The Tripel Bliss

Towards the end of my time at University of Maryland, a friend of mine and I started frequenting the Sunday happy hour at Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery, and General Store. Those were my first experiences with brewpubs, and quite impressive ones at that. One of the most memorable brews of all during those outings was their Tripel Bliss.

While Colleen appears to be taking a picture of me, I suspect she was just trying to capture the golden elixir reflecting and refracting.

While Colleen appears to be taking a picture of me, I suspect she was just trying to capture the golden elixir reflecting and refracting.

Being quite keen on replicating that brew, I sent an email to their brewmaster, Mike Roy. While he didn’t send me a recipe per se, he shared some advice that is more than enough to get me on my way:

For brewing a Belgian Tripel, start with good continental pilsner malt, 15-20% sugar to boost gravity, a noble hop for bitterings like Saaz, Hallertau or even Styrian Goldings works well and a good Belgian yeast strain like WLP Abbey, Bastonge, Trappist…all really depends on what your looking for for profile. I usually shoot for an O.G. between 1.080-1.085, 25-30ish IBU.

With these guidelines I am planning on using the following recipe for a first pass at this style:

  • 3 lbs Belgian pilsener malt (mashed at 145-ish degrees F for 75 minutes)
  • 6 lbs Pilsen light DME
  • 2 lbs sucrose
  • 1.5 oz Saaz hops boiling
  • 0.5 oz Saaz hops finishing
  • Wyeast 1388 Belgian strong ale yeast

There are a lot of different things to try with this style that may lead to refinement in the future. Some recipes add a small amount of wheat or Vienna malt. There is the question of whether to add sugar during the boil or during fermentation. As with many Belgian styles, yeast takes center stage, and unsurprisingly there are many strains that could be tried. I was hoping to use the Wyeast 3787 Trappist high gravity strain, but my LHBS didn’t have it available. And of course there is the fun at having a go with (possibly homemade) Belgian candi sugar.

I should hit somewhere over 1.080 OG, resulting a pretty potent brew. Wyeast 3787 is supposed to be pretty forgiving of higher fermentation temperatures, so while I plan to start fermentation in the mid-60s and hold it there as best as I can, I’m not worried about the warmer weather ruining this one. Hopefully the warmer stages of the fermentation will contribute the desired esters and phenols characteristic of Belgian styles.

Since I am using a liquid yeast, I will be making a starter for the first time. If I simply made a starter and pitched it, I would need to make a 1.75 liter starter. I had only planned on using quart sized mason jars with my stir plate, and while I could put one of my half-gallon growlers on there, I’d rather stick to the jars since they are clear and I can easily monitor the starter. Fortunately, I can alternatively step up my starter from a smaller volume to a full quart and end up with the same amount of yeast cells. I will start with 1.7 oz of DME in a pint of water and then after a couple days when the starter seems fermented, I’ll cold crash in the fridge overnight, decant it the next day, and step up to 3.4 oz of DME in the full quart. I’ll need to be on the ball, preparing this tonight for a brew day on Saturday.

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