Sunday, May 15, 2011

Belgian Pale Ale partial mash brew

For the first time in over six months I had the opportunity to brew. I had all of my equipment rounded up, the sight glass and thermometer installed in my kettle (thanks Kevin), the ingredients, and most importantly the time needed. So when I got home from work this past Friday afternoon I went straight to it. For my first batch in Texas I decided on a Belgian Pale Ale (one of my favorite styles). The recipe is my own and is loosely based on Ommegangs BPA. Here is what I came up with:

2.25lbs Belgian Pale Ale malt
0.5lbs Caravienne malt
0.5lbs Caramunich malt
0.25lbs Aromatic malt
0.125lbs Biscuit malt
3.625lbs Total

4.00lbs Extra Pale liquid extract
1.00lbs Munich liquid extract
5.00lbs Total

1.00oz Columbus (bittering)
0.5oz Styrian Golding (flavoring)
0.5oz Styrian Golding (aroma)
2.00oz Total

0.125oz Sweet Orange Peel

Wyeast Belgian Ardennes

I've decided to step back from All Grain brewing for a bit. Now that I'm on my own the already time consuming all grain method is compounded by not having a second (or third) set of hands to help. Yet extract brewing just isn't challenging enough anymore. So this leaves me in the partial mash neighborhood. The brew in a bag method just doesn't appeal to me. It feels too close to steeping specialty grains for an extract brew. I know that it is an actual mash but I need more control.

I have spent much of my free time (of which there has been plenty) since moving to Texas researching and developing a process for partial mash brewing. So after weeks of reading and picking the brains of co-workers I developed a method of mashing in a 5 gallon converted igloo cooler and doing a single batch sparge. Here is the process:

Day before:
  • Filter and pre-boil 7 gallons of H2O
  • Record ph of water (adjust if necessary for the style)
  • Create yeast starter
Brew day:
  • Sanitize all equipment
  • Heat up liquid extract to improve viscosity
  • Preheat mash tun
  • Heat mash water to 168 degrees
  • Mash in in at 166 degrees at ratio of 1.5 qts / 1lb of grain (target temp is 152 degrees)
  • Stir to insure that there are no dry pockets
  • Mash for 60 minutes stirring every 20 minutes record temp each time
  • Heat sparge water to 170 degrees
  • Batch sparge a single time with a ratio of 1.75 qts / 1lb of grain
  • Vorlauf
  • Drain to boil kettle
  • Add H2O to bring boil volume to 6 gallons
  • Add liquid extract and stir for several minutes
  • Increase temp and bring to a boil
  • Boil for 90 minutes
  • Add bittering hops at boil
  • Add flavor hops at 15 minutes left
  • Add aroma hops at 5 minutes left
  • Chill wort to < 78 degrees
  • Transfer to primary fermenter
  • Aerate for 20 minutes
  • Pitch yeast

Seeing as this was the first time that I brewed this recipe, the first time using my partial mash method, and the first time I used 90% of my equipment, I was expecting a few hiccups. Well, I got them.

The first issue was difficulty maintaining mash temperature. When I checked the temp after 20 minutes it has dropped down to 139 degrees. Much lower than I was aiming for. Mashing in any higher wasn't an option either. Next time I may mash out doors the entire time instead of starting in my kitchen where it is 72 degrees.

The next issue I ran into was the newly installed sight glass on my boil kettle kept boiling over even though the kettle itself never even came close to doing so. There was also a minor leak in the sight glass compression fitting. Should be a simple fix. I have to take it apart to clean it anyway.

The last real issue I had was scorching the wort. I thought that I was stirring frequently enough but Clearly I wasn't. I fished out as much of the scorched extract that was floating in the wort as I could and the rest was filter out by the strainer as I transferred to my primary fermenter. So hopefully it doesn't cause a terrible off flavor.

Some of the scorched extract from the bottom of the kettle.

Despite the issues I really enjoyed myself. I think that the process is solid and only needs a few minor tweaks. The biggest issue was reaching my target original gravity of 1.050. The actual O.G. was 1.044. I'm not terribly disappointed with that number but I know that it can be improved. Maintaing a higher mash temp and not losing fermentable sugars by burning them to the bottom of the kettle should do the trick. The yeast seems to be very healthy, the airlock is bubbling away at a vigorous rate.

It was a blast using all of my new toys. I especially like my new refractometer and 30' Immersion chiller. Both worked exceptionally well. I was able to cool the wort down to 75 degrees from 218 in under 25 minutes with an ambient air temp of 80 degrees.

I'll have an update in a few weeks once this batch has finished fermenting. I'm dying to try it so I can brew another batch and refine the recipe (and technique). I have a ton of styles lined up and am looking forward to brewing them all but I'm not in a race. I'm really concentrating on the quality of both the brew and the process. So the next batch I brew will be another BPA. After that I'm going to cover Amercan and English pale ales.

As always I'm open to any feedback so feel free to post comments or questions.
- Jay
In Primary:
  • Belgian Pale Ale


  1. jay, just had an old keg converted to a boil pot. A friend machined it for me so I did not risk cutting off my hands or inhaling the poison from welding and cutting stainless steel. Next up is the turkey fryer and then I will just about be all set to try my first partial mash. It is funny that I read this now because a buddy that I work with were talking about brewing a Belgian style for our first partial mash brew!!!

    In the primary I have and IPA. Erich helped brew it. bottling in a few days and going to let it sit until the 4th of July weekend.

    this obviously isn't holly its Ryan but when I went to post the comment for some reason it is saying holly

  2. That's great man. Partial mash is a happy medium for me right now. Extract brewing just isn't challenging anymore and All grain is just too time consuming right now. I think you'll enjoy it.

    I'm working at austin homebrew supply now, so if you need anything let me know or you can go directly to the website. There is a link to it on the right side of the page.