Battle of Mons Farmhouse Ale

August 2014

Charles’ Brew Day Pics are here.

The original plan was to brew a Farmhouse at the farm. However, a farm brew wasn’t scheduled until October, and the warm fermentation temperatures needed for the Saison yeast moved the schedule up to August. The yeast appears to be the defining characteristic of this beer, which is why it got to dictate the terms.

The Farmhouse Ales are pretty open in terms of malt and hops. I’m thinking a strong, balanced, golden to amber colored ale that can be stored until next year. The farms in Belgian and northern France would brew using whatever they had, so we’re gonna do the same. We’ll use up a lot of the leftover malt from previous brews, which is why the malt bill is so lengthy and diverse.

I wanted Styrian Goldings for the hop, but it was not available in leaf, nor was my second choice, Tettnanger. Instead, we’ll use Perle to bitter with and we’ll finish with noble Saaz for aroma.

Storing this beer means high ABV and some strong hops to balance all the malt, as well as preserve the beer during the long storage period.

Malt Bill-

  • 20# Pilsner malt
  • 16# Maris Otter
  • 4# Wheat
  • 2# American 2 row
  • 2# Munich
  • 2# Vienna
  • .6# 60L Crystal
  • .5# Rye
  • .5# Flaked Barley
  • .25# Biscuit Malt

Hop Bill-

  • 4 oz 9.1% Perle for 60 minutes
  • 4 oz 2.5% Saaz for 10 minutes

Yeast-

  • Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison (70-95F)

Mash Schedule-

  • Strike 14 gallons @ 160F
  • Mash in 144F-154F, hold 30 minutes
  • Raise temp to 153-157F by adding 180F liquor
    • Hold 60 minutes
    • Max of 10 gallons
  • Raise temp by sparging the remaining 10 gallons at 180F

Lauter-

  • Vorlauf- 5-10 minutes (or until it clears)
  • Run off- 10-20 minutes (or until 1” above grain bed)
  • Sparge- 7 gallons at 170F
  • Collect 25+ gallons in kettle

Boil-

  • At hard boil add Perle hops, 60 minutes
  • With 15 minutes left add heat exchanger
  • With 10 minutes left add Saaz hops

Stats-

  • Calculated Starting Gravity = 1.067
  • Calculated Final Gravity = 1.015 (but I expect it will be lower)
  • Calculated ABV = 6.9%

Brew Day-

It was a hot day with the usual suspects, Charlie, Dickie, Kyle, Rob and myself. The brew went well with the only hiccup being the slow lauter, 2 hours. For some reason the wort didn’t flow well and we we extremely worried at first when we couldn’t get it flowing at all. But once it started, it flowed slowly and we got the needed 24 gallons in the kettle to boil.

Starting Gravity was on target between 1.060 and 1.070. The hydrometer reading was low, around 1.060, but Charlie’s new refractometer read closer to 1.070.

We pitched the yeast and it seemed to start fermenting immediately. Before going to bed the airlock was spewing hard and it continued to breath the following morning.

Secondary- September 11

Racked into 4 carboys. Color is golden tan, very cloudy, muddy even. Sample tasted very good with good aroma, no off flavors, seems spot on for a Farmhouse.

Gravity = 1.020

Gravity is higher than anticipated, but this beer has months to go yet. I’m still not convinced my hydrometer is correct. In water it reads .004 too low so I should probably add that back to the readings. However, when I first dropped the hydrometer in the sample the reading appeared to be 1.010, and I came up with 1.014 for the gravity. After cleaning the fermenter I checked the reading again and it appeared to have grown to 1.020, so I’m going with that number. All that said the sample was tasty and ready to drink. Even if gravity is 1.020, the ABV is in the ballpark of 6.5%. Nothing wrong with the beer; likely something wrong with all these hydrometers.

October 5, 2014-

This beer bubbled throughout the month of September and finished with a gravity of 1.012. Even with a little rounding factor the ABV comes in at 7%. I kegged about 2 gallons for the ITap/4Hands homebrew contest next Sunday. Flavor is good, a little green, strong. The color is good as is the mouthfeel. I think it will represent us well but will be improved with age.

December 2014-

Submitted this beer to the Happy Holidays Homebrew Competition 2014 and it made it to “Mini Best of Show.” Essentially, this means that it was one of the better Farmhouse/Saisons in the competition, which is saying something since this style was one of the most competitive with 40 or so entries. The beers average score was 37. Looks l like the judges wanted some more hop aroma and complexity to push it to the next round. Regardless, this is a good beer.

Farmhouse results

January 19, 2014-

I bottled most of this beer back in November, mainly because this style should be bottled conditioned but also because kegs are valuable real estate. This beer has been a success. Everyone seems to really like it. I find it a little tart for my every day drinker, but I like a bottle every now and then. I can’t really drink more than one.

I held 5 gallons of this beer back from bottling, I racked it off the yeast in early November when I bottled and I racked it again tonight. It’s a beautiful clear golden yellow. When I rack it again, it will go into a keg and age for the Crawfish Boil.

February 15, 2015-

Hardly any yeast at the bottom of the fermenter now. I racked into a keg. The bottle conditioned beer has been overly carbonated making it difficult to pour and drink, but the yeast is so important to this style, I wonder what this clean version will taste like.

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