Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Belma Trials: Saison #1

Belma Hops from HopsDirect

The introduction of a new hop is a very expensive endeavor. Years of trials, growing qualities and finally flavor contributions.  This year HopsDirect announced a new hop variety, Belma.  The price point was impossible to beat, so I picked up a couple pounds to play with.

HopsDirect has even created a Facebook page where you can write your own experiences with the hops.  It states:

History brings a new hop to town. In 1894, just northeast of Mabton, Washington was a small community named Belma. At the time it adorned only a post office and one store, but changes to the community in 1909 moved the post office to Mabton. T.W. Howell, a Mabton realtor, was responsible for the name Belma, as it stems from his mother’s favorite song, Sweet Belle Mahone. The romantic lyrics describe a man’s journey aboard a sailing ship after the death of his lifelong lover and best friend. When Mrs. Howell sang this favorite tune, she combined Bell with the first syllable of Mahone, creating Belma and it forever stuck with T.W. Howell. Such a sentimental history to a name which suits our new hop perfectly; Fall in love with Belma just as we have here at Puterbaugh Farms.

For this recipe I wanted to create something that would expose the hops but not making them dominateI think a Saison is a good choice for a couple of reasons.  First, I know this yeast well.  Having brewed 5 recipes with this yeast over the last year.  Second, most reports have this hop being very subdued for the high alpha acid levels it contains.   Belma is known for its subdued melon, strawberry and spicyness so a Saison might be a good choice. 

A lot of people want to create a blond, pale or some other simple recipe when exploring new hops, I on the other hand, wanted to create something that I want on tap.  Five gallons of Blond with a unproven hop doesn't excite me.  A Saison brewed with rye malt for added spiciness, fermented on Honeycomb Red Oak does.  That's the really fun part of homebrew experimentation.  Letting the raw materials mingle with the yeast, creating something wonderful.  

The addition of the Honeycomb into the primary fermentation is something I've had good success with on darker, more malt driven beers and IPA's.  It will be interesting to see what flavor contributions the oak adds to the more yeast driven flavors of a Saison.  If used while active fermentation is going on, the honeycomb addition adds a dexterous gritty feel on the top of my mouth.  Almost what Flaked Oat's add to the body of a beer.  (I've never experienced any traditional oak flavors in the 5 or so beers I've fermented with oak.As most of my Saison's, I like to add about a cup of sugar or more to help with the attenuation.  If all goes well, I am planning on bottling 1/2 with Brett for aging.

Belma Trials: Saison #1
Farmhouse Saison
Type: All Grain Date: 1/15/2012
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal Brewer: Chris Lewis
Boil Size: 6.86 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 60 min Equipment: My Equipment
End of Boil Volume 6.24 gal Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Final Bottling Volume: 6.00 gal Est Mash Efficiency 75.0 %
Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage Taste Rating(out of 50): Me: 33, NHC13 Judged: 28
Taste Notes: Please see my "Tasting Notes" on this recipe
Competitions Entered:  NHC 2013 "Tasting Notes"
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
9 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 67.7 %
3 lbs Rye Malt (4.7 SRM) Grain 2 22.6 %
8.0 oz Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) Grain 3 3.8 %
12.8 oz Sugar, Table (Sucrose) (1.0 SRM) Sugar 4 6.0 %
0.75 oz Belma [11.30 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 5 26.0 IBUs
1.20 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins) Fining 6 -
1.30 oz Belma [11.30 %] - Boil 0.0 min Hop 7 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Belgian Saison I Ale (White Labs #WLP565) [35.49 ml] Yeast 8 -
1.0 pkg Dreg Yeast (Brett-L @bottling ) [50.00 ml] Yeast 9 -
1.20 Items Honeycomb, Red Oak (Primary 3.0 days) Flavor 10 -
1.00 oz Belma [11.30 %] - Dry Hop 2.0 Days Hop 11 0.0 IBUs
Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.061 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.072 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.016 SG Measured Final Gravity: TBA SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 5.9 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: TBA %
Bitterness: 26.0 IBUs Calories: TBA kcal/12oz
Est Color: 4.9 SRM
Mash Profile
Mash Name: Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge Total Grain Weight: 13 lbs 4.8 oz
Sparge Water: 4.45 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F Tun Temperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.20
Mash Steps
Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Mash In Add 15.63 qt of water and heat to 156.0 F over 2 min 156.0 F 60 min
Sparge Step: Batch sparge with 4 steps (Drain mash tun, , 1.48gal, 1.48gal, 1.48gal) of 168.0 F water
Mash Notes:
Carbonation and Storage
Carbonation Type: Bottle, Brett
Volumes of CO2: 2.4
Pressure/Weight: 5.03 oz Carbonation Used: Bottle with 5.03 oz Corn Sugar
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 70.0 F Age for: 45.00 days
Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage Storage Temperature: 64.0 F
Fermentation Notes
Primary:  Starting at 62 degrees for 2 days, holding.  Then letting the beer free rise for 7 days.  

Update #1: (1-25-13)

The beer is currently in the keg priming, I should have some "Tasting Notes" posted early next week on this batch.  As for the Brett bottling, I ran into a wall and my bench cappers bell housing is missing.  I ordered a new one late last week and I am awaiting its arrival.  

Yesterday myself and some other homebrewers had a very long Twitter exchange on Belma Hops and their use in homebrewing.  It can be found here.   

Ed Coffey
Jeffery Crane
Bear Flavored Ales
Ry Parcell 

I think the opinion on this hop is starting to flow into using it as a Saison Hop with some great farmhouse qualities more than a IPA hop like Hops Direct is marketing it as.  But time will tell as this and other homebrewers push the envelope.   

Here is another story on a professional using Belma Hops.   He didn't have much to say about using it as a daily go to hop. 


  1. Sounds delish
    Interesting about your oak during primary fermentation. And makes sense with my experience drinking Firestone DBA. It doesn't have any obvious oak flavors, but the mouthfeel is much different than other beers.

    1. Yeah, I've had really good success from this addition. I just get a little nervous about using it more than once, which gets expensive.


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