The itch to brew a Belgian-style tripel has been with us for a while but, after a bad experience with Belgian yeast a few years ago, we’ve repeatedly chickened out.
Re-reading Brew Like a Monk and 100 Belgian Beers to Try Before You Die for the umpteenth time, however, we finally cracked and, on a whim, ordered the necessary ingredients from the Malt Miller. A liquid yeast derived from Westmalle’s and some Saaz hops arrived no more than 24 hours later.
With advice from Dominic Driscoll of Thornbridge (who has a red flashing light over his desk to alert him when homebrewers are about to attempt to make Belgian-style beers) we got a big yeast starter going several days ahead of the brew. (We’ve been surprised to learn that the amount of viable yeast you pitch into the cooled wort is a variable that makes a huge difference.)
The next important step in brewing a new beer style is to drink several, so we spent the second half of that week working our way through some in the stash. Achel Blonde, we decided, may be even better than Westmalle’s effort, as long as you have a high tolerance for banana aromas.
The brew itself was a messy, hectic few hours which left our kitchen floor coated in sugar (it’s still sticky, three mops later) and smelling of assorted secret ingredients. Within hours of hitting the bottom of the fermentor, it had spat out its airlock and was spewing the most delicious smelling yeast all over the place.
So far, a week on, there are no nasty lighter-fuel aromas — just a kind of spicy fruitiness we’d like someone to turn into a jellybean flavour. This might (fingers crossed) turn out to be drinkable. We’ll let you know.
As in this case, we increasingly find that saving money is part of the appeal of homebrewing — not so much on the beer itself, because Belgian beer remains good value, but on mail order shipping charges.