In the beginning
Here at Beer Infinity we are avid Home Brewers and have been for approaching 3 years now. Initially the interest was sparked by trying to reproduce the Belgian beer that we had enjoyed so much from living in The Netherlands and frequently visiting the city of Antwerp in Belgium as well as finding a plentiful selection of Belgium beer within most Dutch bars, supermarkets and beer shops.
Whilst it was, and still is, possible to buy Belgian beer here in the USA, in either Bottle Shops or on draft in Craft Beer Bars, it is usually on the expensive side compared to prices in Europe which is obviously down to the cost of importing and distributing the beer plus perhaps there is an additional markup due to the desirability and rarity of these beers(?)
Home Brewing to Craft Beer
It is probably fair to say that most people who Home Brew are into, or get into, Craft Beer and that some people who are into Craft Beer try their hand at Home Brewing. In our case it was a journey of being into Belgium beer, trying our hand at Home Brewing which then opened our eyes to the growing range of offerings from the Craft Breweries within the USA.
This made us realize that we do not necessarily need to brew our own Belgium beer clones, or buy the original imported item, but that US Craft Breweries such as Ommegang (NY) and many more are now producing top quality Belgian Style beers! Not to mention of course all the new styles and takes on existing beers that ‘the old world’ have either stopped brewing or never brewed in the first place – this we will cover another time…
Within the Blog section of Beer Infinity we plan to cover many aspects of Home Brewing including techniques, ingredients, brewing particular beers, equipment and many other subjects but for this article we thought it would be a good opportunity to provide a mini update on where we are with our current brews…
Within the last 2-3 weeks we have made two 10 gallon batches of beer:
- American Premium Pilsner (Style: Premium American Lager)
- Tomme Arthur’s Dubbel (Style: Belgian Dubbel)
American Premium Pilsner
This recipe is one that we last brewed on April 24, 2011 and was taken from a CD called ‘The Home Brewing Guide’. It is an All Grain recipe that was dry hopped with pelleted hops in the secondary glass carboy towards the end of lagering (cold maturation) and ended up with 4.86% ABV. The result was a very drinkable pilsner but was on the hoppy side for our taste. Either way it was consumed pretty quickly. This first batch was 5 gallons and brewed on the stove top – since then we now have a 3-tier brewing system in the garage made from stainless steel kegs which allows us to brew 10 gallon batches and without making a mess in the kitchen.
The second batch was once again All Grain but this time we have decided to drop the dry hopping and adjusted the aroma hop levels in the recipe. We are also taking advantage of our fermentation freezer in the basement which is a normal household chest freezer but is hooked up to a Johnson Controls A419ABG-3C Electronic Temperature Control. This allows us to better control the fermentation temperature at 48-50 deg F (9-10 deg C) and then later drop the temperature for lagering at just above freezing.
Right now the pilsner is coming towards the end of primary fermentation and should be ready for transferring into two glass carboys for lagering in 5-7 days (mid-May). In theory the slower fermentation should reduce the risk of off-flavors that can result from a lager yeast fermenting at higher temperatures. We will update you on progress in a couple of months once this beer is ready for drinking.
Tomme Arthur’s Dubbel
This is not the first Belgian Dubbel that we have brewed, the first was an Extract recipe taken from ‘The Complete Joy Of Homebrewing’ by Charlie Papazian and resulted in a rather malty 6.04% ABV beer. Although drinkable and improved over time, it was not the same as savouring a Grimbergen Dubbel or an Affligem Dubbel.
The next try at brewing a Belgian Dubbel was the result of a grain measurement error whilst attempting to brew a Northern German Alt style beer using another recipe from ‘The Home Brewing Guide’. This was a 5 gallon batch brewed on May 15, 2011 on the stove top that was meant to have 0.5oz of Black Patent Malt but instead received 5.0oz! Fortunately the result was a 5% ABV dark beer that actually tasted very good and made us think next time why don’t we do 10 gallons and split the wort in half and use two different yeasts?
On August 12, 2012 this is what we did except this time the batch was brewed using our 3-tier system as 10 gallons is not feasible on the stove top – the beer was brewed and then chilled and half was dosed with the same American Ale yeast (Wyeast 1056) whilst the other half used a Belgian Ale yeast (Wyeast 1214). The result was two slightly different tasting beers but both with a 5.25% ABV which is a bit low for a Belgian Dubbel but very sessionable.
Our latest attempt at a Belgian Dubbel was to start from scratch and use the Tomme Arthur’s Dubbel recipe from ‘Brew Like a Monk’ by Stan Hieronymus. Currently this beer has finished primary fermentation and looks like it will finish up at around 6.5% which is definitely in the right ballpark for a Belgian Dubbel. This should be ready for bottling mid-May after its time in the secondary glass carboys and ready for drinking early June. We cannot wait and will let you know how it turns out…!