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Brew Like a Monk (Book Review)

Brew Like a Monk cover

The last year has opened my eyes to the landscape of Trappist and Abbey Ales. And, as any home brewer will confess, the interest in a certain beer category has had a way of sneaking down to my basement and into the fermenters. My interest with Belgian yeast strains is in the pursuit of a complexity of flavour in the beer that I produce. Currently I have a WLP500 Monestary Ale Yeast fermented Imperial Stout ready to be bottle conditioned and another Imperial Stout fermented with WLP575 Belgian Style Ale Yeast Blend that got bottled with a small amount of Brettanomyces bruxellensis and claussenii late last week. I also have two small fermenters of a Cinnamon Cyser fermented with a blend of the WLP500 and WLP575 in one, and good old Lalvin ICV D47 in the other. Next week I’ll be making a Rhubarb Short Mead with the WLP575 at a temperature rising to around 27 Celcius. That will be interesting.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Brew Like a Monk: Trappist, Abbey, and Strong Belgian Ales and How To Brew Them by Stan Hieronymus and collecting a few Belgian beers along the way to get an idea of where my flavour intentions are headed.

The basic format of Brew Like a Monk is straightforward enough with an introduction to what Belgian beers are about and a walk through of Trappist and Abbey Ale beers and how they are produced, both in Belgium and the United States. The last chapters of the book look at Belgian yeasts and how to approach them to achieve good results. I won’t steal Stan’s thunder, you’ll have to go buy the book for that content. But I will go as far as to suggest it’s a worthy book to put into your brewing library.

I think the most important thing to take away from this book is that there is no Belgian style of beer to be achieved. The Belgians are not into style in the sense we’ve grown to be locked into with competitions and rule books. It’s more about a way to approach brewing as a creative thing; the flavour you’re after, the yeast you choose to achieve that flavour profile and the techniques and temperatures you employ are all going to make a good beer if it comes out like you were expecting. And if it doesn’t, it might just be a great beer, too.

This year I’ve been drinking a lot more craft beer. Not a lot every night, but a dribbling along the way as I follow my own palate towards a discovery of the illusive flavours that I prefer. After all, how can you make good beer if you aren’t sure what good beer can be? I love large rich bold dark beers. I love malt. I love flavours like coffee and vanilla and plum and oak. I like ageing beer and tinctures. I like complexity. And this is where I’ve bumped up against the Belgian yeast and my interest in this book. Flavour. The pursuit of flavour in beer.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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