Getting Back to Belgian | Tafelbier

Summer is in full-swing here, and my most recent brew – a Kölsch-style ale – has been going down a treat. Soon after brewing the German style, my thoughts turned to what would be next. Decisions were made, with a Saison and a Tripel topping the list. Having impulse-purchased quite a lot of grain in bulk (25kg to be exact!), I realised I would have enough extra grain to try out a Belgian Tafelbier recipe I’d been salivating over for some time. 

The concept for this recipe comes from a BYO magazine. It’s intended as a “low-gravity, session ale” that still carries a good amount of Belgian flavour, without the alcohol buzz. Major alterations were made based on what I had available, but I believe the substitutions worked pretty well.


A yeast starter was grown from a bottle of Moa Tripel
The grain bill was small for this one!

Skinny Monk Tafelbier
Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (L): 22
Total Grain (kg): 2.45
Anticipated OG: 1.024
Actual OG: 1.018
Actual FG: 1.006
Actual ABV: 1.74%
Anticipated SRM: 7.9
Anticipated IBU: 6.6
Brewhouse Efficiency (predicted): 70%
Wort Boil Time:  90 minutes

61.2% 1.50 kg. Gladfield Pilsner Malt 
20.4% 0.50 kg. Gladfield Aurora Malt 
10.2% 0.25 kg. Gladfield Wheat Malt 
8.2% 0.20 kg. Caramunich III Malt

13.0 g. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.0% AA) – First Wort Hop.

Starter propagated from Moa Tripel dregs

Water Profile
Profile: Bru’n Water ‘Amber Balanced’

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest – 60 min @ 66.5 °C

Brewed 15/12/18.

Mash salts and lactic acid added to 7.6L of dechlorinated  water (1/4 Campden tab used) and temperature controller on HLT set to strike temp of 74.2 °C

1L of hot water added to tun prior to warm

Strike water added, mash temp 65.5 at first stir around 30 mins

Sparge water: 25.1L, all sparge salts and lactic acid added to this, brought to sparge temp BUT only sparged with 8L (added with measuring cup) after 60min saccharification rest.

Remaining sparge/top-up water then added to pot after the first and second runnings were collected.

First runnings = 16.4 Brixx

Pre-boil gravity = 4 Brix

Post-boil = 4.6 Brix

22.8L siphoned into fermenter

Cooled to just above ground-water temp. (29.9 °C), and placed into fermentation chamber to cool to target temp of 21 °C

Pitched at 1915hrs on 15.12.18 at 21 °C. Cooling disconnected, set to 21 °C and allowed to free rise.

This was my second brew day using a temperature controller attached to my HLT’s heating elements. When I woke up I on brew day, I measured out the strike water, dechlorinated using part of a Campden tablet, added my brewing salts and lactic acid, and set the target temperature. Less than an hour later I mashed in. I then undertook the same process for my sparge water, and once the 60 min saccharification rest was over, I lautered, then sparged with 8 litres, collected the second runnings in my brew pot. The remaining ‘sparge water’ was used to top up the volume in the brewpot. By topping up in this manner, I hoped to avoid tannin extraction through over-sparging.

My single hop addition was added to the brewpot prior to the sparge, allowing a First Wort Hop. Once my target volume was reached, I set the wort to boil for 90 mins, with a Koppafloc addition 10 mins before the end of the boil.

Unfortunately (and for reasons I’m yet to puzzle out) the efficiency of this brew was much lower than anticipated. I’m fairly sure I had enough diastatic power for conversion, so was surprised to find my post-boil gravity was only 1.018 (4.6 Brix). Given my brewing pot doesn’t have gradations, I wonder whether I collected less sweet wort than anticipated, and hence over-diluted the brew with the top-up water. 

Nearly ready to rumble

Cooling was as per usual, using my copper immersion chiller, on this brew day only managing to get down to around 30 °C. Hence I siphoned to my sanitised brew bucket and placed in my fermentation chamber until it hit my target temperature of 21 °C. I then pitched around 250 mL of moderately thick yeast slurry from my starter. Airlock activity was present at around 12 hours post-pitch.

Fermentation went as follows:

15.12.18 – pitch at 21 °C, airlock bubbling 12 hours later, temperature allowed to free-rise
17.12.18 – temp had risen to 24.6 
°C, 2.8 Brix
18.12.18 – minimal ongoing bubbling from airlock, 24.3 
°C, 2.6 Brix, ramped to 26 °C
19.12.18 – 2.6  Brix (stable = 1.006 FG) hence crashed to 1.0 
°C –> racked to CO2-purged keg around 48 hours later
– Final ABV = 1.74%

 Tasting notes 16.1.19: I’ve been drinking this beer for a bit over two weeks now, having left the keg to slowly carbonate at 14 PSI over Christmas while we were away. Clearly my efficiency took a hit somewhere in this brew day’s process – potentially through dilution as mentioned. That being said, this still produced a mighty fine beer! 

The colour is a nice light copper, with excellent clarity. The nose is immediately Belgian-y – fruity notes, no hops, a reasonable amount of banana and a touch of cloves – very similar in profile to the Moa Tripel this yeast was propagated from. The flavour is light, slightly biscuity malt, with a hint of caramel sweetness at the end. Thankfully the 6 IBUs balanced this adequately. If I brewed this one again, I would likely try bump up the ABV to around 2.5%, tone down the Caramunich III to reduce the caramel sweetness, and try a late hop addition for added aroma and flavour. Saaz or Styrian Goldings would probably be my pick. If you try this brew out yourself, please comment and let me know how you get on!


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