Brewday: Rye Witbier

June 3, 2012

As we keep getting closer to the homebrew competition, I had just one beer left to brew for it: the rye beer. The only restriction for the beer is that it has to include rye for at least 30% of the grain used. I’ve brewed a lot of rye beers over the years, and I decided that most entrants would likely use rye pale ales and rye IPAs, so it was time I tried a different approach.

Part of what makes rye so great in a beer is that it adds a bit of dry spicy character, and a bit of an earthy aroma, so I wanted to add it to a non-pale ale style that would really benefit from the heavy use of rye. I figured a witbier would be an interesting and unique experiment. I made a wit recipe with a heavy dose of rye malt replacing a lot of the wheat malt, and was ALMOST tempted to add some peppercorns, but decided against it. So the grain bill for it was:

  • 6.50 lb Pils malt
  • 3.50 lb Rye malt
  • 1.00 lb Flaked wheat

The water additions were pretty light, just 5 grams each of calcium chloride and gypsum. I mashed it on the cool side, around 147F, to try and make sure it attenuated really well. This one should have a nice dry body to accentuate the spicy rye character. Unfortunately, the lautering went really slow for the first two gallons before I realized there was a piece of grain partially clogging the ball valve in my mash tun. After blowing that out and running a vorlauf again, the runoff went as smoothly as it usually does.

The hop and spice schedule on this one was fairly light:

  • 0.75 oz Challenger (60 minutes, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 0.50 oz Challenger (15 minutes)
  • 10 gm Coriander (15 minutes)
  • 0.50 oz Challenger (End of Boil)

The other odd thing about this batch was the yeast I used for it. My previous saison, the peppercorn saison I brewed for my 100th batch last month, had its saison yeast crap out halfway through fermentation. It refused to start back up and was left sitting really thick and sweet, so I made a starter of my Northwest ale yeast that was on hand and poured that in to get fermentation going again. That did the trick, but left me with a blended yeast cake to work with, so I thought that would be interesting to use for this rye witbier. These two yeasts should do pretty well at drying out the body and giving some nice character to the beer.

Also, starting gravity was 1.045, as I was aiming for a nice light session beer for the coming warm months.

With the Belgian pale ale and Belgian dubbel both done fermenting and going into kegs, it was time for me to get one last batch out of this yeast. I figured that it’s been a long time since I made a big beer, so now was the time to get back into it.

Belgian quads, or dark strong ales, have been a personal favorite for a long time, but I’ve never actually brewed one. I started with aromatic malt and special b to build up the malty backbone of the beer and all of the dark fruit and caramel flavors. To keep the beer from getting too thick while increasing the alcohol, I used Turbinado sugar, which gives a hint of dry molasses to a beer (in my experience). So the whole grain bill was:

  • 15.50 lb Pilsner malt
  • 2.50 lb Munich malt
  • 1.75 lb Aromatic malt
  • 1.25 lb Special B
  • 2.00 lb Turbinado sugar

The hop schedule was light and mellow, as they’re really only there to balance some of the sweetness and add a little complexity to the aroma.

  • 1.00 oz Northern Brewer (9.6% Alpha Acid, 60 minutes)
  • 0.75 oz Northern Brewer (15 minutes)
  • 1.00 oz Spalter (5% Alpha Acid, End of Boil)

The one spice I used in the beer was 10 grams of licorice root. We use it in our Abbey Ale at work, and I really like that kind of mouthfeel it adds to a dark beer. This was added 15 minutes before the boil ended.

For such a large beer, the lauter was extremely smooth and uneventful for this batch. It took about 40 minutes to collect a bit over 8 gallons of wort. As it was really thick, I wound up under-boiling it, so I got 7 gallons post-boil and ran 5.5 gallons of that into the fermentation tank. The gravity came in a little low because of the underboil. 1.094 is still fine, and still gives me 75% efficiency with my system, which is higher than I was expecting for a high gravity beer.

The water additions were minor in this one. Two grams of calcium sulfate, three grams of calcium chloride, and four grams of calcium carbonate. The mash pH was 5.53 and the temperature was 149F, so perfect conditions to get a highly fermentable wort. The yeast was pitched at 68F, and I’m hoping to get it to rise up to about 75F over the next day or two to really get that yeast’s character to show through.

Now it’s on to planning my 100th batch…

Brewday: Belgian Dubbel

February 6, 2012

It’s been ages since I’ve brewed a Belgian dubbel, and none of my recipes have really made me happy. I went through my few previous recipes and tried to figure out what was missing while applying some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years since those batches.

One of the biggest issues from those previous batches was a lower attenuation, so they were thicker than I like for the style. This time I decided I’d bump up the sugar content and drop the dark crystal malt down a little bit. I had been thinking the flavors from the dark crystal malt were a bit much in the other batches, anyway.

Since I began brewing Belgian style beers again recently, my grain stock now includes several forms of aromatic malts, which are kilned to a degree that enhances their flavor and aroma profiles without going too far into the crystal sweetness of the caramel malts. The nice thing about working at a Brewery that does Belgian styles is I’ve seen several of these aromatic malts in action, so I had some idea what to expect from them. In this case a very light aromatic malt was used as a light backup aroma to the dark crystal malt and the dark beet sugar syrup.

So the fermentables in this batch (keeping in mind I run off 8 gallons and boil down to 6.5 gallons) came from:

  • 10.50 lb Pale Malt
  • 1.50 lb Munich Malt
  • 1.00 lb Special Aromatic (from Franco-Belges)
  • 0.50 lb Extra Special (Briess’ version of Special B)
  • 1.00 lb Dark Beet Sugar Syrup
  • 0.75 lb Turbinado Sugar

In this case I’m using the Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity yeast, which is supposed to be Westmalle’s yeast of choice. I love the malt complexity that it leaves, and the character it gives to Westmalle’s beers, so that’s what is fermenting this batch right now.

The hops in this batch were kept restrained and should play no more than a support role to the malt and yeast aromas.

  • 1.25 oz Challenger (60 minutes, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Hallertauer (15 minutes, 3.0% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Hallertauer (End of Boil)

For brewing water I used 10 gallons of spring water from Hannaford. I mashed in with at my standard ratio of 1.25 qt/lb, so 4.25 gallons. The mash was held at 150F for 45 minutes then started vorlaufing to set the grain bed. I’ve started to recirculate the wort before the desired end of the mash cycle because I don’t raise the grain bed temp to stop the enzymes, so any conversion is still happening. I haven’t seen any adverse effects, and it helped me shorten my brewday.

For water chemistry I added 3g of Calcium Sulfate, 2g of Calcium Chloride, and 2g of Calcium Carbonate to the mash water, and 4g/2g/2g of them (respectively) to the wort before boil. This led to a very nice mash pH of 5.46 and a final wort pH of 5.25, both right in line with what I wanted.

The rest of the numbers looked pretty good. I ran off 8 gallons into the kettle, boiled down to 6.60 gallons, transferred 5 gallons to the fermentor (all that wort was crystal clear), and hit 1.067 (76% efficiency on the mash) for a starting gravity. I was mashed in at 2:05 and cleaned up for the day by 6:35. Booyah. 🙂