Homebrew Recipe: Thunder Dragon Belgo-Bhutanese Blonde

Key points for key pints

• Adjunct substitutions. Another characterful type of rice—jasmine, basmati, even brown—could stand in nicely for red rice; barring that, good ol’ flaked rice from the grain room at your local homebrew store.

• Yeast starters, part one. Since “subtle but complex” is a byword (byphrase?) for Belgian blonde ale, we don’t want to get punched in the face by esters and other loud fermentation byproducts in the finished beer. One technique to mitigate ester formation is to limit the amount of yeast reproduction that has to happen in the fermentation. By starting out with a greater number of cells, fewer new cells are budded in the fermenter, ester production is suppressed, and everybody is happy.

Castle Danger Brewery Honey Raspberry Wheat

• Yeast starters, part two. Should we mingle the two yeasts together in the same starter, or each by themselves in a separate flask? Propagating together saves a bit of time and cleanup, but propagating individually will make sure that one strain doesn’t completely overpower and out-populate the other before getting a crack at the wort.

• Diastatic power. Although it’s providing flavor, color, and lots of talking points for the eventual imbibers of your end product, the rice is dead weight, enzymatically speaking. We’re relying on the pilsner malt to complete conversion of its own native starches, plus all of those from the rice and flaked barley. Old malt can go “slack,” losing its diastatic power to humidity and age, so this isn’t the time to clean out the grain bucket and use up the last few kernels from a bunch of random sacks. Spring for fresh grain and mill it as close to mash-in as possible.

To the homebrewery

Note: these steps are general guidelines and assume you’re already familiar with the all-grain brewing process. Refer to the instructions for your brew system and adjust as needed based on experience with your own particular equipment.

Prep

1. Make a yeast starter prior to brew day—this is a big beer and will need lots of yeast!

2. On brew day, cook the rice before collecting strike water.

3. Collect strike water (I use 1.3 quarts per pound, YMMV) and heat to approximately 165°F.

4. Mill the grains, or have it done for you at the shop.

Mash & sparge

1. Add all grains plus the cooked rice to strike water and mix to achieve a uniform temperature of 151–153°F. Rest the mash at this temperature for 60–90 minutes. While the mash rests, collect and heat sparge water.

2. When the mash rest is complete, heat it to 170°F for mashout.

3. Sparge and collect the wort in the boil kettle.

Boil

1. Bring the wort to a boil; add 0.5 ounces of Chinook hops and boil for 60 minutes.

2. Cool it!

Fermentation and beyond

1. Transfer the cooled wort to a sanitized fermenter, aerate well, and pitch yeast.

2. Depending on the yeast strains being used, aim for a pitching temp in the mid- to upper-60°F and allow the temperature to rise over the course of the primary fermentation.

3. When active fermentation subsides and gravity is stable, rack to a secondary fermenter for a few weeks of clarification and conditioning.

4. Once the beer has clarified to your liking, proceed with packaging. This beer can be enjoyed fresh but will continue to improve and evolve for many months if stored in a cool, dark place.

Until next time: Drink it like you brewed it.


Like this recipe? You can find it and 63 other witty and detailed homebrew recipes in Michael Dawson’s book, “Mashmaker: A Citizen-Brewer’s Guide to Making Great Beer at Home.” In each recipe, Dawson includes suggestions on how to modify and customize each beer, along with all-new essays on Malt, Hops, Yeast, and Water, giving readers critical insight into the building blocks of every successful brew. On sale now for $24.95 at mashmakerbook.com.

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