BIAB#5 – Bastogne Pale Ale

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31/08/2013 – I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to liquid yeast and the starter cultures they usually require. The only time I’ve used a liquid yeast (with a starter) was the hefeweizen earlier in the year that used the WLP300. The starter seemed to be fine but the fermentation was sluggish and the temperature control was non-existent. For various reasons that have been well-documented, the beer was pretty disappointing. A complete banana-bomb, with some inappropriate Belgian-style esters and very little mouthfeel (though in fairness, this was probably caused by using 100% malt extract). Having been disappointed with the Belgian flavours in my hefe, here I am attempting a beer where I actually want those types of esters!

The yeast I’ve chosen for my upcoming series of Belgian ales is WLP550. It’s reported to be cultured from La Chouffe, a fantastic example of a Belgian golden ale. I’ll be doing a moderate gravity Belgian pale ale to kick things off gently. Then I’ll be stepping up the gravity and doing a “faux” saison, before doing a heavily-hopped Belgian IPA. This yeast has a high level of attenuation, flocculates reasonably well for a Belgian yeast and has a nice spicy Belgian character. It’s reported to have a moderate level of esters so I might be compensating for this with some fruity/floral hop choices in the upcoming beers.

Having scorched the feck out of my 2l conical flask and no way of removing it without buying some spooky chemicals, I used a 2l plastic mineral water bottle. I used 1.5l of the mineral water itself (yeast starters are not supposed to have any chlorine present) and added 150g of light spraymalt. I boiled for 10 mins in a saucepan to sanitise and chilled the saucepan in a sink filled with icy water. It cooled down in a surprisingly short length of time. I was sure to check the pitching temperature which was 17C. I transferred the starter wort to the plastic bottle and aerated the wort by putting the plastic bottle cap back on (which had been sanitised) and shook the hell out of it several times, opening the cap each time to get more air into the bottle.

The first surprise was when the yeast vial started fizzing when I opened it. I’ve done a bit of reading on this and it’s supposed to be quite normal. Pitched the yeast anyway, it already had that signature Belgian aroma. I think a couple of Belgian beers are in order tonight. I’ll give the starter a few days to work it’s magic before pitching into my 15 litres of Belgian pale ale! Here’s hoping!

I also sanitised the vial of WLP550 before shaking well to dislodge the compacted yeast.

01/09/2013 – No sign of the starter kicking off yet, even though it’s been about 18 hours since the yeast was pitched!

02/09/2013 – Big fermentation going on in the start today. Huge streams of bubbles. Should hopefully be about 2 days until I can brew with this.

04/09/2013 – Note to self… do the yeast starters mid-week so that you can do brewing at the weekend, not the other way around! It’s Wednesday and I have to brew tonight!! 🙂

So what’s this recipe? The idea is to start off my WLP550 yeast in a moderate-gravity beer instead of putting it straight into a strong dubbel or Belgian IPA (those recipes will be coming up shortly). It’s a fairly basic recipe, ripped off from Jamil’s “Brewing Classic Styles” – pilsner malt, CaraMunich, Munich, CaraPils and Biscuit. The CaraPils is my own addition, just to help the head retention. This is my first time using pilsner malt, so I’ll be doing a 90-minute boil instead of the usual 60 minutes. This is done to reduce dimethyl-sulphide (DMS) in the beer. I’ll still be adding my first hop addition at 60 minutes though. Hops will be all East Kent Goldings, an English hop (obviously) but a very common ingredient in Belgian beers. I’m also taking advantage of the freedom afforded by the fact that I’m “doing a Belgian” to add some funky spicing. I’ll be adding some coriander and orange peel. Just a little bit, to give the beer an extra something.

Recipe

Boil Size: 17.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 15.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Color: 8.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 25.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

3.20 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM), 82.4 %
0.24 kg Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM), 6.1 %
0.16 kg Munich Malt (9.0 SRM), 4.1 %
0.16 kg Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM), 4.1 %
0.13 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 3.3 %
20 g Goldings, East Kent [5.80 %] – Boil 60.0
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
5.00 g Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 mins)
24 g Goldings, East Kent [5.80 %] – Boil 0.0
1.0 pkg Belgian Ale White Labs #WLP550 – 1.5 litre starter – 3 days old

Brew Day 04/09/2013 – Doughed in at 72C, mash temperature of 67C, bang on target. I fished the muslin bag containing the 5g of coarsely crushed coriander seeds before I turned on the immersion chiller. Not sure if this is the done thing, but I’d rather have too little coriander flavour in this than too much. The smell from the spent seeds is amazing – I really hop some of that flavour makes it through to the fermented beer. Really citrussy, reminds me of Christmas cake in a  weird way. It’s pretty cool not having to deal with (f’ing) malt extract for a change. I’m looking forward to making the move to my full all-grain setup. I also quite like not having to worry about yeast hydration etc. I can just pitch the starter into the fresh wort.

09/09/2013 – This is well finished! Only 5 days later! Bit worrying really, but I’d heard this yeast was a bit of an animal. I’d noticed a couple of days ago that the fermentation had slowed right down so I was keep an eye on it. With a fair amount of trepidation (given my last experience with liquid yeast and starters) I took a gravity reading and was delighted to read 1.010. Right on target but I’ll leave it another 1-2 weeks in the FV to do a little cleaning up. I had a taste from the trial jar and it’s not bad at all. Bit yeast, alcohol a little too prominent. But there’s a superb grainy flavour from the beer – the pilsner malt I presume. I does remind me a little of a nice crisp lager. Seems to be plenty of fruity Belgian yeast character in there though. Happy with that.

15/09/2013 – Bottled with 97g of dextrose (13l at 2.5 vol) into all 500ml bottles. Got 24 bottles from the batch. Sample was a bit yeasty, but there’s a nice underlying biscuit flavour and plenty of Belgian yeast flavour.

13/11/2013 – I think this has really improved. Past tastings have been a little cidery, a little astringent perhaps. But that’s mellowed a lot. You can really taste the sweetness of the Pilsner malt. The crystal malt (CaraMunich) is very evident, maybe a little too much, but it’s probably appropriate for the style. I think I’d make this a little drier if I was doing it again.

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