Sunday, February 20, 2011

Belgian Lager, February 6, 2011

White Labs has a new platinum yeast strain available right now (January-February) that I want to try out: White Labs WLP815 Belgian Lager Yeast.  I thought I'd try busting the BJCP guidelines for a generously hopped lager using this strain.  Hoppy lagers are rare and it this brew should be a great testament to using water adjustments to match the lighter malts while accentuating the bitterness.  Here's White Lab's description of WLP815:
WLP815 Belgian Lager Yeast
Clean, crisp European lager yeast with low sulfur  production. The strain originates from a very old brewery in West Belgium. Great for European style pilsners, dark lagers, Vienna lager, and American style lagers.
Attenuation: 72-78%
Flocculation: Medium
Optimum Fermentation Temperature: 50-55°F (10-12°C)
Alcohol Tolerance: 5-10%
Water Chemistry Planning:
With water chemistry for this batch, playing with the numbers landed me with blending 20/80% of my tap water with purified drinking water from The Water Lady.  I also added to the mash 2 grams of gypsum to give a gentle boost to the calcium and sulfate concentrations.  (Note to self - 1 teaspoon of Gypsum is 4 grams.) 
Adjusted mash chemistry after blending water sources and gypsum.
Above and below are snapshots of my Step 7 from Palmer's water calculator (Version 2).  Maybe someone out there can help me understand this, why do I often see negative values for residual alkalinity? Even with this mystery, looks like I'm in the ballpark.    According to Jamil and John in Brew Strong's Waterganza podcast series on The Brewing Network, getting in the the desired range is good enough.  The calculator shows that my target residual alkalinity range for an 8 SRM beer should be in the range from -25 to 34.  Again, what do negative values mean!?
Why do I keep seeing negative values for residual alkalinity?
Creating a Mashing Schedule Using BeerTools Pro:
Along with my new experiences with water adjustments, I'm also trying to tailor BeerTools Pro to my brewing process.   My latest challenge using this brewing software is with calculating mash volumes and resulting temperatures.  With this beer, I wanted to do a multi-step infusion involving a short protein rest.  My experience with my equipment led me to my target temperatures for the protein and saccharification rests but I really want the software to do work for me!
Mashing Schedule snapshot from BeerTools Pro.
For my next batch, I need to pay attention more to volumes since I'm certain that I collect more than 5.51 gallons in my kettle after the sparge.  To get the above values, I had to do lots of tweaking with numbers.  Maybe since I was working backwards (actual values of water infusions and temperatures) rather than forward planning?  I'll document temps and volumes a bit more closely next time and see if can better calibrate the software to my process.

Quick Protein Rest:
With lagers, especially when using pilsner malt, I have been doing a quick protein rest (between 122-124°F) at the start of my mash.  Previously, I was doing the rest for about 20 minutes but a discussion with an esteemed QUAFF colleague, Harold Gulbransen, convinced me to to  shorten the rest as much as possible.  Here's my refined protein rest procedure that gets me in and out of a protein rest within about 7 minutes:
Using 0.9 quarts per pound of grain, raise water to 135°F and pour into mash tun.  Add any salts and grain.  Stir to break up and clumps and distribute temperature.  Simultaneously heat additional water to boil at a rate of 0.5 quarts per pound of grain.  After about 2 minutes of stirring, I check the mash temperature (usually hits 122°F).  In less than 5 minutes, my second infusion water is at a boil.  When boiling, I add this infusion to the mash tun and stir for about 2-3 minutes to distribute the heat evenly.  After stirring, check temperature (usually 148-152°F). 

Hey BeerTools Pro, as for the HTML export below, I find myself editing the code to clean up the "look" quite a bit.  I would really like the ability to create an export template to customize the elements and appearance.  Could you please consider this feature for future updates!?

Will update actual Final Gravity and finishing details later!

Belgian Lager

BJCP Category 23-A Specialty Beer
Author: Chillindamos
Date: 2/6/11
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic
Size: 5.0 gal
Efficiency: 70.04%
Attenuation: 77.8%
Calories: 178.9 kcal per 12.0 fl oz

Original Gravity: 1.054 (1.026 - 1.120)

Terminal Gravity: 1.012 (0.995 - 1.035)

Color: 7.9 (1.0 - 50.0)

Alcohol: 5.51% (2.5% - 14.5%)

Bitterness: 82.0 (0.0 - 100.0)


7.0 lb Belgian Pils
3.0 lb Belgian Munich
1.0 lb Vienna Malt
1.0 tsp 5.2 pH Stabilizer - added during mash
1.0 tsp Anti-foam - added during boil, boiled 90.0 min
1.0 oz Magnum (14.5%) - added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
1.5 oz Czech Saaz (5.0%) - added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
1.5 oz Spalt (4.8%) - added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
1.0 oz Czech Saaz (5.0%) - added during boil, boiled 1.0 min
1.0 oz Spalt (4.8%) - added during boil, boiled 1.0 min
1.0 tsp Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 20.0 min
2.0 ea White Labs WLP815 Belgian Lager Yeast


Ambient Air: 70.0 °F
Source Water: 60.0 °F
00:07:57 Mash-In - Liquor: 2.47 gal; Strike: 138.5 °F; Target: 123 °F
00:12:57 Protein Rest - Rest: 5.0 min; Final: 122.7 °F
00:14:57 Second Infusion - Water: 1.35 gal; Temperature: 212.0 °F; Target: 149.2 °F
01:12:57 Saccharification Rest - Rest: 58.0 min; Final: 145.8 °F
01:15:57 Mash-Out Infusion - Water: 1.28 gal; Temperature: 170 °F; Target: 151.1 °F
01:25:57 Vorlauf, bitches! - Rest: 10.0 min; Final: 150.6 °F
02:55:57 Fly Sparge - Sparge Volume: 5.1 gal; Sparge Temperature: 170.0 °F; Runoff: 5.82 gal


OG 1.054 @ 68°F. Uses 77% premium drinking water from The Water Lady and 33% filtered San Diego Alvarado water. 2 grams of Gypsum added to the mash. Primary ferment in the lager cave at 52°F fin a 6 gallon better bottle for 2 weeks. Rack to secondary for 4 weeks at primary temps before stepping down 2°F per day to lagering temps at 38°F. Update 2/20, racked over to a secondary but didn't have my hydrometer at the lager cave to take a gravity reading. Will ramp up to 60's next week.
Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.12


  1. Nice, don't forget though, you are going to need a dagger to scrape the excess foam off the top of your glass. ; )

  2. That's the hope! Harold tells me that when in Germany, you first order your Dortmunder/Export. When it arrives at the table, order your Pilsner or Helles. It takes time for the head to settle on those lagers. Enough time for you to take down that first beer.
    I've also had a number of great Belgian ales and lagers with a very dense head.
    Right now, I have Green Flash's West Coast IPA on tap that pours just the same insane dense head. Nice that it slows you down to enjoy the aesthetic and hop aroma bouquet.


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