Bière de Garde

Thinking I had more time this afternoon than I did, I began what seems like the ultimate festival of errors. Saturday, I selected a style/recipe from The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, specifically the Bière de Garde. I picked up all the components, and this afternoon set to putting it together.

The recipe calls for 7.5 lbs. of pale malt extract, 3/4 lb. of crystal malt (I used 120, which maybe was not the best for color, in retrospect) and 1 lb. of white candi sugar as fermentables. I wanted to use Strisselspalt per the recipe, but my supply shop did not have it. The other options offered I went with, thus using 2 oz. of Hallertauer as the bittering hops, and 1/2 oz. of Crystal as the fnishing hops.

I started by slapping the yeast package as instructed and setting aside. I used Belgain Ale II, though the recipe was not specific in any way. Then I continued by putting a gallon of the water on heat, and bringing it to about 160F. I did not intend for a normal lautering, seeing as crystal malt is not enzymatic. But I did need some hot water to work the sweets out of the grains. With that complete, I began adding the rest of the fermentables and bittering hops, along with an additional half gallon of water. There I made the first error, one that hopefully does not ruin all.

Dear ones, while you are heating the liquid once again, and adding the liquid malt extract, be sure to stir. That liquid malt extract is perfectly happy to start burning to the bottom of the pan. Which it did, and left little flecks of black all through the boil. While I was able to eventually strain out the burn – and it wasn’t much, though enough to make me very upset at myself – I am hoping the effects do not last farther down the line. The color is dark, darker than I was expecting for the style. But then that may have more to do with using a rather caramelized crystal, rather than a lower rating. I hope it isn’t my poor timing on stirring.

In any case, stepping away for a moment to put water in the freezer, I missed the pan over-boiling just a bit. Not too bad, but messy. I kept going, letting the boil continue for 45 minutes. Then, after cooling and then transferring the wort to the fermentation bucket, I realized the finishing hops were missed. So I just tossed them in. Not best sanitation practice, likely. Not what I would recommend. But…well, really, I have no excuse.

Oh, right…so I had intended just cool and go directly to a carboy. Well, what with the burn flecks and all, I decided to strain the wort through a mesh bag first. That went pretty well. But it meant I needed an intermediate stage instead of a single fermentation. Or at least a temporary place to store the wort. Luckily, I had a bucket all sanitized for a batch of mead (which I no longer had time to start), so I was ready to go!

Straining done, I added 2 gallons of chilled water (the gallons I took to the freezer), plus the one I had already put in the carboy. I could see that this was nearly there, and added the remainder of the half gallon. Perfect, at just a little over the 5 gallon mark on the bucket. And it was at this point I added the forgotten Crystal hops.

I tested SG, and found it at a close-to-expected 1.062. Should be fine, though I expected at least 1.065. Considering all the other things that ran amuck, I’m happy with 1.062.

Well, as part of realizing I did not have the time I thought I did, I quickly left the house with my son in tow. I left my wife with instructions to please pitch the yeast at a certain point in time, the three hour mark per the package instructions. She pitched the yeast, as requested. She might have failed to notice that there was an inner plastic pouch. I came home later and found it floating at the top. My fault, for sure. This is not her thing. I was not clear enough. That and the bucket is up on a high counter during this period of time, and she likely couldn’t even see much of what she was pouring inside.

Well, back home this evening and I will say it has a very nice, sweet smell. I see some bubbling at the top of the sides, though no real head of foam yet. Nor did I expect one so quickly. The liquid is darker than expected; as mentioned, there are a few possibilities as to why. One being it may lighten over time once certain elements settle out.

Yeah, I doubt it, too.


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