Belgian Brewday: On a Jag Abbey Dubbel Quad (Version 1)

Update (27/9/2010, 29/9/2010): Notes on fermentation appended after the end of this post.

Original Post (26/9/2010): Yeah, you knew this was coming. I have a few reviews to post, of Delerium Tremens and a bottle of Old Peculier that my friend Mark brought over for us, as well as a bottle of framboise by Mort Subite that Nick brought over back in February and which I saved, somehow, until a week ago, but today, my beer-related post is a recipe log for a brewday!

(Whew, it’s nice to be back at it. I get a weird itch in my mind when I don’t write for a long time, and it seems I have developed the same thing for brewing, too.)

So anyway, I’m trying my hand at a Belgian beer. I’m not sure how it will turn out — for one thing, the yeast “smack pack” I’ve had in the fridge a few weeks, and which my friend Ben brought over from the US for me, did not swell up like it was supposed to do when I “smacked” it. But I figure, if that yeast fails, I have a few others I can try. Something’s gotta work, eventually.

I intend to enter a bottle in the next homebrew brewoff, which will be in November sometime. It’ll be young for a Dubbel, but I won’t let that hold me back! (And I’ll be brewing a few other interesting things over the next few weeks, which will mature a little faster and which I may well enter into the same brewoff too.)

So here’s my recipe, which is slightly modified from the “Two Bits Abbey Dubbel” I found in Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing:

On a Jaggery Abbey Dubbel

All-Grain (& stuff) Recipe:

  • 3 kg German Pilsner malt
  • 1.5 kg Munich Malt
  • 0.5 kg crystal malt (EB 115-145 I guess L50)
  • 0.2 kg Quaker Quick Oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp freshly-crushed coriander

Adjuncts:

  • 1 kg Jaggery (Indian partially refined sugar)
  • 0.35 kg Date Honey (from UAE, picked up in Indonesia)

Hops:

  • 35 g Northern Brewer 7% 90 min

Mashing Procedure:

I was lazy and just did an single step mash, to bring it up from about 57C (an accidentally slightly high protein rest) to 65C. Let it sit for an hour. Since I’m (still) using my boil pot with a false bottom as my MLT, I raised the temp 70C for mash out by direct heat to the MLT. Sparged and ended up an OG of about 1.030 at about 70 degrees celcius, which converts to about 1.050 when adjusting for temperature. Of course, that’s prior to the addition of the adjuncts (jaggery and date honey).

Then I had to go out, so I left the newly-drained wort in a covered, sealed bucket for the duration. A couple of hours later, when I got home, I started the 90-minute boil. To that boil I added the adjuncts (the jaggery was dissolved into about a liter of water and boiled for a while, the honey I dumped straight into the brewpot) and the hops, which are there for only a slight bitterness and preservative effect anyway.

Yeast: Wyeast Belgian Abbey II

OG: 1.070 (after addition of adjuncts)

FG: ? (we’ll see)

Alcohol: ?%

Comments:

This beer is supposed to be about complexity, a cascade of flavors and nuances. We’ll see how it turns out in a couple of months, though.

While some equate Belgian beer with high alcohol levels, a Dubbel can be quite well within style at somewhere between 5.5 to 6.4% (which is Mosher’s range for his version of this recipe, sans the oats and with a few other differences). However, even with less malted grains than Mosher’s original recipe, I suspect I’ll end up with a slightly higher starting gravity. Still, unless the OG has shot up to 1.075 or higher, I think I’ll still be in the range for a dubbel, so it should be fine.

I’m not shooting so much for high alcohol, as for a malty, rich complexity. (Hence the probably unnecessary decoction and the use of Munich malt, as well as the mild hops–I won’t get more then 25 IBUs out of them, even in a 90 minute boil–and the particular choice in hops, which are supposed to be characterized by “lively lemon & lime with a hint of tropical fruit flavor”.)

Notes:

Yay for international travel!

The date honey I picked up in Indonesia (and I have about 1.5 kg more which I will use in something else). (The brand I have is called Madu Dari Kurma.) The Belgian Saaz/Moteuka is a dual-purpose hop I picked up in Melbourne (along with the Crystal Malt) when my friend Charlie took me to the homebrew shop in his neighborhood. And the yeast was brought from the US by my friend Ben who flew in to Korea a few weeks ago!

For brewers in Korea, the jaggery (Sakthi brand) is available at the main Pakistani food shop (by the old location of What the Book) in Itaewon. Randy Mosher recommends alternative sugars for those (like himself) who find Belgian caramels (not candi sugars, but the actual caramel syrups used specifically in brewing) unavailable to them. I decided to go with jaggery since I had a few packs and have been dying to try some out in a brew.

Other than that, I’m a little apprehensive, this being my first attempt at a Belgian beer, but I’m excited nonetheless.

One more thing, I finally figured out how to get the damned clamps to work on my immersion chiller, so it’s easier to set up… or will be, once I get more clamps and set it up right. (I need a little more tubing of the right size, too. It sucks to have to pull off the tubing I used to run the chiller output into the sink, and swap it over to the brew pot nozzle to get the chilled wort down into the fermentation vessel.

Aaaaaaaaaand… I think tomorrow I might brew up a small batch of mead.

UPDATED NOTES ON FERMENTATION:

As mentioned above, I’m using a Belgian Yeast, the Wyeast 1762 (“Belgian Abbey II”) strain. It’s known as a slow starter, so I shouldn’t have panicked like I did, but, well, you know… it’s only natural when doing something new, and this was a complex wort to produce, and when the yeast went through weeks of refrigeration and is in who knows what shape. Seems it’s in good enough shape, even though the “smack pack” didn’t activate or anything.

One thing: I was kind of hoping to do this beer a little estery, but I mixed up my yeast strains — the Wyeast “Belgian Abbey” strain is the estery one. Sadly, this is the high-gravity yeast, so it’s going to end up pretty dry, I think. Which is too bad. The wort, when I splashed it into the bucket (with occasional help from Miss Jiwaku) was dark and rich, strongly sweet but with a great potential for maltiness and subtle flavors to develop. (I think… I hope!) There was, unfortunately, a certain amount of trub (or is it trub-precursor, when it’s pre-boil?) that got into the fermenter — I ended up leaving the wort in a bucket and then stupidly dumped it, instead of siphoning it, into the boil pot. I could easily have reduced the amount of trub by eliminating that stuff, but it was late and I was in something of a hurry.

I think I ended up with something less than 19L, but anyway, I’ll be bottling it in 500ml bottles because I think this may actually be a beer I’ll be able to give to people for Xmas. In fact, my abiding hope is that it will taste as wonderful as this beer (by someone else, posted on Flickr) looks. But I suspect it’s going to be an oddly dry beer, and I’m wondering if maybe, just maybe, I should be turning it into some kind of dark trippel by figuring out how to make caramel syrup and adding a bunch. This yeast can go up to 12%, which is pretty high! (Ooops.)

In the meantime, I also started up a back-up starter for another strain of Belgian yeast, so I’m thinking of doing a smaller (10L?) batch of some sort of Belgian ale. I have the malt on hand, at least, and could try making some candi syrup if I can get the stuff Randy Mosher suggests (again, in Radical Brewing) — or I could just use the same recipe, try it with a different yeast, and see what I think!

I was thinking of trying to do a Saison, or the all-Brett that I’ve read about — as both of them take a certain amount of time to develop, and I have the yeasts on hand — but those shall have to be bumped back in the queue as this yeast is going to be good to go by the end of the week.

As for the mead I mentioned, that got put off till Wednesday, but I did manage to pick up the needed honey: acacia, 4.5 kilos of the stuff. And I noticed one can get a certain amount of frozen bokbunja (wild black raspberries) so I’m thinking of using the dry mead yeast, and turning it into a nice tart melomel (which is what they in the business call fruit mead), followed by something made with the Ale yeast on the weekend. (Probably Saturday.) I may also finally get around to making that dong-dong-ju that I’ve been planning to make… though I was kind of hoping to time that for a special occasion, even if it’s just a meeting of my crit group… maybe I’ll try time it for the next meeting, then… which would probably mean starting it off next Wednesday, as I’ve read it hits peak condition in about 9-10 days.

The All-Brett and the Saison are crying out to be made… but before I do those, it looks like I’ll need to make another order for malt, and do some research.

Second Update: Aha! I found a way to turn this disaster around!

There’s not much I can do to turn around the fact that the dubbel I’m fermenting now will turn out dry, dry, dry, and not very estery. Well, that’s life, and who knows, it might be okay. Dry, mildly bittered, but maybe all those wacky sugars and the complex stuff in the honey and jaggery will remain and there’ll be some flavor strength to save it — along with the fruitiness inherent in this yeast, and the fact I’ll be doing the later fermentation at a higher temperature. (And anyway, the yeast I would rather have used was also likely to ferment it dry, since it has a tolerance higher than my likely final alcohol level.) The best I can hope for is a kind of dry, fruity, complex, lower-end Belgian strong ale, but darker than most I’ve seen at a kind of dark amber color.

BUT!

That said, a little Googling around shows that some people do indeed use this yeast for making dubbels. It’s seemingly not popular, since it’s not very estery and you want those esters in a dubbel, but some people do use it. So I guess it’s alright as a preliminary brew (to build up a beautiful yeast cake for a trippel) as well as in terms of a comparative experiment in the difference a yeast can make.

(Miss Jiwaku must have heard me talking about lambics and blending, or else she is just sharp, in that she suggested I could take the two dubbels and blend them. Which is a thought, except I think I’d rather preserve the truly estery quality of the dubbel made with the other strain of Belgian yeast… so I don’t think I’ll be blending these two beers. But it is a sharp idea, for someone who’s not a brewer herself!)

Once this brew is off the yeast cake, I’ll then have a nice, strong cake of high-gravity yeast ready for a good strong trippel. So I think I’ll be brewing one of those on Saturday! I have no idea exactly how much pilsner malt I’m going to need, and or whether what I have on hand will be enough… But at least I have a start on a solution, and I can make the call for more malt tomorrow, after a little research. (Though I do wish that I already had received the copy of Brew Like a Monk that I have on order at the moment.)

As for the more estery Abbey Yeast, I’ll let a nice yeast slurry develop and then I’ll fridge it for a week or two, and follow up the trippel with a second go at this recipe above. That’ll give me a chance to compare results using different yeasts, which is something I’m eager to do anyway — it’ll be exciting to see how the results differ, as I’m sure they will.

Update (29/9/2010): The fermentation proceeds with a wonderful aroma emerging from the bubbling airlock. It started out as a yeasty richness, and has developed into a sweet and yeasty richness. I moved the bucket inside, which will bump up the temperature a few degrees over the next day or so, since it’s warmer inside my place than out in the balcony closet where this fermentation started. I’m going to be racking this wort off the yeast cake on Saturday, after mashing, boiling, and cooling a new wort — probably a trippel — to pitch onto it.

(I’m thinking of doing a progression–a Belgian strong, then a Trippel–except I won’t have enough bottles to bottle all of it. At least, not unless I borrow a capper from someone, and use some of the older cap-bottles I have saved up.)

Update (15/10/2010): I transferred this to a second carboy for a few days, to help clear the beer and remove it from most of the yeast. It is ready for bottling, and since this next week will be exam week, there will be time for bottling then. It’s complex and tasty now. Didn’t attenuate as much as I’d have liked, though, having stopped at 1.010, but having mashed it a bit high, it wasn’t set for attenuation anyway. Live and learn.

Update (28/10/2010): Just bottled it, and am glad I let it clear for longer. It developed a richness it didn’t have before, and though still at 1.010, it is quite delicious. One thing about gravity: went back and adjusted the OG for volume: while I forgot to couldn’t take a reading of the OG (my gravitometer can’t go past something like 1.060 or 1.080), I realized that I’d calculated for 5 gallons, but only ended up with 3 gallons of wort. So I calculate that it’s about 9-10% alcohol, or maybe even more depending on my mash efficiency which puts it far above the normal range for a dubbel, actually way over. I’m not complaining, though… it doesn’t taste like it’s 10% or more, so I’m relatively happy. I could have diluted it with boiled water, but it seemed like a hassle for nothing, as I’m happy with the way the beer turned out. But I’ll definitely have to share some of the bigger bottles of the stuff. (Most of it is in 500 ml bottles, but some is in 1L bottles.)

One more thing: for Belgian beer, it’s likely to be undercarbonated. I simply didn’t want to risk bottle bombs, so I decided to go with slightly more priming sugar than usual, but not significantly more. You do what you can with the equipment you’ve got, I guess. Anyway, I’ve got a month to age it for the brewfest in November, and I’m looking forward to sharing it. (Not just with fellow brewers, but with various other friends too!)

UPDATE (9 Nov. 2010): Undercarbonated indeed: the bottle I cracked open this evening wasn’t carbonated at all. Not sure if it was just a bad bottle (it was over-filled), or bad luck, but I am not risking the rest of the batch being undercarbed, so it’s been brought inside to sit in the kitchen and warm up. Let the yeasty boys do their work, and then it can condition a little more in cooler temps. It tastes pretty good, though: not as sweet as I remembered, but also not overly hot for a high-alcohol beer, and there’s a definite plum/stone fruit character that’s come forward since I bottled it. If it doesn’t carb properly I may have to add more sugar. I’m pretty sure it’s not yet strayed into the range where the yeast’s alcohol tolerance is maxed out, as this yeast can go up to 12% alcohol or so, but there was some kind of problem, anyway, in carbonation.

Which only makes me wish even more I’d gotten into kegging when it was still practicable. Ah well! As soon as it again becomes a sensible option, I’ll be doing it for sure.

UPDATE (21 Dec. 2010): Well, I ended up letting this beer sit for a month while I thought about what to use to carb it up. I ended up choosing some mead yeast, which has a tolerance of up to 18% alcohol, so it should be chewing up all the fermentable sugar in the beer. Since I ended up adding more priming sugar back in November (about 50% more I think), this should bring these bottles to a Belgian-styled degree of carbonation. I just hope the bottles can take it. (I’ll admit, after 24 hours after I yeasted the beer–which I did on 17 December, by the way) I opened each swing-top bottle just in case, to make sure I avoided bottle bombs; I’m not sure that’s an effective way to do it, but I don’t have much else I can do for now.)

In a few days, I’m going to chill a bottle and open it, and if it’s about right, I’ll cool them. (I don’t mind a little redisual sweetness, it complements the strong alcohol in the beer.) I’ve also taken to calling this an Abbey Quadrupel, since 12%+ alcohol is just way too high for this to be called a Dubbel.

UPDATE (24 Dec. 2010): Well, it seems to have carbed up moderately. Not as much as I’d hoped, but the mead yeast definitely did something. The head dies off pretty quickly, but there’s still a residual fizz to it, which may be all one can ask of a 12% beer, but I’ll be letting it sit in a box at room temperature for a week or two more, all the same. I expect it will dry out a bit more, though it’s already relatively dry now. Whether this will shift the flavor profile in a direction I didn’t want remains to be seen. I am happy it’s dry, but the sweetness helped balance the alcohol somewhat. Still, there’s nothing for it: the mead yeast has a tolerance of up to 18% alcohol, so it’s not like I can backsweeten it. (Not without a great big pain in the ass process, anyway.)

UPDATE (16 July 2011): Just opened a bottle of this — maybe the last, I’m not quite sure — and it came out beautifully.  Smooth, caramel flavored, with an enticingly alcohol aroma. It was just perfectly wonderful, and everyone present (who all beat me at Monopoly) loved it.

photo

Learned two things through this:

  1. For these heavier Belgian brews, a long aging period can work magic.
  2. Why would I make anything but Belgian-styled beer?

Goodbye, sweet quad.

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