Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Recipe and Tasting Notes - Belgian IPA

Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Belgian IPA 
Brewed: 8.7.2011
5 gallons; extract batch
ABV: 7.4%
Grade: C 

Most of my time brewing, I'm inspired because I want to try something unique — something that I can learn more about, figure out, or get to try because I've never had anything quite like it before. But not always. Sometimes I want to brew something because I think it seems like it'll taste good, so every now and then, I'll probably still brew something based on someone else's recipe, or a kit. I've got plenty to learn, so why not? 

For this one, I was interested in Norther Brewer's Houblonmonstre Tripel IPA, a cross between a Belgian triple and an IPA. It still sounds good to me; it's definitely a solid idea, and any failures here are my own.

Brewing & Tasting Notes:
There are a few major factors that I believe made this beer turn out sub-par. One, I very-last-minute decided not to brew the Houblonmonstre Triple IPA as it came — I didn't really want something with the gravity / ABV of a triple, so I cut out a pound of corn sugar and took it down to regular Belgian IPA strengths. That, in and of itself, probably wasn't a bad move. Half the reason I decided to brew this beer when I did was the "max temp" guidelines of Belgian Ardennes yeast. According to Northern Brewer, the upper threshold on the temperature range is 85 degrees. As I was brewing in mid-August, that was feasible — as in, it didn't seem like it would get incinerated by my too-hot apartment. My temperature-controlled mini-fridge was tied up with another batch, and I wanted to knock this one out before I went on a three-week long vacation that would prevent me from brewing for a long time. I was able to keep the batch at a little over 80 degrees during its primary fermentation. Later, far too late to make a difference, I happened to look at Wyeast's website and see that they give Belgian Ardennes' upper threshold as 76 degrees. And they probably know best. Whooooops.

That somewhat brutal high temp is what led to most of the things I don't like about this beer — in short, it's way too yeasty, way too sharp and estery, all things which are almost definitely a result of the yeast blasting out flavors at a temperature much higher than what they were designed for. If I had fermented this 15 degrees cooler, I think this would be a pretty solid beer. As it is, the strong, signature flavor of Belgian yeast completely overwhelms everything else. It's very clovey and spicy, with some of the fruity tastes common in other Belgian ales (to a smaller degree) and in particularly bold hefeweizens. To make matters worse, my other major screw-up was that I significantly overcarbed this batch. I'm not really sure why or how; I know I didn't accidentally add the priming sugar twice or anything too stupid. In any case, some bottles of this are huge mountains of foam, and the bite of carbonation really doesn't help the sharp, clove flavor of the yeast. All these factors combine to make an unsubtle beer, whose dominating flavor isn't all that great.

My beloved hops don't make much of an appearance here, despite the five ounces added to the boil. If anything, the bitterness just adds to the harsh mouthfeel and unsubtle bite, but any hoppy aroma was annihilated by the vigorous fermentation. I've given the beer a few months to age, and it hasn't really improved significantly with time. The over-carbonation is here to stay, and I don't see the big yeast flavor diminishing that much, even with a few more months. Fortunately, this is still drinkable. Nothing about it is what I wanted, but none of the flavors are outright bad.

Recipe- Extract- 8.5 lb pilsen LME
Other Fermentatables- 
1.0 lb corn sugar
Hop Schedule-
1.0 oz Magnum @60
1.0 oz Cascade @15
1.0 oz Saaz @15
1.0 oz Cascade @5
1.0 oz Saaz @5  
Yeast- Wyeast Belgian Ardennes

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