I decided to explore the world of Belgian yeasts a bit more. To do this, I wanted to control for the biggest variable, the underlying wort. So I brewed up a pretty straight forward Amber ale. I settled on an amber because it does have some hops to it, but also more malty notes. I did not want the hops to overpower the yeast, but I wanted to see which yeast expressed bitterness better. I was surprised at the differences in my SMaSH brews on the expression of hops, so I wanted to try to include that in the experiment. It is a pretty boring beer, but the real purpose of this brew is to explore what the different yeasts bring to the party. To this end, I choose 4 easily accessible Belgian yeast strains, White labs 500, 530, 550, and the dried strain T-58. I also included the seasonal White Labs 545. The beer was brewed, and then split equally into 2 gallon plastic fermentors. They were brewed at an ambient temperature of about 70F, all right next to each other, so they would share any variations in temperature. I could not bottle them all at the same time, the 500, 530, and t-58 were bottled after 2 weeks in primary, and the 500 and the 545 were bottled after 3 weeks. The only reason was because of my schedule, I could not get the time to do all the bottling at once. The 500 and the 530 ended at 1.018, the T-58 at 1.020, the 500 at 1.016, and the 545 at 1.012. The ones that sat in primary for another week did drop a few more points, so that is one variable to take into account.
The recipe is as follows:
10.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM) Grain 90.91 %
1.00 lb Caramunich 1 (33.0 SRM) Grain 9.09 %
0.75 oz Magnum [15.00 %] (60 min) Hops 34.9 IBU
0.50 oz Mt. Hood [4.60 %] (5 min) Hops 1.4 IBU
0.50 tsp wyeast yeast nutrient (Boil 15.0 min) Misc
This was mashed at 158F and let drift down to 154 over 60 minutes. The OG was 1.056. I split it into the buckets, and put in about 1/2 of the vial of each yeast. Yes, it is an over pitch, but the age on the yeasts varied, and measuring the volumes based on predicted viability was just one extra piece I was not prepared to do.
WLP 500 — reputed to be Chimay’s yeast – The nose is a very fruity, like overripe fruit, with a little breadiness and spice/clove in the background, followed by some sulfur. The taste is strongly estery, bananas very strongly comes out. There is some dry spiciness at the end, which I think is the hops. Pretty malty.
WLP-530 — reputed to be Westmalle’s yeast – the nose is spicy, graham cracks, not much fruit. The taste has a nice spiciness (clove/nutmeg) to it, with a touch of apple on the back. Pretty clean comparatively .
WLP – 545 — Unknown yeast, reported to be from the Ardennes — Very fruity, banana and sulfur. The taste has tons of fruit, but more of a cherry/plum flavor then banana. Leaves kind of a sweet taste.
WLP 550 — Achouffe’s yeast — Nose has spicy nose, with again the graham crackers, but more subdued then the 530. Pretty clean malt notes, with a hint of spice on the back.
T-58 — reported to be de Struise — nose has lots of fruit, pineapple, apricot , and oddly a bit of chocolate mixed with some spiciness. Very complex nose. The taste is very apricoty, with a residual maltiness too it.
Critique — ok, my own personal bias is towards spice, and away from fruitiness. I really liked the 550 and the 530. The 550 seemed to express a bit more bitterness, and the 530 was a touch sweeter and fruitier, but I really liked both. I can see 550 being more of my go to yeast, and I think has much more adaptability to other styles, particularly where you want to bring out the hops more. 530 would be a great choice where you want to accent the malt more, and have those “belgian” flavors, but keep it down to a complimentary note. The 500 and the 545 were both way too fruity for my taste. I could see 545 doing well in a heavy, malty, dark beer, where the darker fruit notes would be a nice compliment to some roasty notes, but 500 I really did not like at all. It had way too much banana, and the sulfur on the nose was not very pleasant. The T-58 was the one I was most conflicted about. At first, I enjoyed the apricot, and I was thinking in a chocolate stout or with roasted malts, this would be pretty good. Sacher Torte in a glass. But the more I drank it, the fruitiness just got to be too much. So, in the end, 550 and 530 were my favorites, and I will likely use these as my Belgian yeasts, one to bring out more bitterness and hop character, the other to bring out more of the maltiness and add a bit more of the spicy, belgian note without overdoing it.