Thumbs Up for Belgians
A Home Brewer’s Personal Journey Through His Craft – Part 28
Brewing Belgian Beer
I have let this slide far too long. I apologize as I have been working some other writing projects as well as a second website, Travels with Bob ‘n’ Deb. The following was originally posted about 5 years ago…
Wow! We are down to only five beers left on our journey. You can almost see the end from here. The end of the trail that is, not the end of the world, we will get to that later.
By the way, you will have to bear with me on this one; I may go a little slow. I have one arm in a sling due to just having shoulder replacement surgery. It sucks to get old, but actually probably beats the alternative. Actually that may put me in better condition than my usual having my butt in a sling for whatever reason.
But, enough whining, lets get back to the beer.
On this portion of our journey we are going to do a couple Belgian styles I pulled out my sling. Why? Because I can!
7 Unknown Belgians
The first is very basic extract recipe meant to use up some Belgian yeast samples I had gotten some time previously from Bristol Brewing. They had seven separate carboys with seven different Belgian yeasts to help determine which strain they wanted to use for an upcoming Belgian brew. I managed to obtain a vial of each strain for my own use.
The problem was I had sat on these for so long I did not know if they were still viable or even what the strains were beyond the code numbers. So I decided to take the shotgun approach (very scientific) and use them all. What works works, what doesn’t doesn’t. I called it, Belgian Mélange. I believe Mélange means blend, particularly of spices.
It occurs to me I could have called this, Shotgun Belgian…
- 7 lb Light DME
- 1 lb Cane Sugar
- 2 oz Homegrown Santiam whole cone hops (60 min)
- ½ oz Homegrown Santiam whole cone hops (15 min)
- 1 tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
- 1 & ¼ tsp yeast energizer (added after 2 days with no activity)
- Belgian yeast blend – 7 unidentified strains
- Priming: ½ cup wildflower honey and ¼ cup cane sugar.
Heat two gallons cold water to boiling and add DME and cane sugar, return to boil and add hops and Irish Moss at times indicated for a 60 minute boil. I did not add the yeast energizer until after 2 days of inactivity. Cool the wort and pour into fermenter with the seven strain yeast blend. OG was 1.045
After adding the energizer two days into the primary fermentation some minimal activity began which continued slow and steady for nearly 4 weeks.
When racked to the secondary the gravity was at 1.026 for an ABV of less than 3%. This was disappointingly low but the flavor was quite good. It had a very Belgian flavor and had cleared very nicely to a red-amber color.
An Epic Battle on a Microscopic Scale
I believe that during the slow fermentation the seven yeast strains were battling for supremacy and really did not begin attacking the sugars until they established who was boss.
I left it in the secondary for about another 4 weeks before priming and bottling. FG was 1.023 for 3% ABV. Still very low alcohol but with a very nice Belgian style flavor and underlying hop bitterness.
Although I expected this to not condition very quickly, or perhaps not at all, due to the slowness of the fermentation; I was surprised to find it nicely carbed after only 2 weeks and continued to improve to a very proper Belgian level of carbonation. The hops seemed a bit vegetal at first but this aged out nicely as well. For a beer that I really had not much hope for to begin with it turned out very good, very Belgian. I wish I knew which of the seven strains of yeast did the job so well.
Our next Belgian brew is based around the yeast as well, but then I suppose all Belgian brews are based on the yeast for it is the yeast strain that makes it Belgian. Anyway, the local home brew shop had vials of a UCCS clone of the yeast strain used by Unibroue, a French Canadian brewer of Belgian beers. One of my all-time favorite beers is from Unibroue, La Fin du Monde, which is French for the End of the World; see, I told you we would get back to that later. I have also referred to La Fin du Monde back in parts 13 and 18 of our journey.
I decided to brew a beer using as much Belgian malts as possible and the Unibroue yeast. The name comes from two of their beers, La Fin du Monde and Maudite, which means damned, so, I call this beer Monde Maudite or Damned World.
- 7 lb Belgian Pale malt
- 7 lb Belgian Pilsner malt
- 8 oz Belgian Biscuit malt
- 8 oz Belgian Special B malt
- 8 oz Belgian Cara Munich malt
- 8 oz Belgian Cara Vienna malt
- 1 lb Belgian Candi Sugar
- 3 oz Hallertau Tradition hop pellets (60 min)
- 1 oz Hallertau Tradition hop pellets (20 min)
- 1 oz Crystal hop pellets (20 min)
- 1 oz Crystal hop pellets (5 min)
- 1 tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
- UCCS 3864 Canadian/Belgian (Unibroue) yeast.
- Priming: ½ cup DME & ¼ cup cane sugar
Do a step infusion mash beginning with four gallons 140F water. Mash-in the milled grains and stabilize temperature at 122F, let rest for 30 minutes. Raise temperature to 152F and let rest for another 30 minutes. Lauter and sparge with 180F water collecting 7 gallons of wort. I had a stuck mash so this took quite a while.
Add the Belgian Candi sugar and bring to boil. Boil for 30 minutes and begin adding hops and Irish Moss at times indicated for a total 90 minute boil. Cool the wort and pour into fermenter with yeast. OG was 1.082
Prime and bottle the beer after 11 days in primary and 16 days in secondary. FG was 1.013 for about 9.1% ABV.
A Beefy Beer
This beer was heavy and strong with a low level of carbonation. It had a heavy raisin flavor, almost beefy. This came from using a bit too much Special B malt. The Belgian character was not as obvious as I had hoped. It made me think of a heavy Barleywine. It was drinkable but a bit too heavy.
My God! That is 97 beers down and 3 left to go, and we are still standing. It will not be long now. I believe we will come to the end soon as I do not have a lot else I can do while the shoulder mends. I’ll join you again soon.
Keep on brewin’
To be continued…