First Belgian Brew of 2012

January 29, 2012

It’s been a very long time since I’ve brewed a Belgian beer, which is weird considering how much I love all of those styles. As my second brew of 2012, I decided to make a batch of Belgian pale ale to replace the keg of rye pale ale that’s about to kick. As opposed to the hoppy Belgian pale ale we make at work, I wanted to go for something more balanced and floral. The pile of noble hops in the freezer were perfect for this.

The grain bill for this batch focuses on giving the beer a little sweetness to balance the hops while providing a nice aromatic malt presence. I kept it simple, like usual:

  • 8.75 lb Pale malt
  • 1.50 lb Vienna malt
  • 0.75 lb Aromatic malt (17L)
  • 0.75 lb Cara Hell (10L)

A few months ago I thought I was going to use my chest freezer to make some lagers, so I stocked up on several ounces of different noble hops. It turned out that I filled up the freezer with kegs of various ales before I got around to it, so there were plenty of noble hops available for this batch.

At work we make a Belgian pale ale that’s pretty highly hopped with generous amounts of Styrian Goldings. I wanted a more balanced pale ale with a more spicy and floral aroma, so I used some Challenger for its clean bittering and a mix of Saphir and Tettnanger to get the aroma I wanted. Saphir is a descendent of Hallertauer Miltefruh and has a clean floral aroma. Tettnanger has a smooth spicy aroma.

  • 1.50 oz Challenger (60 minutes, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Saphir (10 minutes, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Tettnanger (End of Boil, 3.5% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Saphier (End of Boil)

The mash was done with 3.5 gallons of water at 167F and came in at 150F. The pH was 5.33. I sparged with 6.5 gallons at ~175F and wound up with 8.2 gallons in the kettle. The one thing that had me worried for a few minutes was when I took a pre-boil gravity sample from the kettle. The gravity came out higher than would be physically possible with the grain I used in the mash. Of course that was due to me taking the sample from the bottom of the kettle without having mixed up the wort, so I was grabbing mostly the dense first runnings. I gave it a good stir to mix it all together and took another sample, which came in at 1.043 (just higher than I was aiming f0r). I wound up boiling down to 6.65 gallons and got an original gravity for the beer of 1.052.

The fermentor had 5 gallons in it right when the kettle ran dry, so the volume wound up being perfect. I like to leave about 1.5 gallons in the kettle to make sure most of the trub and hot/cold break material stays behind. It’s really helped increase the clarity of my beers. The extra volume means I have to use more hops, grain, and yeast, but it’s worth it (to me) to get beer that’s crystal clear.

The yeast for this batch was Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity, and was pitched at 70F. Also, the mineral additions to the bottled water I used for the mash were minimal because I wanted to keep the hops from being brought out too much. I added 4 grams of gypsum and 2 grams of calcium chloride, so a pretty soft water profile.


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