Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Belgian Single at the LHBS - Great Brew Day

Sunday after church,  I met up with Andrew the manager at BrewLab to help him brew a Pattersbier.  More commonly known as a Belgian Single or a Monk Single, this is a style that is growing in popularity with home brewers. A Pattersbier is a low-gravity, golden abbey style beer.  Is is often, but not always flavored with Cardamon, and Cinnamon, and sometimes coriander. And we make a really good one.   Andrew and I always have great brew sessions when we brew together.  It is really fun to brew with another absolute brew nerd. We tend to make very good decisions together. The brewing system at BrewLab is world class.   A 3 vessel eHERM system capable of 10 or 15 gallons of beer.

Our grain bill, as well as our recipe in general, was pretty simple. But have no fear, we did a very complicated mash schedule for your amusement. For an 11 Gallon batch. 80% efficiency

The Humble Monk
1.042 OG  (which we nailed)
1.006 FG
5.67   SRM
27.5   IBUs
4.67$ ABV

12.1 #  Castle Chateau Pilsen - Belgian Pilsner
1.1 #    American Wheat - (lots of ferulic acid)
0.6 #   Special B
1.0 #   Belgian Candi Sugar at 10 minutes

0.3 oz of Magnum at 60
1.1 oz of Saaz at 30
1.0 oz of Nelson Sauvin at 3 (we know it isn't traditional but, you gotta have some fun weird stuff)
2 sticks of Cinnamon at 10 minutes
1 oz of Coriander at 10 minutes
Fermentis - Abbaye (BE256) 2 packs pitched dry.

The wort was beautiful golden, and milky
early on.  
Yes dry yeast.  No starter, no re hydration.   We want the yeast to have to struggle a bit.  By struggling it will create more of the esters that we want in the beer. Recently, home brewers have errantly promoted the idea of big, huge yeast pitches.   Boy have they missed the point.  The point is to pitch the right amount of yeast, not just huge amounts of yeast.   If you read the yeast series you know that yeast creates esters, and higher alcohols in order to grow the population and survive.   When yeast is under stress it creates more of these esters.

Now to make sure we created the esters we needed in the finished beer, and because we wanted to develop a great mouth feel for this beer, we had to do a multi step mash.  We were already pitching dry, and fermenting at room temperature. But we had to create the right environment for the yeast. Step mashing is a breeze on this system.  Here is our schedule.

15 minutes at 118-120 F
15 minutes at 132-134 F
40 minutes at 146-148 F
10 minutes at 156-158 F

Brew Lab's 3v system.  Makes multi step mashing a breeze.
Now this is a multi step mash designed to extract lots of sugars, create good mouth feel, and to create some ferulic acid in the mash, so that the POV+ (phenolic off flavor variant positive) yeast can create the abbey flavors we are looking for in this beer.  Early on the wort was extremely milky, that is normal in a step mash especially during the acid rest and the protein rest.   You are letting other enzymes do their job.   In the acid rest we are chiefly letting Phytase and Glucanase create acid, and soften the cell membranes of the starch.  The protein rest was designed to allow Peptidase to create the ferulic acid we are looking for in the beer. Peptidase breaks medium chains into their components.   So if you want to express maximum esters or phenols in a Heffeweis or in a BSDA, you really should consider a protein rest around 115 - 128 F.  The key acid you are trying to maximize is called Ferulic acid. A Peptidase rest will help you maximize it's availability.  From then on it was a normal beta sachrification rest, and a brief alpha sachrification rest.  We skipped the mash out and shortened our sparge to 10 minutes.  We were already in danger of overshooting our gravity, and shortening the sparge and skipping the mash out helped us stay where we wanted to be. 

 "Wait, what?  you guys did something to limit your efficiency?   how crazy are you?  efficiency is the sacred holy bovine god of home brewing... how could you do that?  more sugar is always a good thing right?"   Well,  "yes," we took steps to limit the transfer of sugars, and "no," more sugar is not always a better thing.  Higher efficiency is not always a better thing.   Like always, I am promoting the common sense notion, that brewing, is 45% cleaning, and 45% learning and 10% brewing.   When you learn how to manage your mash, you can take steps like we took to get the beer you want.   Maximum efficiency is not the goal of a mash  The goal of a mash is creating the wort you want, and having a lot of fun. 

Now if you don't want to do a multi step mash, and you certainly don't have to, an alternative approach is to adjust your grain bill to include more wheat.   Trust me on this, a quality yeast will still give you the flavor you want.   I love Fermentis Abbaye (BE256), WLP500, and WLP530.  They are my favorite abbey style yeasts. I recently brewed with Imperial Monastery, and I'll let you know how it turns out.  So far it seems pretty great too, but with a softer phenol profile. I haven't tried Wyeast Belgian Abbey, or Belgian Abbey 2 (1214 and 1762) so I cannot comment on them yet, but I'm sure they are wonderful as well.   I should mention I have also brewed abbey style beers with Danstar Abbaye; it is also great stuff.  Wow, we brew a lot of abbey style ales...

Before I go on I want to remind you that when you do a single step mash, you will not develop all of the same characteristics of a multi-step mash.  You are asking sugars to do the job of proteins with regard to mouth feel and foam retention. A single step mash will work to a certain extent.  But it won't be exactly the same.   There is a reason the monks do step mashing and it is not just because of undermodified grains.  ONCE AGAIN THERE IS MORE GOING ON IN THE MASH THAN THE SIMPLE CONVERSION OF STARCH INTO SUGAR.  And I think we can all agree, they are pretty good brewers.

The boil went as expected 13 gallons boiled down to 11. We added our hops and spices at the appropriate times.  We filtered, chilled and transferred.  Then we pitched a pack of yeast in each carboy.   We did not use oxygen to aerate.   Fermentis is packaged with nutrients and oxygen.  So all we did was shake the carboys for 5 minutes.  That's it.  The final result?   We nailed it! 1.042 on the nose, and a clear golden elixir van de liefde.   This should be an amazing beer.  I can't wait to try it.   If you are in Kansas City in about 3 weeks, stop by the BrewLab and try this beer!


  1. Okay, so maximum efficiency isn't always the goal of mashing. Getting the wort you want is. Got it.

    How would milking a few extra points negatively impact the brew in this case, other than the OG or volume being slightly higher than planned?

  2. A few extra points is no big deal, But we were headed for 12 points extra. So we made the decision to reduce our fly sparge time from 45 minutes (very slow) to 5 minutes. If you are a BIAB brewer, who doesn't fly sparge, or who didn't grow up with traditional methods, you may not be aware of this little trick.