Archive for the 'Belgian Strong Ale' Category

Jan 25 2008

Tripel – Batch 2 ½

Published by 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 %

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