Belgian Pale Ale… fail (all-grain)

I believe this is supposed to be close match of DeKoninck’s Pale Ale. If it is, it should be damn good. Great beer. Found this online, and accidentally forgot the aromatic malt (9 oz), but I think it’ll be just fine without it.

  • 7 lb Pilsner malt (belgian)
  • 3 lb Vienna malt (german)
  • 0.63 lb CaraMunich (45L) (belgian)
  • 0.38 lb Biscuit malt (belgian)
  • 0.03 lb Carafa-3 Special
  • 0.75 oz Saaz hops (8.3% aa) 60 min
  • 0.5 oz Saaz hops, 15 min
  • 0.5 oz Saaz hops, 5 min
  • WYeast Abbey II

// BEGIN BEER-NERD INFO // 14.5 qt 158F strike water, mash rested at 148F for 90 min. Temp dropped to 142F by end of mash. Sparge w/ 3 batches of 2gal 168F water, collect ~7.5 gal 1.031 wort. Boil 90 min, end up with 5 gal 1.047 OG wort. Cool to 85, pitch yeast (no starter) // END BEER-NERD INFO //

It took a good while for this one to start fermenting; probably around 36 hours total, which was EXTREMELY nerve wracking considering I usually see activity within 3-4 hours.  After 24 hours I actually opened up the lid (yeah, really didn’t wanna do that for fear of contaminating it) and gave it a good heavy stir to try and rouse the yeast and jump start some activity.  Didn’t seem to help.  Patience was the best medicine and eventually it got going.

UPDATE:  Racked after 8 days in the primary (it was slow to start so I gave it some more time), final gravity read a whopping 1.004.  Not much hop aroma surprisingly, and just a faint smell of Belgian yeast. The taste is interesting. I think this beer may have soured slightly from the late start and me opening it up and stirring it; slightly tart, funky kind of taste to it, which might turn out awesome and unintentional. Time will tell.

THE VERDICT:

The “sourness” from before turned out to be not the good kind of sour, like in a Lambic or Flanders Red.  It’s definitely a result of some kind of contamination, and it’s not very appealing. It’s tart, corn-y, and just not even resemblant of a Belgian ale, or even a pale ale.  It tastes like beer, and it’s not “spoiled” per se, but having tasted sub-par homebrew before, this would be a candidate in that category.

I honestly considered dumping it, but then I realized I had some leftover raspberry flavoring from a batch I made a while ago. I figured, at this point I have nothing much to lose, so I opened up the keg, poured in the flavoring, stirred a bit, resealed and purged with some more C02. Amazingly, this somewhat saved the life of this beer.  The tartness from before actually works with the raspberry and makes it surprisingly tolerable.  I let a bunch of people try the new raspberry-frankenstein beer, and they actually found it pretty tasty. ::throws hands up in confusion::

I think there are a bunch of takeaways from this batch. First and foremost: make sure your yeast is alive, healthy, and ready to create beer before you start your brew day.  Yeah, yeast-starters aren’t always necessary, but, at least for the peace-of-mind knowing that your beer won’t be a dud, it’s worth it. Second: never, NEVER, open up the primary once you’ve sealed it and are just waiting for fermentation to start.  This is my first accidental contamination, and since I’ve never opened the primary like that before, I’m 99.9% sure this was the reason for it. I can image that if it’s an active fermentation, opening wouldn’t do much harm though.  Lastly, while I wouldn’t recommend this as a go-to strategy for fixing bad beers, a simple flavor additive helped to turn this beer around from “nah” to “alright”. It’s essentially a cover-up which worked to my advantage by having the right ingredient handy and striking a bizarre flavor that works somehow.

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Filed under Belgian, Pale Ale

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