Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

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Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby Guy_Cliff » Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:51 pm

Hi everyone.

So today I had my first ever brew day (not just first BM brew, but first brew of any type). I had previously posted up a recipe https://forum.braumeisters.net/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1488, but having not had any responses (I did post at quite late notice), I decided to go ahead and brew with my recipe without any feedback (copied at the end).

For my first ever brewing experience I am really quite happy with how it went. For the most part the morning was relaxed and easy, which justifies exactly why I decided to bite the bullet and buy a BM. The only stressful part came within the last half hour or so of the boil, when I was rushing around sterilising the immersion chiller, fermenter, and all the other little bits (airlock, yeast packet!).

I thought I'd post a few of my experiences, and see whether those of you with more experience have any feedback or thoughts.

1) First 'mistake' I discovered is that using a smack pack of yeast requiries (according to the packaging) 3hrs or so after smacking it before it is ready to pitch. I discovered this a short while into mashing, and probably managed to smack it with a little more than 3hrs until pitching time, but the yeast did come out of the fridge so it also took a while of walking around the house with the smack pack in my hoody pocket to warm it up! I also felt quite unsure that I had successfully broken the inner bag open... more on that later.

2) Jump to the end of the mash, and removing the malt pipe. I decided rather late in the game that I would do a basic sparge, and so ran 2.5l of sparge water over the grain bed. That turned out to be a good idea as the final volume after boiling is only around 8l, and above my expected OG, so I shudder to think what I'd have had if I hadn't added the extra sparge water... However

3) On cleaning the malt pipe I realised that there was a mark on the exterior, presumably from where the label had been when it was delivered. I had not noticed any glue residue before mashing, but this is definitely what the mark is... Now wondering whether a) the label glue will impart an unpleasant taste, and b) whether it is in fact safe to drink! I imagine that the answer to the former is that there will be some impact, and to the later that this quantity of glue is unlikely to cause any health issues!

4) The boil went smoothly with the aforementioned caveat that I was running around my flat somewhat frantically sanitising things. The only problem which I encountered was when pitching the yeast. First off the smack pack hadn't swelled as I had expected it to; I put this down to the fact that the yeast had started at a low temperature, and hadn't had time to swell. However, when I went to pour the pack into the fermenter I accidentally poured the inner bag into the wort as well... Having fished this out with my (hopefully suitably sanitized) brewing paddle, I noticed that one of the inner bags hadn't broken (from what I could see there were two... correct me if I'm wrong?!); I pierced the bag (with a sanitized knife), and chucked the contents into the fermenter... so now I am just hoping that the yeast takes off.

So that is it for my brew day. I ended up with ~8litres of wort at 1.086OG... so heading towards a rather strong tripel, which is perfectly fine for me... I was more afraid of finding myself with a table beer! The name Virgin and Monk stems (somewhat clearly) from the fact that I'm a virgin brewer... attempting an abbey style.

My two concerns are whether the glue from the label will have an effect on the beer, and whether the yeast will reproduce... I am tempted to try and harvest some yeast from a Westmalle bottle this evening, and then if there is no activity in the fermenter this time tomorrow to pitch the westmalle yeast... but I may not have built up a large enough culture in that time.

Any thoughts on my process would be greatly appreciated.

Virgin and Monk Tripel (10l recipe).
Type: All Grain
Batch Size: 10.00 l
Boil Size: 12.29 l
Est Original Gravity: 1.079 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 9.2 %
Bitterness: 24.9 IBUs
Est Color: 15.7 EBC

Ingredients
2.55 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (3.9 EBC)
0.10 kg Aromatic Malt (100.0 EBC)
0.10 kg Biscuit Malt (50.0 EBC)
0.10 kg Light Dry Extract (15.8 EBC)
0.50 kg Candi Sugar, Clear (1.0 EBC)

20.00 g Styrian Celeja @ 5.10%AA (60.0 min)
10.00 g Hallertauer Hersbrucker @ 2%AA (15.0 min)
10.00 g Styrian Celeja @ 5.1%AA (5.0 min)

1.0 pkg Belgian Ale Yeast (Wyeast Labs #1214)

Mash Profile
Add 13.00 l of water at 55.1 C , hold for 20 min.
Heat to 65.0 C over 5 min, hold for 30 min.
Heat to 70.0 C over 5 min, hold for 30 min.
Heat to 78.0 C over 5 min, hold for 10 min (mash out).

Sparge with 2.5l of water ~73C.
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Re: Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby Nesto » Tue Nov 10, 2015 7:35 am

Welcome to the brewing world Guy_Cliff! I'm sure you'll enjoy it. I'd be surprised if you will be able to taste any of the label glue - especially with this style. And you've found the one reason why I prefer White Labs - have always disliked the smack packs. But you recovered nicely. The unbroken bag is yeast nutrient. You'll find out soon enough if the yeast took off.
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Re: Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby mashy » Tue Nov 10, 2015 8:34 am

Welcome aboard. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
The next key thing is temp control for the yeasties for the next few days.... or put another way ... don't take your foot off the gas yet buddy :D

I am sure it will be celebrated ale in a few weeks
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Re: Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby dinnerstick » Tue Nov 10, 2015 9:03 am

i don't see any reason it shouldn't take off if the pack was fresh. and like mashy says, do your best to control the temperature. in my (admittedly somewhat limited) experience with this and similar yeast strains they do best when you start cool (19-20 range) and let them finish warmer, with no temperature drops.
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Re: Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby Guy_Cliff » Tue Nov 10, 2015 1:18 pm

Hi all,

Thanks for your positive responses and reassurance! So we are now at 24hrs, and there doesnt seem to be much sign of anything going on in the fermenter... having said that I have one of the opaque Bruameister ones so its a bit hard to tell. Certainly no airlock activity. One slight issue is that the tap at the bottom has a small leak. Nothing major, but I will try and sort that out this afternoon since I don't want to be constantly emptying a drip tray!

Nesto wrote:And you've found the one reason why I prefer White Labs - have always disliked the smack packs.


I'll have a look at White labs next time around. Having done some reading it seems like the advantage of the smack pack is that it immediately lets you know (okay within a few hours) whether or not your yeast is viable... I'm not sure the extent to which this helps though; I mean supposing that the bag doesn't inflate then you maybe confirm that the yeast is dead... but then you're still left without yeast. Unless you pre-buy an extra pack for safety!

On this note: suppose that my yeast remains dormant for another day, what should I do then? I'm going to buy another yeast bag (was tempted to harvest something from a Westmalle bottle but thought I'd better look to a more reliable source than relying on this working... again something I've never done), but that won't be with me until Thursday afternoon at the earliest (i.e. 72 hours after initial pitching). If thats the case am I safe to pitch anyway, or would I be better of putting the whole lot down the drain and starting a new batch?

mashy wrote:The next key thing is temp control for the yeasties for the next few days.


Temperature shouldn't be a problem for me: one of the reasons it's taken me so long to get around to brewing is that I have been determined to do things well from the beginning (thats not to say that I'll be getting great beer from the get go... but I was determined to put myself in a position to make the best beer within my means from the beginning). A part of that was to set up a fermentation chamber; currently no heating unit plugged in to the STC1000, so just the fridge coming on and off, but the ambient temperature in my flat is around 22C, so should be fine for this yeast I think without a heat unit.

Thanks again for your thoughts, and heres to hoping that the beer takes off. If not I'd definitely appreciate some strategies thoughts regarding repitching or ditching the brew!

GC.
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Re: Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby Nesto » Wed Nov 11, 2015 12:03 am

Guy_Cliff wrote:I'll have a look at White labs next time around. Having done some reading it seems like the advantage of the smack pack is that it immediately lets you know (okay within a few hours) whether or not your yeast is viable... I'm not sure the extent to which this helps though; I mean supposing that the bag doesn't inflate then you maybe confirm that the yeast is dead... but then you're still left without yeast. Unless you pre-buy an extra pack for safety!

On this note: suppose that my yeast remains dormant for another day, what should I do then? I'm going to buy another yeast bag (was tempted to harvest something from a Westmalle bottle but thought I'd better look to a more reliable source than relying on this working... again something I've never done), but that won't be with me until Thursday afternoon at the earliest (i.e. 72 hours after initial pitching). If thats the case am I safe to pitch anyway, or would I be better of putting the whole lot down the drain and starting a new batch?


I suppose I'm lucky - I am in between two home brew supply stores, each about 15 mins away in case of any supply issue. I do occasionally still use Wyeast - sometime they have the better strain! But when I'm using White Labs I always make a starter, so I'll know viability within several hours.

Haven't used WY1214, but White Labs WLP530 (also Abbey Ale Yeast) can take a bit to get going. Once it does, it is very active - watch for blow off.

With any beer, your worry if fermentation doesn't take after first pitch is infection with competing wild yeasts or bacteria. If your sanitation was really good, you should be ok. Sounds like you were careful, even when you ran into the yeast issue. With a tripel, there are so many ester and phenol flavors that a little infection might be lost (or taste good!). So repitch if you don't see activity. And if you do, brew a Dubbel!

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Re: Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby Guy_Cliff » Wed Nov 11, 2015 4:57 pm

Nesto wrote:But when I'm using White Labs I always make a starter, so I'll know viability within several hours.


Having done a bit more reading it seems as though what you are suggesting, and what seems sensible, is that I prepare the starter a few days in advance: that way I know the yeast is active, and if its not I just delay brew day until I have some active yeast... making the concern I had redundant. Something to remember for next time.

Nesto wrote:Haven't used WY1214, but White Labs WLP530 (also Abbey Ale Yeast) can take a bit to get going. Once it does, it is very active - watch for blow off.

So the update on this front is that at around 30hrs there was a small amount of action with the airlock; roughly one 'burp' every 2-3mins. This morning, around 48hrs, that had come down to a bubble every 3 seconds. I've now left the wort unsupervised and will be back home in 24hrs or so... hopefully no messy surprises in that time, and a happily bubbling yeast!

Nesto wrote:So repitch if you don't see activity. And if you do, brew a Dubbel!


I was confused/curious about this remark... are you suggesting that I can convert a spoiled tripel into a decent dubbel? Sounds intriguing if true!

GC
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Re: Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby Nesto » Wed Nov 11, 2015 11:45 pm

Guy_Cliff wrote:
Nesto wrote:though what you are suggesting, and what A
Nesto wrote:So repitch if you don't see activity. And if you do, brew a Dubbel!


I was confused/curious about this remark... are you suggesting that I can convert a spoiled tripel into a decent dubbel? Sounds intriguing if true!

GC

Hehe. Just meant you should brew a Dubbel with the extra smack pack if you don't have to use it on your Tripel ;)
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Re: Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby Guy_Cliff » Thu Nov 12, 2015 8:22 am

Aha, now I've got you (damn...I'd wished you were suggesting some secret technique where a sour beer can be converted)!
Indeed... Dubbel may well be the next brew!
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Re: Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby Guy_Cliff » Mon Nov 16, 2015 7:33 pm

I thought I'd just throw out a quick update of how the brew is coming along. It has now been exactly a week since brew day, and I have a few things to share from the intervening days.

1) First off I have to say that I never really saw the beer forming much krausen; althoug the fermentor that the beer is in is fairly opaque, I did open the lid at one point to check that there was some action, and then there was only really a thin patchy layer... no big bubbles as I might have expected. It is of course possible that I had missed the krausen at its peak, but I think I would have at least seen some residue around the rim of the fermentor if that was the case.

2) Unfortunately although I have my fermentation chamber set up, I have struggled to get my heater working in there, so it's only needed the cooling aspect... and in fact it hasn't even needed that since it's struggling to get up to the temperature I intended on fermenting at (23C/73.4F), and is instead sitting at around 20.3C/68.5F; it is still within the range of the yeast (Wyeast 1214), but lower than I'd been hoping for. Could this be the cause of the krausen not forming properly?

3) Today I took a sample out and measured the gravity. The OG was 1.085 (somewhat higher than intended), and today it was sitting at 1.015, so there definitely has been some activity in there! Taking the all important taste test... it doesn't taste sour, so hopefully it is the intended yeast that's doing the fermenting, but it doesn't taste pretty either! Very strong alcohol flavour at the moment, and hard to distinguish anything else. On the nose it's got some bubble gum, and strong yeast characters (I guess because the yeast is in suspension). Having done some reading it would seem as though the harshness of the alcohol is nothing to be surprised about for a beer which is heading towards a gravity of +9.5%... so hoping that it will mellow a bit between now and bottling, and then soften even further after a bit of ageing.

So, the plan now is to leave it so sit completely undisturbed at 20.3C(ish) for another two weeks... Skip a secondary fermentation, and go straight to bottling. That'll take us up to the end of November. Then I'll leave it 6 weeks in the bottle before opening one... hopefully in that time it'll be heading towards being palatable!
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Re: Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby Guy_Cliff » Wed Dec 02, 2015 8:05 pm

So today was bottling day at last, and I thought I'd give another update as to the experience.

This morning I decided to syphon the beer off into a bottling bucket so as that I would be able to bottle the beer later without having to worry about rousing the yeast (in particular as I was priming with sugar in the bucket).

I discovered early on that the plastic hosing that I have for my racking cane does not actually fit the spigot on my fermenter, which meant that I had to resort to manually starting the syphon... so possible cause for contamination there! I had an early scare when I found myself pushing on the spigot (trying to force the hose on) and some beer escaped... had a taste and it was pretty sour. This got me prepared for the worst, but in eventuality I think this was just some beer which had soured on the outside of the spigot since the sample I took to measure FG tasted okay... When I say okay, I mean it didn't taste sour... still not sure it tastes decent, but perhaps time will tell on that one!

When taking the sample I had problems trying to keep the tubing from forming kinks with the result of a few bubbles getting sucked into the beer as I played with the syphon. Any tips that I'm missing here? I decided to aim at only pressurising to 2.5 CO2 volumes, predominantly to play it safe with my first brew as I'm keen not to have any bombs.

Other than that no major mishaps until I came to actually sealing up my bottles. I was reusing small Belgian bottles (i.e. the Duvel shaped ones), as well as a few larger 75ml bottles I'd got from drinking my way through the various offerings from De Ranke. I had calculated that I would be looking at bottling around 5l, so had cleaned and sanitised 12 of the small 330ml bottles, and 3 of the larger 75ml ones: expecting to only fill two of the larger ones, but having one spare just in case. All goes smoothly, bottles all filled and as expected I only needed two of the larger ones. I started capping which went fine on the smaller ones... until disaster struck...

The obvious guess is that I had forgotten to by larger caps for the big bottles... but this was not my error! Nor did I fail to buy the adapter for the Emily bottle capper. My mistake was not to try putting one of the large caps on the De Ranke bottles before bottling day... as it turns out, the width of the neck of these specific bottles is too large for the Emily; I didn't have any excess clean/sanitised 330ml bottles, so in the end I have had to throw out the two large bottles... big bummer. One was put to good use to make a test for the pressure of the beer in a plastic bottle... but still a sad day.

Now the beer will sit for a month when I'll open one of them and see what monster I have made... then the rest will probably be left for a bit longer.
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Re: Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby BreadMurderer » Sun Dec 06, 2015 7:11 am

Just to jump in here about the taste of the fresh beer, a high percentage beer like that will not taste in it's prime straight away. This style of beer will taste better the longer it is bottle conditioned (or kegged, etc), so really you should be leaving this for a few months to get it tasting in it's prime. So nothing to worry about and you will see yourself as you try them over an extended period of time. Sounds like you had a fairly good brew on there though. :cheers:
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Re: Brew day log: Virgin and Monk Tripel

Unread postby Guy_Cliff » Tue Dec 08, 2015 3:15 pm

Cheers Breadmurderer.
Checked in on the carbonation earlier today; plastic bottle is firming up nicely, and can see a thin layer of yeast forming on the bottom, so glad I didn't bother to add any additional yeast at bottling. Looking forward to taking my first tastes in January.
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