Pale Brewday: Wonmisan Belgian Pale/ESB

I’ve felt like getting back into Belgian brewing, but at the moment I have a nice cake of Safale S-04 (the English Ale yeast) in the bottom of a carboy, and I’d like to pitch onto it, so I figured today would be a great day to do a double batch, split right down the middle, with half going onto Belgian yeast and half going onto English. 

So anyway, the recipe is the same as the Pale Ale recipe I used for the brewing contest a while back, because I was relatively happy with it — with the one exception that I’m using a newer thermometer and so it’s probably going to actually be mashed at the right temperature this time. I’m going for 71°C for the mash, which should keep the beer nice and malty, something I want in both halves of this double batch.

I can summarize the grist for each half simply:

  • 4kg of Pilsner Malt
  • 250g of Melanoidin Malt
  • 250g of Vienna Malt
  • 200g of Caramunich II
  • 200g of Carahell

Between the Melanoidin and Vienna, there should be a rich graininess, and between the two kinds of caramel malts, there should be a residual sweetness as well. Or this is what I hope for.

Unfortunately, I can’t use the gigantic boil pot I bought just yet — it doesn’t balance properly on the two-burner stovetop I have, and which I’m now looking to replace so I can do double boils — so I’m going to be boiling the two halves of this brew separately. That does, however, mean I can hope them differently, and don’t need to stress about the fact I’ll be dumping a little clear Belgian Candi Syrup into the Belgian one.

For the ESB, I’ll be putting in 15 grams of Magnum at 60 minutes, plus 14grams at 20 minutes, 14 grams at 10 minutes, and some more Fuggles or Kent Goldings (don’t have East Kent) for dry hopping. The total IBUs will be around 36 or so, and this yeast will go onto a cake of Safale S-04, English ale yeast.

For the Belgian Pale, the hopping will be a little milder — 30 grams of Hallertau Tradition whole hops at 60 minutes (which will be about halfway through the boil — I’m going to try for 120 min for this boil!) and 28 grams of Czech Saaz at 15 minutes, for a total of just around 30 IBUs. I’ll pitch the Wyeast Trappist Ale Blend into this brew. The Belgian yeast I have on hand is limited at the moment, though, so I figured I’d pitch something I’ve been hanging onto for a while, my Wyeast Trappist Blend. The Trappist Blend is a bit old, so I have some other yeast on hand just in case it it doesn’t work. (I know, I know, I could make a starter, but I’m short on time and energy these days, and still haven’t got a stir plate rigged up yet.) If it fails on me, I think I’ll pitch either Safale T-58 or maybe some of the Forbidden Fruit yeast I have left over from a Wit I brewed not long ago. I really liked what the Forbidden Fruit did in my Wit, after a long aging period, and I’m expecting a long aging period anyway — the Trappist Blend is likely to require a good 3-6 months anyway — so I figure this is not a bad substitute, with the bonus that with the Forbidden Fruit, I could bottle it sooner and forget about it, instead of having it take up a carboy.

Of course I’ll be using whirlfloc as usual —  a tab for each half batch at 15 minutes, and a good long rest as well, since I’d like these beers to clear up properly.

I was hoping to blend some of my Northern Brown ale with the Fruitcake Ale I made last month: having left the latter on the fruit and spice a bit too long, it got a strong clovey flavor that is less overpowering when the two beers are carefully blended. But I just discovered my CO2 tank is empty, so I’ll need to fill it tomorrow before I can open up kegs and then recarbonate them. I’m thinking maybe this weekend, I’ll get some of that done… and, who knows, maybe I’ll get a chance to make a mead I’ve been thinking about making, too!

UPDATE (27 Jan 2012): Well, the ESB was fermenting before the Belgian Pale finished boiling, so that’s something. They’re both now in the cool room, and my long wait has begun…

UPDATE (27Jan 2012, evening): The ESB is fermenting furiously despite quite cool temperatures, with what I’m guessing is in excess of 150-180 bubbles in the airlock each minute!

The Belgian, however, is still inactive. I saw a thick white foam on the surface today, when I woke up, and assumed it was a krausen, but on second thought I’m pretty sure it’s just remaining foam from when I very violently agitated the wort last night. I’m not surprised, given that the yeast smack pack was approximately a year old, but this does remind me that I need to start doing starters, as well as resurrecting some of the other smack packs I have sitting around waiting to be used. I’ve agitated the wort again, and am hoping it takes off in the next 24 hours. If not, I’ll start thinking about pitching something else in there, along the lines I mentioned above.

UPDATE (29 Jan 2011): Well, the Trappist Blend yeast must have been dead, as there was absolutely no activity for 48 hours, so I went ahead and pitched another yeast into the carboy, and it began fermenting within 5 hours or so. Which yeast? That’s a good question, and I’m not sure of the answer. It’s either Safale T-58, or Wyeast Forbidden Fruit. I’m not sure because the yeast samples were from the Young Sisters’ brews, and by the time we bottled those beers, it was unclear to me which one had gotten which yeast, as well as whether they’d gotten mixed up along the way. In any case, I think it’s Safale T-58, but I guess we’ll just have to see. The brewing room is a bit cool, and I think I should put a little heater in there, on very low, just to warm up the ambient temp a bit, now that the ESB has mostly fermented out and the Belgian is fermenting furiously… and throwing off wonderfully fruity esters at the moment, not all of which are going out of the airlock, I hope!

UPDATE (5 Feb. 2012): Just racked the ESB to secondary. The gravity was 1.008. Also, the S-04 yeast flocculated remarkably — it was packed to the bottom of the carboy like thick sludge, unlike a lot of yeast cakes I’ve seen. Quite remarkable, really. I’m impressed. It was a pain the ass to move it into jars, since I’d already racked all the beer out and couldn’t pump it. I ended up flaming the mouth of the carboy and pouring it out. Still, it should be in fine shape two days from now, when I brew up the barley wine it will end up in.

UDPATE (8 Feb. 2012): The ESB was so damned clear that I went ahead and racked it to a keg. Might as well get a head start on conditioning it for the meetup next weekend, as well as dry-hopping it. In the end, it seemed to ferment out to 1.006, which is lower than I’d hoped, but I had a thermometer issue during mashing that I hope I can sort out this month. Still, it’s a gorgeous color and tastes good, if a bit dry. I’m hoping the dry hops can help complexify the flavor a bit. Next time I’m going to put more crystal malt, which I think is the main deficiency in the recipe.

Will rack the BPA to secondary tonight, as fermentation activity seems mainly to have petered off. I’m hoping to crash cool it in the secondary carboy early next week, so I can rack it to a keg then, but I should take a gravity reading before I plot any such mischief.

UPDATE (8 Feb. 2012): The BPA finished out at a stunning 1.004, much lower than the ESB, but then, I may have let it sit for longer before heating it high enough to kill the enzymes. (I didn’t mashout.) Oh, or maybe it’s the approximately half-pound of clear Belgian Candi syrup I added… anyway, I expected it would be dry, but I am surprised it got this dry! That’s not a criticism, though: I think it’ll be great served on tap, though I am tempted to oak it slightly. I’m not sure which yeast it was that gave it the fruity, sweetish character it has — whether it’s the Wyeast Forbidden Fruit or Safale T-58 — but I am pleased with the character and will be reusing the yeast cake again soon.

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