From The Northern Monk Brew Co comes Northern Star Mocha Porter at 5.9%. De-canning gives a succulent aroma of chocolate, coffee and roasty sweetness. The pour is pure darkness, deep black with a minimal head that lingers confidently throughout. The brew has an excellent mouthfeel with a thick smoothness with moderate bitter sweet elements. Chocolate and hazelnut finish off this wonderful brew. Pretty amazing.
The Belgian Homebrew
Today’s brew has been a few weeks in the planning. In 2017, I really want to focus on the home brewing style of Belgian ales and today is the start of that, albeit a slightly experimental approach. The aim was to create a standard ‘sessionable’ Ale with a focus on a Belgian noble hop style aroma. 2016 will be the last year that I will subject myself to substandard supermarket ales, the money saved will go on more homebrew supplies and a third stainless steel fermenter. In this brew, I wanted to start with a standard beer base without too much malt influence to influence those noble hops too much. Here goes!
2.0kg Pale Ale Malt 2.0kg Maris Otter Malt 400g Wheat Malt 250g Rolled Oats Fermentis Safbrew S-33 Yeast 30g Apollo 19.5%A @ 60 mins 50g Strisselspalt Dry Hop 2.3%A (5 days) Target 1042
One thing that I am slowly starting to appreciate in my current setup, is the grain mass vs efficency. Its only taken 2 bloody years to realise what i’m doing wrong! I’m guessing that the surface area of grain to water and relative solubility/absorption is limited by the size of the mash tun. Using a lower grain bill, I pretty much smashed my target SG of 1042 by achieving 1041.
Today was back to basics. Minimal hops, grain and messing about. Maris Otter was used as 50% of the base to add a bit of biscuitiness and flavour with 50% low colour simple Irish pale ale grain to finish off the core. 250g of Oats was also added to give the wort a little bit of body and mouthfeel to avoid a watery finish. I finished off with a chunk of wheat malt to add a little sweetness, head retention and hopefully a flash of cloudiness.
The strike water was deployed at a respectful 77°C, and after preheating the mashtun, the water landed and the cold grain was added and stirred in. The mash water was now 66°C. The lid went on and ten minutes later I took a PH reading of 5.5% which was just within tolerance. An hour later, filtered drain to the boiling pan, a sparge and a 30 min additional mash meant the beer was about ready for boil.
Due to it being a cold day of just around 4°C, the boil point took a little bit longer than usual, then adding the Apollo hops at 60 minutes in a large steel tea strainer. An uneventful boil and cool down to 22°C then allowed the pitching of the yeast. I usually do this as the cool wort is gravity tapped into the steel fermenter in order to get as much foam and oxygenation as possible.
In discussion on the yeast, I’m using a variety that I’ve never used before. It appears to be a Marmite yeast. Love it or hate it! I didn’t want to use a funktastic T-58 variety nor an Abbey yeast as I wanted the Strisselspalt flavour and aromas to shine through. This is supposedly a standard British ale variety of yeast with little flavour contributions or esters at a low temperature. Fingers crossed!
After primary fermentation, a later addition of 50g of Strisselspalt hop leaf was added in a stainless steel mesh hop spider, weighted with stainless ball bearings. This sat in the fermenter for 5 days.
Every home brewer knows how important the bottle conditioning process is. Every homebrewer also has a degree of impatience. This, for me, is demonstrated during the secondary fermentation stage, where there is always a temptation to see if the brew has carbonated properly. The opportunity to sample a ‘green’ beer is also too good to pass.
This beer, after 5 days tasted pretty dreadful. This s-33 Safbrewyeast variety is one that I’ve never tried before, with varied reviews online and across the forums. The yeast presence was overbearing and the body was young tasting and sweet. I was considering dumping the lot.
After 4 weeks, thankfully, the beer has matured into a classic tasting beer. The closest resembling commercial Ale would be ‘tasty’ Kronemburg. Decapping the bottle gives a faint whiff of white wine which dissepates instantly to gives a classic grassy noble hop aroma. The body is full (surprising for a 4.0% ale) and has a pleasantly dry aftertaste without the ester intensity of the t-58. The beer is best served at fridge temperature as opposed to room temp.
From the Brasserie des Légendes comes Hercule Stout at 9.0%. A slight metallic aroma on decapping, which quickly drops out to reveal the slightest hint of noble hops. The mouthfeel is smooth and the beer is moderately bitter with after tastes of coffee, berry and smoky dark chocolate. ABV is completely hidden, yet slightly warming in the aftertaste. I expected a bit more body in the mouthfeel. A very strange stout, different yet quite enjoyable. Not much head or retention for such a big stout.
From the Gentse Stadsbrouwerij comes Gruut Inferno at 9.0%. A fantastic pour with an amazing head generation and retention, leaving a frothy white foamy embrace. The appearance is golden and the aromatics are strong and sweet, profiling Belgian noble hops complemented by a decent punchy compact carbonation. Initially the beer appears sweet and fruity, but leaves a sharp bitterness in its wake. ABV is well hidden with a full bodied mouthfeel and creamy texture. Quite pleasant!
From the Haacht Brewery comes Rince Cochon Rouge at 7.5%. Decapping gives an artificial fruit cherry aroma, almonds, all a bit like lemonade concentrate or syrup. The smell complements the oversweet taste and watery mouthfeel to this beer. A fairly compact carbonation, with a very weeny thin white skin of a head. The Belgian abhorrent alcopop. Absolutely terrible and not much more I can say about this one other than….avoid!.