Westmalle Tripel - Recipe and Process Best Practices

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Holden Caulfield

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I am brewing a Westmalle Tripel clone-ish beer in the near future and would like to obtain best practice thoughts on a few questions from brewers that have far more experience than me brewing high gravity Belgian beers. The grain bill is quite simple (% are by weight):

84.0% Belgian Pilsner Malt
1.5% Belgian Biscuit Malt
2.0% Acidulated Malt
12.5% White Cane Sugar
Original gravity target - 1.078

The yeast is WLP830 - Westmalle strain

Please let me know your thoughts on the following:
  1. Numerous posts and articles suggest that clear candi-syrup or candi-sugar is not necessary and that using ordinary table sugar (aka sucrose) will provide exactly the same level of attenuation and flavor. This is not true of the darker syrups and sugars
  2. Adding the sugars to the primary after 2-3 days instead of to the boil kettle will help with attenuation as the yeast will not get lazy consuming the simple sugars first
  3. I will be fermenting 3.4 gallons of wort in a 7 gallon SS Brewbucket so there may be very little Krausen that reaches the top and be blown-off (although the reputation of this yeast is that it is a beast). This means a majority of the giant Krausen will fall back into the finished beer. Will this impact the flavor of the beer? Should a portion of it be skimmed at high Krausen and if so, how much?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
 

Ralphie0523

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Not a huge brewer of big Belgians but experienced enough I feel to reply. Take the opinion for what it’s worth.

1.This is essentially correct. I find no difference between clear candi sugar and table sugar. I would personally reduce to no more than 10% but that is my preference.

2. I find this questionable. Yeast will consume available fermentable sugars with whatever metabolic pathway so long as their environment is ok. Think of how a wild yeast has to survive, if you can eat it then do so. “Laziness” is an attribute of creatures with free will, yeast may seem like it but biologically this is not the case. So keep the buggers within temp range and perhaps some yeast nutrient to make sure they are good and strong. Oh, and pitch the proper amount. Since I started paying attention to this I never have fermentation issues so long as I am within a reasonable temp range for the strain.

3.Never had an issue with this nor tried to remove Krausen. I would bet some swear by it but I think you probably have enough to worry about. I can’t think of a reasonable way for you to remove the Krausen in your stated fermenter without straight up opening the lid and skimming, which seems to be causing more problems than it would solve.
 

jrgtr42

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I can't comment too much on most of those questions - I did brew a tripel last fall, using table sugar in the boil. The FG was right where I'd hoped it was, so in that limited sample I don't know about yeast getting lazy and not consuming all - unless that calculator I was using was smart enough to account for that.
|However, I did want to mention to make sure you ferment a bit higher than normal ale temps - I generally like to ferment cool; I think it gets a better result for most of my beers, at the expense of a bit more time taken to complete.
However, with the tripel - and |I used the |Belgian high-gravity yeast - I didn't get any of the spicy, clove esters I was hoping for from the style. I'm going to rebrew over the summer so it's easier to get the higher temps.
 

Vale71

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2. I find this questionable. Yeast will consume available fermentable sugars with whatever metabolic pathway so long as their environment is ok. Think of how a wild yeast has to survive, if you can eat it then do so. “Laziness” is an attribute of creatures with free will, yeast may seem like it but biologically this is not the case. So keep the buggers within temp range and perhaps some yeast nutrient to make sure they are good and strong. Oh, and pitch the proper amount. Since I started paying attention to this I never have fermentation issues so long as I am within a reasonable temp range for the strain.
"Lazyness" is a concept that is used to present the issue in terms that can easily be understood by the layman.

In scientific terms yeast can, when there is an excessive predominance of simple sugars, inhibit maltase production. This is an enzyme that is needed to split maltose into its constituent glucose molecules that can then be processed to alcohol through fermentation. If this happens it then will take a lot of effort for yeast to reactivate maltase production once simple sugars are exhausted and this can lead to a reduced capacity of affected yeast to further process polysaccharides. Worst case it can lead to fermentation prematurely stalling.

With only 10-15% refined sugars added this is however not really a concern so that additions at boil or in the fermenter prior to pitching yeast can and are routinely performed by commercial breweries, even in Belgium.
 
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Holden Caulfield

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Thanks to all for you guidance. Looks like I will be adding table sugar to the end of the boil and not worrying about the Krausen.

With only 10-15% refined sugars added this is however not really a concern so that additions at boil or in the fermenter prior to pitching yeast can and are routinely performed by commercial breweries, even in Belgium
After posting my questions, I discovered that Brulosophy did a number of exbeeriments related to sugar timing additions and in all cases attenuation turned out almost identical - the sugar percentages were within the 10-15% range.
 
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Holden Caulfield

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BTW - I noticed I wrote WLP830 in the initial post instead of WLP530.

Below is my final plan. My step mash schedule is a short protein rest at 130 followed by a 90 min rest at 148 (will drop a few degrees over the 90 mins), followed by a 15 minute rest at 158. I will not mashout, instead I will use the 168 degree water to rinse the grains as the quantity of water needed to do the steps leaves little water for sparging. If you all have any other tweaks, they would be greatly appreciated.

Again, thanks to all.

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jrgtr42

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as an aside with the sugar - when |I was making mine, |I was worried about the sugar sinking to the bottom and caking there, possibly scorching instead of dissolving. What |I did was scoop some of the wort and dissolved the sugar into that before adding it back into the boil. Don't know if that was necessary, but it worked out pretty well for me.
 

Dr_Jeff

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as an aside with the sugar - when |I was making mine, |I was worried about the sugar sinking to the bottom and caking there, possibly scorching instead of dissolving. What |I did was scoop some of the wort and dissolved the sugar into that before adding it back into the boil. Don't know if that was necessary, but it worked out pretty well for me.

If one adds the sugar after the boil has started, it dissolves faster. Now don't just dump it all in at once, add a cup or so at a time, lightly across the top of the kettle, so that it has plenty of time to dissolve before it gets to the bottom. Doing it this way, I've never had it scorch on the bottom of the kettle.
 

OldDogBrewing

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Westmalle brews their tripel all pilsner selecting the malt each crop so there's a chance it can come from different suppliers and crops.

As far as I'm aware, they add all the sugars at the copper.

The OG is 1.080 and the FG is 1.008 so adjust the sugar content accordingly, don't be afraid of sugar, if you're using a good not too refined sugar, you can comfortably use up to 15% easily. What I do personally is just throw them in and mix, if I'm using a massive amount, then I pour wort in a jug, add the sugar, mix and return

Regarding hops, Westmalle uses german varietes and Saaz hops but again, they select ingredients each year and the head brewer is who decides what goes in so hard to know the variety, I've used Saaz and Mittelfrü with good results.
 

khannon

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I always add the sugar to the boil with my tripel. I tend to use something closer to turbinado than cane sugar, never spent the extra on candi sugar for something this light, so I don't know that it makes any difference. As was noted, either add it slowly, or pull some wort during the boil, add the sugars to that to dissolve, then add it back in.

The step mash looks good, though with the modified malts there are some arguments to whether the first step is needed or not. I personally have not found too much of a difference between doing a protein rest and skipping it. I do tend to do a longer mash (90 mins) at 148(ish) with a step up to 156(ish) for 15-20 mins with a tripel.

Head space is key especially when fermenting warmer. I would suggest starting out on the higher end of the suggested temps for a tripel if you want the spicy/clove flavors. Again remember that depending on the volume is going to dictate how much, but the internal wort temp is going to be higher than air temp during active fermentation.

I leave the krausen alone. Aside from anything else, removing it adds another point for something bad to happen.

The only other thing I would note is that you may want to think about adding some fresh yeast(same type or different) at bottling time if you are bottling. I know I have had some batches of tripel that may have started with a higher OG that took forever to carb. I have also made use of champagne yeast while bottling higher ABV styles like this that like to be at a higher carb level.

Not to throw more into your brew day, but you could use more water to rinse with a longer boil to condense the sugars, or consider more grain to hit your target without a "mash-out" rinse, then do the mash out rinse at 168, collect those runnings and make a partygle(sp?) style table beer. I've had good luck doing this with a saison style yeast, and making a nice 3-4% beer with not too much more effort.
 

MikeCo

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I've always added sugar to the boil when making tripels and golden strongs. There may be something to the theory that the yeast perform better if forced to consume the more complex sugars first, but from a practical standpoint, I don't think it's significant. The Westmalle yeast in my experience is a very vigorous yeast (use a blowoff tube); you shouldn't have any problems with attenuation with a good healthy pitch. Adding sugar after fermentation starts seems like an unneccesary hassle to me.

Don't over-think adding the sugar to the boil. Just add it slowly and stir well, and turn the heat off while adding it if you are concerned with scorching. As suggested by others it may help to stir it into some of the wort separately, but you don't need to. Sugar will dissolve readliy in hot wort in my experience.

I also recommend adding fresh yeast at bottling for higher alchohol beers.
 

Birrofilo

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  1. Numerous posts and articles suggest that clear candi-syrup or candi-sugar is not necessary and that using ordinary table sugar (aka sucrose) will provide exactly the same level of attenuation and flavor. This is not true of the darker syrups and sugar.
I think there is some misconception about what candi sugar is (or candi syrup). Many call candi sugar what should be called inverted sugar. Inverted sugar is sucrose which was "disassembled", the sucrose molecules having been divided into the glucose and fructose molecules. Instead of preparing it starting from sucrose, temperature and some acid, you could just mix liquid glucose and liquid fructose and you would obtain the same product.

Candi sugar in my book is sugar which has undergone a Maillard reaction. This creates various flavours, mainly melanoidin and caramel (but also others), which are not present in ordinary sugar nor in inverted sugar (caramel is present in caramelised sugar and in candi sugar).

Candi sugar, if it is proper candi sugar, can never create the same results as ordinary sugar, because sugar lacks certain flavour components that candi sugar has. Up to a limited extent, a Maillard reaction can be created during boiling, but below 110 °C it is very slow. A significant Maillard reaction is obtained between 110 °C and 150 °C. You don't brew beer at that temperature, so if you want those flavours you make some candi sugar, and you put it in your beer at the end of the boiling.

Inverted sugar can create the same results as ordinary sugar, because ultimately the yeast will do the disassembly work themselves.

Ordinary sugar, inverted sugar, caramelized sugar and candi sugars are different products, and only the first two are equivalent from a brewer point of view. Sugar in the kettle can be caramelized but, as the temperature during boiling never reaches proper temperatures, will not noticeably undergo the Maillard reaction, notwistanding the presence of proteins and acid (candi sugar requires "reducing sugar" such as glucose and fructose - sucrose is not a reducing sugar - proteins or ammonia, an acid environment and a lot of heat or a lot of time).

You can certainly create any Belgian style without candi sugar but if your recipe calls for candi sugar and you use ordinary sugar, or inverted sugar, or caramelized sugar, your result will be different from what you would have had following the recipe and using candi sugar.

[A Maillard reaction is most of what makes grilled steak different from microwave steak, or baked poultry different from boiled poultry].
 
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Holden Caulfield

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Thanks again for all the great recommendations!

The step mash looks good, though with the modified malts there are some arguments to whether the first step is needed or not. I personally have not found too much of a difference between doing a protein rest and skipping it. I do tend to do a longer mash (90 mins) at 148(ish) with a step up to 156(ish) for 15-20 mins with a tripel.
^Looks like my rest temps and times were close - just tweaked the protein rest to 15 mins and lowered the alpha rest to 156.

Now don't just dump it all in at once, add a cup or so at a time, lightly across the top of the kettle, so that it has plenty of time to dissolve before it gets to the bottom.
^Will do

I leave the krausen alone. Aside from anything else, removing it adds another point for something bad to happen.
^Will do

You could use more water to rinse with a longer boil to condense the sugars, or consider more grain to hit your target without a "mash-out" rinse, then do the mash out rinse at 168, collect those runnings and make a partygle(sp?) style table beer.
^Noticed the boil time in my program was set to 10 mins which is why my water volume was so low. After changing to 90 mins there is now ample water for mashout and sparging - that said, I will probably just use the mashout water as additional sparge water to capture more points and allow the enzymes to keep working in the kettle as long as possible. Below is the new mash schedule.

Ordinary sugar, inverted sugar, caramelized sugar and candi sugars are different products, and only the first two are equivalent from a brewer point of view.
^Understand, I would never substitute table sugar for candi-sugar/syrup except clear/white which has no caramelization and is refined to a high degree so minimal additional flavor

I also recommend adding fresh yeast at bottling for higher alchohol beers.
^Great recommendation - I did this for a Rochefort 8 clone. For the tripel, I will be making a starter as well as oxygenating the wort. My plan is to keg. I know it is not authentic, but it is much easier for me and I like to reduce cold side oxygen exposure as much as possible.

Not to throw more into your brew day
^No problem, very little change to process. In fact, all the recommendation support the simpler brew day - add sugars to the kettle, don't worry about krausen, table sugar is just fine as a substitute for white candi sugar. Also, my program makes changing anything very simple as all calculations on water volumes, gravities, temperatures, pounds, points, etc are connected and calculated. It even handles calculation for adding sugars to kettle or primary which can be toggled easily.


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Holden Caulfield

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Another question for you Belgian beer experts - what should the pitching rate be?

Per this article: Fermenting Belgian-Style Beers - Brew Your Own, Westmalle uses a huge pitching rate. Literally 5-6x what would be standard practice for an ale of 1,000,000 per ml per degree plato.

My thoughts are to just go with a very large lager pitching rate which is still substantially less that what Westmalle uses?
 

CascadesBrewer

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A thread I would recommend if you have not seen it: All things Trappist

I have been getting into brewing Belgians lately and WLP530 was the yeast I have used the most. Do you have fermentation temp control? Do you have a fermentation plan?

I see you asked about pitch rate. There seem to be a few thoughts on yeast pitch rates, wort oxygenation and fermentation temp when it comes to yeast character. I worry too much about issue if I underpitch, so I try to avoid that as a strategy to get character, but I would not want to go with a massive pitch rate. My wort oxygenation is inconsistent. I have found that I need to push temps at least to the mid 70F's during active fermentation to get a solid level of yeast character. I have not pushed temps above 80F like some recommend, but I will probably give that a try soon.
 
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Holden Caulfield

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I have been getting into brewing Belgians lately and WLP530 was the yeast I have used the most. Do you have fermentation temp control? Do you have a fermentation plan?
Yes to both. Fermentation plan is per Brew Like a Monk - Pitch at 64, then raise 1 degree a day until 70. I will then hold at 70 or may raise a little until FG is attained.
 

CascadesBrewer

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Per this article: Fermenting Belgian-Style Beers - Brew Your Own, Westmalle uses a huge pitching rate. Literally 5-6x what would be standard practice for an ale of 1,000,000 per ml per degree plato.
Hmmm...the article says

At American microbreweries, the usual pitching rate is 1 million cells of yeast per milliliter of wort per degrees Plato....Westmalle pitches 5–6 million cells per milliliter for its 19.6 °P (1.081) Westmalle Tripel — just over 0.25 million cells/mL/°P.

I read that to say that Westmalle pitches at 1/4 of the standard pitch rate.

Some people claim that a low pitch rate will force more yeast growth thus generate more flavors. Some people say this is false. In my experience with 6 or so batches using the Westmalle strain, warm fermentation temps generate the flavors I want and help to ensure full fermentation.
 
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Holden Caulfield

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I read that to say that Westmalle pitches at 1/4 of the standard pitch rate.
^Thanks for clarifying what confused me. Always just used online calculators and first time delving into Belgians and their custom pitching rates.

Based on this pitching rate, for my 3.4 gallon batch I would need:
3.4 gallons = 12,900 ml
1.078 SG = 18.9 Plato
So, 12,900 * .25M * 18.9 = 61B yeast cells versus 243B

I think I will just do a .5 liter vitality starter (WLP530 package is very fresh) on a stir plate which should give me around 150B cells which is splitting the difference.

I do not want any banana, only the spiciness so hopefully using this pitching and a 64 - 70 temperature rise will get me this profile?
 
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Holden Caulfield

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So how did this turn out?
Westmalle Tripel is a Great Beer :)
It turned out amazing. Comparing it to the real thing it was oh-so-close. Exact same flavor profile (malt, hop, IBUs, phenols - no banana) except for the phenolic expression which was spot on just a little more subtle. That said, I had some tasters say they enjoyed mine more as it was a bit more drinkable. Westmalle Tripel packs quite a phenol flavor punch.

OG was 1.074 vs 1.078 due to lower than expected mash efficiency and it attenuated down to 1.006, so about 9%. Clearly no issue using table sugar in the kettle. The keg has kicked and I will be brewing it again next week. Close to same recipe with just a few tweaks:
  1. Lower expected mash efficiency (my program will adjust pounds up to hit target OG)
  2. May try light candy sugar just for fun - I doubt it will make a difference
  3. Will reduce beta amylase mash time from 90 mins to 75 mins, which should reduce the attenuation to hit an FG of 1.009
  4. To up the phenolic expression, quicken the temperature rise from 64 pitch to 69 over 4 days rather than 6
Other than these small tweaks, I won't be changing anything as it was nearly perfect and that close to the original.

Thanks for asking :)
 

tripelthelightfantastic

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glad it turned out so good and thanks for sharing!
Have you tried it with WY3787 by any chance?
And was the flavor there straight away or did it take some time to develop? ( I read on another thread here in HBT the spice can take a month or so)

I will definitely try this soon when the fermenters are free, right now they are busy with a blonde split between WY3711, WY3787 and WL530
 
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Holden Caulfield

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Have you tried it with WY3787 by any chance?
And was the flavor there straight away or did it take some time to develop? ( I read on another thread here in HBT the spice can take a month or so)
This was my first Tripel so I have only used WLP530. I kegged and aged it about 6 months before tapping, so I cannot say how long it takes the phenol/spicey flavors to develop. I did drink the hydrometer sample, and as I remember, it had the phenolic expression prior to kegging.
 

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Yeast eat simple sugars. Sucrose is a disaccharide and the yeast bugs have a special enzyme which breaks the bond of the glucose and fructose molecules. Westmalle uses 15 - 20% of the FERMENTABLES as sucrose with the balance from Pilsner malt. They use Tettnang, saaz, and Styrian Goldings. I generally use Sterling to get about 39 ibu.
Be careful when you calculate the grain bill. You have to figure in your brewhouse efficiency to wind up with an OG of 1.081 SG (19.6 P). The sugar will give you 46 ppg and the rest comes from the mash tun.
Hope this helps.
 

CascadesBrewer

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glad it turned out so good and thanks for sharing!
Have you tried it with WY3787 by any chance?
And was the flavor there straight away or did it take some time to develop? ( I read on another thread here in HBT the spice can take a month or so)

I will definitely try this soon when the fermenters are free, right now they are busy with a blonde split between WY3711, WY3787 and WL530
I will be curious to hear about the results of your split batch. I have made a number of batches with WLP530 and it is my go to Trappist yeast. I made 3 batches in a row with WY3787. While it is supposed to be the same strain as WLP530, all 3 of the WY3787 batches were rather bland and lacking in Belgian yeast character. All 3 were from one pack of WY3787 that was harvested and repitched into the 2 following batches.

I would find it hard to believe that any yeast driven flavors will take time to develop. They mostly should be created during the first week of fermentation.
 
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Holden Caulfield

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Be careful when you calculate the grain bill. You have to figure in your brewhouse efficiency to wind up with an OG of 1.081 SG (19.6 P). The sugar will give you 46 ppg and the rest comes from the mash tun.
My beer program does all the calculations accounting for system water losses, points, volume changes associated with sugar or syrup additions, and whether the adjuncts are added to the kettle or fermenter. After entering a batch size, target mash efficiency, target OG, grain bill and adjunct percentages, where the adjuncts are added, amongst other things, the fermentable pounds are generated automatically - very easy to create, iterate changes to recipes, and hit target OG, IBUs, SRM, etc. The only thing it can't handle is me doing dumb-#@% things during brew day :).

Next brew day recipe below. Still toying with table sugar, vs candi sugar vs candi syrup and % pounds of sugars. In my previous batch, the points contribution of the sugars that entered the fermenter was 22% as I used table sugar. In this batch, while I reduced the pound percentage of sugars by only 2.5%, I designated candi syrup instead of table sugar, resulting in the points contributions of the adjuncts dropping to 15%. This illustrates a challenge that I find with many recipes - pound percentages of sugars/syrups are often provided but do not account for system and process losses that could be drastically different between brewers, resulting in significant differences in the fermentable profile of the wort that enters the fermenter. Then again, probably doesn't matter much RDWAHAHB.

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tripelthelightfantastic

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@CascadesBrewer:
I have used 3787 3 times and had mixed results, and agree the yeast flavors are made within the first week.
All 3 brews were similar grain bill, hopping and fermented 17-21degC. The first 2 were bland, having almost a honey like flavor and not much else. The last one which was also the most explosive fermentation I’ve had, had a strong banana taste the first 3 weeks, reminded me of Leffe blonde. This faded leaving a beer tasting similar to my first 2 brews for about 6 weeks, But then, the beer developed a great Belgian character in the direction of Westmalle, but lacking something compared to the real one. Still one of my best brews to date. This was from a 5L keg carbonated with sugar at 18degC for a month and kept in the fridge after that.
I don’t understand it-maybe the conditioning helped?

The 3 way split will be a month or so away, this is something for the meantime.
 
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