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Old 12-22-2008, 07:35 AM   #1
RBlagojevich
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Default General advice for brewing high-gravity Belgian styles

Belgian beers are by far my favorite, and just about all I want to brew.

Let's hear your advice for making big belgian ales!

Right now I'm brewing batches #5 and #6, both in the primary. I'm using DME. Batch #5 is like an Imperial Stout, except that I'm using yeast recultured from a bottle of Westmalle Tripel and more Belgian-ish hops: Styrian Goldings, French Strisselspalt (because I couldn't get Saaz), and some leftover German Tradition for the bittering hops. I'm interested in cross-pollinating a strong Belgian with a stout.

Batch #6 basically follows the recipe for Westmalle Tripel from the book Clone Brews. I added a very little bit of Paradise Seed just for fun.

Enlighten me dudes!

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Old 12-22-2008, 07:38 AM   #2
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oh, and I also added some Amarillo hops (flavor hops) to the tripel... Thought that might be good.

Hey this guy has real nice hair:

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Old 12-22-2008, 08:16 AM   #3
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As with any high gravity beer, make a big starter. Also, you may want to use a new pack/vial of Belgian style yeast as opposed to a bottle culture. The Belgians are veeeeery protective of their yeast strains, and the yeast that is used to bottle condition is usually different then the actual fermenting yeast.

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Old 12-22-2008, 08:24 AM   #4
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Does anyone know which Belgian commercial beers are bottled with the same yeast as they are fermented with?

for what it's worth, the aroma coming out of the airlocks does remind me of Westmalle... fresh and estery, with maybe a hint of grape.

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Old 12-22-2008, 12:12 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by RBlagojevich View Post
Does anyone know which Belgian commercial beers are bottled with the same yeast as they are fermented with?
The "bottling yeast" thing is more myth than reality. Chimay, for example, uses the exact same yeast for all their beers. Where different yeast is used, it's more often out of necessity than secrecy, as in using a highly attenuating strain to insure carbonation in tripels. I know Huyghe does this with Delirium Tremens. Still, it makes bottle harvesting sub-optimal as you're culturing a hodgepodge rather than a clean yeast strain.

Here's a handy guide on harvesting bottle yeasts.
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Old 12-22-2008, 01:27 PM   #6
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The "bottling yeast" thing is more myth than reality. Chimay, for example, uses the exact same yeast for all their beers. Where different yeast is used, it's more often out of necessity than secrecy, as in using a highly attenuating strain to insure carbonation in tripels. I know Huyghe does this with Delirium Tremens. Still, it makes bottle harvesting sub-optimal as you're culturing a hodgepodge rather than a clean yeast strain.

Here's a handy guide on harvesting bottle yeasts.
One example, albeit a very good example does not make this a myth. Your next sentence explains why. The myth is actually that it is done to protect the strain. A lot of belgians are bulk aged for more than 6 months prior to bottling and to ensure carbing they need to add yeast at bottling. At that time they want to preserve the flavor of the beer exactly as is so they use a very neutral yeast that will simply consume the priming sugar and not introduce any esters like the original strain.

For us home cultivars the yeast in Belgian beer is either a: a bottling strain or b: old and tired (or dead) because the beers tend to be at least 6 months old. Either is not a good formula for success.

I started to culture some bottle yeasts and then just realized that it would be better for me to use the strains that WL and Wyeast have so carefully cultured.

If I really feel the need to culture bottle yeast I'll do it with some more local beers.
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Old 12-22-2008, 01:43 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by RBlagojevich View Post
Belgian beers are by far my favorite, and just about all I want to brew.

Let's hear your advice for making big belgian ales!

Right now I'm brewing batches #5 and #6, both in the primary. I'm using DME. Batch #5 is like an Imperial Stout, except that I'm using yeast recultured from a bottle of Westmalle Tripel and more Belgian-ish hops: Styrian Goldings, French Strisselspalt (because I couldn't get Saaz), and some leftover German Tradition for the bittering hops. I'm interested in cross-pollinating a strong Belgian with a stout.

Batch #6 basically follows the recipe for Westmalle Tripel from the book Clone Brews. I added a very little bit of Paradise Seed just for fun.

Enlighten me dudes!
BTW, I like what you've done so far. Aside from yeast which, like I said I just rely on WL to help me out with, I have found that mash temp and fermentation temp are the two most important factors in crafting that finished product and getting the FG down to a balanced, non-sweet level.

I usually ferment for 3-4 days at 68 degrees and then slowly raise the temp up to 78 degrees for 24-48 hours depending on the size of the beer. Then I reduce it back to 66-68 for the remainder of primary(2-3 more weeks.) I usually secondary at 60 for 3-4 weeks and then bottle.
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Old 12-22-2008, 02:57 PM   #8
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One example, albeit a very good example does not make this a myth. Your next sentence explains why. The myth is actually that it is done to protect the strain. A lot of belgians are bulk aged for more than 6 months prior to bottling and to ensure carbing they need to add yeast at bottling. At that time they want to preserve the flavor of the beer exactly as is so they use a very neutral yeast that will simply consume the priming sugar and not introduce any esters like the original strain.
See, the thing is, I've been to Belgium and the Netherlands. I've toured many breweries in both countries and have spoke with the brewmasters. Yeast costs money and even the Trappists are in this for the money. Out of the dozen plus I visited, Huyghe was the only one who did multiple yeasts. FWIW, I also didn't see a lot of bulk aging either, unless the brewery did lambics. Again, it's a matter of money. Brew a beer, get it sold, and brew more. Beer sitting around in bright tanks isn't making money. The most common way to bottle condition I saw in Belgium? Kräusening, not yeast additions.

I've got a fridge full of mason jars of yeasts I cultured from the brews I carried back and have had a blast this year brewing all kinds of tasty Belgian beers with them.
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Old 12-22-2008, 03:10 PM   #9
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N00B alert: What exactly do you mean by "High Gravity" - meaning is "High" considered 1.050 or say 1.015

How would Hoegaarden fair on this scale? That's probably my favorite Belgian beer, others would include Leffe and Affligem.

I would love to make a Hoegaarden clone, but I hear its a bit tough and I only have 1 batch under my belt which is not even in bottle yet, so technically not even a batch hehehe..

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Old 12-22-2008, 03:41 PM   #10
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N00B alert: What exactly do you mean by "High Gravity" - meaning is "High" considered 1.050 or say 1.015
under my belt which is not even in bottle yet, so technically not even a batch hehehe..
Well, the partial mash Belgian Tripel I did this summer with Chimay yeast had an OG of 1.087 and finished at 1.018 or 9% ABV. I've got a 1.076 OG Belgian IPA in the fermenter now with the same yeast.

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How would Hoegaarden fair on this scale? That's probably my favorite Belgian beer, others would include Leffe and Affligem.
I assume you mean Hoegaarden's witbier? It's around 5% ABV. Look around and see if you can find a Grand Cru (9% ABV) - it's Hoegaarden's best, IMO.

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I would love to make a Hoegaarden clone, but I hear its a bit tough and I only have 1 batch under my belt which is not even in bottle yet, so technically not even a batch hehehe..
A witbier is quite easy to make, and fast! You can go from ingredients to stomach in a week if you keg, under three if you bottle.
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