After nearly a year of experience with the home brewing hobby, I’ve been given a great excuse to brew up a very special beer. A good friend of mine loves Tripel style ales commonly brewed by monks in the Trappist Monasteries of Belgium, and after trying some of my other beers, requested a batch be made for her birthday in February.
Her favorite Tripel isn’t actually a Trappist, nor is it even Belgian. La Fin du Monde by Unibroue in Quebec, Canada is a fantastic Tripel style ale. It is brewed by French Canadian hockey fans rather than Belgian monks, but I have always had a real soft spot for this beer. It didn’t take much convincing when she mentioned she’d like to have a home brewed version of this available at her party.
In addition to the standard beer ingredients of malted barley, water, hops, and yeast, a Tripel will often contain flavoring spices as well as a significant amount of adjunct neutral sugar content to provide the extra alcohol. This particular recipe uses over 14 lbs of grain as it’s base, as well as 2 lbs of candi sugar (think rock candy). It also incorporates sweet and bitter orange peel, and coriander seed along with the hops for flavor.
I tracked down the ingredients needed and got to work this weekend.
“Mashing in” Stirring the grain into the water at a carefully controlled temperature (152ºF in this case).
After a 90 minute mash to convert the starches in the grain into sugars, I haul the grain out to drain, leaving behind the “wort” to be boiled.
The first round of hops, and other ingredients are added and the boil begins.
After a 6 minute boil, the hops are removed to drain and the copper wort chiller is used to quickly drop the temperature of the beer-to-be from 212ºF to under 80ºF.
The spent grains and hops make great garden compost
Transferring the chilled wort to a sanitized carboy for fermentation.
Yeast is added and into the fermentation chamber it goes to carefully control the temperature as the yeast goes to work. A sanitized airlock is placed on top to keep germs out while it ferments into beer.
There is a huge amount of fermentable sugars in this beer (meaning a high alcohol content when it is done), so the yeast were very happy got really active. There was so much pressure from the escaping CO2 it blew the airlock assembly right out of the bottle and sprayed yeast and beer all over the chamber. This photo was taken after cleaning and re-inserting the airlock. Academically, I suspected this would happen with such a “big” beer, but I had never seen it in practice. Once I got the mess cleaned up, it was actually a pretty cool experience.
It was very clear that the airlock wasn’t go to stay put a second time either, so I setup “blowoff tube” to allow the escaping CO2 gas and yeast particles to flow into a large container (1/2 gallon growler in the back) full of sanitizer. This allows more pressure to escape while still keeping a sanitized barrier between the outside air and the fermentation.
This post is intended to be an overview of one day’s brewing experience, not a tutorial on how to brew. If you are interested in learning more about this rewarding hobby, I suggest picking up a copy of “How to Brew” by John J. Palmer, and checkout the excellent forums at homebrewtalk.com