Though it wasn’t my original intention, this is basically a Tripel with honey and, more notably, grape juice. My original plan was for something more like a Belgian Golden Strong Ale with that grape juice twist.
The line between these two styles is incredibly thin and basically comes down to one key difference: the yeast. I went with Safale S-33 and what I ended up with tasted like a Tripel with grapes.
At 11% ABV, I think this was the strongest beer I’d made all the way up until PROOF, currently still in the primary bucket. In addition to seven pounds of LME and a pound of DME, this batch had five pounds of honey and then got even more fermentables from the grape juice.
I’ve written three paragraphs and mentioned grapes in all of them, I guess I should explain what that. Midway through primary fermentation, I boiled a half gallon of ordinary, grocery store-purchased white grape juice down to one quart and added it to the fermenter. I got a nice gravity boost and a whole lot of grape flavor. Yes, this is just grape juice, not wine must and it tastes like grape juice, not wine, but I think it worked pretty well.
On brew day, I added the DME as I brought my water to a boil, then a small charge of Amarillo hops, just to balance a little bit. This is not as hoppy as a normal Tripel, but the grape juice adds complexity and I didn’t miss the hops a bit. Fifteen minutes from the end of the boil, I added the LME. Then, as the wort chilled, I added the honey.
I always aged my high gravity beers for longer periods before bottling them, but this time I decided to bottle quickly, after reading Sam Calagione’s Extreme Brewing, which was full of recipes for huge beers that were supposed to be bottled after only a few weeks. I had no issues with bottling quickly on this beer.
With the high alcohol content, I was nervous about getting carbonation, but the S-33 performed like a champ and that was not an issue, either. Every bottle was nicely carbonated in quick order.
This was one of my holiday beers in 2012 and the people brave enough to try an eleven percent alcohol beer made with grape juice and honey all gave positive reviews. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but did get a bit tired of it and managed to save a significant portion of it. I hoped it would age well and the few samples I’ve had in the last year or so were very tasty. I can’t honestly say that I detected much change, but they were still delicious. Obviously, I will be doing tasting notes on this soon.
Valor’s Golden Glory
Style: Belgian Tripel with Grape Juice
Brew Date: September, 2012
Serve Date: October, 2012
IBUs: 14 IBUs
7 lb Light LME
1 lb Light DME
5 lb Clover Honey (added at flameout)
.5 oz Amarillo @60 min
64 fl oz of White Grape juice, boiled to reduce by half and added midway through primary fermentation, about the third day.