Thursday, August 7, 2014

#23 Belgian Single - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

ABV: 5.1%
IBU: 41
Serving Temp: 38F
Carbonation: 2.8 vol
Grade: D+

Well this beer wasn't perfect.  To paraphrase Robert Plant: "I put a lot of work into my recipes. Not all my stuff is meant to be scrutinized, though. Beers like this are blatant let's-do-it-in-the-bath type things."  This batch was somewhat thrown together to get some drinkable beer and learn about ingredients while serving as decoction practice and a good yeast starter for the following quad.  Unfortunately it shows.

First off, this beer is hazy; no this is past hazy, past cloudy, all the way to murky pond water status.  Some beers have a bit of a protein haze or hop haze, but there is visually something wrong with this beer.  The head is nice and fluffy as ever though.  I had a friend literally take a spoon to it to dig her way down to the surface of the beer.

The aroma is nice, with primarily banana esters.  At first the banana was over the top, but since it's been conditioning in the keg, the banana has faded into it's place.  It's still mostly banana but maybe with a tiny hint of hops.

The banana also faded from the taste as well, and is now properly balanced by a bit of clove and lemony citrus spice from the Saaz hops.  I'm surprised how much lemon the hops imparted; I usually read noble, herbal and spicy as characteristics of Saaz, but there is definitely a squeeze of lemon, and with a final pH of 4.64 it's definitely not acidity.  The malt character is nice too, with a wonderful dry breadiness that I think I've only tasted in a couple beers: fresh Pilsner Urquell, and in Fuller's London Pride (albeit watered down).  I really like it and would be curious if its from the Pilsner malt, or from the decoction process.  However in the aftertaste there is a strange musty, hot-bread, spiciness that seems out of place when I'm looking for a dry, crisp finish.  By the bottom of a glass, it really overwhelms and ruins anything positive you could say about this beer.

Although the beer finished dry, the mouthfeel is a bit thicker than authentic Belgian pale beer, even when compared to stronger beers like Westmalle Tripel and Tripel Karmeliet.  If I were to brew this again, I would like to lighten up the body a bit while maintaining the malt flavor and the low alcohol.  I'm not sure how this would work, but that's a problem for next time.

So with all that in mind, what went wrong with this batch?  Starch haze.  I mean, I already explained how the decoction mash was all sorts of f'd up, but those are temperature issues.  They explain the low efficiency but things still attenuated sufficiently, so that's not the main concern.  The issue, as I later learned, was because I took a thick decoction for the last one. That interview explained that early decoctions--i.e. before the saccharification rest--are pulled thick to leave behind enzymes (which are dissolved in the wort) while boiling the kernels to burst open the hard bits of the endosperm so the enzymes can get at them.  Once conversion is nearly complete and the enzymes are nearly spent, you don't want to introduce fresh starch in solution because there will be nothing to break it down.  But that's exactly what I did.  Unfortunately I didn't discover this in time to correct course for the quad, so it could develop similar problems.

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