Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Raspberry Belgian Blonde... with Cargill Malts... Oh yeah we're BACK!

Allegement des Framboises
So this year has been busy.  Promotions at work, families growing,  team members moving.   Brewing as a team has taken a smaller role in our busy lives.  It's not that we haven't been brewing, we have.  Recently we have brewed a Centennial Blonde, a couple of pale ales, and an American Light lager, that will be fantastic after it lagers.   Our sour projects are continuing and coming along beautifully.  But actually brewing what we brew, "staying in our lane"as it were and doing some crazy decoction or step mash... well that has had to wait.   But this Saturday, the wait ended.   We gathered in the brewery (John's Garage) to brew our ridiculous Raspberry Belgian Blonde Allegement des Framboises.  If you have never tried this recipe, cancel your next brew, get some Dingemans Pilsner malt, and some Fermentis BE 256, and get ready to step mash.

This is the real Belgian Grain that you have been looking
for.  Your search is over.  Dingemans is the real deal.
We have been so honored by the many of you who have supported us and brewed our beers over the years.   This one has been a favorite.  And you can expect many more Belgian Inspired Brews coming up.   In the next weeks you'll see a tripel, a BDSA, a Saison Noel, and a Belgian Amber.    Like I said we are staying in our lane, complicated step mashes and decoctions coming up.   We are also planning some fun IPAs that are cooled partially with frozen grapefruit juice, and mango juice respectively (with special thanks to Basic Brewing where we got the idea).   But today is all about the cross over beer.  The beer that is loved by soccer moms and craft beer nerds alike.   I present... Allegement des Framboises.

Allegment is a Belgian Blonde, it is pretty darn fantastic without the Raspberries, but it takes on a a whole other character with the fruit.   It is also amazing with Peaches.   Something about the esters of the BE-256 and the fruit just goes so well together.  We have tried other Belgian style yeasts,  like White Labs 530 (our go to for BDSA) and Imperial Monastery, but honestly they are too estery for this beer.  We want a hint of fruity esters and cloves... not a punch to the face.   We find that with BE 255 we can control the esters with our step mash, creating more or less of a desired flavor by modifying our step times.

Yes, this is a decoction mash,  yes you will have to do some math but brewersfriend step mash infusion calculator makes that easy.  Yes, our brew day was 5 hours long.   5 hours of awesome fun and craft brew sampling with other brew nerds is a fun way to spend a Saturday.  And yes there are more ingredients, see below.  We generally rack onto thawed frozen raspberries, and then use raspberry extract to round out the flavor.  Yes, we generally secondary age this beer.    All the crazy stuff we do pays off in a elixir that is worthy of an offering to Ninkasi herself.  We do a fairly basic water adjustment, you are shooting for about 60 CA, and about 95 Chloride.  For us that is John's tap water mixed with 5 gallons of RO water and 1.25 G of Gypsum, and 2.5 G of Calcium Chloride, but you will have to calculate your own water adjustments.  If you need help, send a message, we try to respond.

And yes for Belgian inspired beers, the grain you choose matters.   We use, love, and promote Dingemans Pilsner from Cargill.  Ask for it by name.  It will make all of the difference in your Belgian inspired ales.  All of Cargills malts have been fantastic.  But this one... well this one is particularly fantastic.   It is the real Belgian malt you have been looking for.   You can use what ever Belgian yeast you prefer, but we recommend Fermentis Safale BE 256.   We have tried Wyeast and WhiteLabs with varying degrees of success.  If you choose liquid, please get fresh yeast.  It really loses viability quickly.

The new mill set up is
The brewday started, as always with lots of cleaning and preparation.  John milled the grains while MA and I cleaned.  And when you are brewing I suggest you clean everything that needs cleaning in your brewery.  Remember, if you don't like cleaning, you don't like brewing, you just enjoy making wort.    MA and I cleaned everything.  We went through a whole container of PBW.  But now everything is crystal clean.  We scrubbed, things soaked, we rinsed... it was great.

Crushing fine improves
John crushed the grains to .3 mills.  Like our new mill set up?  That is a corona mill mounted in a 5 gallon bucket with a 3 gallon hopper on top.  It can hold about 12 lbs of grain. (well it can hold more, but the bucket gets full, so when we redesign it there will be a larger bucket)  Dust free milling in half the time.   The idea came from Wilserbrew on Home brew talk.  We love our new mill set up.  And we crush fine.  It improves everything.   Those of you who have brewed this beer before may notice that we no longer add sugar.  The truth is we are getting 75.8% from no sparge brewing.  So why add any sugar to the beer?  It really doesn't need it.   Plus last time, the beer was a little high on alcohol aromas.  So we wanted to bring it down just a bit.

Your first steps will be thick... RDWHAHB
We then started our step mash.   As you can see from the mash instructions above, this is a complicated mash.  But infusion step mashing really isn't hard.  You pour boiling water into your mash.  That's all it is.   We used to have to step mash, now we do it because it makes better beer.  Beer with real mouth feel, beer with real head retention.  Can you make a meringue like head last on a beer with out adding tons of adjuncts?  We can... because we step mash.    The first step, the acid rest is always extremely thick, don't worry about it.   By the end, it will be very thin and it will flow easily.   With the help of the calculator on Brewersfriend we nailed our step mash.   Resting at each level for our desired time, and the furthest we were off on a step was 2 degrees Fahrenheit.   Pretty darn good.

Step mashing is so much more active than single infusion brewing.  I personally think it is just more fun.   This is the step where we were 2 degrees to high.  We were shooting for 132 to 134 F.  We ended up at 134 for most of the grist, but some spots were at 136 F.  No big deal.  We know from our post boil trub that we accomplished our goal of modifying proteins into medium length chains.  (UPDATE - the ol trusty long probe thermometer is toast- so we were probably spot on)  This is the step that really makes the difference in our beers.  The protein rest.  You see, we never ask sugars to do the job that should be done by proteins.   We use the proteins to create the head retention and to create the mouth feel that you can only get from a good step mash.

We had two more additions after the protein rest, and a schluss mash decoction to get to mash out. By then end of our mash, our wort was thin, the brewery smelled like heaven.  And our mout (wort) was digestable.   That is what you want when you are making a Belgian inspired beer.   By the way, the flavor of the wort was amazing, sweet, biscuit, toast, slight sourness from the acid rest (the yeast will turn that into awesome Belgian flavors)   This should be a great beer.

I know I have told you to take records while you brew.  But I really mean it.  Take good notes, keep records.   John documents our brew days in a brew journal he got.   I use my computer.  MA takes photos.  I can't tell you how many times the records have saved our bacon, or allowed us to figure out what went wrong or right.   It is also fun to go back and read your brewing notes from previous brew sessions and see what was going on.

Record your gravity through out the process.  You will quickly learn how your brewery operates, and what changes you need to make to craft the beer you want to make.  This is how you learn your system.  This is how you brew world class beer.  Learning and experience... there's nothing that compares to Learning and experience. 

The boil was uneventful, we boiled hard, hoping to destroy any long chain proteins that weren't modified by the step mash.   There is only one hop addition.   At the end of the boil we had 9 gallons of delicious wort.   We were shooting for 1.060.   We got... 1.060.   We will gain a couple of points from the sugars in the raspberries in secondary.   It was a great brew day.  Lots of fun.  And most importantly we're back.  So get ready for a whole slew of new posts from us.  We'll keep things rolling, and if you are ever in KC on a weekend, and want to brew with us, let us know.  We'd love to brew with you. 

Keep checking back.  We're brewing a tripel this weekend, our infamous "desir".   We have some cool stuff coming up on decoction mashing, and on how to correctly add spices to your beers... can you say Christmas farmhouse ale?