#20 Reason to Live

Eureka, this post is about one of my favorite recipes so far. And kind of an introduction for the next two posts about Belgian yeasts. There will be a huge post in a few days about a comparison experiment of Belgian yeasts. I am still working on it…

Back to the recipe, the original recipe is from the book “Extreme Brewing” written by the founder of Dogfish Head Sam Calagione. I was quite fascinated about the recipe and so I went for it. I have to mention that I haven’t tried the original Raison d’être yet. It is nearly impossible to get any of the Dogfish Head beers here in Europe. So I can’t tell if this is a real clone recipe or not. And I had to do some changes to apply the recipe for European ingredients and lowered the original gravity as well.

Recipe: Reason to Live
Numbers: Volume [L] 42 (11 gal)
Original gravity 15.6°P
Terminal gravity 2.6°P
Color Around 21 EBC
ABV 7.1 %
Grains: Vienna Malt (8.5 EBC) 5 kg
Pilsner Malt (4.5 EBC) 5 kg
Carafa Typ 1 (900 EBC) 0.15 kg
Crystal (120 EBC) 0.20 kg
Hops: Magnum (15% AA) 32 g and boil for 60 min
Hersbrucker (4% AA) 32 g and boil for 1 min
Candy sugar (425 EBC) 0.5 kg and boil for 10 min
Yellow Raisins 0.275 kg and boil for 10 min
Yeast: #3522 Belgian Ardennes
Water: Burgdorf Mash: 45 L (11.9 gal), lauter: 15 L (4 gal) @78°C (172°F)
Rest: 3 steps Mash in @35°C (95°F) and raise temperature to 55°C, 20 min @ 55°C (131°F), 60 min @ 66°C (151°F), 10 min @ 78°C (172°F)
Boil: Total 60 min
Fermentation: Primary 13 days @ 20°C (68°F) in a plastic bucket
Secondary Bottled directly after primary fermentation
Maturation: Carbonation (CO2 vol) 3 with 3.4 L (0.9 gal) of wort and fresh yeast
Maturation time 3 – 4 weeks @16°C (61°F

Mash kettle is full.

Candy sugar

01/02/2011: Brew day. The first in 2011. Just me and my brewing equipment. This was my first full size batch of 42 L. My kettle can hold about 50 L (13.2 gal). Started to mash-in and already had to pull out about 5 L as the kettle was already full with 45 L of mash water and nearly 10 kg of malts. Put the 5 L back after resting at 55°C (131°F). Sparged and started to boil the wort. No measurements.

Wort ready to boil

Added the hops and candy sugar according to the recipe. The raisins were first puréed in 1 L of hot wort and then added to the boil. Then chilled after a whirlpool to approximately 22°C (72°F) and bottled the left wort from the kettle for priming. OG of about 15.6°P, nearly one Plato higher than expected. Then added two Activator packages to the wort and let it ferment at 20°C (68°F).

01/15/2011: Racked the beer and bottled it with the priming wort. I determined the yeast concentration in the beer with a counting chamber to ensure a proper carbonating process in the bottles. The concentration was about 4 E6 cells in one mL. 1 E6 cells mL-1 are enough for a proper carbonation so there was enough yeast left in the beer. Left the beer for nearly three weeks at 16°C (61°F) for conditioning and storage.

Calculations: OG 15.6°P, TG 2.6°P gives a ABV of 7.1% and an attenuation of 83%. Wyeast states an attenuation of about 72- 76% for the #3522 Belgian Ardennes.

04/23/2011: Tasting

Aroma: Spicy and hints of banana. No hops and malt detectable. Hint of sweetness and some dark fruits. Very nice aroma. Kind of a wine taste too.

Appearance: Copper, clear, nice bubbles and the head is just awesome: creamy, frothy and very persistent.

Flavor: The feast begins: First comes a spicy, peppery and light phenolic note in front. Then some banana. Pretty dry. No alcohol detectable on the palate.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, lively carbonation and medium lasting and light sweet aftertaste. Light warming sensation from the alcohol in the throat.

Overall Impression: Wow! Pretty neat Belgian beer with a fascinating head on top. No off flavors. The raisins give this brew a very own note. Would I drink a second one? Definitely. Maybe increase the ABV for a next batch? The only thing that bugs me is the banana flavor. Did some research and found out that the #3522 produces some banana character when the fermentation temperature is a bit higher. This is of no surprise to me because the most Belgian yeasts are very similar to wheat yeasts: The wheat yeast character from the Belgian yeasts increase when the fermentation temperatures are a bit higher. I would therefore lower the fermentation temperature to prevent the banana flavor.

01/30/2012: Tasting, after nearly one year conditioning and maturation

Aroma: Spicy. No hops and malt detectable. Some sweet notes. Less character than a year ago.

Appearance: Copper, nice bubbles, clear and still a creamy and very persistent head. Still looks the same.

Flavor: Spicy and some phenolic notes. Dry. A hint of alcohol detectable on the palate (burning sensation). Complexity decreased with age.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, lively carbonation medium lasting and light sweet aftertaste. Light warming sensation from the alcohol in the throat.

Overall Impression: The character of the beer is still very similar to the fresh one. But the banana notes are gone. And it tastes a bit old and less complex. Meaning that the complexity of the flavors is less than a year ago. But still a very tasty beer indeed. Will taste the beer in another year again.

So, what did I learn from this batch? First, I am able to brew a full batch size of nearly 42 L (11 gal) with just minor problems. Thats cool in my opinion, right? Second, the recipe turned out the way I expected it to taste like (except the banana notes). I recommend to lower the fermentation temperature to get rid of the banana flavor. It is kind of a off flavor to me in this kind of beer. But if you like a banana character in your beer, feel free to increase the fermentation temperature.

The raisins gave this brew a very own note of its own. They definitely belong into this batch. I can’t imagine how it would taste like if there were no raisins in there. But I could not taste any of the candy sugar characteristics at all. Please let me know if some of you out there tried this recipe and tell me your impressions.