Head retention with Belgian beers

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Aub, Apr 16, 2019.

  1. Aub

    Aub Active Member

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    The last couple of Belgians I've brewed, a Chimay Red and a Strong Blonde Ale have been great beers but pour with a decent head that subsides fairly quickly. I used a 90 minute mash for these and I'm wondering if this is the culprit with the highly modified malts. I haven't had this happen with any other beers using a 60 minute mash and 10 minute mash out.
    I'm going with a shorter mash next time and will see what happens.
    Anyone else had this problem?
     
  2. HighVoltageMan!

    HighVoltageMan! Well-Known Member

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    I have often seen that homebrewers don't carbonate the beers enough, Belgian styles should be highly carbonated to at least 4 volumes, sometimes as high as 4.5. Carbonation helps a lot with head retention by constantly feeding the head with bubbles. The other thing you can do is add 3-5% white wheat to the beer, it will increase head retention without adding the dreaded sweetness of dextrin malts. The last thing would be step mashing, if you can mash low and bring up to a higher temp through the mash. I start out at 145F, hold for 90 minutes, bring up to 158F for 15 minutes and then do a mashout.
     
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  3. Aub

    Aub Active Member

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    Thanks for that, maybe I'll try a step mash and a little more carbonation, I've been at about 3 volumes. I'm just trying to figure out why it only happens with Belgians.
     
  4. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    But remember when you do this: Standard beer bottles may not hold that pressure! The culprit is likely not the malt unless you did a protein rest or decoction - highly modified is the standard malt of today, for better or worse. Shorter mashing won't help, either. Add in something with some good dextrines to make your foam stand last longer, say carapils or carafoam. Or look for another possible issue.
     
  5. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Mashing for longer shouldn't be a problem with head retention. Temperature range might have an impact. I suspect though, that there's some other culprit. If it pours with a good head but fades, that may be diacetyl from somewhere in the process or it may be just a film on your glasses - dishwasher rinse agents are notorious.
    I mash similarly to what HighVoltageMan does. I start lower and my main conversion rest is at 148 and 45 minutes or so, but I use the 158 rest and mashout. My 122 degree protein rest has never hurt head retention.
     
  6. HighVoltageMan!

    HighVoltageMan! Well-Known Member

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    Belgian beers typically use sugar to lighten the body, so they will have a tendency to be thin. That's what makes them 8-9% ABV and crushable. I still believe the key is bottle conditioning to at least 4 volumes to give the beer that white, puffy head. But as Nosy said, standard bottles may not hold up to the pressure. I save any bottles from Belgian beers I buy, German bottles and Samuel Smith bottles for Belgian beers because they are so heavy duty. I would avoid standard bombers and the short, fat Seirra Nevada bottles. They have a large surface area on the bottom and that's where they usually blow out.

    Some 12 ounce bottles are heavier than others. Returnables, if you can still find them, are pretty heavy and would work fine.
     
  7. Aub

    Aub Active Member

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    I keg so that's not a problem. Here is the recipe for my Belgian Double Blonde:
    6.5kg Belgian Pilsner Malt
    270g German Dark Wheat Malt
    140g Belgian Aromatic Malt
    70g Belgian Biscuit Malt
    600g Dextrose

    Mash 90 min @ 65c Mashout 10 min @ 75c Boil 60 min Yeast Wyeast Belgian Ale 1214 with 1.7 lt starter
    Water adjusted to a balanced profile.
    This was a really good beer but just didn't have the lacing or head retention that I expected. I am just curious to know why this is only happening with the Belgians, my other beers all have good head retention. I'll get to the bottom of it eventually.
     
  8. Aub

    Aub Active Member

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    I'm kegging and any leftover I put in Grolsch swing tops.
     
  9. Aub

    Aub Active Member

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    The glasses can be discounted as they are perfectly good with other beers and have never seen detergent. I'll look into the diacetyl ,although I haven't detected any ( that doesn't mean there's none there though)
     
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  10. KC

    KC Active Member

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    +1 for 4 vol's. Swing tops are able to release pressure if it gets too high.
    You may also be dealing with undermodified Belgian malt that's expecting one or two protein rests. Do you have any analysis on it?

    Your 90 min mash shouldn't have an effect. At 65C the peptidase is denatured and unable to overconvert the soluble protein.
     

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