Monday, January 19, 2015


Bourbon Barrel Belgian Quad (with and without Cherries)

I was at home by myself for 28 hours.  Sounds benign, but it wasnt.  I haven't been in my house alone for that long in years!  Needless to say,  I wasn't going to miss an opportunity to brew and it wasnt long before inspiration struck.  I was at the LQ grabbing “supplies” when I saw Boulevard’s Bourbon Barrel Cherry Quad.  I was instantly intrigued, excited and on the hunt for a recipe.  Considering what I had on hand I knew this was going to be an American version of the beer, and as I am 
trying to break from style brewing, I couldn't have been more pleased.  

With that in mind I decided to diverge further with the addition of one of my favorite specialty malts, pale chocolate.  In an effort to go big or go home, I felt it apropos to tackle a 120 minute boil and on game day I reached into the toolkit and pulled out a little side pot, I grabbed .5G from the main pot and reduced it until it caramelizes.  Added it back with a grin.  Complexity?  Oh I like to think there will be a few fun things going on in this behemoth.

The grist is a little muddled as I had just al little victory, munich and vienna that were begging to be used, so I tossed them in for my complimentary bready/bisquit notes.  Ya, a bit kitchensink’ish’, but I stand by my decision. Let’s begin.


2-Row - 12 lbs (70%)
Caravienne - 1 lbs (6%)
Pale Chocolate - 1lbs (5%)
White Wheat - 1lbs (5%)
Munich - 12oz (4%)
Victory - 12oz (4%)
Demerara Sugar - 2 lbs (11%)

OG - 1098
FG - 1.009 
ABV - 11.5%
IBU - 45
COLOR - 22

As an aside, had I had it I would've just gone with 3 lbs Munich or Victory or Vienna.  Brewer’s choice.

Hops - Northern Brewer to balance at .5BUGU.  The oak will add to the “dry” character through the tannins, so starting off at balanced was the goal.

Yeast - 1500ml of built up yeast from Abbey Val-Dieu dregs were cooled and decanted to 500ml then tossed to a 1500ml starter for 24 hours. The starter was at high krausen in 4 hours.  Upon pitching, I made a 2L starter and pitched 1 expired vial of WLP Belgian Strong (may have been wise to go a 1030 instead of 1040 wort, next time).  Nonetheless, thats on the stir plate 72 hours and will be pitched directly and in its entirety direct from the plate.  

The idea here is at 1098 I want to be sure this puppy attenuates fully and that is no small task.  Between these two pitches and a little warm up at day 10-14 Im hoping to get below 1020 before sticking it on the floor for a 2 month 61 degree “conditioning” period.
Barrel - This will be the fourth beer in the barrel since I got it.  The bourbon and oak character are coming through over 2 weeks aging now, so this beer may take 3 or even 4 to hit a nice note.  I just want to know it is there and then I will rack it off.  Balance balance balance.

After the oak I am going to rack a few bombers and toss Brett and balloons at it.  The rest goes to a bottling bucket and will get 5 lbs cherries, macerated and without stones as the wood will have imparted plenty of tannins already.  Or should I leave the stones?  HMMM…. Age this to taste, rack, keg, condition/carb and bottle for the long haul.  

Brew day - 1/17/15

 Water - 3.25 gypsum, 1.25 baking soda (balanced I)

Mash 145 at 1.75 for 90

Demerara sugar was liquefied in water prior.  Syrup added during first runnings.

Ran off 7.5G and added DME to 1068 cuz software said I should have been at 1076...but 75% was 1060, I was on the money...I gotta switch software.

Pulled .5G from main boil and reduced for 30. Tasted like heaven.

Gas froze - had to bring boil inside.  Re-adjusted time.  Made arrangements so no boil off would drip back in. Clean.

1.25oz Northern Brewer 11% alpha at 60.

Boiled extra ten to get a few more points.  OG 1098

Cooled quickly, aerated for several minutes and tossed the first pitch at 66 degrees and left it in a 68 degree room for primary.

1/20/15 - 2 tap nutrient boiled and added. Plus, 2L starter (60 hours on stirplate) WLP belgian strong. All smells amazing. (But have since come to find that this amount of time could result in oxidation and diacetyl in the starter which if not decanted can push above flavor threshold of main brew...72 Max on stirplate. 18-24 ideal)

2/5/15 - getting slight coffee, and chocolate notes, very subtle on the Belgian, but correct. Eric is getting banana, I get slight fruit in general, not specifics there. A helluva good start! This beer is gonna go the distance!

2/13/15 - brix 10.6 shows 1008. Racked to barrel and filled it to the top.

3/1/15 - Brix - 10.8 - 1009. 90% attenuation. Must be true. Belgian Strong Ale touts a 85% attenuation on the high side. Add in 1G of total starter, plus 2lbs (10%) simple sugars and you can very well get those extra 5 points.  

Barrel tasting: Aroma - Alcohol perfume is medium to medium plus on the nose. Belgian character low. Im hoping this becomes more apparent with carbonation. Chocolate is medium-low. Oak character is low and bourbon character is almost non-existent. Have we worked out the booze in this barrel? More tim in the barrel is approved!
Flavor - slightly tannic (barrel). Alcohol is medium to medium plus. A nice bouquet of malt character and the chocolate comes through "balanced," to my taste.

3/3/15 - Barrel top up with marbles - cleaned, then ran boiling hot water on over marbles and added sanitizer. Let sit for a few hours then used latex gloves to pull the marbles and dunked in cool sanitizer and added to top up.

3/19/15 - moved to carboy. Initial tasting is too boozy, but very dry. Added 2 sugar tabs to bombers and siphoned a few bottles for comparison. Going to have to go with cherry juice instead of actual cherries. Trader Joe's run approved! Plan to add pure, Cherry Juice to taste. Want the sweetness and flavor, do not want anymore fermentation. Will knock out the yeast prior to blending with 1 camden tab per gallon crushed and dissolved in hot water. Let sit minimum 24 hours before blending. After blending be open to adding more oak if it needs it.

3/26/15 - crushed 4 Camden tabs into .5c boiling water. Dissolved and poured in. 

4/1/15 - homerun blending night with MoBigs. Several iterations culminated in 5:1 Quad to Cherry with a 50/50 blend on black cherry juice and tart cherry juice. Budgetary requirements considering the end of QE-Forever. (2.5G quad, .25G tart cherry, .25G black cherry)

5/14/15 - first tasting was very very pleasant. Aroma is moderate wood and light bourbon. Alcohols are restrained and lightly fruity. Belgian character is beautiful. Taste wise it is fairly simple, not much chocolate character is I'd hoped, probably double the chocolate compliment on the next iteration and could toss some chocolate extract to this batch. The only "problem" is a perceived bitterness/astringency that I think may be the tannins and how they push up against such a low finishing gravity. That will age out nicely. Overall the base beer is excellent. Perhaps slightly over attenuated and a bit more chocolate would put up to top notch, but I am calling this an excellent beer that will age gracefully. The cherry version will be nothing short of amazing!
6/3/15 - Homerun! So pumped on how this turned out.
A - actually a very dark brown, murky to be honest. Not sure clarity would ever come based on the ehaet add, but the head hangs in for the whole beer. At 11.5%, I couldnt be more pleased and less interested in clarity.
S - Cherries of course, light fruit, light chocolate. The bouget is huge! I have to believe a good chuck of the fruity aroma comes from the 11.5% ABV! It drinks like a 8% beer.....Fermentation profile was nailed!
T - Malt first rounds into a slight and light chocolate note, the cherries are very apparent and compliment/balance with grace here. Alcohol is there but not a real player on the pallet (but it is on the liver!). There is a medium-plus sweetness that lingers pleasantly.
M - medium - the residual sweetness fro the unfermented cherry juice thickens.
O- 8/10 - had i let the cherry juice ferment out for just a few days Id be in the 9 range. I would love the beer to have a bit less sweetness, but...and i mean but, this beer is friggin beautiful. Do not mess with a good thing just make something new. From aroma to sip to aftertaste and the buzz this baby sings!

Next time - no changes except knock out the cherries after 48 hours of rel-fermentation to allow some of the re-introduced sugars to get burned up. Use chocolate extract instead of pale chocolate for something very different. If you go this route you may consider letting the cherries ferment out competely as the perceived sweetness in the chocolate will play up the cherries bringing balance.

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