Double fermented beers are those that go through a second fermentation process after the initial primary fermentation. This additional step allows for the development of more complex flavors, higher alcohol content, and a smoother, more refined finish.
Some examples of double fermented beers include Belgian Dubbels, Tripels, and Quadrupels, as well as certain barrel-aged and sour beers.
In this blog post, we will delve into the world of double fermented beers, exploring their history, characteristics, brewing methods, and some recommendations for those looking to try these unique brews.
The History of Double Fermentation
Double fermentation, also known as secondary fermentation, is a technique commonly used in beer brewing to improve the flavor, clarity, and overall quality of the beer. It involves two distinct stages of fermentation.
The first stage, known as primary fermentation, occurs when the yeast consumes the sugars present in the wort (the liquid extracted from malted grains) and converts them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This initial fermentation typically takes place in a primary fermenter, such as a fermentation vessel or a brewing bucket.
After the primary fermentation, the beer is transferred to a secondary fermenter, which can be another vessel or a separate compartment within the same vessel. This is where the second stage of fermentation, or double fermentation, takes place.
During the secondary fermentation, the beer undergoes further fermentation, although the primary purpose is not to produce more alcohol. Instead, this stage allows the yeast to further clean up any undesirable byproducts produced during the primary fermentation, such as certain off-flavors and compounds. The yeast also helps with the clarification of the beer, settling out and compacting any remaining sediment or haze-forming particles.
In some cases, additional ingredients may be added during the secondary fermentation to impart specific flavors, such as fruit, spices, or dry hops. This allows for a more controlled and pronounced flavor profile.
Double fermentation usually lasts for a few days to several weeks, depending on various factors like the beer style, desired flavor characteristics, and the brewer’s preference. Once the secondary fermentation is complete, the beer is typically ready for packaging, whether it be bottling, kegging, or other storage methods.
It’s important to note that not all beer styles require or benefit from a secondary fermentation. Some beers, particularly those with lower alcohol content or that are meant to be consumed quickly, can skip this step and proceed directly to packaging after primary fermentation. The decision to perform a secondary fermentation is often based on the specific goals and requirements of the beer being brewed.
Origins of Double Fermentation
The practice of double fermentation can be traced back to the Trappist monks of Belgium, who have been brewing beer since the early 18th century.
These monks were known for their dedication to quality and innovation, and they began to experiment with the brewing process in order to create more complex and flavorful beers.
The technique of double fermentation soon spread throughout Europe and has since become a hallmark of many world-renowned beer styles.
The Trappist Influence
Trappist beers are perhaps the most well-known examples of double fermented brews. There are currently 14 Trappist breweries worldwide, with the majority being located in Belgium.
The Trappist monks are known for their strict brewing practices and adherence to tradition, which has led to the creation of some of the most highly regarded beers in the world.
The double fermentation process is a key component of many Trappist beer styles, including the Dubbel, Tripel, and Quadrupel.
Characteristics of Double Fermented Beers
Double fermented beers often possess a rich, complex flavor profile that sets them apart from their single fermented counterparts.
This is due to the additional fermentation stage, which allows for the development of more nuanced flavors, such as dark fruits, caramel, toffee, and even chocolate.
Additionally, the higher alcohol content of these beers can contribute to a warming sensation on the palate, making them perfect for sipping on a cold winter night.
In terms of appearance, double fermented beers can range from pale golden hues to deep, dark browns. This variation is largely due to the specific types of malt and other ingredients used in the brewing process, as well as the length and conditions of the fermentation period. Some double fermented beers may also exhibit a thicker, creamier head as a result of the additional proteins and sugars present in the brew.
The Double Fermentation Process
The first stage of the double fermentation process, known as primary fermentation, is similar to that of any other beer. The brewer combines malted barley, hops, water, and yeast to create a sugary liquid called wort. This wort is then fermented by the yeast, which consumes the sugars and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts. The primary fermentation typically lasts for several days to a week, at which point the beer is transferred to a secondary fermentation vessel.
During the secondary fermentation stage, the beer undergoes additional fermentation, either through the addition of more yeast or by allowing the existing yeast to continue consuming any residual sugars.
This second fermentation can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the desired flavor profile and alcohol content. The end result is a beer that is more complex, smoother, and often higher in alcohol than its single fermented counterparts.
Popular Double Fermented Beer Styles
The Belgian Dubbel is a classic example of a double fermented beer, characterized by its rich, malty flavor profile and deep, reddish-brown color. With an alcohol content typically ranging from 6-8%, the Dubbel is a warming, full-bodied brew that is perfect for sipping on a chilly evening.
Another popular double fermented beer is the Belgian Tripel, which is known for its pale golden color and high alcohol content (usually between 8-12%). Despite its potent strength, the Tripel is surprisingly light and refreshing, with a fruity, spicy flavor profile that is both complex and approachable.
Some brewers choose to age their beers in barrels, such as whiskey or wine barrels, as a form of double fermentation. This process imparts additional flavor characteristics from the barrel itself, as well as from any residual alcohol that may be present. The result is a unique, multi-layered beer that showcases the flavors of both the original brew and the aging vessel.
Recommendations for Double Fermented Beers
For those interested in trying double fermented beers, some excellent options include:
- Chimay Blue (Belgian Dubbel)
- Westmalle Tripel (Belgian Tripel)
- St. Bernardus Abt 12 (Belgian Quadrupel)
- Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (Barrel-Aged Stout)
- Rodenbach Grand Cru (Flanders Red Ale)
In conclusion, double fermented beers offer a unique and complex flavor experience that is well worth exploring for any beer enthusiast. With their rich history, diverse characteristics, and innovative brewing techniques, these beers truly represent the pinnacle of the brewing craft. To summarize, here are 10 key facts about double fermented beers:
1. Double fermented beers undergo a second fermentation process.
2. This additional fermentation leads to more complex flavors and higher alcohol content.
3. The practice of double fermentation originated with the Trappist monks of Belgium.
4. Trappist beers, such as Dubbels, Tripels, and Quadrupels, are classic examples of double fermented brews.
5. Double fermented beers can range in appearance from pale gold to dark brown.
6. The flavor profile of these beers often includes notes of dark fruit, caramel, and toffee.
7. The double fermentation process consists of primary and secondary fermentation stages.
8. Secondary fermentation can last from several weeks to several months.
9. Barrel aging is a form of double fermentation that imparts additional flavor characteristics.
10. Some recommended double fermented beers to try include Chimay Blue, Westmalle Tripel, and Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout.