Jan 25 2008

Tripel – Batch 2 ½

Published by at 10:12 am under Belgian Strong Ale,Homebrew

This is really only my second serious attempt at a Belgian Tripel. I put the half there for I have brewed a couple of Belgian-y Golden Strong Ales (or something perhaps like a Golden Strong), with the intention of making a Tripel. This is before reading Brew Like a Monk. A really good read I think for anyone interested in brewing strong Belgian-style ales. Possibly even for those simply interested in learning more about the Trappist beers of Belgium. For there is a lot of discussion not only on technique but also history and tradition. My subsequent attempts at brewing Trappist-like beers have been mainly influences by this book.

Follows is my recipe for 5 gallons of finished beer:

12.00 lb. Belgian Pilsner Malt (Castle)
0.75lb. CaraPils
2.00 lb. homemade invert sugar
(SRM ~ 5, target gravity 1.080)

2.00 oz. Tettnager 4.1% AA (reduced a bit, for these are 2006), 60 min.
2.00 oz. Saaz 3.6 % AA, 10 min.
(IBU ~ 36)

1 vile WLP530 Abbey ale yeast, 1500 ml. starter two days on the stir plate

A few notes on the recipe. I have begun to notice (and am quite sure now actually) that my system’s mash efficiency drops to around 70% when I do smaller batches (5 gallons viruses 13). And, I’ll end up doing a 100 minute boil here, so there will be a bit of a gain do to evaporation. The IBU’s may be a little high for some, but I found that with my last attempt there was a really pleasant “herbal” quality. Which I attributed to an interaction of the hop flavors and the complex phenols etc. / flavors produced by the yeast.

To make the invert sugar:

Invert sugar is basically table sugar (sucrose) that has been broken down into the simpler (shorter) sugar chains glucose and fructose. This is done by heating the sugar in a slightly acidic solution. Brought to simmer two pounds of table sugar in 1 cup of water. Then added 1 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar, and simmered for approximately 10 ~ 15 min. For the Tripel didn’t want the sugar to contribute any color to the beer, however the syrup can be cooked longer to caramelize if so desired. I found this page to be a pretty good read on sugar (in a brewing context). Franklin Brew

Conducted a pretty simplified step infusion mash:

beta rest, target 145° F / recorded 145° F, 30 min.
alpha rest, target 154° F / recorded 152° F, 45 min.

Batch sparged again, collecting about 7 gallons of sweet wort of 1.044 specific gravity. Which I guess works out to around a 70% brew house efficiency.

The boil went pretty much as planned:

Added the invert sugar syrup (which had cooled significantly) to the boil around the 60 minute mark. Near the end of the boil (thinking the gravity might come in a little low) I added an additional 0.25 pounds of table sugar, and extended the boil by 10 min. Originally, I was only planning on a 90 minute boil. In hindsight, this was probably not necessary. Will want to come up with a better system for taking gravity readings on the fly. Crashed the wort down to round 69° F and pitched. The original specific gravity coming in right at 1.080.

Primary Fermentation:

This yeast seems pretty health, for there was vigorous activity early that evening (maybe 4 to 6 hour lag time). Over the first two days allowed the temperature to naturally raise to 75° F. For the next couple of days, the activity and temperature began to tapper off (70°~69° F). After 8 days for fermentation racked the beer to a carboy, and stuck it in the fridge for cold conditioning. At the time of racking there was still some activity and the beer had a healthy kräusen still present. Checking on the gravity, it seems that I may have allowed the yeast to go too far, specific gravity of 1.012. My previous Triple (that I was very pleased with) had a higher specific gravity when I racked it for cold conditioning, ~1.016. So this is a little bit of a concern. I have a refractometer (that I hardly ever use), and thought I might double check my observation. Unfortunately, this has lead only to more confusion. The refractometer reports 8.5 Brix, which I think works out to a specific gravity of ~1.034. This is a pretty big freakin’ discrepancy! Now I am not sure which measurement to rely on. I suppose there may be factors distorting the observation. The only thing I can think, is there was a pretty large amount of yeast still in suspension. Though have to admit this is pure speculation, for I am not certain on what needs to be considered for either instrument?

Secondary Fermentation / Bottle Re-Fermentation:

OK, with a tip from a fellow brewer, turns out I was off base in my mis-conception that one could use a refractometer to measure specific gravity of fermenting / fermented wort. Presumable the “refraction” is distorted by the alcohol in solution. And, further more refractometers are measureing sucrose in solution, not maltose. He claimed that there is a conversion chart somewhere out on the net, that takes original specific gravity and a Brix reading, and estimates current specific gravity. I have not found this, but did find this BYO article on refractometers that is pretty interesting. There is a lot to consider (calculate) when using a refractometer.

Once racked to secondary, I cold condition the beer in my refrigerator (set on the highest / warmest setting). The beer remains there from about two weeks at around ~42° F. Two weeks and a day in this case. Even though I am a total convert to kegging homebrew, for this style I prefer bottle conditioning. Follow a pretty standard bottling procedure, adding 4 oz. of sucrose (in a simple syrup) to the beer. However perhaps a bit more unorthodox, I add a small amount of bottling yeast to each bottle. This is to insure a high level carbonation, in such a strong beer. In this case I drop one or two “grains” of dried safbrew S-33 into each bottle prior to capping. Also, I store the bottle in a warm place (with a heating pad) at around 70° F for about two weeks, again to insure high carbonation.

Orig. Specific Gravity 1.080
Final Specific Gravity 1.012
Alcohol by Volume ~8.8 %

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Tripel – Batch 2 ½”

  1. brewmastermon 07 Mar 2009 at 2:38 pm

    How does the bottle conditioning work out when adding the dry yeast granules directly to the bottles? Any advantage to doing it that way and not rehydrating a small amount of the yeast and mixing it into the solution? Thanks for your description – I’ve got an overly strong Belgian Dubbel that is nearly done fermenting and I’m debating my bottling options after doing some cool aging in the secondary.

  2. darrenon 12 Mar 2009 at 10:03 am

    This is the second or third time I have done this, always with good results. I actually picked up this technique a while back (before I started kegging) when I had a very strong beer that would not carbonate. After a month or two, was talking with the LHS guy, who sold me a pack of dried cuvée yeast. He said, “this stuff will eat anything.” He explained, just add a few “granules” of yeast to each bottle. And, sure enough a few weeks later, solid carbonation. So, the next time I did a strong ale with an extended fermentation / conditioning period, decided to simply stack the cards in my favor, and just dope each bottle with a little bit of fresh yeast.
    The technique I use is to take a small sheet of paper, and fold it in half with a good stiff crease. I pour a small about of dried yeast into the crease. Then tap the paper on the mouth of a filled bottle, to deliver two or three granules of yeast. Cap the bottle and agitate. I seem to get pretty consistent results, with a minimum or sediment in each bottle.
    My worry with re-hydrating yeast and adding it to the whole batch, is (was) I am uncertain how to add the proper amount. I full pitch would seem excessive, to me.

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