Friday, 22 April 2016

Belgian APA with Equinox and Mosaic (inspired by Schilling Racogne)

First off, let me say that I realize the term "Belgian APA" sounds kind of ridiculous. It's tough with a beer like this, though. You know what I'm getting at here, right? A Belgian IPA, basically, but in APA territory for ABV, as in roughly 5-6%. But I can't call it a Belgian Pale Ale, can I? There's already a style for that, and that one isn't considered a hoppy beer. So, while Belgian APA struck me as odd at first, I'm comfortable with it now; if you really think of it, it's no more crazy than saying "Belgian IPA".

What brought me to brewing a beer like this, you may ask? Well, when my wife and I drove to Vermont last June, we went out of our way to stop at Schilling Beer Company in Littleton, NH. I had been looking for a decent place to stop, and this place looked perfect. It was quite literally right on the way to VT, the beers brewed there (and the food) were rated really well, and I loved how what they were serving was a mixture of German, Belgian, and hoppy American styles, and beyond. It looked awesome, and we weren't disappointed.

The Schilling Brewery; photo: John Hession, NH Magazine

We were greatly in need of a beer or two when we arrived there after many hours of driving. Getting one of the last tables on their deck (beautiful little spot, by the way, overlooking the river), we ordered a couple of sampler trays, and I was impressed by most of what I tried. My favourite, however, was their Racogne. A "Belgo Pale Ale" (hey, maybe that's what I should have called this beer!), it's a 5.5% beer that the brewery describes as follows:

Hazy orange in appearance with a medium mouthfeel, Racogne (“Ra-con-ia”) showcases Mosaic and Equinox hops and a Belgian yeast of medium flavor intensity to produce mellow tropical fruit aromas and ‘juicy’ hop flavors.

I can tell you, it smelled and tasted as advertised. Hugely juicy and tropical, the beer took two of my favourite hops and made them work perfectly with whatever Belgian strain they used for fermentation. I could have drank a heck of a lot more than a sampler size, that's for sure. I never thought I'd be disappointed to have to get in the car and continue on to Vermont! Ok, maybe not quite, but close. Ever since, I've been meaning to brew something along the lines of this beer. Maybe not a clone, per se, but something along the same lines. I love Mosaic and Equinox - I've done a single-hop Session IPA with both (Mosaic here, Equinox here), but haven't used them together before. And I've been meaning to do another Belgian-style hoppy beer, so it all seemed like a good excuse to give this a try!

Before diving in, I thought I'd at least TRY emailing Schilling to ask them if they'd be willing to share a bit of info on the beer. I was curious about several things: the grist, whether they used Equinox and Mosaic in equal amounts, and mainly, what type of Belgian yeast are we talking about here? So, I sent out a friendly email, and got a quick reply from their Head Brewer and President, John Lenzini. He was very appreciative, but said that their current policy is not to share recipe info, at least not until they become more established and start distributing to a larger degree.

So, I was on my own. I decided to keep things as simple as possible, and developed the grist based on my previous recipe for a Belgian Session IPA, scaled up to an OG of 1.052. I had enjoyed this grist in the Session IPA, and the colour seemed about right for this beer. It's made up of mostly Pilsner malt, with small amounts of Aromatic, CaraVienne, and Wheat malt, and Acid malt. I find this gives a nice supporting malt character while allowing the hops to dominate; mind you, this was with a Session Belgian IPA, but really, this APA is only 7 gravity points higher than that one, so it should be fine. I still aimed to mash fairly low, at 150 F, to keep the beer pretty dry.

The hop schedule was pretty easy. I went with slightly more Mosaic than Equinox, simply because I had more Mosaic on hand. I decided to once again try dropping a bittering addition, with no hops being added until 10 minutes, where I threw in 2 oz of Mosaic. Three oz total for a hop steep, another couple after the chiller was turned on, and then equal amounts (1.5 oz each) of Mosaic and Equinox for the dry hop, giving a grand total of 10 oz of hops. Not bad; I don't think more than this would be necessary, assuming the hops are fresh.

I was mostly guessing when it came to choosing a yeast strain. As I mentioned in the Belgian Session IPA post, it's trickier pairing yeast with hops when you're working with Belgian strains, compared to American ones. There's a lot of Belgian strains out there, and they all have varying degrees of esters and phenolics, and can clash easily with certain hop varieties. I haven't brewed a lot of Belgian IPAs; the Belgian Session IPA used Wyeast 3787 (the Westmalle strain), and I really liked it. However, this brew day wasn't planned too far in advance, and I'd have to special order that one to get it again. My LHBS did have Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey in stock, which is supposedly the Chimay strain. Oddly enough, I don't think I've brewed with this strain before. Chimay doesn't brew any hoppy beers to my knowledge, but I'm a fan of their regular three-beer lineup, so I thought I'd finally give the strain a try and see how it worked with Equinox and Mosaic.

Well, the brew day brought no surprises, and I was drinking this beer within a few weeks (kegged, of course). While I honestly can't say if this is even close to Racogne, it is one tasty beer! I don't think I've brewed a hoppy, Belgian-style beer that had the hop aromas and flavours blend so well with the Belgian yeast. The aroma is probably 75% hop fruit bomb, with 25% Belgian fruity/spicy phenolics blended in... probably the same in the flavours. The beer is hazy, although NOT as hazy as that picture below would indicate (that was taken shortly after bumping the keg a couple of times when moving my CO2 tank around), with a medium-light body and a smooth, creamy mouthfeel (the feel and look of the beer would make me think it was fermented with London Ale III, if it wasn't for the Belgian characteristics).

So, in short, great beer, would absolutely recommend you give it a try if you're so inclined. Mosaic and Equinox aren't the easiest hops to find, by any means, but if you can, brew it! It'd be interesting to split the batch and ferment it with a couple of different Belgian strains, see how that affects the final beer; I may try this in the future. In the meantime, I'm really sad to see this one go... the keg kicked two nights ago, dang it.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.052, FG ~1.011, IBU ~45, SRM 6, ABV ~5.3%

3.9 kg (83.4%) Bohemian Pilsner
225 g (4.8%) Aromatic
225 g (4.8%) CaraVienne
225 g (4.8%) Wheat malt
100 g (2.1%) Acid malt

Mosaic - 56 g (10.5% AA) @ 10 min

Mosaic - 56 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
Equinox - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Mosaic - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)
Equinox - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)

Mosaic - 42 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Equinox - 42 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1214 Belgian Ale (with a starter)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 7 g Gypsum and 7 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on February 24th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13.5 L of strike water; mash temp a on target at 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7.25 L of boiling water to 168 F. Sparged with ~4.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.25 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.041. 90-minute boil. Final volume ~5.5 gallons; OG on target at 1.052. Chilled to 60 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 64 F.

- Fermentation was a bit slow to start with this batch; didn't really see a krausen till the evening of the 25th, with vigorous airlock activity by the next morning, temp at 74 F. By the next morning, the krausen had already receded quite a bit, and the airlock was silent... very fast!

- 9/3/16 - Final gravity of 1.012. Added dry hops into primary.

- 15/3/16 - Racked beer to purged keg, set in keezer to bring temp down and then started carbing.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white head that shows good retention, eventually fades to a thin film on the beer. Nice lacing on the glass. Body is a light orange color, with a lot of haziness.

Aroma: Wonderful combination of big, tropical, fruity hops and Belgian phenolics; the spiciness follows the hop blast, as I had hoped. The nose is definitely reminiscent of Equinox, with the Mosaic character coming through well.

Taste: Ditto, fruity blast, green pepper slightly (or maybe I just know to look for it with Equinox?), followed by the phenolics. Medium-light bitterness in the finish, fairly dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, moderate carbonation. Smooth and creamy.

Overall: Beautiful beer, one of my favourites lately. I'd brew this again and not change a thing, although I am curious as to what a different yeast strain would contribute, or take away.

1 comment: