So yesterday I made my first Belgian beer. It was a Saison in the general manner of Saison Dupont. I started with a recipe from Radical Brewing and then tweaked 2 or 3 things to get a slightly higher gravity, to use up a little extra malt, to up the hop aroma a teensy bit, and whatever I felt like (I'm getting more confident about improvisations). So here's what I did:
Tried to preboil some portions of the water--I still haven't noticed any chlorine type things in my beer so I think I have awfully nice city water, but it can't hurt to drive off any chlorine where possible. I'm looking into a little filtration set-up too.
Anyway I mashed the following in an upward infusion. I was too lazy to look up the appropriate strike temperature so I simply combined nice warm water with these malts and raised from around 120 up to the low 150's over a period of perhaps twenty minutes:
6 lbs Dingemans Belgian Pilsen Malt (Lovibond 3)
2 lbs Weissheimer Munich Malt (Lovibond 9)
1/2 lb domestic Munich
1/4 lb Special Roast (Lovibond 50, Briess)
1 lb wheat malt
The Special Roast was a random last minute thought--I knew I needed just a touch more malt to get the gravity up and I thought it might give just a teensy extra orange tweak to the color--we'll see. I need to find a better way to regulate mash temp as mine tend to be all over the map in the pot, but I eventually got it to settle out around my target of 152, but it spent time at various temperatures--this was a little sloppy. Oh, I also added a tsp of gypsum, which is becoming my default water addition for hoppier, pale-ale-ish beers. Need to do more water chemistry research. I gave it a good hour-long saccharification rest and then tried to mash out properly but got a somewhat anemic temperature of 160-5. Figured that was good enough, transferred gently to my Zapap lauter tun and sparged with 170 degree water. Collected around seven gallons and did my usual over-vigorous boil in three kettles. I let it go about 25 minutes then added 1 oz. Northern Brewers for the remaining sixty minutes along with 1 lb 3 oz of pale Belgian candi-sugar. I'm interested to keep an eye on different sugar choices in my Belgians over the next few months--candi-sugar is a rip-off but I thought I'd try the classic.
Due to the vigorous boil (and perhaps more sparge water getting caught in the wheat?) I realized the gravity was a little high and added I think three quarts of water near the end, looking to get it into the mid-1060's as opposed to 1070-1071 which I was flirting with. Will make a higher gravity Saison later. All this time I was hanging out with Brad, who's learning to brew, and Wayne. At some point I must've gotten distracted because I leaned into the stove too far and caught my loose shirt tails on fire. I think I yelled something like "Motherfucker" and began flapping at the flames, which were not insubstantial. You get very focused when there are eight inch flames in the area of your right hip. Although maybe not so focused, because the guys said later that I also seemed peculiarly intent on continuing to stir the beer. Anyway I eventually figured out that the sink was my pal and doused the damned shirt. In tribute to this I believe I'll call this beer La Chemise Enflamme. Imagine an accent over that "e." I guess it's sort of a nod toward La Biere de Sans Culottes, a not-too-distant style.
Almost forgot the Irish Moss but finally threw some in with 15 or 20 left. 1.5 oz whole Czech Saaz with 20 minutes remaining. 2 oz whole East Kent Goldings with 5 minutes left, plus (at five minutes again) my spice addition: Zest of one orange, zest of 1/4 of a smallish grapefruit, .6 oz nice Indian coriander, and about a 1/4 tsp. grains of paradise (courtesy of Katrina). All that stuff wound up in a knotted More Beer steeping grain bag which was a big improvement over other things I've tried--hope it doesn't cut down on the absorption too much. The resulting beer (About 5.5 gallons? Maybe a little more?) went into a carboy at 1064 and was around 78 to 80 degrees. I pitched a rather anemic looking Wyeast 1388 starter. My highly inaccurate Pro-Mash twiddlings suggest an efficiency between 75 and 80 percent. And, wonder of wonders, the yeast is fine. I pitched at 6 or so and it was fermenting vigorously when we came back from a wild party at about 2:30. So Belgian brewing rocks. Did I mention it was snowing like holy hell the entire day too?