Vol. 2 No. 12
by Jim Simpson
There were a few new faces, along with the familiar ones, at the meeting. To all new members, welcome, and next month, bring a friend (or two).
Our guest speaker, Jim Migliorini, of Heartland Brewing, gave us some insight into his world of brewing. Jim was not a homebrewer, but enjoyed cooking. He used this background, combined with brewing courses, to create some flavorful beers as head brewer at Heartland, which is located on Union Square in Manhattan. A mural behind the bar portrays Heartland's theme, which is Middle America. The brewery uses all American ingredients. The Wheat Beer and I.P.A. (Indiana Pale Ale) are definite American interpretations.Jim was kind enough to bring some of his Farmer Jon Oatmeal Stout, winner of a Silver Medal at the Great American Beer Festival. This beer had the nice, silky, oily feel you expect from an oatmeal stout. The roasted aroma reminded me of express and the taste was full of roasted coffee, with a blend of chocolate and hops. Jim also mentioned his upcoming Barley Wine, and Cranberry "Lambic," which are now available as of this writing.
Other club business was a reminder of dues. For only $15.00 per year you can remain in this premiere home brewing club. No one entered a beer in the Renowned Brown club-only contest. I guess brown ales are taking a back seat to all those Belgian's you're brewing!
Speaking of Belgians, the contest has been pushed back to April 13, 1996 (brewer Thomas Jefferson's birthday!), so you have no`10 excuse not to enter!
Congratulations are in order to Jim Simpson, finalist in the Sam Adams 1995 World Homebrew Contest! Jim will be brewing a ten-barrel batch of his American Pale Ale at Sam Adam's Boston Pilot Brewery. If he wins, the beer will be marketed commerically by Sam Adams!
This Months Meeting: Our next meeting is at Mug's Ale House, 125 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, on Wednesday, December 13, 7:30 PM. Our guest will be Joe Lipa, of the Merchant du Vin, importers of many fine beers!
See you there!
Do you have any articles for the newsletter, or any questions concerning the club? Any calls or letters for the Malted Barley Appreciation Society should be sent to Hop, Skip and Brew. The address and phone number are in the box just below this one!
HOP, SKIP and BREW, at (718) 821-6022, 58-07 Metropolitan Avenue, Queens.
As most of you have heard, The Malted Barley Appreciation Society, is organizing an AHA-recognized Belgian beer contest, scheduled for April 13, 1996. One of the things we are attempting to do in this contest is to extend the range of Belgian styles beyond the few currently recognized by the AHA. Each one of our beer substyles has a recognized source of information, be it the current AHA styles; Randy Mosher's Brewer's Companion, which has some original styles in it; The Spirit of Belgium contest from last year, which was also discussed in an article by Phil Seitz in a recent issue of Zymurgy (Volume 18, Issue 1, 1995); or lastly, Michael Jackson's Great Beers of Belgium, a wonderful book, which, unfortunately for our purposes, often has no specific style guidelines (such as IBU, OG, etc.).
I have decided to write a series of articles for the newsletter, outlining the styles and substyles that will be included in the contest. Each article will go into a brief history of the style, and then discuss in some detail home-brewing methods for duplicating individual substyles. Where we are veering from AHA style guidelines, I will try to explain our reasons for doing so.
The first article will discuss Abbey beer, which is probably the most widely-known category among Belgian beers. The history of Monasteries brewing beers goes back at least to the middle ages. Beers provided the monks with sustenance during lent, as well as a safe liquid refreshment in the days before the sterilization of water by boiling was known. Wort had to be boiled to create beer; once it was fermented, its alcohol and acidity kept further infection by bacteria at a distance. In those days, then, beer was a more reliable source of drink than water.
The commercial production of beers by Trappist monasteries is a much more recent phenomenon. The first commercially available Trappist beer was Chimay, which is still the most popular, and probably the most highly regarded.
Chimay's commercial production of beer began in 1862. The beers that are produced at the six Trappist monasteries in the world (five in Belgium and one in Holland) vary quite a bit, but they do have enough in common to define a general style. All are bottle conditioned, and most are very strong by the standards of most other beer-producing nations. The closest to a standard style among Trappist beers are the beers of Westmalle; that brewery's Dubbel and Tripel defined those substyles. Unfortunately, Westmalle's beers are not available in this country at this time, but Abbey beers produced in a similar style can be found, from Affligem, La Trappe (from Holland) and Ename, among others.
You will note that I have used two terms, Abbey and Trappist, to describe these beers. They are not interchangeable. In Belgium, beer that is labeled as Trappist must be produced in a Trappist Monastery, under the supervision of monks.
Commercial breweries, working in similar styles, must label their beers "Abbey." I would assume any homebrewer who is not living in a cloister should do the same thing, as well. Now, on to the substyles. For the first two, descriptions and specifications come from the AHA style guidelines of 1995:
Abbey Dubbel: Original Gravity: 1.050-1.070, Final Gravity: 1.012-1.016, Alcohol: 4.7-5.9, Color: 10-14, IBU: 18-25 "Dark amber to brown. Sweet, malty, nutty, chocolate, roast malt aroma OK. Medium to full body. Low bitterness, very low diacetyl OK. Low levels of fruity-esters (especially banana) OK."--AHA guidelines Commercial examples include Chimay Red (Premiere), La Trappe Dubbel, Affligem Dubbel, Ename Dubbel and Corsendonk Brown. The only domestic version available in this area is Stoudt's Abbey Dubbel. Dubbels are among the most malty-tasting of all Belgian beers. Some good Belgian specialty grains are available, including Aromatic Malt, Special B, Caravienne, Caramunich and Biscuit malt. These malts are very helpful in getting the proper flavor. Even in an extract beer, I would use a certain amount of these specialty grains to get the malty taste and aroma.
In addition, candi sugar is essential. With candi sugar, you can get the proper gravity for the style without making the beer too full-bodied. There is amber candy sugar available at Food Emporium supermarkets in Manhattan (labeled as "Amber Sugar Crystals," but authentically from Belgium), as well as other places. If you cannot find that, domestic rock candy candi can be used; it's basically the same thing. If unavailable, I suggest you use common brown table sugar for Dubbels; it's closer to candy sugar than corn sugar.
The hops used with Dubbels and other abbey styles are usually Noble-style hops. Hallertau, Saaz are typical. Also Styrian Gouldings. Stick with low-alpha acid types for a smooth flavor, even with bittering. Abbey styles, with one exception, tend to be lightly-hopped for their gravity. As with most Belgian beer styles, the yeast used is probably the most important thing. There are various commercial homebrewing "Belgian" liquid yeasts around. Wyeast and Brewer's Resources are good sources, for example. If there is no other specification (i.e., Lambic, Belgian Wheat or White, etc.), most "Belgian" yeasts refer to Abbey style-yeasts. These yeasts will perform very well in this style.
In addition, as all of these beers are bottle-conditioned, you could culture the yeast from a bottle. I have done this myself, with a yeast culturing kit, and enjoyed good results. I have gone into a lot of detail about yeast-culturing techniques in past issues of the magazine, so I will not discuss it here. If you missed the issues, they are available at Hop, Skip and Brew.
One caution I will mention with regard to Abbey-style yeasts. You will often hear that Belgian yeasts ferment extremely well at very high temperatures (into the high 80's!). My personal experience indicates that you will get a better tasting beer with most of the Abbey style yeasts, in the mid to low 60's. I think fermenting them too hot makes for excessive estery bubble gum flavors.
Another essential for Dubbels, as well as all other Abbey-style beers, is adding a fresh dose of yeast at bottling. The high gravities and heavy carbonation (including a big, foamy head) that characterize this beer almost necessitate it, with one exception I will mention later. It does not have to be the same yeast as you fermented with, but make sure you use a yeast that can handle high alcohol, and get it to full krausen just at bottling time.
Tripel: OG: 1.060-1.096, FG: 1.012-1.016, %A: 5.5-7.9, C: 3.5-5.5, IBU: 20-25
"Light/pale color. Light malty and hoppy aroma. Neutral hop/malt balance. Finish may be sweet. Medium to full body.
Alcoholic, but best examples to not taste strongly of alcohol. Spicy, phenolic-clove, banana flavors, esters OK."- AHA Guidelines
Some good commercial examples include Chimay Cinq Cents, La Trappe Tripel, Affligem Tripel, Ename Tripel, Corsendonk Pale. Again, the only domestic version available in this area is Stoudt's Abbey Tripel. Tripels are probably the most popular of the Abbey styles in Belgium. Their combination of high gravity and (comparatively) light body and color make them unusually attractive, as well as difficult for a brewer. As you can see above, the most significant difference from a Dubbel to a Tripel is increased gravity, increased bitterness, and a decrease in the color.
In brewing a Tripel, no specialty grain at all is used. The beer is must be made strictly with Pilsner-style malt and light candy sugar to fit into the guidelines. If making the beer with extract, only the lightest kind should be used. I had reasonable results with Alexander's in my extract-brewing days. If you cannot find White Belgian Candi sugar, I would suggest using plain white table sugar.
Some commercial Tripel styles, though not many, use small amounts of spices, such as coriander. I would suggest using them sparingly. Save the spices for White styles! Tripels are usually drier than Dubbels, and you can be more assertive with hops here. A Tripel is much more drinkable if it's on the dry side. Again, stick with low-alpha acid hops; just use more of them, and more finishing hops. The comments made about yeasts and bottle-conditioning in discussing Dubbels apply similarly here.
Grand Reserve Style: OG: 1.076-1.086, FG: 1.018-1.022, %A: 7.6 8.2, C: 6-15, IBU: 20-25
"...it has a massive character, especially in its spiciness..the beer world's answer to a Zinfadel or Port."
Michael Jackson, Great Beers of Belgium
The most obvious commercial beer in this style is Chimay Grand Reserve, of course. Casteel Biere de Chateau has a very similar flavor, though it is stronger. La Trappe Quadruple is also comparable. Some other strong, dark Belgian beers resemble this one in style, if not in complexity.
This is not a style recognized by the AHA. Although you could fit a beer of this type into the existing AHA "Belgian Strong" substyle, I think it helps the brewers and the judges to narrow down the style guidelines some, to allow for a more accurate fit. After all, we are talking about one of the all-time world-class beers here, aren't we? The Grand Reserve style matches the malty richness of a Dubbel with the higher gravity of a Tripel. When I was stewarding at the regional AHA nationals last April, the majority of beers in the Belgian Strong ale category seemed to be reaching for this style. To my mind, it would make more sense for them to have a more specific category to aim for.
All the comments about malts and yeast made when discussing the Dubbel apply here. Hops would be lower than Tripels, but higher than Dubbels.
Orval-Style: OG: 1.050-1.058, FG: 1.012-1.015, %A: 5-6, Color: 6-10, IBU: 20-28
"A unique Abbey ale, still made by monks. Brilliant orange-amber color. Unique, sharp, dry taste, very champagney. Three malts plus sugar are used, with a single-cell ale yeast during primary and secondary ferment. Several lager yeasts are added at bottling, and then warm-conditioned. The beer is dry-hopped, and Hallertau and Kent Gouldings are used."
Randy Mosher, Brewer's Companion.
There is only one commercial example of this beer: Orval, the only product of its monastery. Again, there is no AHA recognition of this style, and no beer brewed properly in this style will fit in existing guidelines; but, if Randy Mosher can recognize it in his book, why can't we? There are significant reasons for recognizing the beer as a category. First of all, like Chimay Grand Reserve, it is another world class beer. Secondly, despite what you may have heard, it can be duplicated, to some extent, by a home brewer.
I've made a batch of Orval-style beer myself, and collaborated on another. The most significant item in the Orval style is the yeast, which can be cultured from the bottle. (By the way, despite what Randy Mosher said, it doesn't seem like any lager yeast I've ever used.) It is hard to handle, (it has a tendency to be very attenuative), but it will come a long way to duplicating the authentic taste of a bottle of Orval. To me, that's worth a little work! I have tried pitching at different times, and find that the yeast is very effective both as the primary yeast, and added in the secondary, after a primary fermentation with a standard abbey-style yeast. I think the latter method comes closest to duplicating the authentic flavor.
The yeast being as distinctive as it is, I suspect you could get good results from an extract beer in this style, as long as the yeast was handled properly. However, duplicating the unique orange color of Orval can best be approached as an all-grain beer, using Caravienne malt. Also, using all-grain allows you to work against the attenuative qualities of the yeast by using dextrin malt and a high mash temperature, though using dextrin powder in an extract beer might do the trick. Orval also calls for candi sugar. Either amber or pale will do, depending on the colors of the other malts.
Orval is the only Trappist beer that is very bitter in flavor, and the only one that is dry-hopped, so the hop heads among us can have some fun with it. In addition to the hops mentioned by Randy Mosher, Styrian Gouldings are very effective in the Orval style.
Because of its middle range gravity and attenuative qualities of the Orval yeast, I think you can get away with not using a separate bottling yeast with this beer. You could try waiting until bottling to add the Orval yeast, but I would worry about overcarbonation in that case. Both batches I made so far used no bottling yeast, and both are highly carbonated, with typical Orval frothy heads.
This wraps up the Abbey Style beers and Substyles. Next month we'll move on to another style in the world of Belgian beer.
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