AG#10 Broadford Belgian Strong Ale

Today’s brewday, yes that’s right I brewed during the day for once, was a Belgian Strong.  It’s my tenth All Grain brew and I’m hoping it turns out well so that I can enter at least one beer into the UK National Homebrew Competition 2012 (Cat. 18D Belgian Golden Strong Ale).  For those interested, entries will be accepted from 20th August through to 7th September, with judging on 15th September.

If you follow my Twitterings you will have seen my #brewday tweets.  The brew went well, but reminded me how much I still have to learn about the basics.  I’ve left the recipe alone, despite the fact that I have ended up with a slightly different beer.  I’ll explain more below, but my reliance on brewing software caught me out on this occasion.

AG#10 Damn Nation

Original Gravity (OG): 1.077 (°P): 18.7
Final Gravity (FG): 1.016 (°P): 4.1
Alcohol (ABV): 8.0 %
Colour (SRM): 3.9 (EBC): 7.7
Bitterness (IBU): 22.8 (Average)

83.06% Pilsner
14.95% Candi Sugar, Clear
1.99% Wheat Malt

1.1 g/L Styrian Golding (4.5% Alpha) @ 90 Minutes (Boil)
1.9 g/L Styrian Golding (4.5% Alpha) @ 30 Minutes (Boil)
2.1 g/L Saaz (3.4% Alpha) @ 20 Minutes (Aroma)

Single step Infusion at 65°C for 90 Minutes. Boil for 90 Minutes

Fermented at 20°C with WLP500 – Trappist Ale (yeast starter post here)

HLT switched on at 9am and off to a nice early start.  Strike temp of 75C and 13.6L liquor for 5.12kg grain.  Mashed in at 65C, struggling to raise the temperature to 66C even with boiled kettle water.  I decided against adding more water and making a barley soup, so proceeded at 65C (will use higher strike temp for next brew).

Mashed for 90 minutes and lost 1C.  Sparged at 78C, 16.5L liquor.  Collected 24.8L wort (pre boil) at specific gravity (SG) of 1.041 (1st runnings SG of 1.084 at 32C).  The recipe includes a candi sugar addition to achieve the orignal gravity (OG).


First hop addition of 20g Bobek added at 90 minutes.  Second addition of Bobek 37g at 30 minutes.  Added a protofloc tablet and the candi sugar at 15 minutes, and 40g Saaz hops at flame out (electricity off).

Collected 20L of wort post boil with SG of 1.070.  Cooled to 20C and pitched my 2.2L yeast starter.

With the brewday over it was time to reflect on what went well, blah blah blah.  As it happens there a few learning points for me.  Like many other homebrewers I use computer software to aid the design and cataloguing of recipes (I use BrewMate).  Each software varies and you need to get to know it and your brewing kit before it will play nicely.  Here’s what I can take from this brewday aside from 22L of delicious beer.

  • Check the water/liquor loss calculation settings in your software.  I collected too much wort (pre boil), which contributed to missing my original gravity.
  • Mash temperature is always important and your target temp will depend on what you are trying to brew.  I started cooler than planned and already know that I lose 1C over 90 mins.  This was sloppy work by me and will have affected the extraction and contributed to missing my original gravity.
  • Using sugars is not new to me, but this was my first go with candi sugar (an invert sugar).  The candi I was using was 73% solids.  This should have prompted me to adjust my software to compensate for this.  This was a mistake, but one I’m not going to get upset about and I’ll know for next times.  This was most likely to be the main contributer to missing my original gravity.  However, it also goes someway to making me feel better,  here’s why.  My software calculated my OG based on th % extract it has stored in its settings for pale candi sugar.  The screen shot below (kindly provided by Neil @leedsbrew), shows my recipe as per Beer Alchemy (a different brewing software).  If you put your specs on you can see that it has the OG as 1.071 for 19L.

This helps me in a number of ways, but mainly to realise that I didn’t miss my OG by a country mile.  I did however collect too much wort (20L) which probably accounts for my OG reading of 1.070 (yes I could have boiled for longer, but didn’t want to add additional bitterness and colour).

  • The fun and games doesn’t end there though.  My final learning point(s) are relating to the yeast starter.  I forgot to factor in the 2.2L of 1.040 wort which was housing my yeast, this of course will affect the OG (depending on how much of the starter I decided to pitch).  Usually this will have been factored into the recipe and compensated for.  However as I didn’t so this, here where the options.  Pitch the whole thing and take the hit on the OG, or put the starter in the fridge, let the yeast fall out of suspension, before decanting the excess wort and pitching the yeast.  Thanks to Twitter I received a lot of immediate advice and reassurance on what to do next.  My Yeast Sensai helped me see the situation most clearly “Don’t be worrying about all that shit. Now let the healthy magical yeast do all the work and give you a marvellous beer“.  He was right, what the hell was a I worrying for…yes I want to understand where I went ‘wrong’, but there is really no issue with getting a beer a few points lower than targeted, so long as it tastes great (and I hope it does).   Another kind brewer (Ade @pdtnc) provided a calculation which I did not fully understand, but tells me that my OG is 1.067.
  • Final point and software related.  Brew Mate tells me that my beer will ferment out to a specific gravity (SG) of 1.016.  I’m lead to believe that the software doesn’t account for the yeast strain, and the WLP500 I have pitched will attenuate much further, to a more likely SG of 1.008, which will give me something like 7.8%.

Conclusion = swings and roundabouts!

It’s important not to get hung up on the details, but they are important and I want to understand my process and my kit well enough to be able to use brewing software without the headache.  There will be much opinion on the above and that’s fine.  I like the debate and I’m learning everytime I brew.

This write up should however serve as a warning to any homebrewers who do not want the debate or the dissection of your recipes and practices, not to tweet your recipe and your progress at every stage.  I prefer to do it this way, but get ready for feedback!

Will this be a 18D. Belgian Strong Ale in the eyes of a BJCP judge? I’m not sure, but there is only one way to find out (no, not a fight).

More photos of the brewday here.

EDIT: update on fermentation (for my records).

10/04/12 SG reading of 1.028 so moved the fv to a warmer place.

11/04/12 SG reading of 1.022,

13 thoughts on “AG#10 Broadford Belgian Strong Ale

  1. Between mashing at 65 , the sugar addition, no crystal malts and the Belgian yeast strain i’d be really surprised if it stopped above 12.
    Hope I get to try this one, recipe looks really solid. Tempting with stuff like this to throw the kitchen sink at it ( i’m as bad as anyone for this) but balance is so often the better way to go.

    • One with your name on it. Appreciate the feedback, as I was stressing about it yesterday. I cut the Munich and reduced the wheat and up’d the sugar. Could have just gone 100% Pilsen but chickened out. It’s fermenting well now so heres’s hoping for at least 1.010

  2. Nice review of the vagueness of software….I think all these bits of code are useful, but wonder whether we are not a bit enslaved to them (‘Computer says ‘No!’). I have not had quite the issues you have had, partly because I BIAB, and that community have there own spreadsheet to work on. However, I do store recipes on Hopville.

    My gripe is about IBUs. I have plugged in the same recipe to Hopville, Brewtarget, and my BIAB spreadsheet, only to get different IBUs calculated. This made me do some digging and I eventually dragged out the original equation from Glen Tinseth’s paper. The only thing I can work out is that all use different volumes for the term ‘batch size’ in teh equation – some use brew length, some use end of boil volume, others use some kind of average. I find this frustrating, as I brew in low volumes, so my beer is relatively sensitive to small additions of hops.

    Do you know what BrewMate uses?….I see you quote IBUs (average)!

    • Thanks Paul, I’m still looking for software that I’m going to use going forward, but what I’e learned from this is that I should know when a recipe looks wrong, and where possible be able to do some of the calculations myself. I’ll get there in time.

      IBU’s are a tricky one…and hop utilisation is something I want to learn more about. There are a few things to consider when calculating IBU’s, and once again the software won’t always cater for this. Not sure what BrewMate uses, but need to find out now 🙂 It does show you an average which I think is actually quite useful, given that an actual value id most likely wrong anyway. Cheers for reading and commenting.

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  4. Love to hear how this one turns out as a big fan of Belgian beers Dave or even better to taste it if you have any left come May time

  5. Just on the mash temp – if you are trying to raise it and don’t want to dilute it with more water, a decoction could be the way to go. That said, I never get hung up on a degree or two off target! Beer still gets made 🙂

  6. I just wanted to let you know BrewMate (v1.22) has a box for you to input the attenuation of your yeast strain; it’s the one labelled AA% to the right of the yeast strain drop-down. Based on the manufacturers specs and your mash temperature, you can get it pretty accurate. With a low mash temperature (65C) you should get the upper end of the listed attenuation, which is ~80%. Putting that into your recipe gives a FG of 1.011.


    • Cheers Gus, really useful to know that. It eventually stopped at 1.006, probably due to the low mash temp and the supersonic yeast strain! it’s tasting great after 10 days in the bottle…high hopes for this one.

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