0%

Yeasts

Name Lab Attenuation Temp
Brettanomyces Claussenii 85.0% 85°F – 0°F

Predicted Stats

1.062 OG | 1.009 FG | 31 IBU | 6.9% ABV | 3 SRM | 0.5 IBU/OG

In the last few months my primary computer with all my recipes stored on it bought the farm, so now I’ve shifted most of my recipe making over to Brewtoad, which is a decent enough platform for my current needs. The upside is that it’s especially easy to share the recipes here without excessive copying and pasting. So, to summarize my homebrewing of the last few months, here are the links to the recipes I’ve been using (each bullet point is a separate brewday, which means that all the recipes on it share the same mash, whether they were parti-gyled or divided evenly):

  • Barleywine no. II and City of the Rings (American Pale Ale no. II): Both are now bottled. The APA is citrusy, bitter, quite tasty, although it lacks a bit of body to balance the hoppiness. The barleywine is still harsh, and much more citrus infused than I’d expected, but the body certainly balances it out better.
  • Saison no. VI brewed as a Wit, Saison Blanche (no. VII), and Bolivianer Weisse no. II: The “wit” saison might be the best beer I’ve brewed here: a mouthful of citrus, but with the dry finish of a saison, full-bodied and perfect for summer. I was a little nervous about using so many Columbus hops in a Wit, but it worked out perfectly. The Saison Blanche is in secondary (for lack of bottles) and the Bolivianer Weisse got racked onto pasteurized tumbo, which tastes like a cross between mango and peaches.
  • Belgian Amber no. I and Old Ale no. I: The Old Ale was bottled last week and I have yet to try it. Both these suffered from some kind of infection–probably lacto–and I’ve sinced moved all my sour and wild cultures and fermenters into a sealed cooler. Hopefully that will keep that under control.

Likewise, I just cracked a bottle of my first wild ale that was parti-gyled off a Tripel brewed long ago and fermented with Brett Drie and my house Lactobacillus culture, and it was delicious. Effervescent with no head, crystal clear, tart, dry, just a tiny bit funky, a hint of malt on the end, and thoroughly refreshing for the summer months that are looming overhead. It came off like I a more complex version of my sour wort Berliner Weisse.

Today I’m managing to sneak in a quick morning brew, another double brewday focusing on wheat. The results I’ve had with the flaked wheat I found here are much better than with the raw/torrified wheat that’s widely available, and I recently managed to build up starter from the dregs of a Erdinger Pikantus Dunkelweizenbock, and I want to try it out. Unfortunately I don’t currently have my kitchen scale, so I’m kind of ballparking everything. The mash is roughly 50% malt, 40% flaked wheat, 10% rolled oats, and I’m aiming to collect 10 L of wort divided into two boils. The first will be for the weizen using the Pikantus dregs, hopped with 2-3 g of Columbus at 60 mins, and 2-3 g of Palisades at 20 minutes. The second will be based on Extreme Brewing’s “Kiwit,” with 2-3 g of Columbus at 60 mins, 2-3 g of Willamette at 20 mins, and 1/4 tsp of coriander at 10 mins. The actual recipe calls for adding cubed kiwis at the end of the boil, but I don’t have any on hand, so I’ll add those after a couple days in primary. Or if kiwis aren’t available (produce is truly seasonal here), I’ll go with something else tropical, like mango, tumbo, regular passionfruit, or pineapple.