Monday, November 23, 2009

Belgian Golden Strong Update

I finally got around to sampling the progress of my 10 gallon batch of Belgian Golden Strong last night. Here was the recipe:

25 lbs Castle Pils
5 lbs table sugar
5 oz Czech Saaz @ 90

The OG came in at 1.076 (low efficiency still) and around 30 IBUs, I'll have to check BeerSmith for the exact number. I split the batch between two fermenters and fermented both with Wyeast VSS strains from earlier in the year. I pitched WY3739 Flanders Golden Ale (rumored to be the Gulden Draak strain) in one and WY3864 Canadian/Belgian Ale (the Unibroue strain) in the other. I pitched big starters of both at 64, where it stayed for a day or so before active fermentation began, then I let the temp free rise over the next few days to the low 70s, then turned on the aquarium heaters and slowly ramped up until the heaters were maxed out at around 80. I kept them there for the next 2 weeks or so (about 3 weeks at high temps total), then turned the heaters off and let them rest for another week at cellar temp, which is around 63 right now.

The Flanders Golden finished at 1.002, making the ABV 9.6%. It tasted dry (duh), but the alcohol was very obvious. I tasted and smelled some of the fruity esters and a bit of spicy phenols, but because the sample was warm and uncarbonated, this tasted more like a white wine than a beer. The alcohol, although it's not hot fusel alcohols, is too much in the front, so I decided that this one is going to stay in secondary at cellar temps for a while to round out a bit.

The Unibroue finished at 1.005, making the ABV 9.3% The sample was delicious already. Pear and apple aroma and flavor, a little bitterness to back it up, a little bready malt, delicious. Alcohol is present, which I expect in a 9% beer, but the other stuff isn't overwhelmed. This is getting kegged up in the next couple of days. Hopefully I've got enough tubing and fittings laying around so that I can use my other regulator and carb this up higher than my other beers.

I'm also thinking about entering some comps in the next few months. I'm really happy with my APA and Smoked Brown and want to get some feedback on my beers now that I'm building my water, controlling fermentation, and have gone AG. I'm looking at these comps in particular:

Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival

Upper Mississippi Mash Out

Great Northern BrewHaha

Durango, CO Ska Brewing Pro/AM

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Finally Made the Jump to All Grain!

The title says it all. I went with a cooler mash tun for batch sparging ala Denny Conn. I used a 70 quart Coleman Xtreme cooler, stainless braid, and ball valve for a 10 gallon setup. Pics are at the bottom. The first brew on my ghetto-fabulous rig was a Single Malt and Single Hop IPA (SMaSH). Here's the recipe:

24 lbs Weyermann Munich
1 oz Summit FWH
1 oz Summit @ 60 min
2 oz Summit @ 15 min
2 oz Summit @ flameout
1 oz Summit keghop (per keg)
US-05 yeast

Mashed at 150 for 60 minutes. I was shooting for an OG of 1.066 and 91 IBUs but ended up with only 1.048, putting my efficiency in the high 50s, not too good. Despite the low efficiency, the beer turned out really good! I think once I get a Barley Crusher and dial in my system I will rebrew this as a low gravity, highly hopped session beer. It's got tons of citrus (tangerine and grapefruit) hop flavor and aroma but thanks to the Munich base there's a solid malt background that still finishes dry. I really like this beer.

My second batch was another attempt at the smoked brown ale I brewed last November that was inspired by Red Hook Late Harvest. Although I got a different result with that brew, I ended up liking it a lot so I just modified the grain bill a bit (more rauchmalt, less roasted barley) and converted it to an AG recipe that looks like this:

20 lbs Rahr 2 row
3 lbs Weyermann Rauchmalt (beechwood smoked)
1 lb C60
.5 lb C120
.5 lb pale chocolate
.25 lb roasted barley
1.5 oz Magnum @ 60
2 oz Czech Saaz @ 15
US-05 yeast

I mashed this one at 150 as well. I was shooting for 1.068 on this but ended up with 1.056, so I did improve my efficiency slightly to 62%. I am really liking this beer as well. There's a hint of chocolate and coffee in there and the smoke is noticeable without being overwhelming, and there is just enough hop presence to balance everything out. I am quite happy with this beer as well.

Finally, I brewed a 10 gallon batch of Belgian Golden Strong. I mashed this one at 148 for 90 minutes and then did a 90 minute boil to drive off DMS because of the Belgian Pils malt. I split this batch between Wyeast 3864 (Unibroue) and Wyeast 3739 (Flanders Golden). Both of these strains were part of the VSS series. I pitched at 64 degrees and then ramped up over the next few days to about 80 degrees, which is where they sit right now. It's only been 2 weeks so I haven't taken a reading on these yet. Here's the recipe:

25 lbs Castle Pils
5 lbs table sugar
5 oz Czech Saaz @ 90

Pretty simple recipe! The actual OG on this one was 1.076 versus my target of 1.082, but my efficiency dropped back to the high 50s since I calculated this at 65%. Not sure what the deal is, since I double crushed the grain and thought I did a fairly good job measuring my volumes.

In other brewing news, I attended the AHA Rally at Surly Brewing with a couple of guys from RAZE back on October 10. Surly brewed what they called an Imperial Brown for the occasion and distributed 5 gallons of wort to over 300 homebrewers. In addition, we had the opportunity to drink free beer from Surly, including their freshly tapped Surly Wet, a wet-hopped IPA. I got to meet a bunch of guys from the Northern Brewer forum too which was icing on the cake. I just kegged this beer and so far it is tasting great. It was a big beer (OG 1.081) that I fermented with Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey yeast. I taste some dark fruit, alcohol warmth, and a little coffee and molasses. It will definitely get better with age.

Here's a few pics of the new AG setup: