10 June 2012

Brew Day: Belgian Blonde

I've long debated with myself over adding brew-blogging to this blog. After all, the main mission here is self-sufficiency. On the other hand, I often do want to record thoughts and feelings about a brew day beyond the bare facts that I record in my (paper and pencil - terribly old-school, I know, but it works even when the lights are out) brew journal. So I thought to myself, "Let's give it a go!" And I really lack the energy or time to start yet another blog. Four of them is quite enough!
I'll tag all these posts with a "brewing" tag, so those of you who want to stay focussed on self-sufficiency, but have no interest in home brewing, can easily ignore these posts.

My target for today's brew is based on a Belgian Blonde, but a bit more hoppy than would be traditional. A malt-forward beer, not too sweet, and a dry finish. Should end up with a strong, white head atop a golden, fairly fizzy ale. Should play well in all seasons. Not sure how closely this conforms to the style guidelines; don't care.

One of my main reasons for wanting to brew this is to maintain and propagate the Duvel/Maredsous yeast1 I recently cultured from the dregs of a very delicious Maredsous Trippel given to me by a friend. I am just guessing that, because both Duvel and Maredsous are brewed by the Moortgat Brewery, it is somewhat likely they use the same yeast. Of course it is always possible that they don't, or that the Trippel is re-yeasted upon bottling with a different yeast than is used for primary fermentation, but what are the odds? The first brew I ran with this yeast was an eye-opener. I brewed a Dubbel, and was completely blown away by this yeast's action. Rather than the usual, fairly aggressive fermentation action I have seen from most ale yeasts (including Wyeast 1214, another Belgian Abbey strain, allegedly originating from the Chimay brewery) this yeast had a very soft, gentle and sweet action. I am quite determined to maintain this strain in good condition, since it is one I will not soon be able to replace should I lose it. One trick will be to share it with as many other brewers as I can.

Today's recipe was a very straightforward one - no complications, decoctions, fancy malts or unusual hopping tricks. All-in-all the brew went very routinely. Mash temperature pretty much where I wanted it, starting at about 65C and falling to a finish at around 63C (a little further than I would have expected; one of the places where I need to work more is in these lower temperature mashes - when starting lower, temperature seems to fall off faster.) The sparge went without a hitch, as did the boil. I'm a little uncertain about the cleanliness of the yeast. I'd really like to plate up a bunch of it and select out clean colonies for longer-term storage. Perhaps if I go down to CT in a couple of weeks I can get to a lab-supply shop to acquire the necessary stuff.

Wort colour was suitably pale, with reasonably good clarity. I was a bit surprised (in a good way) at how much liquid I got out of the kettle, today. Usually I leave at least a litre or more behind, but today the trub had a particularly solid character and stayed well back while all the clear liquid went down the chiller-pipe, leaving little more than a half-cup behind.

The only sour note to the day was that I managed to smash my Hydrometer while drying it for storage. Bah!...

[1] Not linking directly to the Maredsous website, since it is all-Flash, and that just sucks.

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