I wrote on Monday about my first attempt at a Belgian Table Beer. Today, I brewed my second effort. The only problem I had with last year’s version was that it was too bitter. To combat that, I completely skipped bittering hops in this year’s brew. Like last year, I used all Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand, but my first addition this year was fifteen minutes from the end of the boil. I’ve never done this before, but I wanted to keep this a single hop beer and at well over 10% AA, it’s just not practical to measure a small enough amount of these hops to be able to boil them for an hour and not throw off the balance of the beer. With two ounces split into three additions in the last fifteen minutes of the boil, this should be a hoppy and aromatic beer, but with only about fifteen IBU’s, half of what last year’s had.
My malt bill is also significantly different this year. I used rye malt for half of the grist and American 2-row pale malt for the other half. I have never brewed with rye malt before, for some stupid reason. I am a big fan of the rye beers I get to try and I don’t think there are enough of them around, so I’m finally doing my part. I have a couple more planned, but I thought this would be a good first time as I wanted to keep the grain bill simple and it should allow the rye to shine.
In my post about Biere De Table Cat, I mentioned that I was nervous about the various strains of saison yeast and that was the reason I used the one I did. This year I opted for White Labs’ WLP566 Belgian Saison II strain. Similar to the Wyeast French Saison yeast I used last year, this is said to finish quick, not stall out and be generally less finicky than some saison strains. It is also said to give a lot of fruity esters with some light phenol. I am looking for the fruit in this beer, hopefully to compliment the fruity hops. I don’t have a lot of temperature control, but I’m leaving this carboy by a heat vent to keep it as warm as possible and up the esters even more.
All of these elements, a single but exotic type of hop, spicy rye malt and a fruity yeast strain, are my attempt to keep this low gravity beer’s recipe simple and not muddle the elements but still make it interesting. Most of the table beer recipes I found online when researching for last years batch included spices. I wanted to avoid that and keep to the four basic beer ingredients.
In addition to all of these changes, I’ve gone with a slightly higher gravity this year. I don’t think it is necessary, I love the idea of a beer with less than 2% ABV, but I am returning to BIAB for this batch and am using it as sort of a test for future batches. Biere De Table Cat was my first all grain beer. I would like to do more all grain brew in a bag beers. When I was using this method, it was to dip a toe in the mashing water. I did partial mashes for about six months until I built up the courage to splurge on my current all grain setup. Now, I’m hoping to brew some more session beers for the Summer and simplify my process as much as possible. I used eight pounds of malt in this beer, more than I liked to when I was partial mashing, but with my new, bigger boil kettle, it is now easy and, as I learned today, still leaves quite a bit of room to grow. My efficiency wasn’t much better than it was in my original BIAB days, but I hope to improve it with the next couple batches I’m planning. I will post more specifically about my BIAB process as I amend it over the course of a couple more brew days.
Aside from the ingredient changes, I also decided against the extra long boil. Last year, I boiled the wort for over three hours while I brewed another beer. It worked then but any small benefits were not worth the extra time today. It is said that these extended boils will caramelize the sugars in the wort, giving it a more complex flavor and a darker color. I’m not sure how much flavor complexity I picked up, but the beer didn’t seem to gain any color. I don’t think the low gravity prevented it as I didn’t conduct a full volume boil. The wort was a fairly normal gravity. The water added post boil may have negated some of the change, though. My only other guesses are that three hours just isn’t enough for this technique or that it is a very subtle change that I built up expectations for in my head. The long boil certainly didn’t hurt the beer last time, but I’m too busy to bother now.
Despite stepping it up from last year, this is still an extremely low gravity beer. I brewed a six gallon batch because with my eight gallon bucket being tied up with adjunct lagers for the next few weeks, that is the biggest I have room for. Anyway, my basic recipe is below and I’ll post tasting notes when this is ready to drink, which will be only a few weeks away, one of the great advantages of low gravity brewing.
Style: 16E. Belgian Specialty Ale (Table Beer)
Brew Date: 3/26/2014
Estimated Serve Date: April, 2014
Expected FG: 1.004
Approximate ABV: 2.6%
50% American 2-row Pale Malt
50% Rye Malt
10 IBU 15 min Nelson Sauvin, .5 oz 11.4% AA
5 IBU 10 min Nelson Sauvin, .5 oz 11.4% AA
0 IBU 0 min Nelson Sauvin 1 oz 11.4% AA
WLP566: Belgian Saison II Yeast
BIAB: mash at 152º for 75 minutes
One hour boil, three hop additions at 15 min, 10 min and flame out
Ferment warm until activity stops, 10-14 days