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Joe Fleischman
01/25/06 04:51 PM  
Head Retention Woes
Is anyone else having head retention problems with their Belgian beers? In comparison to the commercial counterparts, the head retention I'm getting is subpar and it's only with these high gravity, highly attenuated Belgian beers I'm having the problem with. So, is everyone achieving Duvel and Delirium Tremens pours - rocky foamy heads, with a lacey pattern travelling down the glass. Or, a foamy head that lasts for a minute or so, and then promptly disappears into a flat featureless pool - like me?:)
01/25/06 04:53 PM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
Joe, are you bottle conditioning or force carbonating?
Joe Fleischman
01/25/06 05:03 PM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
For the most part I've been force carbing, but I did prime a couple Westmalle Tripel clones that basically came out like the kegged version. I admit I could have made a mathematical error in calculating about 6 bottles. Have you noticed a big difference bottle conditioning?
01/25/06 05:17 PM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
I think both have potential for greatness, but differ from each other. Bottle conditioning at its best can produce the rocky head typified by Duvel (that I suspect you meant with your post), and that is a truely great thing. Force carbonating is hated by some, and when it is done wrong I can see why. With patience and reasonable pressure levels (IMO 10-15 PSI is best) it can be awesome. Though I have never seen the fluffy Duvel head come out of a keg, force carbonated heads can be wonderfully creamy. Pour a beer, drink it in 12 gulps and leave 12 rings on the side of the glass. I am of the opinion that a properly force carbonated head will surpass the potential of a bottle conditioned head in terms of density and creaminess.

However, an impatiently force carbonated beer can really suck. The first advice I got on carbonating was to chill it down as cold as possible, crank the pressure as high as you can and shake the beer like crazy. Half an hour later you're done. If, that is, you like beer with the heading potential of Sprite. There are techniques gadgets out there to speed up force carbonation, but I believe the only thing that works is patience.

Sean Paxton
01/25/06 06:39 PM  
Re: Head Retention Woes

How are you carbonating? Are you bottling or kegging? Or both?

For bottling: what is your procedure? Do you pitch fresh yeast? How much sugar do you use? What kind of sugar do you use? Carb tabs? What kind of bottles are you using?

For kegging: Is your beer at room temp? Is there room in your fridg?

This will help us.


Joe Fleischman
01/26/06 09:20 AM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
I chill the keg in my spare fridge, apply anywhere between 15 to 20 psi, and just wait. I don't shake anymore. As for the bottles, I calculated the dosage amount for a six pack and primed with normal table sugar(boiled first of course). I don't know, maybe I'm being hypercritical of my beers. Oh, I've been dispensing via a picnic tap. Some Perlicks are in the works.

Joe Fleischman
01/26/06 09:26 AM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
I did some things differently with N8's La Chouffe clone. First, I boiled in a converted keg and I didn't have to skim any junk off the top to stop a boilover. Secondly, I didnt' add any type of fining. Lately, I've been using Whirlfloc tabs - they work great but maybe they've been dropping too much protein. Also, if I do - do a protein rest it's at 131F. I don't know - I'll have to figure this out.
01/26/06 09:56 AM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
<<I've been using Whirlfloc tabs - they work great but maybe they've been dropping too much protein.>>

That made a flag go up. You can get your carbonation technique perfect, but if the structure of the beer will not support CO2 retention then it is for naught. Let me ask, what is the Whirlfloc achieving that would not otherwise happen? Is your beer typically hazy?

Joe Fleischman
01/26/06 10:20 AM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
<<Is your beer typically hazy?>>

No, not really(style permitting). It's just a habit from brewing other types of beers(adding a fining that is). I e-mailed Stan Hieronymus about this and he didn't seem to think it was a Whirlfloc problem but I left it out anyways. I guess just about all the Trappist breweries centrifuge their beer(I think Westveletern IIRC is the only one that doesn't). Steve, I take it that you don't add any type of fining then?

01/26/06 10:39 AM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
Well, I do I guess from habit also. I always toss in a teaspoon of Irish Moss for 15 minutes just like I did with the first beer I made in 1989! Funny, like EVERYTHING else has changed since then 'cept that! Not every beer is crystal clear, but sometimes they are and when not they are never that hazy. I get good cold breaks but no reason to call the general protien profile into question.

I was thinking about your thread last night, I did an evaluation of my current kegs in preparation for a babbler visit next week. I have this one beer I call ambient ale, its fermented entirely with ambient bacteria - no pitching - then force carbonated (its a couple years old and I didn't want to add bottling yeast lest it no longer be ambient). I poured it into a normal sized tasting glass, got a good 1.5" head. When I tapped the side of the glass it jiggled just a little like marangue. After a couple minutes it was 80% smaller, but the beer beneath did not show through till a few sips were taken.

Joe Fleischman
01/26/06 11:45 AM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
Hopefully, I'll get some good head retention on the La Chouffe. Who knows?

How did the Ambient taste? I haven't ventured into Lambics or Geuze's yet - don't they start out with a highly dextrinous wort? Anyways, it's that type of head retention I'm after you lucky dog.

01/26/06 11:52 AM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
I'll take a few photos of the head and its time dissapating - just to be a prick! :). It has a peachy kinda thing in the background, that aspect of it reminds me a little of Lindemans. Its sour but not hugely so and there is a hint of vinager. It does not taste sweetened, but it is like a gueuze that was crafted to have more mainstream appeal than something like Cantillon.
01/26/06 12:50 PM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
I really enjoyed the bottle of the Amient brew Steve sent me. I was a little skeptical at first but found it to be quite interesting and good. Made me start thinking of doing something similar. I would really be interested in trying it carbonated, as the one I had was still.

Joe, the LC has a really nice rocky head. I remember commenting about the lace left behind in the glass when a friend and I were drinking it. Hopefully this one will work out for you.

01/26/06 12:59 PM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
<<I would really be interested in trying it carbonated>>

Good thing you're in the sour beer swap!

01/26/06 01:02 PM  
Re: Head Retention Woes
Oh yea, that's right. That's your beer for the swap.

Yep, good thing I'm in the swap. LOL

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