Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dark Belgian Table Beer and a Rant

I'm still getting ready for my summer brewing hiatus and brewing like crazy. I decided that I wasn't quite done with the Ardennes yeast I had from my most recent table beer and thought it could be interesting to rework the recipe a bit. I decided that I wanted something a bit darker, but not roasty. I was a bit bored prior to brewing the beer so I thought Id post the recipe over on BA for some opinions, not that I was planning on changing the recipe, but thought that it could be interesting to hear what people thought.

Lets just say I think there are too many "experts" on brewing Belgian beers. Style guidelines were thrown around, ideas about maltiness, etc, etc. I really didn't know there was a guideline for a table beer, let alone a real one for most other Belgians. Seems to me just about any of the styles varies from dark to light, sweet to dry, bitter to malty, basically there really isn't a defining character other than a strong yeast presence. I also think that lately there tends to be a lot of "expert" opinions from people who read a few lines from Mosher, Jamil, Palmer, etc. Who while I would tend to think are good brewers, I have to disagree with many of the things they say (Palmer less so that the others). But reading a good brewing book and being an experienced, good brewer who can offer insightful information are two totally different things.

At the end of the thread I posted I decided that I needed to clarify my intentions for the beer and put straight some thoughts about IBU/OG ratios. I pretty much copied and pasted my last post in the thread below. I think it sums up my intentions for this beer pretty well, and includes a link to a much better way to think about the balance of a beer (hint its not and IBU/OG ratio). I don't mean to go on a long rant but for one reason or another this sorta struck a cord with me, but please let me know if I'm being crazy, everyone needs a reality check from time to time.....

Id say ~80% of the beers I brew are Belgians, and I'm getting a bit tired with the let the yeast shine or let the syrup flavor the beer, Ive been there and done that several times over, however what you don't ever see is a Belgian beer with a strongly flavored base malt being used (pils alone has gotten kinda boring for me, as has pils + syrup)

I've found that WY3522 (Ardennes aka Achouffe) really accentuates malt profiles in beers, so I thought it would be a natural pair for using a bit more robustly flavored base malt like Maris Otter. However, I was worried that it could be too thick so I added in the D2 syrup, which is very fermentable and will help to lower the FG a bit all the while adding some chocolatey notes of its own. The syrup will also help the beer distinguish itself from other table beers Ive brewed in the past. Im hoping it will have a nice dark fruit/chocolatey flavor from the syrup but will not be roasty, I also plan it to be a bit more malt driven than hoppy as Ive done in the past.

As far as the IBU's go, I think this beer will be quite balanced. I really think that the use of the IBU/OG ratio on its own a a bit misleading and Ive often said this. However I do believe there are better ways out there one in particular is using the anticipated FG and IBU's in the recipe. I think is a much better approach to understanding beer balance, a better description is here. Now this isn't without its own faults as it is a bit tricky accurately predicting a FG, but if your careful when using whatever brewing program you use, its possible to get close (e.g. do not include lactose etc in the recipe for FG calculations)

Using the referenced technique, for this beer Im expecting it to finish around 1.009 or lower, using the guidelines for sweetness in the link(and actual #'s from beersmith) I end up with

RTE:15.3 (real terminal extract)
AA: 77%

Bittering Value = 1.15 (BV = 1.0 = a perfectly balanced beer)

A saison has a BV value of 1.16 (using bjcp #'s), so I don't think this will end up very sweet by any means, contrary to what many have said. I think in general the notion of IBU/OG ratio for determining beer balance is a bit out of date, and the fact that many brewing programs report this ratio gives it a credence it doesn't deserve.

Black Friar - Dark Belgian Table Beer
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
6.5Marris Otter
1.0D2 Dark Candi Syrup
Amt (oz)TypeTime
1.5Williamette (4.5%)60
Mash Schedule
170F2.2qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastArdennes WY3522 (yeast cake)
86% effIBU23
7gal BoilFG


sciencebrewer said...

I agree with you completely.

There have been WAY to many times when someone posts up a recipe on BA you eventually get something like: "Well, according to JZ you should avoid such and such".

I'm sure they are great brewers but lots of homebrewers tend to follow their advice like gods.

I'm firm believer in if one wants to be a better brewer then experiment and brew more. Learn your system and try new and different recipes and styles.

Lots of the advice on BA is a bit rigid.

Russ said...

I (for the most part) gave up on BA a couple years ago, though my issues were more with how the site was moderated than with the members. Unfortunately, between the Alstroms' heavy-handed rule and the repetitive nature of the forum ("If your friend offers you a BMC, should you drink it?" "Selling beer on eBay sucks!") I think a lot of the more knowledgeable posters* have moved on.

*For the record, despite having moved on, I'm not implying I was ever one of the more knowledgeable posters.

Ryan said...

Russ - Where did everyone land? I know Ive been over on HBtalk more myself, but Im always curious to hear about other sites

Russ said...

HBtalk is the main site I go to these days, though I'm on there much less frequently than I was in my BA days (mostly due to work demand plus increased activity on my homebrew club's email listserv). I know quite a few people are over at as well, though my experience was it has a higher level of know-it-alls than HBtalk.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Ryan. Do you mind sharing what your fermentation schedule for this beer was?
Also, quite a few people that left BA went to TBS( There are a few home brewers there and a few professional brewer friends, but it's mostly people that have been banned from BA or grew tired of the BS.

Ryan said...

I believe it was 68 for primary and then ambient during secondary/kegging until it was served

thanks for the heads up about TBS I'll give it a look

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