Sunday, October 12, 2014

Prince D - Belgian Dark Strong/Dubbel

Is it Dubbel or a Dark Strong?  I recently was listening to the boys on BN talk about this very concept, and at the end of the day I was not really brewing to one or the other.  I had an idea of the character in this beer I was shooting for, and truth be told I haven't brewed enough of them to dial in what I am really looking for, especially because i have only begun to cork brews and see what the aging process provides.  Anyway, here we are all brewed up and no where to go...or do we?  

I love big, complex beers.  I love the idea of moving around those complexities and creating something that can age.  With that said i fully intend on brewing many more to this genre, aka, the big dark Belgian.  

So, lets dive into the first BDB (Big Dark Belgian) I have written about and see where the beer takes us.  On this one I was not trying to blow any one characteristic out of the water.  I was trying for balanced complexity (does that even make sense?) on the grist followed with a complimentary fermentation. 

From this beer I can adjust the grist to fit the fermentation profile, if it did in fact yield my intended sweet start, dry finish, low fusel, moderate ester beer.

Let's Begin

OG - 1082
FG - 1026 (no bueno)
ABV - 7.5
IBU - 29
SRM  - 25

Belgian Pils - 7lb
US 2-row - 7lb
Bisquit - 2lb
Special B - 1lb
Munich (Light) - 1lb
Munivh (Dark) - 1lb
Caramunich III - .5lb
Dark Belgain candi Sugar (homemade) - 1lb

I have 500ml thick slurry of what will be third gen WLP 500.

Need 320B cells (mr, malty)

~125ml thick slurry ~ 150B (mr. malty) into a 1L starter@1.036 (brewersfriend - White) = 338B cells, close enough.

BrewHouse Math: 10 min boiling took 1000ml down to 800ml in the flask.  200ml boil off/10 min.

Belgian Candi Sugar - Easy!
1lb sugar
2 cups water
1 Tablespoon lemon/lime  

Brew day: 8/27/14

Bring to a boil for 30 and at 30 (or a little less, once the water was evaporated) you must watch it very carefully as the solution will darken quickly.  Pull off heat at desired color and add directly to boil, or cool, break apart and store in a dry place. 

The plan was good, but unfortunately there were a couple details that required some adjustment.  First, my brewhouse inventory was not as accurate as i thought and my East Kent Goldings were in fact, gone.  So, I hopped with Warrior to obtain the same IBU's.  Warrior is my go to for clean bittering without adding hop character.  Its beautiful, and as this is a malt-centric beer I was hoppy to use them.

Next, my OG was low.  Sometimes I get my targeted 65%, some times I only get 60....Its pretty frustrating, and I have yet to narrow down where in my process I'm getting hosed.  Hmmmmmmmm...I think I have a refractometer purchase in my near future...and additional notes on the sparge/mash consistency and subsequent OG.

Anyway, its nothing a little DME cant fix, so I added some to get my OG up.   

Everything went well, but even after cooling (during another brew) and a couple hours in the fridge I could only get her down to 70 (summer months are tough on that immersion chiller efficiency), so I left her outside overnight after pitching at 70 to get a few more degrees sucked out into the world.

Day one and she was ripping!  And she was at 77!  Well, so much for restricting fusel alcohol production.  Turns out it only got down to 66 that night and i never got her down in the low 60's which would have put me below optimum, but in the wheel house for her to free rise into her own sweet spot (my preferred fermentation profile)...I think I see a fridge and a Johnson Controller in my near future.

Day 10 - 1029 - swirled

9/15/14 - FG at 1026, 66 degrees, no airlock activity.  Shook well and put into
75 degree water.  
9/17/14 - fermentation has restarted.  Airlock action every 30 seconds. ((I think this was just residual CO2 escaping as the liquid warmed))
9/22/14 - very little reduction, if any in gravity.  I have given up the ghost - keg it!

My friend, Gates, owner/chef/beer enthusiast of Bear and Boots Restaurant had an amazing idea.  Spruce your Belgian Dubbel he says.  Now, when you have a man as talented as Gates offering a fun idea on how to take your beer to the next level, you listen!

So, how to get Spruce in my beer?
I have tried boiling down "spruced water," just adding the whole sprig and adding spruced water.  Nothing stands out yet.  Seems like it would have had to be in the boil as I can not put a sprig in now without contaminating it, or sanitizing the sprig....No essential oil found at local spice shop and I'm not going to go out and buy it for this purpose. 

10/7/14 - oaked remaining 2.5G with heavy toast spiral.

Next - oak to taste.  Then...
Add 1 sprig per 12oz bottle (4 bottles). Add just needles to 4 more for aging as well.  
4 - full sprig (one to gates)
4 - needles only (one to gates)
Bottle and cork the rest.  Age at least 2 months. 

Packages non-oak
Oaked a gallon with full heavy toast spiral

10/16/14 Packaged final gallon - Oak bomb.  All subtle complexity ripped out by oak/vanilla/wood.
11/21/14 - Oak bomb is still an oak bomb.  The non-oaked version is beautiful  Still under attenuated, but I am very happy with the complexity and ester profile.  I see no need to change anything with this grist accept to work down the final gravity.  

A - Medium to dark brown with a nice white head that hangs in for most of the brew.  Belgian lacing not readily sticky in this version.
S - The aroma is slightly sweet, perhaps a small tinge of alcohol in the nose and a nice light fruity yeast character.
T - Very easy on the pallet although with a slightly sweet start but unfortunately a slightly sweet finish as well.  The malt is bready and the yeast character comes through appropriately.  Hints of dark fruit and plum are balanced against the lighter malt character and yeast character.
M - medium - needs to be more dried out.  
O - An almost great beer.  Very easy drinking, but not as easy at it would have been if I had attenuated it fully.  want to see this get below 1018, ideally 1016.  More healthy yeast and a more aggressive fermentation profile to help in this effort next time.  Yet, the beer presents well and was very much enjoyed by all at FriendsGiving 2014.

Next - Gotta get this thing to attenuate.  I loved the beer, (not the oaked version...wrecked that), so lets re-brew, no changes to grist of process.  Bigger pitch of fresher yeast...I wasnt cleaning yeast then and was only making 1L starters. Dip toothpicks in Spruce extract and toss in one at a time.  Light toast oak only from now on.

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