Sunday, 23 March 2014

Brew Day: Belgian Dry Stout

I’ve brewed a few times in the last two weeks, using the pitch of 3522 that figured in this post about top-cropping.  The yeast I cropped there was for an experimental recipe: a belgian dry stout.

IMG_1719[1]This is another beer inspired by Yvan de Baets and Brasserie de la Senne, but this time I decided to brew this recipe even before I tasted the beer that is its inspiration.  I have a slightly strange habit of trawling through brewery websites to read descriptions of beers I’ve never tried.  They often give me ideas for recipes, and it fits with the general idea of trying to make beers that I know I’ll enjoy without deliberately setting out to clone any particular commercial example.  I’d already heard Yvan and Bernard describe the beer in this video from Shelton Brothers, and the description of Stouterik on the brewery’s website was enough to pique my interest further: light, dry, and freshly bitter with complex roasted notes.

I decided to take a typical recipe for a dry Irish stout and ferment it with the Wyeast Ardennes strain.  This has a fairly subdued character if fermented in the 60s, and can add a slight tartness that I thought would complement the style.  The only other change I made was substituting chocolate for some of the roasted barley.  This changed the colour slightly, but I hope it will add to the complexity of the final beer.

One thing that struck me as I formulated the recipe was how similar a basic dry stout is to the saisons de Baets describes in Farmhouse Ales (see quote in this post).  Obviously dry stouts are dry(!), and have relatively low alcohol.  They are heavily bittered with a large dose of low alpha hops, and contain a substantial amount of adjuncts in the form of barley or wheat.

SAM_1797After formulating the recipe, I had to wait a few weeks before brewing, and in that time I had a chance to pick up a few bottles of Stouterik (along with a very different Belgian stout, Drie Fonteinen’s  The De la Senne beer is lovely: dry and slightly fruity, with a subtle roastiness and firm bitterness, neither of which make it acrid or astringent.  It has some dark fruit notes, which makes me wonder if there isn’t also some crystal in their beer (it may also be their yeast).  Perhaps next time I’ll add 1-2% dark crystal or Special B to bring this out.  The Drie Fonteinen beer was also enjoyable: it had a fairly light, grapey sourness, some chocolate and roast notes, and that slight but distinctive burnt rubber aroma and flavour that this brewery’s beer often seem to have.  As it warmed it began to taste like a slightly sour chocolate, and the grape notes became more like currants or red fruits. Unlike the De la Senne beer, its not something I can imagine drinking regularly, but I’d certainly buy it again.

Anyway, below is the recipe as I brewed it.  This is a work in progress, and I expect to come back to it again based on how this one turns out.  Now that I’ve tasted Stouterik, I don’t think this will be much like it---I don’t think their yeast is the Ardennes strain, for instance, and for some reason I have in mind that their “English aromatic hop particularly appreciated by connoisseurs” is Challenger rather than Fuggles. But I think this recipe will provide a good starting point for further development.  If I decided I want to make it more like the original, I can always culture yeast from a bottle and tweak the recipe.  

Update: Tasting Notes.

Estimated O.G. 1.040    
Measured O.G. 1.037    
Measured F.G. 1.009    
ABV. 3.7%    
Mash: 150°F    
69% Maris Otter      
20% Flaked Barley      
8% Roasted Barley      
3% Chocolate      
Fuggles 60 36.8 IBUs (45g @4.1%%)
Fuggles 10 1.8 IBUs (10g @ 4.`%)
Wyeast Belgian Ardennes (3522)      

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