Sunday, April 24, 2011

Belgian Singel: The Session Beer of the Trappist Order

So it's that time of year again when homebrew competitions start popping up all around us. My brewing goes from a drinking beer, grilling meat wrapped in bacon, tossing hops into the kettle every so often, to a lab coat and clipboard type of operation and this brew session was no exception. Speaking of "session", that's exactly what this beer is all about. The competition is for a session beer, under 5.0% ABV, a daily drinker if you will. The perfect set out to mow the lawn beer in hand brew, and this one from the minds of some of the greatest brewers on the planet, the Trappist Monks of Belgian monasteries. We're all familiar with the Belgian Dubbel, Trippel, and even Quad, but there's not much buzz out there about the Singel, or Enkel. This is a relatively small beer brewed by the monks for personal consumption within the Abbey, that they can drink on at lunch or dinner and return to prayer or other activity without the inebriation.
So I set out to construct a perfect clone of this "Fathers Beer", and I now believe I've done a pretty damn good job.

For my mash, since this is a small beer, I mashed at 158F for 45 minutes after a 15 minute protein rest at 130F. I really need to build the body of this beer since there isn't much of a grain bill
to work with. While mashing I set out all of my
boil additions to be ready when needed. I went
with .75oz Challenger hops at 60min, and 2 smaller Saaz additions at the end of the boil, plus yeast energizer, nutrient, and moss flocculant.

So I get my fresh wort into the brew kettle and fire it up to a boil, but right around 200F, the hotbreak started getting pretty heavy and created a bit of protein foam on the surface of the liquid. Since this is going to be a very fast turn around beer, about 20 days from boil to bottle, I wanted to help the clearing process along as much as possible so I went ahead and skimmed the foam off the top and discarded it. I'm not sure how much this will actually help but I figured it was worth a shot.
After my boil I created a dual purpose for my grill, grilling meat obviously, but also as a perfect elevated surface for me to use as a make-shift tier system for draining my wort into the ale pail. This worked out perfectly and as a technique will definitely be employed again on future brews. I do in fact plan on building a brewing platform eventually though, a nice 3 tiered system with a recirculating pump setup (awesome). I'm so happy warmer weather is here so I can do every step of my brew sessions outdoors again.
Obviously so are creatures like this little fly, who really enjoyed slurping around my kettle for splashed wort, braving the jet engine like flame from my 20lb burner just for a taste of that sweet nectar.
I ended up hitting my target gravity of 1.042 and as always, was excited as if it was the first time all over again. Something about all of these different elements and procedures coming together and delivering the perfect final result you sought after makes me giddy like a school girl... ok not quite but I was very pleased. I swirled the heck out of the wort and splashed it around like a hurricane on high seas in order to aerate sufficiently and pitched one vial of White Labs WLP530 Abbey Ale Yeast.
Now we wait... we wait about 14 days and I will check it for a collapsed krausen. Should I find that to be the case, I've considered adding plain gelatin at this point to further clarify the beer, let it sit another week and then bottle for competition entry. I can't wait to drink these myself either. If the wort was any indication of how this is going to taste... well, good luck to everyone else who goes toe to toe with this one. I'm looking for Best of Show ;)

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