As a side note, my nose being a little stopped up, I decided to save the good beer and drank one of Lisa's Saranac Lagers. Hadn't had one in a while. I've decided it's really not a good beer--too corny, not enough hop aroma. It tastes like it's got adjuncts. . . Must train her to like better lagers by buying a few nice, clean, not-too-hoppy things for her and working up into some of the more refined ales. . .
Now for some wild Belgian brainstorming. I've decided to brew about 3 times over spring break. Basically, it'll be an IPA and an Oatmeal Stout, for which I've already got the stuff, plus the beginning of a Belgian series. The question is what kind of abbey/trappist beers I want to produce. . .
Possible spices to play with: Star anise, coriander, orange peel, grains of paradise. Be careful with all. Could play with spices but would rather my aromatics came from yeast.
Hops: Hallertau, Golding, Saaz, Tettnang, Northern Brewer, Spalt, Liberty.
Malts: Belgian Pils/Pale, Special B, Caramunich, Caravienne, Aromatic, German Munich, Dingemans Biscuit, Debittered Black or Carafa. Might always be worth adding a touch of wheat for head.
Yeast: Hold that thought.
OK, after much fucking around online, I've decided to use the Westmalle Trappist range as my inspiration. These will hardly be clones, as there are way too many thing I don't know, but I'll use the Westmalle yeast, and shoot for their gravities. I think these will be slightly easier to do than the rather eccentric Rochefort or Westvleteren ranges, not that I won't get to those sooner or later, and I'm just more into Westmalle than Chimay.
Starting with Westmalle Extra, their Singel, a profoundly unavailable beer, rarely available even in Belgium. I've never had it. . .
One reviewer on line says: "Hazy blonde with rich, firm head. Fruity appley aroma with some malt and hay-like hops. Light bodied, but quite hoppy. Dryish and restrained with notes of grass and mashed apples. Despite it's light body, it is firm and it's striking dryness along with the resiny hoppiness and relatively low alcohol contents makes this a highly interesting session ale. And most certainly this is much superior than the low alcohol "monk only" versions of Chimay and Orval."
Someone else writes: "Huge, creamy yellowish head, slowly collapsing; pale yellow beer with fading orange and green shades, quite carbonated. Cream, malt, breaddough, fruity, nutty and somewhere mouldy aroma’s. Iron & hopbitterness in the head; flavours of fresh whitebread, aromahops and dried apples (but not sweet). Quite bitter, mixture of hops and walnut peel. Light bodied, first creamy, then mineral water MF. Bit adstringent in the finish. Extreme long bitter aftertaste; refreshing à souhait" (sic, sic, and sic...)
Michael Jackson refers to this beer as "golden, delicate, aromatic, salty." 5% percent a.b.v.
The brewery favors Tettnang, Saaz, and Goldings. And, meeting with the brewer at Achel, who came from Westmalle, MJ reports the following:
[Quote] The first beer, identified as Achelse Blond 4 (the number referring to abv), is lower in alcohol than any other regularly-available Trappist beer. It is a golden ale: with a clean, very smooth, light maltiness and a crisp finish. This brew has a beautifully delicate hop character, from its spicy aroma, through gently emerging, flowery, flavours, to a lingering but clean dryness.
It is brewed wholly from Pilsener malt, and the hops are Kent Golding, Hallertau-Hersbrucker and Saaz, but in five additions, to a respectable 33-37 units of bitterness. Westmalle yeast is used. Primary fermentation is at 18-20°C, followed by a month of warm-conditioning at 10°C. The beer is filtered, but not pasteurised, and served with natural carbonation.
This is clearly inspired by the oddly-named Extra, of a similar strength, served to the monks of Westmalle at mealtimes. It is less complex, though it lacks the bottle-conditioning of the Westmalle. Brother Thomas said he was looking for "purity and subtletly", and added: "This is for drinkers, not tasters." [Close quote]
That's helpful stuff. If Westmalle is the inspiration, Wyeast 3787 seems to be the way to go, as that is apparently their yeast.
Possible ingredients. Presumably Belgian Pilsner malt is a must, or pale. I think Pilsner, given the apparent delicacy of this beer. The hay/grassy thing sounds to me like Spalt, which I've been wanting to try, but a combination of Saaz and Hallertau would also be nice. Must use only noble hops, but in largish quantities as this is a fairly dry, bitter, session beer. All malt or use a touch of candi-sugar?? Little bit of gypsum seems in order. 5.5 gallon batch. I'm sick of Goldings and Saaz, so I think I'll use a combination of Spalt, going for the grassy thing, and Hallertau Hersbrucker since they're in the Achel spin-off. The Achel version ferments at 64-68, but I think I'll let it get a little warmer than that. OK, so we've got the hops and yeast and base malt. I think a starting gravity of 1048-9, finishing up around 1009-1010, ought to produce the 5% a.b.v. The character malts are tricky. A little wheat for head. The Achel is all pilsner malt. That could work. What about a little Munich, or a tiny bit of Caravienne? Carbonate relatively high. Hopping over to ProMash. . .
Out of all that chaos emerges the following:
For a gravity of 1049:
7.5 lbs Belgian Pilsner
1 lb Belgian Biscuit
.5 lbs German Wheat
.5 lbs pale candi sugar (don't let caramelize)
For about 39 IBU according to ProMash:
Hallertau Hersbrucker, 1 oz (60)
Spalt, .5 oz (60)
Spalt, 1 oz (20)
H.H., 1 oz (10)
Spalt, 1 oz at shut-off
That's a little high on the overall IBU count--would prefer it were closer to 35, but will fine tune based on what the packages of hops actually say they contain. ProMash's numbers for Tettnang, for instance, were quite a bit high. But the idea is to get both hops in with flavor/early-aroma appearances, finishing with the Spalt alone for nice, grassy, crisp clarity. I think this sounds like a wonderful beer actually. Will mash pretty cool, single infusion, 148-151. Call it Saint Carlile?