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This beer started out as a pilot brew that we brewed for our annual company picnic. The original plan was to brew a Belgian style Quadruple with triticale (a cross of wheat and rye), and call the beer Quadrotriticale-a totally geeky reference to the Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” When brew day came, we decided on the fly to brew a Strong Belgian Golden Ale instead-to better evaluate the flavors of triticale, and then changed our minds again and added some dried chamomile flowers on the back end in the whirlpool, just because we had tasted a similar beer before and thought it sounded good! The beer was a hit at our picnic, so we fully intended to brew this chamomile-spiced Strong Belgian Golden Ale as the Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale.
Earlier this summer, I reached out to Master Winemaker Jon McPherson at the South Coast Winery in Temecula. The South Coast Winery is one of the highest acclaimed wineries in California, having won the Golden State Winery of the Year award at the California State Fair both in 2008 and 2009. Jon and I have mutual friends (I was a professional winemaker in my distant past….ssshhh, don’t tell anybody), and we had met previously at a tasting event, I was hoping to talk to Jon about possibly using some red wine grapes in the Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale (yes, sometimes we do actually plan that far ahead). During the course of our conversations, we started talking about possibly using white wine grapes in this year’s Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale. I grabbed Steve and Jeremy and took them up to South Coast Winery for a tour and a tasting. As we tasted some beers along with some of Jon’s wines, we decided that white wine grape juice would really going to add something special to this year’s edition of the Stone Vertical Epic ale series. We decided on primarily Muscat varieties, because we thought the Muscat character (intense floral and fruit) would blend incredibly well with Belgian yeast character and chamomile. We eventually settled on a blend of Gewurztraminer, Muscat Canelli, Sauvignon Blanc and just a wee bit of Riesling. The plan was that Jon would crush the grapes and hold the juice cold until we shipped the juice to the brewery.
We added the juice halfway through the fermentation, while the Belgian Ardennes yeast is at its healthiest and most robustly active state. The beer fermented out to less than 1°P (or less than 1.004 SG), making this by far the driest beer we’ve ever brewed (amazingly though, due to the intense fruity character of the wine grapes, this beer still delivers a pretty decent sense of sweetness on the palate that is not actually there!). The chamomile is somewhat subdued….,- it’s there if you look for it, but the predominant flavor in this beer comes from the esters and other flavors produced by the Belgian Ardennes yeast we used during the fermentation. The fruit character from the grapes and the floral notes from the chamomile combine with the hops and malt flavors to add subtle flavor combinations in the background.
We hope you enjoy brewing this beer. I realize the grape juice addition might be challenging for some, but if you can’t get the juice, make the beer without it, you’ll still like the result!
Here is the grain bill:
Pale Malt 80%
Flaked Triticale 11% (added to mash)
Amber Candi Sugar 9% (added to boil)
As always, I am only providing the all grain version of the recipe. I wouldn’t want to guess at converting this recipe to an extract version so if you are currently homebrewing with extracts, perhaps this recipe will provide you with the motivation to move to all grain brewing. Trust me, you won’t be sorry!
The goal with this grain bill was to make a dry, light and refreshing beer, with hints of the triticale spicy grain character.
Target OG: 17.3°P (1.069 SG).
Music is a must while brewing, and I always start my brew days early, so acoustic music works for me during the milling and mashing phase. I’d recommend some acoustic Gov’t Mule or Warren Haynes to set the stage for an awesome brew day!
Use a 105 minute conversion rest at 148°F. This helps provide a very fermentable wort. Lower temperatures and a longer conversion rest time helps accentuate dryness of beer. We wanted to make this beer dry, and the addition of the highly fermentable candi sugar and grape juice helps to drive the beer to almost complete dryness.
If you can, raise your mash temperature up to 165°F after conversion rest to stop the enzymatic conversion of starches to sugars before lautering.
Recirculate your wort gently from the bottom over the top of the mash to deposit the fine particles of malt on the top of the grain and to “set” your bed. Avoid splashing the wort. Recirculate for 5-15 minutes, depending on your system, before diverting wort flow to your kettle/boiling vessel. You should remove almost all the malt particles from the wort flow, but some haze is ok. You really don’t want your wort to be “crystal clear” when you start drawing off to your boiling vessel, but you don’t want chunks either. If you have a refractometer, check your “first wort” (unsparged wort) gravity, it should be about 22-23°P (1.088-1.092 SG).
Start sparging in the lauter when the wort level is about ˝” above the grain bed. Starting earlier will decrease your efficiency, because the water will dilute your first wort. Sparge water should be between 165°F and 170°F to maximize extraction, but avoid going over 170°F or you’ll extract harsh compounds from the malt husks.
Sparge until you hit your target boil volume or until your wort gravity being drawn-off reaches 3°P (1.012 SG), whichever comes first. Don’t lauter past 3°P, because when the sparged wort coming off the lauter is that low in sugar content, you risk extracting tannins and other harsh character from the malt husks.
Be careful not to rush the mashing and lautering step, or your brewing efficiency will go down. These steps should be done gently, with care. A good music selection will assist in keeping things relaxed and gentle during lautering. Don’t go too mellow, just enough to keep you focused on the task at hand and inspired. I suggest maybe some Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler, or maybe even some Big Head Todd and The Monsters.
Here is the hop bill:
3.7 grams per gallon Perle hop pellets (10% AA)
All added at the start of boil. No other hop additions. This should get you about 45 IBU’s.
We typically boil our wort for 90 minutes. This is a good amount of time to get about 8-10% evaporation. During the boil, it’s good to:
- Add hops at the start. This will help knock down foam and maximize bitterness extraction. Depending on your boil parameters, you may want or need to add some portion of the hops before the boil actually starts to keep the foaming under control.
- Keep the boil rolling at a good clip. Don’t simmer, or you won’t volatilize Dimethyl Sulfide, a malt compound formed at temperatures above 180°F. Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS) tastes exactly like canned creamed corn, you’ll know this flavor when you taste it! A good rolling boil also ensures proper color and flavor development, good hop extraction, and proper trub formation. The rolling boil also helps prevent scorching of the wort where the heat source is at its most intense.
- Add the amber candi sugar. We use a syrup, and pour it in after the boil starts so the sugar can’t settle on the bottom of the kettle and scorch as the heat increases. Burnt sugar is not a desirable beer flavor.
4.4 grams per gallon dried whole
We add the chamomile after the wort boil is complete to maximize flavor extraction. Adding it during the boil may result in many of the flavors being volatilized and lost with the steam. For our brews we used a filter bag to hold the chamomile.
Chamomile is supposed to help you relax, but you don’t want to relax too much during this step, there is still a lot of important work to be done! So I’d recommend blasting some old school AC/DC (a little “Bad Boy Boogie” or “Sin City”, anyone?) and having a coffee beer, like Alesmith’s Speedway Stout.
During the whirlpool step, the wort needs to be circulated to create a whirlpool. This will cause the proteinaceous trub flocs formed during the kettle boil to be pushed to the side of the vessel. Gravity will then take hold, the flocs will slide down the side of the vessel, and once they reach bottom, will gather in the center to form the trub pile. This is called “the Interrupted Centrifuge Principle”. If you stir tea leaves in a cup of tea you will see the same effect. Try it with your friends, you’ll be the life of the party! A good, cohesive trub pile is necessary to decant clear wort to your fermentor and avoid protein carryover, which otherwise could negatively impact flavor, or blind yeast cell walls and impair yeast growth and fermentation. Just thought you might like to know, you can memorize that small detail and sound all “uber-homebrewer” to your friends!
Pitch a Belgian yeast strain, enough to get 20-25 million cells per milliliter (requires a starter). We used the Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes strain, because it doesn’t produce a lot of phenolic clove flavors and ferments strongly to dryness. It’s our second year in a row using this yeast for the Stone Vertical Epic Ale.
After the trub has been separated from the wort, chill the wort using an immersion chiller or a heat exchanger to about 65-70°F. Add enough yeast to get a cell count of about 20-25 million cells per milliliter. We used a fairly high pitching rate (yeast addition rate) here, because we wanted to ferment at a lower temperature but still ensure the beer fermented out completely. This means that you will most likely have to build up your yeast culture at home using a starter. Otherwise, you may end up with a low pitching rate, which could results in a stuck/stalled fermentation. If your fermentation does stall out rousing (agitating the tank) to re-suspend the yeast is the best and easiest option. Adding more fermenting wort is the 2nd best option, adding new yeast is a last resort move.
We fermented the Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale at 72°F to maximize fruity ester formation and reduce the clove/spicy flavor formations, which form at higher levels with warmer Belgian yeast fermentation temperatures (above 75°F). With the intense fruit character from the grapes, too much clove and phenolics would result in clashing flavors.
At 10°P (1.040 SG) we added the grape juice, 10% by volume. We used unsulfited juice to ensure fermentation would proceed, and added the juice at the height of the beer fermentation. We were concerned that adding the juice earlier would cause the yeast to adapt too much to the simple sugars in the juice and candi syrup, and then would have trouble switching back to metabolizing the more complex maltose (malt sugar) after consuming the simpler glucose and fructose molecules (another tip from the “uber homebrewer!”)
Our juice was approximately 35% Gewurztraminer, 30% Muscat Canelli, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, and 15% Riesling, but any Muscat variety or blend would work. This is where things might get tricky-where to find good varietal white wine grape juice? I’d suggest looking first at a homebrew shop-they often also carry winemaking ingredients and they might be able to help. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a winemaking area, you might be able to get some grapes or juice from a local winery-you’ll need 12-15 pounds of grapes to get a gallon of juice. The next step is crushing the grapes, hopefully the winery will do it for you, otherwise you better hope you can find someone with big, clean feet! If you do resort to crushing the grapes on your own, some “Footstompin’ Music” from Grand Funk Railroad should get you in the mood….
After fermentation completes (should finish below 1°P), chill the beer down to about 35°F or so, and let it sit until the beer clarifies, at least one week.
Package the beer as normal.
This is the time to start celebrating your successful brew, so after tasting your beer, celebrate with a nice Belgian Ale and some rockin’ blues tunes from Albert Collins or Albert King.
The Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale is wonderful fresh, but the wine flavors should develop further over time, and it is well suited for aging to 12.12.12, or even beyond. Enjoy your brewday, and don’t forget to send us some samples!