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So, I decided to make a Tripel. I've been brewing for decades, but haven't made a Tripel in about 15 years -- so it's not in my wheel house.

Anyhow, it was a smooth brewday, the stats are as follows...
Grain: 10:1 ratio of Belg. Pilsener to Munich. With some clear Candi sugar (1#)
OG: 1.080
Mash: 140°F (20 mins), 152°F (75 mins), Mash Out 168°F
Hops: 30 IBUs of Styrian Goldings and Saaz added at various stages
Ferment: Primary: 70°F for 11 days (was 1.016 after primary), Secondary: 14 days at 70°F, Cold Crash: 3 days at 35°F
Yeast: SafAle s-33 Belgian Ale
FG: 1.011 at kegging

So, despite having a low FG (and presumably quite dry with good attenuation), it has a residual sweetness that seems out of character. It's not bad, still pretty yummy, but not the dry, spicy character I'd associate with a Tripel. Anyone see where I might have gone sideways? With an FG of 1.011, why would it be sweet?

Thanks!

3 Answers 3

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Your yeast choice, mash schedule and the simple sugars from candi would make us expect a dry result, which your numbers prove you got. Your 30 IBUs is in the right ballpark to properly balance out the maltiness.

There are certain styles of beer that, while they measure dry, many customers insist that it is sweet (and that they LOVE it). The styles (that I brew and serve) that get these comments on a regular basis are:

  • Belgian Dubbel
  • Belgian Tripel
  • Belgian Quad
  • Braggot

What do these all have in common? A sweet adjunct (Belgian candi sugar or honey, in the case of the braggot). And in a big enough dose that you can taste it in the final beer.

My theory is that enough of the candy-character (or honey-character in the case of the braggot) comes through and tricks our brain into thinking we are tasting sweetness.

The candi sugar is very fermentable (all simple sugars) and your numbers prove that the yeast ate all of those actual sugars.

So, what do you do to make your mouth happier with your Tripel? Adjust your recipe next time you brew it! If you want to reduce the perception of sweetness, reduce the candi sugar (or perhaps increase your IBUs). You don't say how much grain you used, so we don't know what fraction of your grain bill is candi sugar.

For reference, my Tripel recipe is 15.6% candi sugar. And that is high enough that many people perceive it as sweet.

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There are several factors helping in the sweetness, and they are not what you think they are.

ABV calculation

These factors are:

  • Your addition of Munich
  • The high alcohol percentage
  • The S-33 yeast
  • The actual low IBU

Using Munich yeast gives a nice malty touch, which is somewhat sweet. Alcohol, from 8% ABV onwards, also gives an impression of sweetness. The S-33 yeast also has some by-products (higher alcohols) which can give an extra impression of sweetness. And fourth, 30 IBU is not really much for a good tripel. I suggest, when you redo this brew (the recipe is fine) to go for 40 IBU (Tripel Westmalle has 42 IBU).

Sugar (unless unfermentable complex sugars) completely ferments into alcohol. It does not add sweetness directly, only indirectly through a high level of alcohol.

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Short answer: you can have a low FG and still considerable sweetness in the finished beer due to fruity esters and other congeners produced by the yeast. This is not residual sweetness since it is not due to unfermented sugars in the wort. S-33 can (depending on pitching rate, wort composition and fermentation conditions) have a particular sweet character.

On a different note, S-33 is NOT a yeast for Belgian styles, IMO. Fermentis has marketed it as such, but it isn't. It's good old EDME, and thus more suited for English styles. BE-256 is also a bit weird; very high in isoamyl acetate (banana) but POF negative. T-58 is POF+ but now they're marketing that for English styles as well. Sometimes Fermentis drives me to drink. Oh, wait... :-)

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  • RE: S-33, yeah, I'd agree -- didn't have the 'Belgian-ness' I expected. It was still good though (despite the sweetness and non-Belgian character). Probably won't use it again. Apr 23 at 14:23
  • There's nothing wrong with S-33 for English styles. It's also a great general purpose yeasts - if you have an old recipe (say, pre-1980) that just specifies "yeast", S-33 is what you use. Also great for gruit ales and other traditional stuff. Apr 27 at 14:31
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    I love the S-33 yeast to brew British-style barley wine, due to its high alcohol tolerance and low attenuation.
    – chthon
    May 2 at 13:02
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    By 'won't use it again' -- I mean for a Belgian (although Fermentis presents it as one). I may use for other things. May 8 at 15:46
  • Fermentis' product positioning drives me crazy. Selling S-33 as a Belgian style yeast is just the tip of the iceberg. For years they classified S-23 and W34/70 as S. Cerevisiae; they state that BE-256 is an Abbey style yeast but its POF- (although it does produce a metaton of isoamyl acatate), and now they've come up with E-30 which is ostensibly "a lager strain producing high levels of esters, especially fruity esters with banana characters". What the heck, Fermentis? May 9 at 16:07

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