Thursday, October 24, 2013

BTB Sweet Auburn Tripel

Not being wary of the deep end of the pool (maybe I should be), I followed Kevin into grain brewing.  After an attempt with the Oatmeal Stout kit, I felt the need to up the ante to something really challenging: Tripels.  Of whole grain brewing Tripels (Belgian) are some of the most difficult but have very distinctive flavors and are not as hop centric as most craft Ales and lagers can be.

Below is a good description from
  • The name "Tripel" actually stems from part of the brewing process, in which brewers use up to three times the amount of malt than a standard Trappist "Simple." Traditionally, Tripels are bright yellow to gold in color, which is a shade or two darker than the average Pilsener. Head should be big, dense and creamy. Aroma and flavor runs along complex, spicy phenolic, powdery yeast, fruity/estery with a sweet finish. Sweetness comes from both the pale malts and the higher alcohol. Bitterness is up there for a beer with such a light body for its strength, but at times is barely perceived amongst the even balance of malts and hops. The lighter body comes from the use of Belgian candy sugar (up to 25% sucrose), which not only lightens the body, but also adds complex alcoholic aromas and flavors. Small amounts of spices are sometimes added as well. 
  • Tripels are actually notoriously alcoholic, yet the best crafted ones hide this character quite evil-like and deceivingly, making them sipping beers.
  • Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 8.0-12.0% 
After doing some homework I began my journey into home brewing a Tripel using a recipe from Beer Smith called She Devil.  I began brewing in late August and was very excited to begin.  The recipe called for 16 lbs of grains (14 lbs of 2 row and 2 lbs of caravienne malt).  Which is a lot and a single infusion approach which for me was water at a similar temperature is infused through the grain bag as you pull it out of the pot.  The grain is cooked to about 168/170 (any hotter would burn the grain releasing tannins which makes the beer taste extremely bitter and undrinkable) in about 3 gallons of water.  The infusion picks up any remaining good beer stuff while adding 2-3 gallons of water back to the pot.  Whenever doing whole grains it takes about 75 minutes from start to finish so be prepared, cause the boil has not even begun yet.

For the first batch I did not let it reach a rolling boil (220 degrees or higher) but kept the temperature between 190-200.  I added molasses, cane sugar (instead of Belgian Candy Sugar) and Northern Brewer hops at the beginning of the boil. Towards the end I added Mt. Hood hops and clove.  I recently did a second batch with ginger and clove that smelled awesome cooking but there was a slight mishap in transferring the batch to the fermenter that may cause it to be lighter in both body and ABV than I would want.  

I really enjoyed making this brew and I will continue to refine the Sweet Auburn Tripel in the coming months for both ABV, flavor and balance.  The first batch came out well and was my first keging attempt.  Although I did not give it enough time for CO2 infusion, it still came out pretty good. Instead of sharing what I thought of it, I'll ask my Brothers That Brew cohorts to share their opinions.

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