Ambrosio, The Fallen Monk

This post is the ultimate post (minus the inevitable tasting notes & updates which will follow over the upcoming months and years) in my Brewing Vintage Beers Series. Today’s beer is  a Belgian Septuppel, which is the closest number I could come up with that matches the normal Belgian beer-naming scheme*. What is this oddity? It is a strong Belgian Dark Strong (aka a Quad) fermented to at least 20% ABV, and potentially 2-3% beyond that.

* An analysis of over 80 Belgian Enkels, Dubbels, Tripels and Quads reveals that commercial brew “names” follow the formula %vol = [4.0296 * 1.3559%vol]. I.E. a 20% beer would be:
20% = [4.0296 * 1.3559Bel], where Bel = 1/2/3/etc (Enkel, Dubbl, Tripel, etc)

My new eHLT in action
(in my under-construction video
studio – AKA laundry room)

Why would anyone do such a thing? For me, there is two reasons. The minor reason being that while I’ve brewed mead’s that pushed up close to 20%, I’ve never hit or exceeded this strength. Its a completely arbitrary, and yet almost mystical threshold. What lies beyond that I do not know – perhaps beer nirvana, more likely a really bad hangover, but either way I want to see what is one the other side.

The main reason is a bit different – December 9th, 2016 will mark the 20th anniversary of my first brewday. I though it would be nice to have a beer whose ABV was at least as large as the years leading up to the anniversary. To make sure this happens I have over-designed the beer; assuming it attenuates as I expect I should get a beer at 22-23%, but I suspect I may not get quite that much attenuation, and as such, I’ve hedged my bet. I’m brewing it now since I’m certain its going to emerge from the primary as a fusel, ester and phenolic mess, but with roughly 20 months of aging ahead of it, it should have turned into something really nice on time for 12/9/2016.

To get to that mystical 20% I’m using every trick in the fermenting high gravity beer playbook. Multiple yeast additions, holding back the ~20% of fermentables that are sugar until a day or two into primary ferment, multiple yeast additions, multiple oxygenations, and I’m pitching a shit-tonne of yeast (roughly 5 million/ml/oP) thanks to my use of my last brews yeast cake. And the ace in my sleeve – a backup 2L starter of White Labs super high gravity yeast. I’m hoping to not need that bad-boy, but if I do he’s ready to go.

41 L of wort boiling on the range.

Brew-day itself was a bit of a mix-up; I recently bought an electric HLT from one of the co-owners of Forked River Brewing (I guess you don’t need to homebrew when you have a real brewery), so I was able to do my mash indoors, with the plan of venturing outside into the -25C weather for the boil. Turns out propane valves freeze at -25C – even if the propane itself is at room temperature, but my wonderful wife was kind enough to clear out the kitchen for the day so it was a full-volume boil on the electric range too get this beer down to gravity – adding an hour to what was already supposed to be a 3 hour boil. But in the end I exceeded my numbers slightly by 4 points), and everything looks like it went well, so now onto the ferment.

The recipe, brew-day notes and other details are included below the fold, but I thought I’d spare a word on what is now the second really odd name I gave to a beer in the past 2 weeks. These two beers are deeply connected – with “Matilda, The Seductress” functioning as a starter for “Ambrosio, The Fallen Monk”. These names are not arbitrary – they are drawn from my favourite novel, “The Monk” by Matthew Gregory Lewis (legally available free from the Gutenberg Project). In this novel the young monk Ambrosio is seduced by Matilda – a familiar of the devil – leading Ambrosio down a road of murder, rape, insect, and eventually death at the hands of Satan himself. As with the novel, the beer “Matilda , The Temptress” gives Ambrosio his drive to darkness (namely, a lot of yeast) – and “Ambrosio, The Fallen Monk” somewhat follows the tradition of naming these beers after devils & other dark creatures…

Recipe & Brew-Day Notes

Ambrosio, The Fallen Monk
Belgian “Septuple” (Dark Strong Ale)
Type: All GrainDate: February 16, 2015
Batch Size (fermenter): 24.00 lBoil Size: 39.56 l
Boil Time: 210 minEnd of Boil Volume 27.56 l
Est Mash Efficiency 86.7 %Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
7.00 kgPilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM)Grain144.4 %
2.00 kgVienna Malt (3.5 SRM)Grain212.7 %
1.25 kgAbbey Malt (17.5 SRM)Grain37.9 %
0.50 kgWheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM)Grain43.2 %
2.50 kgDME Golden Light (Briess) (4.0 SRM)Dry Extract515.9 %
0.50 kgCandi Sugar, Dark (275.0 SRM)Sugar63.2 %
10.00 gFuggles [4.90 %] – Boil 90.0 minHop734.8 IBUs
100.00 gMt. Hood [4.40 %] – Boil 90.0 minHop831.0 IBUs
0.26 tspIrish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins)Fining9
Trappist High Gravity (Wyeast Labs #3787)Yeast10
1.06 tspYeast Nutrient (Primary 3.0 days)Other11
2.00 kgSugar, Table (Sucrose) (1.0 SRM)Sugar1212.7 %
Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.168 SGMeasured Original Gravity: 1.172 SG (est)
Est Final Gravity: 1.013 SGEstimated Alcohol by Vol: 21.2 %
Bitterness: 35 IBUsEst Color: 25.0 SRM
Mash Profile
Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch SpargeTotal Grain Weight: 15.75 kg
Sparge Water: 23.45 lGrain Temperature: 16.0 C
Sparge Temperature: 75.6 CTun Temperature: 15.5 C
Adjust Temp for Equipment: TRUEMash PH: 5.20
Mash Steps
NameDescriptionStep TemperatureStep Time
Mash InAdd 27.12 l of water at 73.3 C64.4 C75 min
Sparge Step: Batch sparge with 2 steps (3.55l, 19.91l) of 75.6 C water
Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).
Carbonation and Storage
Carbonation Type: KegVolumes of CO2: 2.3
Pressure/Weight: 12.54 PSICarbonation Used: Keg with 12.54 PSI
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 7.2 CAge for: 30.00 days
Fermentation: Ale, Two StageStorage Temperature: 18.3 C
1) Aimed for a BU:GU of 0.3, (35IBU) higher than in-style to allow for longer aging
2) 2kg of invert sugar to be added at ~48 hours into the ferment
3) Pitch ~0.5L of yeast slurry and oxygenate at 24 hours
3) Super high-gravity yeast to be added after ~3 daysExpected gravity after mash (minimum, before DME/Candi sugar): 1.061; hit it exactly!!!!!!!

-Mashed in ~1.5C below, but is OK as want a fermentable wort; new electric HLT is awesome!
-Conversion not quite complete @ 60 min
-Temp dropped by ~ 1C during mash

-Turns out -25C is too cold for propane; had to boil on stove 🙁
Start:                       41.5 L
Final:                       27.0 L
Boil-Off Vol: 14.5 L

Boil-Off Rate: 3.0 L/hr (calculated based on 30 & 60 min post-boil volumes)
Boil Time:                 5 hr
90 min start:        3.5 hr after start of boil (31.5 L volume)

-Added Dark Candi Sugar at 90 min to end of boil
-Expected post-boil gravity: 1.136; hit 1.140! Sugar should bring beer to 1.172

-Cool-down: No tap water outside (25 degrees Celsius below freezing, it would break the taps).
-Cooled by placing the pot outside in front of a fan.

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