Thursday, March 20, 2014

Barrel Beer #2: Belgian Quad

Chunky wort racking to the carboy.
While the Philly Breakfast Stout was resting comfortably in the rye whiskey barrel we wanted to try to get the second barrel beer brewed and fermented out so we would have it ready when we removed the Stout, which wasn't terribly long. This time around we will have 4 brewers, we added two local brewers Chris and Tom to spread the barrel wealth. Each brewer will brew and ferment out their own wort with the same recipe then we will reconvene once it is time to fill the barrel. We kicked around a few different style ideas, English Barleywine, Tripel, among a few other styles but decided on a barrel aged Quad. There are a few commercial examples out there but not a ton so its semi unique? Eh, I think its a style that will work well with the flavors in this barrel. Style research would ensue. 

Belgian Quad, or Belgian Dark Strong, is a style that I really enjoy and yet, surprisingly, have never made myself. No secret here, but I look to Brewing Classic Styles first when exploring a style I have never brewed before, it gives you a great base knowledge on the style and a recipe for consideration. In this case though we decided to go a different route than the recipe Jamil has in the book. After som more research it seems that there are two schools of thought on the grain bill/fermentables, the first is the new world approach which you utilize the myriad of specialty malts we have at our disposal to achieve a characterful wort (Jamil's recipe). The second method more traditional method, the way many of the Trappist breweries go about it, is a base of Pilsner/Pale Malt and a huge addition of Belgian dark candi sugar to get the dark fruit flavors and deep amber color.

I wised up and added the blowoff.
I see recipes on the internet using the new world approach and they all look like a malt soup to me, Jamil's included. They have 7-8 different malts being used in all different quantities all to get a final product that can effectively be achieved by using a a high quality Dark Belgian candi sugar. I'm sure these recipes are fine but with so many variables I would worry it ends up in a muddled mess, then again I am huge proponent of simple grists. What we chose to do was keep the grist relatively simple, similar to the traditional grist but with 2 small additions to keep it malty and rich enough to withstand the oak and whiskey.  We started with a base of Pilsner malt, balanced with some Pale Malt to keep the Pilsner from overpowering, Munich to boost the maltiness, Special B to amp up the dark fruits, and of course D-180 Candi syrup. Oh and some Turbinado to boost the alcohol and promote a drier beer, Turbinado over Dextrose because we're snobs. This grist is relatively simple but hopefully complex enough to give us a rich flavorful base beer that can carry the oak and whiskey flavors that remain in the barrel.

I really enjoy WLP530 for Belgian beers like this, I don't use it all that often but I have some experience using it in Belgian Pales and Dubbels so I am comfortable working with it. Its a strain that is low on fruitiness, alcohol tolerant and highly attenuative. All four of us probably fermented differently but I like to pitch in the mid 60's, let it free rise into the low to mid 70's then ramp to close to 80 after 7-10 days to finish it out nice and dry. This profile ends up relatively clean for a Belgian but enough esters to remind you it is after all a Belgian beer. Starting it cool also limits the hot/fusel alcohols i taste in a lot of homebrewed Belgians, which is something I despise.

This beer was fermented out and transferred to the barrel within a month. We transferred about 1.25 gallons of each of the 4 batches to a 5 gallon carboy to be bottled as a non-barrel aged version. The rest of course will age in the barrel until we feel that we've reached our desired oak flavor. 

Tasting Notes: 12/18/2014

Riverwards 10

Brew day: 1/20/2014
Kegged: 2/8/2013 

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 8.50 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.80 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.10 gal
Estimated OG: 1.100 SG
Measured OG: 1.095 SG
Measured FG: 1.016 SG
ABV: 10.5%
Estimated Color: 22 SRM
Estimated IBU: 32 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 69.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

59.3% - 12lbs - CMC Pilsen Malt (1.5 SRM)
19.8% -  4lbs - CMC Superior Pale Ale Malt (3.1 SRM)
 9.9% -  2lbs - Munich (9.0 SRM)
 1.2% -  4oz - Special B (180 SRM)
 4.9% -  1lb - D-180 Dark Candi Sugar (180 SRM)
 4.9% - 1lb - Turbinado Sugar

Boil: 60min - 2.00 oz Hallertauer [4.80 %] - 28.1 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil: 10min - 1.00 oz Saaz [4.00 %] - 4.2 IBUs

1.0 pkg - WLP530 Abbey Ale Yeast - 2L starter

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 152.1 F 

Fly Sparge 12.23 gallons 170f

90 seconds of pure O2. Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant.

Pitched at 64f and let it free rise naturally to 72f. After 72 hours I started to add heat to the fermenter and it rose slowly until day 7 it hit 80f. I held it at ~80f for another 2-3 days then it finished at 74f before racking to a keg  on the 14th day.(It was transferred to a keg so I could transport it to the barrel that is now stored in my neighbors basement across the street).


  1. I've always wanted to brew the darker Belgians with just Pale malt and candi sugar, but I have never been able to get enough flavor out of them alone. I think it was a good choice you added the Special B and Munich. I'll be curious to see how it ends up.

    1. I kind of wanted to go that route but I figured that we needed a base beer that could withstand the oak and whiskey and blend together well.