Saturday, February 21, 2015

Matuz's First Belgian Pale Ale

I have started to get into a kick all about Belgian ales.  I have always known they are good, and Irish Rover has made me quite happy in the past with his Belgian brews.  It wasn't until last April(2014) did I make my first Belgian ale.  Out of necessity to brew a batch for my wife's friend who works for Widmer Bros., I opted to make a Belgian Blond Ale.  My wife's friend wanted to learn the process of brewing for her job.  A chance to brew? Sure!  So I whipped up a Belgian Blond Ale recipe following the guidelines in BeerSmith 2.

You'll notice the water chemical additions.  I have been monitoring my water for sometime.  I believe it to be one of the MOST important aspects of brewing.  You read about it all the time, but never do should.  I currently run off of a well, and now I have water softener, so my water profile needs to be checked again.  I want a reading from the well, not my softener, as that can fluctuate a bit more than my well's profile.  Anyways....when I did this brew I went ahead and started from scratch with my water and used distilled water.  From there I entered my amounts of water being used, the profile I wanted(Antwerp, Belgium), and voila!  My water additions were calculated.

The beer was amazing, at least to me.  When it was all said and done the Belgian Blond Ale, which was named Blond Ambition due to me having no experience brewing a Belgian Ale(and named by my wife), is now in my top list of beers that we brew.  It was taken to a dinner party of my wife's friend and was a big hit there as well. It is all gone now....I must make more.


I used water chemical additions as well in this recipe.  But they are not showing up.  And just like my previous batches I also used pH Stabilizer.  I know there are some that love it, and some that hate it due to the fact that it may push your sodium levels to high, but as far as I am concerned, I have locked in my pH quite well with it.
Picture from the mash.

I also invested in a new grain mill.  Der Brauer and Irish Rover and I had invested in one previously together, but with the distance between us, the constant borrowing became a hassle.  So they bought me out of my part and I got my own.

Wit the larger funnel, more grain can be handled.  Necessary for 5 gal batches? No.  But for 20 more bucks, I am ready.  It will surely help in the 10+ gallon range of brewing, which I have backed away from...more on that later.

So I made my final touches to my recipe, downloaded the adjoining BeerSmith2 app to my phone(a blessing!), and set up my equipment in the usual fashion.

Those SS barrels in the back my soon become fermenters....

During the mash I drilled a hole with a step bit into my boil kettle.  I installed a weldless ball valve spigot, and readied my sparge water.  I installed the spigot since I acquired a counter-flow wort chiller.  Which I also need to get pictures of on the blog.  I also watched my gravity coming out of my mash.  I quit sparging when I reached 1.010 gravity from my mash liquid. I also did something different with this sparge.  I let the valve open just a little, to create a grain bed, for about 5-10 minutes.  Then I opened it all the way up.  Doing so, I ended up with a mash efficiency of  75%. Earlier I thought I was up in around 84%.  I missed a valuable calculation and fixed my numbers.  I am happy with that number for trying something new.  I also expected lower efficiency since it was so cold outside.  Even bringing in the mash tun inside, my temps dropped more then they ever have in the past.  I am going to add more reflective insulation to the sides, and to the bottom(which currently has none). I will continue to use a blanket for the top.
When the boil was over, I turned on the chiller, gravity fed, and cooled my wort from boiling to 55F in 5 minutes!  I had to let the wort come back up in temp before I pitched my yeast. 

I primaried around 64F with White Labs Belgian Ale yeast that I put on a stir plate days prior to raise my number of yeasty brothers!  Once pitched, I put on a blow off tube.  The picture below is during the secondary process and switching to an airlock.

From the recipe, I produced roughly 5.75 gallons.  I kegged it all.  It is fruity and slightly hoppy.  I wanted a low hop pale ale, but not this low.  Next time I will add more hops.  I have drank quite a few and the carbonation and lacing have been outstanding.  It is not as clear as I would want, and I blame that on me not installing a screen in my boil kettle to my new spigot.  That is my next project.

Until next time...