Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Belgian Dark Strong Ale... One of the Pinnacles...

In the world of homebrewing there are certain pinnacle recipes.  Certain beers that seem to garner respect and awe from other brewers when done well.   Certainly a ridiculously hoppy double india pale ale is one of those beers, a royal imperial stout is one of those beers, and most definitely a barleywine is one of the pinnacle beers.  But I submit that a Belgian Strong Dark Ale (BSDA) is one of those beers too. Every time I make a BSDA other brewers who try it slowly nod their head and say..."I have to try one of these someday".    sexy fermentation photos at the end....

Aerate your wort.
Temperature control and aeration
make the biggest difference.
Sunday I made my BSDA partial mash beer.   This was the second time in 2 months that I have made a BSDA, the other time was an extract kit with a "new to brew" friend.   It was a 5 gallon batch that finished at 1.067.  I know they say the beer improves with age, but I wouldn't know.  I have never successfully left my damned hands off of one of these.   The first batch was made with WLP500 Monastery yeast.  The yeast was washed using woodland brewing research's modified yeast washing protocol.  This created 6 pints of yeast slurry.  I kept 2, gave 2 to the newb, and gave 2 to another friend.

Mashing away
at 150 F.
So this weekend it was time to brew up some more... just for me.  And for any friend who can pronounce Chimay correctly, and doesn't think it is a monastery in China.

I forgot to take a picture of the grain. Sorry about that.   It was 6 lbs total of grain.  When I partial mash in my electric turkey fryer, I generally use only 6 to 7 lbs of grain.  That still means about half of my fermentables are coming from grain and half from DME.  I use DME.  It is very rare that I use LME.   I find DME is easier to control color with, and also it stores so well it is rarely stale or off in flavor.    The recipe is here. 

I have a little different approach to partial mash than most people.  I mash my grains in 3.5 (13.5 L) gallons of water at 150 F ( 68 C ).  Always, doesn't matter what the recipe.  If it isn't giving me the mouthfeel I need, I add some oats or wheat next time.   I dissolve my DME in 2 gallons ( 7.57 L) of water. I combine the two, and then I sparge to volume.  I overshot my target gravity.  I was aiming for 1.070  I ended up at 1.072.

This method works for me, I have produced quite a few excellent beers this way. Partial mash is nearly indistinguishable from all grain.  I have hosted samplings at the LHBS, where people were asked to identify the all grain, and the partial mash.   No one can ever tell, and they usually prefer the partial mash.   The advantages of partial mash are discussed in earlier blogs.  As you can see from the photo at the right, 4 lbs (1.81 kg) of DME went into this one.  Along with 8 oz of D180 (.22 kg) Candi Syrup.   The hops were Cluster for bittering, and Styrian Golding for aroma and flavor.

The boil went just fine.  AS you can see the turkey fryer will actually boil 6 gallons of wort just fine. And it will really rock and roll with the lid on but ajar.   I use a hop bag when I brew.   It is just a large paint strainer bag from home depot... $1.87. Usually I rinse it out... but sometimes.  I just pitch it.

This was a no chill batch.  When I brew 5 gallons (or more) of beer,  I never chill batches where the hops are not the predominant flavor.  Chilling uses lots of water.   When finances allow it, i will be purchasing a jaded chiller (or making a knock off).  As brewers I think we have to be conscious of the water we are using and wasting.    I am confident that an hour of steam and boiling wort has sanitized the lid and the boil kettle.  So I just let it stand with the lid on for 20 minutes.  Then I pull the hop bag and the element.  I put the lid back on and wrap it up in saran wrap. So far I haven't had any problems with no chill.  But I've only been doing it for about 20 years.  So, check back with me...By the way the Australians did not invent no chill.  They just radically improved it. People did it all the time when I first started brewing.

Photo stinks but it is at 1.072, so I overshot by .002.  With partial mash I come pretty darn close to the recipe every time.

I'm going to try like crazy to let part of this batch cellar.  The current plan is to take 24 beers to my dads house and cellar them in his basement.   And by 24 I mean 18... or maybe 12...ok a 6 pack will go to my dads basement and Ill try it occasionally when I am over there.

And here it is in my temporary fermentation chamber / master whirlpool tub.  It stays cool year round.  Bad for baths...great for beer.  You may also notice the 3 lbk Mr. Beer fermenters from the recent... You can go all grain with the Mr. Beer.... series.

Thanks for reading.
Keep on Brewing.


Super Sexy Fermentation Updates
At 12 hours the ring of bubbles is left over from the aeration
At 24 hours a Krausen is beginning to form around the edge 
at 28 hours Krausen has formed, blow off jug is bubbling
Cant wait to see this in 8-12 hours.
At 36 hours the Krausen is rising. The bubbles
are rocking. We'll see if I actually needed
the blow off tube.
I did not need the blow off tube, or at least I don't think I needed it.
Had I put on the air lock, it may not have been able to evacuate fast enough...
Ill keep updating as we go along.
At 60 hours the Krausen has fallen but the
bubbles are still rocking 1 huge bubble every 2 seconds.
What does that mean? It means I did a good job denaturing
the proteins in the boil and they will floc out completely.
So again, ignore the Tommy Know it alls who tell you
that you need a monster BTU burner.

At 96 hours the krausen looks the same, and the bubbles are still at 1 huge bubble every
2 seconds.  This one is going fast.
Cant wait to try it.

At 192 hours,  the bubbles have slowed to 1 every 30 seconds.
It went for days at 1 bubble every 5 seconds.
Impressive,  this should be a great beer.


  1. David
    Nice blog. Seems that I have the same problem with you - I can't keep my hand off my beer! I usually ferment my beer for 3 weeks before bottling and thereafter leave it for about 10 days... If I can resist.

    I tend to brew every 3 weeks and by then the previous batch of beer is almost finished as well.

    Do you do 2nd fermentation?



  2. Sorry I missed this comment. I do not generally secondary. I secondary when I am making a huge IPA with loads of dry hops, when I am using fruit, or when I am aging on Oak