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One of the best things about being a home brewer is the infinite variety of beers one can craft. Resources are abundant and the quality of ingredients one can get today is outstanding. There is excellent advice on the internet, fellow home brewers share, and even professionals brewers are fantastically generous with tips and tricks!
Most of the beers I have made have been based on beers that I tasted and loved. A few years back, I made a Belgium Tripel that was inspired a locally brewed beer called Monk's Ale. Monk's Ale is currently produced by Abbey Beverage Company, which is owned by the Benedictine monks of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in New Mexico.

It is technically an Enkel or single as it has ABV of around 5%. Other Belgium styles are Dubbel (ABV 6-8%) or the Tripel, which can be as high as 10%. Stan Hieronymus , author of "Brew Like a Monk", describes Monk's Ale, "It's along the lines of the beers Trappist breweries produce for the monks themselves to drink but don't sell commercially (such as Westmalle Extra and Chimay Doree). A 1.052 (13 degrees Plato) beer, it's 4.7% abv and 16 IBUs. The grain bill included two-row pale, honey malt and aromatic malt, and Monk's Ale was hopped with Hallertauer, Styrian Goldings and Czech Saaz.". Monk's Ale is one of my favorite New Mexico produced beers. I wanted to brew it, but of course I needed to amp it up! I decided to make a Tripel. Stan's hints led to a recipe for the beer.
What I wanted to capture was the Belgian crispness, but with the American influences of two-row malt, honey malt, and the hops selections. First I chose the style in Beersmith.This gave me the parameters of color, starting and finishing gravity, and IBU's that I would need for a beer true to style. I then chose grains, hops, and other ingredients to get my parameters close.

Here is the real key to crafting a great beer: I talked to friends who know beer to get their opinions! I let my brewing buddies know what I wanted to do. I talked to my friend Kevin Davis of Southwest Grape and Grain (now Boxing Bear Brewery). I tried to call Brad Kraus in Santa Fe who originally made the recipe, but he had moved to South America to open a brewery. I phoned the current brewer of Monk's Ale and he graciously gave me the key to the Monastery, the strain of yeast being used for the beer. My recipe was complete!
Please don't be afraid to call professionals. Brewers can be the most generous and sharing people I have ever met. It really is about the craft. There aren't a lot of beer secrets. It's about execution and the love of the art.
It was a great brew day as we gathered multiple samples of the style, and spent an afternoon brewing, "sampling", BBQing, talking about beer, and being with friends and family who love beer. The fermentation was slow, even with a starter, and it took a long time in both the primary and secondary. After almost two months, the beer was still. I bottled it all up for a long conditioning period. I got an inspiration and did not use priming sugar; rather I used carbonation drops: 1 for the 12oz, 2 for the 22oz bombers, and 3 for the 1L pop top bottles. The beer tasted way too sweet when I was bottling, even though the gravity was spot on. I seriously doubted I had hit the mark.
Another two months later, after almost forgetting about the beer in the pantry (yeah, right!) , I took one out. Hmm, nice layer of yeast at the bottom? Hmm, clear? Chilled it down and popped the first one. Still a little sweet but getting better... Another two weeks later, another sample drying out and converging on the mark... After three more weeks later of conditioning ? WOW! The beer gods smiled upon my Trappist experiment and blessed me with the best beer I have ever made.
Moral of the story (this is about a Trappist beer after all) - brewing is about the craft. When you follow the basics of sanitation and temperature, almost any home brew recipe will be drinkable. If you love the beer and take the time to truly craft it, you most likely will end up with something special!
The Recipe
CZSO Tripel
Color 7.6 SRM
IBU 28
OG 1.078
FG 1.014

10 Gallon All Grain
11 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US
11 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter
1 lbs Honey Malt
1 lbs Munich Malt
12.0 oz Aromatic
Mash 75 Minutes at 149 31 quarts of water.
Mash out 5 gallons to bring to 168 (10 minutes)
Fly sparge with 3.32 gal water at 168.0 F

90 Minute Boil
2.00 oz Hallertauer Boil 50 Minutes
1.00 oz US Fuggles Boil 50 Minutes
2.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (15 minutes)
1.00 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (15 Minutes)
2.00 oz Saaz (10 minute)
1.00 oz Styrian Goldings (10 minute)
2 lbs Candi Sugar, Clear (5 minute)
8.0 oz Honey (5) minute)

Yeast White Labs WLP550 in a 1 liter starter with 1 cup Light DME, 6 hop pellets
Ferment 5 days at 68
Ferment 5 Days at 78
Carbonate at 2.5 Volumes
This beer takes a good 4-6 months to condition in the bottle.
Paul is the Director of Business Development at Great River Technology. Paul resides in Albuquerque, is married to Susan and has two children, Grace (8) and Hannah (13). In his spare time, he golfs, tinkers, and makes award winning beer!
The "Head to Head" campaign is about the art and craft of beer. This is not "Hell's Brewery" or "Beer Survivor", "Head to Head" is not about humiliation! The show will honor the love of beer and beer culture and will be made with the same level of craft and art that is making Craft Beer and Micro Breweries so popular today.
My vision is to produce a show that captures why people love this and why people do this as a hobby and do this for a living. Please lift a virtual pint to us and help this get made!
Prost! Paul
Excellent! I've been wanting to make an appt and take the drive over to see the Monastery. I understand they brew most of their commercial stuff offsite, but maintain a tap room for visitors. I haven't found any of their brews locally yet (Tucson), but my eyes are peeled.
I contacted Het Anker about their Cuvee van de Keizer Blauw, to see if they could provide some information about it. I wanted to brew a clone, as it can be scarce and it's not terribly inexpensive. Unfortunately, I never did hear back from them.
However, that's not to discourage anyone. The worst you'll get is no response or someone refusing to share information. But you never know if someone is willing to help you unless you ask. They probably started out as homebrewers, too. Give it a try!
I never had the full recipe for the Monk's ale. I think if you just cut the fermentables back to get 4.7% ABV you would be pretty close. I would suggest that you not change the hop bill but shorten up the time. You probably don't need to do a 90 minute boil either.
One thing I've noticed - I may be way off base - I tend to perceive fruity esters as sweet. The beer could be very fruity in the nose and very low in residual sugar yet I taste sweetness.
This is the kind of thing that keeps me brewing! The thrill of the hunt, as it were. Also my reasons for writing a book about this happy madness we all love!