Belgian Spice #1

Frank’s inspiration for this brew came from the Stone Brewing, and their Vertical Epic series. The beer in particular is the 11.11.11 variation. You can find more info on the beer here, and here.

In this brew, the Belgian yeast does its thing – imparting the usual fruity banana and clove notes. The fun part about this particular beer is the add-ins, and how the add-ins work with the yeast to create something special. I must add that if the beer stood out for Frank, it must indeed be something special. (Frank has been known to enjoy some very fine beer.) For this brew, we’ll be mimicking the Belgian yeast, as well as throwing in some very interesting add-ins.

The Add-Ins

The beer calls for two special add-ins:

•   hatch chiles, sourced from New Mexico

•   cinnamon

We used both of these wild and crazy ingredients in our own home brew attempt. For the primary fermenter, the hatch chilies were sourced from Amazon, where they came cooked and peeled – pasteurized in a can. We put in just 1 oz. for our recipe. (Frank attests to success when using the excess chiles on pizza.) Not that a lot weight comes from water, so how just how much flavor is actually going into the wort at this time may be slight.

hatch chiles to clone brew the stone epic 11.11.11
The elusive dried and crushed hatch chiles!

Ideally, crushed and dried hatch chiles would be used. In a pinch, we made a substation to the canned product. As such, we’ll be reporting on this recipe as it was executed. For the secondary carboy, one oz. of dried and crushed hatch chiles are used. Again, the dried and crushed chiles are the most ideal form when utilizing the add-in.

The Wort

The color of the wort is your standard for a Belgian, if slightly darker. The attractive copper color hints at the American – Caramel / Crystal 120L malt used. For you beer geeks, “L” in the American – Caramel / Crystal 120L refers to a metric that accounts for the degree to which the barely is roasted. (Greater roasting means a darker beer). Consider that Caramel / Crystal 10L is available – with this recipe calling for 120  – and thus the relatively darker copper-colored beer, at least relative to a larger, such as Coors, Miller, etc.

belgian wort
Home brewed wort ready for the sampling.

When sampling the wort, the add-ins were indistinguishable. Given time (six weeks out), and the existing chiles already in the wort, and the additional chiles added to the secondary fermenter, chiles and cinnamon do ultimately impact the final product.

The Original Gravity (OG)

We missed the target original gravity by 0.004, with our actual result being 1.077. This occurred even with a 60% efficiency target. (We are using the brew in a bag technique for our homebrewing.) As we continue to refine the brewing process, we’ll come to create our own efficiency metric (perhaps 55%?) that we can use in crafting future recipes. Best practices dictate that in the future, achieving our target gravity can mean squeezing the bag of malts more aggressively following their 150 degree bath. Alternatively, the malt can be “sparged” via boiling water over the grains and into the brew kettle below. In the end, 0.004 is a small difference.


Brewmaster Frank checking the original gravity our Stone Vertical Epic home brew clone.

As the homebrewing forums assured us, this difference was inconsequential – with our final ABV being perhaps half a percent (0.5%) short of our target. I imagine that such a small difference would also be unnoticeable to the palate.

The Verdict

As is standard in our home brewing process, the wort ferments in the primary fermenter for two weeks. The beer is then transferred to the secondary fermenter. Additional add-ins are then added in. Another two weeks later, the beer is bottled. After another final two weeks, the beer is enjoyed. It is at that time that the yeasty Belgian flavors present themselves, with a little bit of heat and spice thrown into the mix. The add-ins are very subtle.

Belgian Spice #2

Moar! It may be worth increasing the add-ins in a successive round. For me, I’m looking for something that knocks you on your butt, to say:

Hello. My name is Hatch Chile. You killed my father. Prepare to die!

For me, I didn’t quite get that from this brew. But that’s just one man’s opinion. For a successive iteration of this twist on a Stone clone of a Belgian brew, I’d like to double (if not triple) the amount of add-ins. Pureeing the fresh hatch chiles may be an additional option to imparting more flavor to the beer.

The Recipe