Archive for August, 2014

AG#19 – Sign of the Cross Belgian Quadrupel


I’ve done 3 brews now with the vial of WLP500 yeast I bought recently. The patersbier starter I did with it turned out a bit ropey – huge whiff of sulphur off all of the beers. But the dubbel I repitched the yeast into is tasting extremely promising. And the Belgian blonde might be even better, if the samples I had at bottling time are any indication.

In some ways, all of these brews were leading up this one. It was always my plan to do a dark and strong Belgian ale with the last repitch of this yeast. A Belgian quadrupel (or “Belgian Dark Strong” as it’s known in the BJCP guidelines) was the only choice. I’m a big fan of the Chimay Blue and as WLP500 is in fact the Chimay strain, it seemed like a great choice. I’m using Jamil’s recipe, with just a few minor adjustments. The hops are slightly different (I’m doing a small flavour addition, for a start) but I also want to use up some more of the dark candi syrup I bought for this series of Belgian ales.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 27.90 l
Post Boil Volume: 23.40 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.098 SG
Estimated Color: 61.4 EBC
Estimated IBU: 30.1 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 72.2 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes


6.200 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (3.9 EBC), 62.5 %
1.350 kg Munich Malt (17.7 EBC), 13.6 %
0.450 kg Aromatic Malt (51.2 EBC), 4.5 %
0.450 kg Caramunich Malt (110.3 EBC), 4.5 %
0.450 kg Special B Malt (400.0 EBC), 4.5 %
0.300 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (3.9 EBC), 3.0 %
0.225 kg Melanoiden Malt (39.4 EBC), 2.3 %
0.250 kg Candi Sugar, Dark (541.8 EBC), 2.5 %
0.300 kg Cane (Beet) Sugar (0.0 EBC), 2.5 %
56 g Hallertauer Hersbrucker [3.80 %], 27.0 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
25 g Saaz [4.80 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 3.1 IBUs

12 g Coriander Seed, Boil 5 mins
1.0 pkg Trappist Ale (White Labs #WLP500) (600ml slurry from Little Divil)

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 9.925 kg
Mash In           Add 26.39 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun , 11.45l) of 77.0 C water

Mash Day 30/08/2014 – I quite like splitting up the mash and boil into separate “brew days”. I’ve been doing my last few brews like this and it really cuts down on the workload somehow. Mash went well. Was ready to dough in, grain crushed, liquor heated and checked out my recipe notes. I was alarmed to see the recipe specify 26 litres of liquor. Never transferred that much liquor to my MT before. I knew I was dealing with more grain than I’d ever dealt with before, but I started to get worried about all of the grain and liquor actually fitting in the mash tun. It was somewhat foolhardy, but I just went for it and doughed in. A very, very, very close call; but it all fit in the mash with barely a mm left to clamp down the lid. Mashed for 90 mins and was very impressed with the dark, mahogany red of the wort. The only thing is that my mash temperature was a good bit higher than I wanted –  I was getting a lot of different readings in different parts of the MT, but I’d say the mash temperature averaged out at 66.5C.

Boil Day 31/08/2014 – All going well until I was looking at the chilling wort and wondering why the cold break wasn’t forming as well as usual. I’d forgotten to add the Whirlfloc. Kicking myself. Running off the boiler wasn’t as easy as the last time either, even though I did it pretty slowly. I might look into doing some finings post-fermentation. I’m also considering a re-brew. To add to my woes, I also came in at an OG of 1.090, but with such a high gravity, it was somewhat expected. Finished the brew in the morning and fermentation had started by evening. Going to ferment at a cooler temperature for 2 or 3 days before warming up to ensure complete fermentation.

02/09/2014 – Was a bit concerned because the kreusen has actually died down slightly, which I wouldn’t have expected at this early stage. Took a temperature reading of 20.8C which is pretty good. Though I still move the FV to a warmer spot, so that it will fully attenuate. Checked BCS for advice and it says to increase the temperature to 22C in the last third of fermentation. I’ll probably exceed that, but that’s no hassle with this particular yeast strain.

03/09/2014 – Took a temperature reading and it’s pretty bang-on. 22.1C. Another 3 or 4 days at that temperature should see it mostly fermented out. I know I’ve said it before, but I love the resilience of these Belgian yeasts! Next summer is going to be saisons and Belgian ales all the way.

22/09/2014 – Bottled with 180g corn sugar (17.5l @ 3.5 vol). Used the same carbonation strategy as the Little Divil, but I haven’t tasted that yet, so hope it’s okay. Got 12 x 500ml and 33 x 330ml bottles from the batch. The aroma from the fermenter was absolutely incredible. Took a FG reading of 1.012 which seems very low to me, but then, I was several points below my target OG, so it’s probably fine. Taste from the trial jar was shockingly alcoholic, but it will just need a couple of months for those flavours to mellow. Great potential. As I suspected, it is extremely hazy and murky, but hopefully some of this will dissipate too.

16/12/2014 – Woefully undercarbonated. Also feels syrupy and under-attenuated. Extremely disappointed as I knew it would not be at its best, but still expected it to be drinkable.

27/02/2015 – Very pleased and relieved to see that this finally carbed up. I brought the crates indoors and roused the yeast at the bottom of each bottle. A month’s patience and hey presto.. The only problem is the lack of clarity – it really is a murky and rather unattractive looking beer. Head retention is unfortunately non-existent too. Flavour has improved a lot, but alcohol is still a tiny bit hot. Another couple months should further smoothen the flavour, but I doubt the clarity will ever improve. That’s what happens when you forget the Whirlfloc.

27/09/2015 – It’s taken a long time, but this beer has really started to grow on me. Lovely spicy, fruit-cake type flavours. It’s not syrupy, as I expecting, still very drinkable. The bitterness is surprisingly prominent, given the long aging it has endured. It will make a nice winter sipper. But I’m still keen to re-brew it, this time not forgetting the finings!

09/02/2016 – This is tasting really good. The alcohols are so smooth now. Big Belgian yeast flavours and lots of dark dried fruits. Still very hazy, which is off putting. It’s also a bit too dark. Would row back on the dark crystal malts on the next attempt.

25/08/2016 – A long time since I sampled one of these. It never dropped bright, even after two years. Very raisiny, bit of oxidation showing possibly. Dried fruit. Slightly burnt caramel. Really enjoyed this.

AG#18 – Little Divil Belgian Blond


I hadn’t originally planned on doing a light-coloured beer with the WLP500 I have, but I was impressed with the clean flavours I got in my patersbier, DSM/sulphur aroma aside. I want to do something really simple here. A simple grain bill of pilsner malt and wheat malt, and some noble hops for bittering. I might also include a small charge of Saaz for flavour. Jamil’s tripel recipe uses “aromatic” malt which I’m assured is the American equivalent of the abbey malt we get here. So I’ll include a small amount of this to give the beer some extra complexity. Style-wise, I’m going for something between a tripel and a Belgian golden strong ale. There’s a fair amount of simple sugar in my recipe, so I should end up with a beer that is quite dry and drinkable. With a bit of luck it will end up something like Duvel, without the huge alcohol content. Depending on the fermentation temperature, it might even end up rather saison-like.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 27.90 l
Post Boil Volume: 23.40 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.068 SG
Estimated Color: 10.3 EBC
Estimated IBU: 28.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 73.0 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes


5.500 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (3.9 EBC), 84.6 %
0.300 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (3.9 EBC), 4.6 %
0.200 kg Aromatic Malt (51.2 EBC), 3.1 %
33 g Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 25.5 IBUs
25 g Saaz [4.80 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 3.4 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
0.550 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil for 10 min], 7.7 %
10.00 g Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 mins)
1.0 pkg Trappist Ale (White Labs #WLP500) (300ml of slurry from Hard Rain Belgian Dubbel)

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 6.500 kg
Mash In           Add 16.80 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 17.61l) of 77.0 C water

Mash Day 03/08/2014 – Mashed at around 65.5C-65.9C. Strike temperature of 71.8C. Beautifully pale wort.

Brew Day 04/08/2014 – Made some last minute adjustments with a little extra corn sugar and a little less coriander seed. Had to cycle one element on and off in order to get a decent rolling boil. But the boil was very vigorous and I got a great boil-off. Got a slightly low OG but I got more volume into the FV than expected – 1.066-1.088. I had absolutely no problems with running off from the boiler. One reason was that I was using plenty of leaf hops. Another might have been because I did the runoff really slowly, only opening the tap a third of the way.

05/08/2014 – Fermentation 24 hours later is going like a machine gun! Never seen a fermentation as strong as this.

11/08/2014 – Still getting bubbles from the airlock. Beer looks great. Will move to a colder room in a couple of days and let it clear for a week or two before bottling.

24/08/2014 – Batch primed with 181g of corn sugar (17.5 litres @ 3.5 vol). 15 x 500ml bottles, 12 x 750ml bottles. Got slightly less volume into bottles than expected, which means the carbonation will be a little livelier. But at 3.5 vol, I had a little wiggle-room on this. Very pleased with the flavour, bags of Belgian fruit. The FG reading a lot lower than I was expecting at 1.006! Surely that can’t be right??

31/08/2014 – Had a little taste of the residual beer in the flask containing the WLP500 slurry. Very promising, great Belgian flavour. Can’t wait to taste the real thing when it’s carbonated and has dried out. I think it could be a good example of both a tripel and a Belgian blonde.

03/10/2014 – Just over 5 weeks old and tasting very nice indeed. Great head formation with respectable retention. Definitely within the boundaries of a “Belgian Blonde”, but not sure if it would pass muster as a tripel. The alcohol is not that prominent, but there’s quite kick in it. Quite sweet, but maybe it will dry out further as it conditions. Tiny bit of sulphur on the nose, and a bit more banana in the flavour than I want, but these too should dissipate over time. Will definitely do this again. Bit of Carapils the next time, to help get that thick, billowing head. Could use a little extra bitterness too.

09/10/2014 – Can’t believe how good this is tasting. Opened a 750ml bottle which had only been in the fridge for less than an hour. Head formation was a little loose and short-lived as a result, but still not bad. Fantastic Belgian fruit flavours. Sweet pilsner malt character. Balanced alcohol flavour. But the real winning component of the flavour is the toasty, biscuity character. Not sure whether this is from the base malt or the abbey malt. Big fruit flavours, and the coriander peeks through nicely.

10/12/2014 – I have a good few bottles of this left. It’s still really good – a bit of aging has not harmed it at all. Will definitely do this recipe again.

02/01/2015 – I’m finally at the end of this batch and it’s holding up fantastically well. Crisp, but a nice residual sweetness from the pilsner malt. As far as improvements go, I think next time there should be less bitterness and probably less coriander as the fruitiness is a little overwhelming.

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