29 May 2014

Belgian Blonde pilsner malt

You won't find a better gateway beer than the belgian blonde ale. Most people are familiar with the likes of Leffe and Hoegarden. In fact the style itself came about as a means of appealing to a much wider pilsner drinking audience, so in terms of Belgian beers its very approachable for people new to craft beer. Its still a Belgian strong ale, but its maltier and sweeter than a triple, with a much lower alcohol content. The 'sweetness' should be a pilsner malt character rather than a residual sugar sweetness, not much hop aroma or flavor and above everything else the beer should be dry and drinkable.

 Ive brewed a few versions of this over the years, including a table version that clocked in at %3 ABV. But for all versions I always turn to the same yeast, Wyeast 3944 Belgian Wit. It was a local home brewer  called Tony Falkner that turned my attention to this yeast a few years ago when he won the champion beer at NHC in 2011. His blonde had a lovely restrained ester profile, silky smooth mouthfeel while still being really dry and a faint spicy note in the background which kept you coming back for more. The trick to getting a nice restrained ester profile is to let the ferment start at 19 and rise on its own up to 23 and hold it there. One of the great things about this yeast is just how versatile it is. It ferments fast and reliably and small variations in fermentation temperature will produce big differences in the finished beer.  Although Fermenting too cool will result in a very clean profile and not a heavy spice or clove character that typifies most cool belgian fermentations

This version is right at the top of the range for the style (and probably out of contention at a bjcp event). With enough booze to cellar for a while and a good dose of nobleish NZ hops at flameout for good measure! The melanoiden adds a little extra malt complexity which is helpful with our local pilsner which has a very floral honey like sweetness to it. Make sure your mash ph is 5.3 as per and pitch a really healthy starter so fermentation finishes completely, this beer has to come across as dry!

Ingredients
Belgian Blonde5

6.6KG Gladfield Pilsner Malt

295g Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt

284g Melanoiden

90g Acidulated Malt

40g Riwaka Boil 60 min 21.6 IBU800g Cane Sugar

30g Motueka step 20 min 4.2IBU

 

Belgian Blonde8

Process

Made a  2L starter the day before from one Wyeast smack pack.

Mill grains while heating strike water to 70C. 

Mash in with 20L of water and hold at 64C for 60 minutes and then batch sparge with 20L of water to collect 30L into the fermenter.

Pitched a two litre starter at 18C and let it rise to 23C on its own. Winter will require the use of a heat pad to get there. Left in Primary for two weeks before crashing to 2C and fining with gelatine.

Bottled 10L with 70g cane sugar and Kegged 20L and force carbonated at 15PSI for a week.

Depending on the alcohol content this beer seems to benefit from at least a few weeks of cold conditioning, but really that rings true for most beers doesn't it!

 

 

I was intending to add Rhubarb to this batch but after the initial tasting I decided I didn't want to mess with it any further. The decision was in a large part influenced by the fact that my Rhubarb plant wasn't quite in season, so its stems had a tart vegetal flavour. In another month or so the plant will start to produce whats expected. The beer was tasting so good on its own that I left it as is. Im really stoked with how this one came out. It could possibly be a little more sour but its very approachable and totally refreshing. I can't wait to make this one again (the keg didn't last long!)

e0887c4aTasting Notes


Appearance - Cloudy orange hue with a big thick billowy head that quickly fades to a thin lace, some nice looking lace clings to the glass and is easily coaxed to the top of the beer with a little swirl.

Aroma - Big mix of Lactic apple sourness and tropical fruit, slight spice note in the background sits well with the touch of funk that is also a very background note, mostly its melons and pineapple, Im not sure where the Brett begins and the hops end, great balance!

Taste - Sourness is a little underwhelming, its there but not quite as strong as the nose suggests, however its very crisp and finishes dry with more of the tropical fruit bowl coming into play slight bready wheat notes carry through, again a very faint hint of funk in the background. Clean ale characters show through in the finish

Mouthfeel - Comes across as dry despite is low ibu and F.G. of 1.011. Sourness cleans the pallet and leaves you wanting another sip, very enjoyable. Carbonation is lively without being prickly.

Overall Impression - Excellent beer! The clean american ale character is a little out of style but sits well with the late hops and the fruity Brett aromatics. The sourness is not intrusive and overall very enjoyable.

Changes for next time - Up the sourness, perhaps try a more aggressive lacto culture. Use a kolsch yeast instead of the american strain to finish out fermentation, or build a bigger Brett starter and try to ferment %100 with the Brett.

I really should have raised an eyebrow at the amount of hops going into the whirlpool of this beer as I knocked out the heat! After upgrading my brewing software (Beersmith) Ive been using their new 'steep/whirlpool' feature for calculating hop additions. Some weeks ago I felt that the default setting for this feature was too high for my system. At %50 I wasn't getting anywhere near the IBU's I should have for my system. So I notched it down a touch…. As it turns out I went way to low (at %35) and as a result my final addition was way too much and this beer is far too bitter. All the elements are there and I think it will be perfect after 6 months or so when the IBU's have dropped a little. If it holds up that long without any oxidation then it should be a fine beer indeed! We will see, my gut tells me to dump it and start again but my brain isn't ready to let go of it just yet as the flavour and aroma behind all those IBU's is spot on.

174c8555Tasting Notes

Appearance - Jet black with a thick tan head that fades moderately fast to a thin lace on top of the beer which sticks around leaving a delicate lace on the edges of the glass.

Aroma - Rich chocolate fudge and roasted coffee on the nose, big earthy hop aromas mix into the fudge and create a very  doughy cake like smell…. Like baked chocolate cake. No yeast character or esters, clean roast.

Taste - Loads of roast and bitter sweet chocolate on the tongue, huge bitterness, more than necessary, could be dialled back considerably. Water is just right, leaves the pallet dry (despite the F.G of 1.020) and is ever so slightly salty.

Mouthfeel - light carbonation, almost right for style could be slightly more, however bitterness again detracts froth texture of the beer and if it was slightly more carbonated it would tip over the edge into astringent I think.

Overall Impression - Its all there, warming without being boozy, lovely big noble hop nose and lush baked chocolate roast on the pallet, however too bitter right now to really let everything shine through, this will develop very well in the cellar and could be a real number once the IBUS have tapered off. I think I might put it away for 6 months and re-asses then. No oxidation notes so it should fare well.

Notes: Id like the beer a touch drier so next time Id drop some crystal and keep the mash temp low. Also Fixing the the steep/whirlpool addition.

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