Posts Tagged 'belgian ale'

AG#18 – Little Divil Belgian Blond


I hadn’t originally planned on doing a light-coloured beer with the WLP500 I have, but I was impressed with the clean flavours I got in my patersbier, DSM/sulphur aroma aside. I want to do something really simple here. A simple grain bill of pilsner malt and wheat malt, and some noble hops for bittering. I might also include a small charge of Saaz for flavour. Jamil’s tripel recipe uses “aromatic” malt which I’m assured is the American equivalent of the abbey malt we get here. So I’ll include a small amount of this to give the beer some extra complexity. Style-wise, I’m going for something between a tripel and a Belgian golden strong ale. There’s a fair amount of simple sugar in my recipe, so I should end up with a beer that is quite dry and drinkable. With a bit of luck it will end up something like Duvel, without the huge alcohol content. Depending on the fermentation temperature, it might even end up rather saison-like.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 27.90 l
Post Boil Volume: 23.40 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.068 SG
Estimated Color: 10.3 EBC
Estimated IBU: 28.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 73.0 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes


5.500 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (3.9 EBC), 84.6 %
0.300 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (3.9 EBC), 4.6 %
0.200 kg Aromatic Malt (51.2 EBC), 3.1 %
33 g Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 25.5 IBUs
25 g Saaz [4.80 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 3.4 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
0.550 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil for 10 min], 7.7 %
10.00 g Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 mins)
1.0 pkg Trappist Ale (White Labs #WLP500) (300ml of slurry from Hard Rain Belgian Dubbel)

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 6.500 kg
Mash In           Add 16.80 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 17.61l) of 77.0 C water

Mash Day 03/08/2014 – Mashed at around 65.5C-65.9C. Strike temperature of 71.8C. Beautifully pale wort.

Brew Day 04/08/2014 – Made some last minute adjustments with a little extra corn sugar and a little less coriander seed. Had to cycle one element on and off in order to get a decent rolling boil. But the boil was very vigorous and I got a great boil-off. Got a slightly low OG but I got more volume into the FV than expected – 1.066-1.088. I had absolutely no problems with running off from the boiler. One reason was that I was using plenty of leaf hops. Another might have been because I did the runoff really slowly, only opening the tap a third of the way.

05/08/2014 – Fermentation 24 hours later is going like a machine gun! Never seen a fermentation as strong as this.

11/08/2014 – Still getting bubbles from the airlock. Beer looks great. Will move to a colder room in a couple of days and let it clear for a week or two before bottling.

24/08/2014 – Batch primed with 181g of corn sugar (17.5 litres @ 3.5 vol). 15 x 500ml bottles, 12 x 750ml bottles. Got slightly less volume into bottles than expected, which means the carbonation will be a little livelier. But at 3.5 vol, I had a little wiggle-room on this. Very pleased with the flavour, bags of Belgian fruit. The FG reading a lot lower than I was expecting at 1.006! Surely that can’t be right??

31/08/2014 – Had a little taste of the residual beer in the flask containing the WLP500 slurry. Very promising, great Belgian flavour. Can’t wait to taste the real thing when it’s carbonated and has dried out. I think it could be a good example of both a tripel and a Belgian blonde.

03/10/2014 – Just over 5 weeks old and tasting very nice indeed. Great head formation with respectable retention. Definitely within the boundaries of a “Belgian Blonde”, but not sure if it would pass muster as a tripel. The alcohol is not that prominent, but there’s quite kick in it. Quite sweet, but maybe it will dry out further as it conditions. Tiny bit of sulphur on the nose, and a bit more banana in the flavour than I want, but these too should dissipate over time. Will definitely do this again. Bit of Carapils the next time, to help get that thick, billowing head. Could use a little extra bitterness too.

09/10/2014 – Can’t believe how good this is tasting. Opened a 750ml bottle which had only been in the fridge for less than an hour. Head formation was a little loose and short-lived as a result, but still not bad. Fantastic Belgian fruit flavours. Sweet pilsner malt character. Balanced alcohol flavour. But the real winning component of the flavour is the toasty, biscuity character. Not sure whether this is from the base malt or the abbey malt. Big fruit flavours, and the coriander peeks through nicely.

10/12/2014 – I have a good few bottles of this left. It’s still really good – a bit of aging has not harmed it at all. Will definitely do this recipe again.

02/01/2015 – I’m finally at the end of this batch and it’s holding up fantastically well. Crisp, but a nice residual sweetness from the pilsner malt. As far as improvements go, I think next time there should be less bitterness and probably less coriander as the fruitiness is a little overwhelming.

AG#17 – “Hard Rain” Dubbel


Sitting here after a rather stressful brew day, sipping on a glass of the Westmalle. It’s not like I remember it; it’s much drier than I expected it to be. Surprising too how highly carbonated it is. Plenty of that raisin flavour going on. Though from my memory, I think I might prefer the Chimay! It’s got more fruitiness which I think complements that raisin character in dubbels. The goal for this recipe is to make what would be considered a classic Dubbel. I’ve used the Zainasheff recipe, with only some very minor adjustments. I’ll be using Saaz for the bittering addition, because it’s used in a lot of Belgian beers and I have plenty in stock.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 27.90 l
Post Boil Volume: 23.40 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.063 SG
Estimated Color: 48.3 EBC
Estimated IBU: 25.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 73.0 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes


4.300 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (3.9 EBC), 69.4 %
0.450 kg Munich Malt (17.7 EBC), 7.3 %
0.250 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (3.9 EBC), 4.0 %
0.225 kg Aromatic Malt (51.2 EBC), 3.6 %
0.225 kg Caramunich Malt (110.3 EBC), 3.6 %
0.225 kg Special B Malt (400.0 EBC), 3.6 %
0.300 kg Candi Sugar, Dark (541.8 EBC), 4.8 %
0.225 kg Corn Sugar (0.0 EBC),  3.6 %
37 g Saaz [4.80 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 25.8 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)

10 g Coriander Seed, Boil 5 mins
1.0 pkg Trappist Ale (White Labs #WLP500) (400ml slurry from Patersbier)

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 6.200 kg
Mash In           Add 15.89 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 18.19l) of 77.0 C water

Mash Day 05/07/2014 – Mashed in at a temperature of just underd 72C. Mash temperature settled at 65.8C, so not too far off my target of 65C. Got my usual pre-boil volume of 25 litres and then I realised I hadn’t adjusted my pre-boil volume for a 90 minute boil! So I just made the change and BeerSmith and added some top-up water to account for the bigger evaporation loss.

Boil Day 06/07/2014 – Bit of a disaster. Just set up the boil outside and the torrential rain started. I used the patio parasol to cover the boiler and it did a pretty good job, so I was just too wary of it. So I split the wort into two buckets again, and moved the whole operation inside. Pain in the ass boiling inside, can’t believe I did it for so long. Wiping down condensation and the rest of it. I need to plan these brew days around the weather in future. I also had a nightmare separating the wort from the trub and hop material. The bazooka screen clogged almost immediately again and I had to resort to use a paddle to get the wort through the bazooka. The net effect of that is lots of trub in the fermenter, which I really did not want on this beer. Pity, the beer was sparkling otherwise.

Pitched the slurry and snapped on an airlock this time, as the weather is too warm at the moment and I don’t want to take the risk of things getting under the lid and into my beer. Started off the fermentation cool, but might move to a warmer room later. Will take a temperature reading tomorrow and decide.

At least my gravity was as expected!!

07/07/2014 – Bubbling away like mad.

10/07/2014 – Bubbling has slowed down a good bit now.

20/07/2014 – Racked about 4.5 litres along with 235ml of concentrated sour cherry juice to a demi-john. Just eyeballed it really. Also bottled with 127g of corn sugar (13.5l at 3.2 vol). Got 11 x 500ml, 1 x 330ml and 9 x 750ml bottles. Great aroma.

10/08/2014 – Bottled into 500ml bottles (8 bottles with 2 carb drops each). I’ve never put 2 carb drops into a 500ml bottle before, so I hope it will be alright. But I wanted a good level of carbonation in this Belgian beer. I was really curious to have my first taste of this. It’s a little too sour, I think. There’s a decent cherry flavour, but the sourness is too much. Though maybe the sourness will diminish over time. It’s incredibly clear in the bottle though.

13/08/2014 – I checked these bottles this morning and the sugar still lying at the bottom of the bottle. Did i age it with the cherry juice for too long so that all of the yeast dropped out? Or did the recent hot weather kill the ale yeast altogether. Either way, I might end up having to reseed these bottles.

22/08/2014 – I normally wouldn’t be opening a bottle of homemade Belgian beer so soon after bottling, but this particular bottle has been in the fridge ‘lagering’ for the last 3 weeks or so. It’s extremely promising, and far too drinkable, even at this early stage. It’s got a little too much banana esters at the moment and the alcohol level just slightly too hot. But more than happy with this, should be tasting fantastic in another month.

31/08/2014 – Had the single 330ml bottle that I filled with this beer. And poured it into my new Chimay glass. Tastes really good, though I think I got a little too much yeast from the bottom of the bottle though. The bottle hadn’t been in the fridge long too. Might explain why the carbonation wasn’t quite as lively as I expected. Still good, though.

23/09/2014 – Tasted my first bottle of the cherry version, and as I feared, it is woefully under-carbonated. Only the quietest of hisses when I popped the cap on the bottle. I do have the option of re-seeding the few bottles I have with some US-05 but for 6 or 7 bottles, is it really worth it? more importantly, I’m not sure if I like the beer enough to go to that effort. But maybe I’d like it more if there was some lively carbonation. There’s a nice cherry flavour there, but lots of acidity that will only become more apparent if the residual priming sugar is fermented out by the US-05. Probably not worth it..

16/11/2014 – I’m not sure I like this. It was definitely the beer in my 2014 Belgian series that I was expecting to like the most, but it’s just not doing it for me. The carbonation is probably a bit lower than it should be, but the head formation is really poor. Barely a finger of foam when first poured, which gradually dies away, especially if not in a nucleated glass. It seems really attenuated and too dry to me, but maybe this is a good thing? I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the Westmalle Dubbel the last time I had it, so I think I’ll do a side-by-side tasting with a commercial beer to see how the home brew stacks up.

09/01/2015 – Did a side by side tasting with a bottle of Chimay Red

BIAB#8 – Patersbier


Inspired by some of the recent posts on Basic Brewing video, I decided that instead of making a simple malt extract starter for my vial of WLP500, I’d make a 5 litre batch of medium-gravity beer which will act as a starter for my next batch. A Belgian “singel” or “patersbier” seemed like a great candidate for this. A “singel” is style of table beer, typically brewed by Trappist monsteries for consumption by the monks. Though occasionally it is available for sale in cafés near the monasteries. I decided on an extremely simple grain bill of pilsner malt with a little wheat malt for head retention.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 8.20 l
Post Boil Volume: 5.20 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 l
Bottling Volume: 3.50 l
Estimated OG: 1.041 SG
Estimated Color: 7.6 EBC
Estimated IBU: 15.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 55.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 55.0 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes


1.100 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (3.9 EBC), 91.7 %
0.100 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (3.9 EBC, 8.3 %
5 g Saaz [4.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 13.2 IBUs
0.13 Items  Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
5 g Saaz [4.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 2.2 IBUs
1.0 pkg  Trappist Ale (White Labs #WLP500)

Mash Schedule: Bubbles Small Batch BIAB Mash
Total Grain Weight: 1.200 kg
Saccharification  Add 8.93 l of water at 74.4 C   68.0 C  60 min

21/06/2014 – Easy enough brew day, though admittedly it is a lot of work for 5 litres of beer.

05/07/2014 – Bottled with carb drops. Got 3 x 330ml bottles (Saison Dupont bottles!) and 4 x 750ml bottles. 2 carb drops in the the 750s and 1 drop in the 330s. Couldn’t avoid getting lots of the very fluffy yeast into the bottles.

17/07/2014 – Bit of Belgian yeast on the nose, but mostly just a big wallop of sulphur! No head retention to speak of. Taste is actually quite good!! Little bit cidery, but nice malt flavour and really good mouthfeel for the ABV. The sulphur should dissipate with time.

21/07/2014 – I really shouldn’t have opened another bottle of this so soon, but I did. The whiff of sulphur is still there, but underneath the eggy aroma is a really crisp, flavoursome beer with some nice fruit Belgian yeast notes. I’d even consider scaling up this recipe to a full size batch, with maybe a coriander addition (like the monks use in Chimay Doree) or a little extra complexity from some Vienna or Munich. I should google to see how long it will take for the sulphur to dissipate.

11/08/2014 – I’m on the second last bottle of this and the eggy aroma is still there, but it’s not very perceptible in the flavour. I do think it’s improved. i’ll have to chill the remaining bottle for an extended period to try to figure out the bottle-conditioning characteristics of this yeast strain. I’ve been thinking recently that the unpleasant aroma might be DMS caused by not chilling the wort quickly enough. Sulphur is the more likely culprit though.

AG#1 – Trixibelle Belgian IPA


I had my WLP550 slurry sitting in the fridge for the last week or so, so I had to get cracking on my AG setup. A full account of the momentous occasion can be found here as there’s just too much detail to put into this little recipe post.

This is one of those recipes when I definitely have a commercial beer in mind and I’ve sought out clone recipes and attempted to use the same (or similar, at least) ingredients or techniques as the commercial version. In this instance, the commercial beer is Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch, a Belgian-inspired IPA. Essentially, it’s an American IPA, but fermented with a Belgian yeast. I’ve used the same hops reported to be in Raging Bitch, Amarillo and Columbus, two varieties I’ve used together before with great success.


Boil Size: 26.88 l
Post Boil Volume: 22.88 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.50 l
Estimated OG: 1.067 SG
Estimated Color: 8.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 59.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 81.1 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


5.00 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 85.5 %
0.40 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM), 6.8 %
0.15 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 2.6 %
0.15 kg Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM), 2.6 %
0.15 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM), 2.6 %
20 g Columbus [13.90 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 40.5 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
15 g Amarillo [7.80 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 3.1 IBUs
15 g Columbus [13.90 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 6.1 IBUs
20 g Amarillo [7.80 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 3.4 IBUs
20 g Columbus [13.90 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 6.7 IBUs
20 g Amarillo [7.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
20 g Columbus [13.90 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Belgian Ale (White Labs #WLP550) (400ml of yeast slurry from Vingt-Sept)
30 g Centennial [7.80 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge

Total Grain Weight: 5.85 kg

Mash 15.5 l of water at 75.7 C

Mash Temperature 68.1 C for 1 hour

Batch sparge 18.5 litres at 75.6 C


27/10/2013 – Brew Day – Notes can be found here.

28/10/2013 – One thing I’ve noticed is that there’s a huge level of kreusen. It’s even hit the lid, something that hasn’t happened to any of my brews for quite a while. Could this be because I aerated my wort differently this time, i.e. by just opening the tap on the boiler and running the wort through a sieve? I am slightly concerned that it might be too cold in my new fermentating room. There is certainly a noticeable sulphurous aroma coming from the fermenter. That aroma was there on previous pitches of this same yeast, but perhaps not as strong as it is now. I’ll be taking a temperature measurement tonight or tomorrow to check. Great hoppy aroma from the fermenter too though.

29/10/2013 – Had to do a clean up job as the fermentation pushed through the lid! Normally I’d be worried that it was fermenting too warm, but the room it’s fermenting in is bloody freezing. I have to take a temperature reading, but the level of foam is too high to reach the beer.

09/11/2013 – Took a gravity reading this evening as it has been quite cold, and this was still showing signs of fermenting (or perhaps just off-gassing with the colder weather). It measured 1.010 and the sample tasted pretty good, will improve with a few weeks in the bottle. Lots of Belgian yeast character but plenty of the American hops showing through.

12/11/2013 – Even though my original recipe specified a dry-hop of Amarillo, I subsequently decided against it. However, the aroma from the fermenter seems to have faded and my last taste of the beer shows the Belgian yeast flavour is pretty strong so I want to make sure the American hop flavour is prominent. So on the spur of the moment, I decided to dry-hop this thing. I don’t have any Amarillo leaf hops, and I don’t like dry-hopping with pellets, so I compared the aroma of some Centennial and Simcoe that I have and plumped for the Centennial as the aroma was fruiter and less piney. I also moved the fermenter to a warmer room as this will help the oils dissolve better. Will probably bottle this at the weekend.

16/11/2013 – Bottled with 124g of dextrose (17 litres at 2.6 vol). Bottled into a mixture of bottles – 14 x 750ml, 7 x 500ml, 13 x 330ml.

30/11/2013 – Opened a bottle not really realising it has only been bottled 2 weeks. The flavour is a bit ‘meh’, not really the American hop onslaught I expected, though this might become more evident after another couple of weeks aging. the yeast flavour is definitely in the right ballpark – those distinctive Belgian esters peeping through the flavour, though not very assertive. Head retention is quite poor and the beer is very hazy. A bit immature with possibly a touch of acetyl-aldehyde. I’m glad now that I dry-hopped this thing, because if I hadn’t, I’d be blaming the lack of hop aroma on the absence of dry hops. But I’m hopeful they’ll become more evident when the beer matures more.

14/12/2013 – This has started tasting rather good! It’s much drier than I was expecting; drier than intended but very appropriate for an IPA. Not a lot of residual sweetness but lots of mouthfeel. It’s got a massive whack of citrus peel – both in taste and on the nose.The Belgian yeast flavours are much in evidence. I don’t taste much of the dank, piney Columbus, but plenty of Amarillo. The head formation is good, and lasts well enough down the glass, though I’ve done better on this before. Nice citrus aroma, but nothing too strong. Much less caramel flavour than I expected. I think the carbonation could be a little spritzier and I’d probably up the wheat malt too. Certainly very good for my first all-grain beer on my new 3-vessel system.

14/02/2014 – Pre-competition tasting – Exactly two months after the last ‘official’ tasting, the hops have really died in this; to such an extent that I’m unsure whether it could still be termed a Belgian IPA.

PM#18 – Vingt-Sept Belgian Ale


I’ve got about 600ml of WLP550 yeast slurry that I saved from my Bastogne Pale Ale and I need to do something with it soon while the yeasties are still healthy. I pored for a long time over the Belgian styles in the BJCP guide before deciding on a saison. The WLP550 is not a “traditional” saison strain, but it is recommended for saison brewing by Phil Markowski and scored a 2/4 for saisons on the WhiteLabs website. It’s got plenty of spiciness but is not as fruity as the traditional saison strains. On the plus side, it’s a lot easier to work with than WLP565 Saison 1 and should ferment out completely in a comparatively short length of time.

So, given that this beer uses the same yeast as my Belgian Pale Ale, what will make this a saion? Well it will be much drier for a start; there’s little or no caramel malts in the this recipe (only a little CaraMunich for colour) and there will be a significant percentage of corn sugar which will help to keep the beer dry and refreshing. I’ll also be taking steps to mash at low-medium temperature and create more of those fermentable sugars, again to keep the beer dry. I’ll be using some rye malt to add some further spiciness and a rustic, earthy grain flavour. I want to counter this with some fresh orange peel and a little coriander seed too. This recipe is a complete original, but contains a lot of classic Belgian ingredients, so hopefully it will turn out well.

I’ll also be using different hop varieties than in the pale ale – Hallertauer Hersbrucker for bitter and two additions of Styrian Goldings for flavour and aroma. Both are varieties commonly used in Belgian saisons.


Boil Size: 17.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 15.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.056 SG
Estimated Color: 6.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 26.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes


2.00 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM), 54.2 %
0.50 kg Rye Malt (4.7 SRM), 13.6 %
0.35 kg Munich Malt (9.0 SRM), 9.5 %
0.04 kg Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM), 1.1 %
0.50 kg Wheat Dry Extract (8.0 SRM), 13.6 %
0.30 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) (0.0 SRM), 8.1 %
25 g Hallertauer Hersbrucker [4.00 %], 21.9 IBUs
20 g Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] – Boil 10.0 mi, 4.3 IBUs
7.00 g Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 mins)
0.75 Items Orange Peel, Sweet (Boil 5.0 mins)
20 g Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 11 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Belgian Ale (White Labs #WLP550) – 500ml of yeast slurry from Bastogne Pale Ale

Brew Day 30/09/2013 – Very straightforward brew day for this “faux” saison. The wort looked quite murky which I can only attribute to the rye malt, which I’ve never used before. I realised that this beer is somewhat of a leftovers beer. I’ve had the rye malt for quite a while now; I intended using it in an American-style rye pale ale. The bag of Hersbrucker hops have been open in my fridge since I did my hefeweizen some months ago. And I also got to use a 500g bag of wheat spraymalt which I’d bought to do another hefeweizen which was then abandoned. My understanding is that traditional saisons would have had something of a “leftovers” vibe about them as they would been brewed with whatever was lying around the farm in terms of grains – rye, wheat, spelt etc. I’m sure they would have used whatever hops were handiest or freshest also. It was a great feeling to be putting orange peel and coriander into a brew. I hope I get plenty of flavour out of these to complement the rye.

I used about 500ml of yeast slurry from the Bastogne Pale Ale. The slurry was sitting in the fridge a little longer than I wanted it to, but the fermentation had taken off within a few hours anyway. Incidentally, I decanted about 250ml of Bastogne Pale Ale off the yeast and into a Belgian beer glass and it is really delicious. Plenty of fruitiness there and some nice Belgian character. It was uncarbonated and a little bit yeasty, but I think it’s going to be very tasty.

Thinking about it, 70g of hops is a fair amount to use in a 15 litre batch of Belgian ale. There was certainly a lot of hop material left over at the end of the boil. But given that saisons were traditionally brewed during the winter for consumption during the following harvest months, I presume they would have been well-hopped in order to preserve them during the extended aging period.

02/10/2013 – There’s a fairly vigorous fermentation going on with this. At least 3 inches of kreusen on top. Could this be the simple sugars? More likely is the large percentage of wheat malt extract in the beer. The aroma from the fermentation is quite sulphurous also.

20/10/2013 – Bottled with 115g of dextrose (13 litres at 2.8 vol) and got exactly the number of bottles out of the batch as expected – 6 x 500ml, 13 x 750ml. Taste from the trial jar was pretty good – the pilsner malt gives a nice sweetness and there’s some rustic grain flavours there which I’ve never tasted before so I can only assume it’s from the rye malt. I also took a final gravity reading of 1.008. I saved two bottles of the yeast slurry but I had to use tap water to loosen the slurry as it was so thick. Hopefully I can get my AG system up and running in time to make use of this slurry in a Belgian IPA.

23/10/2013 – I’ve been doing a bit of internet research on what BJCP category to place this beer in. I suspected I might have trouble if I entered it in the “saison” category – maybe judges might frown on the fact that it contains rye malt. Also, if the coriander and orange peel flavours are too prominent, it might get dinged for that reason also. It’s true that the BJCP guides make no specific mention of rye in the entry on saison. From what I’ve read online, I might be better off entering this in the “Belgian Specialty Ale” category, where pretty much anything goes. I’m just not sure myself how I’d describe the beer to a judge. A Belgian rye pale ale? A wit-spiced rye saison?

“This is a Belgian Blonde Ale with an extra grain complexity from the high proportion of wheat and rye malts. The earthy, spicy flavours from the rye malt is accompanied by citrus notes from the “wit”-style spicing – coriander and orange peel.”

It all depends on how prominent the spicing and rye flavours are after a few months aging. If they’re not too strong then this can be entered in “16C Saison”, otherwise it’s the “16E Belgian Specialty Ale” category.

07/12/2013 – The first taste of this is actually quite promising, though I don’t believe it’s at its peak yet. It’s paler than I expected with some very good head retention, probably due to the wheat malt extract. I’m not picking up any rye malt, though this might become more evident as it ages. The coriander and orange peel is definitely there in the flavour, but in a subtle way. It doesn’t immediately scream “SPICES!”. Some herbal flavours from the hops there along with plenty of Belgian esters. I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops in the bottle.

31/12/2013 – Time for some critical appraisal to decide which BJCP category (if any) this beers fits into. First off, beautiful appearance – Great thick head, although it doesn’t last too long. Really clear with orange colour. Candy-like sweetness on the aroma. Distinctive pilsner malt flavour. I can’t say I’m getting any of the signature flavourings that I hoped would be prominent in the flavour of this beer – the rye malt, the orange peel, the coriander. Nice dry finish. Sweetness in the middle. Would it be wise to just not mention the special ingredients and just put it into a regular Belgian ale category – blonde ale, maybe even saison?

05/01/2014 – I have to say, the rye malt is suddenly a lot more prominent in this. It’s actually quite a delicious beer. I might be better putting it in the specialty category, saying that it’s a composite of different Belgian beers.

16/01/2014 – I had a taste of this last night while visiting someone’s house and I thought it was really, really good. It’s absolutely crystal clear for a start. That rye malt is definitely there, though I don’t know if it’s prominent enough to mention it when entering it into the BJCP competition. There’s a definite spiciness there but it’s hard to tell whether it’s grain-derived or yeast-derived. There’s definitely a lot of citrus there from the orange peel and coriander. Very fruity. And it has quite a mature Belgian flavour. I think I’d brew this again.

20/01/2014 – “This is a Belgian Ale made with a small proportion of rye malt. The earthy flavour from the rye malt is accompanied by fruity, citrus notes from the “wit”-style spicing – coriander and orange peel.”

25/02/2014 – This is really enjoyable. It’s not a beer I’d pick up every day, but it makes a lovely addition to the cellar. There’s still bags of citrus flavour coming from the orange peel and coriander additions. Very Belgian nose. The rye flavours are negligble, which makes me think it’s going to get dinged by the judges this weekend, as I specifically mentioned rye malt in the description of the beer. Sparklingly clear and fantastic head retention. Very good, I’d do this again, I think. But I’d have to (at least) double the percentage of rye malt in the grist.

BIAB#5 – Bastogne Pale Ale


31/08/2013 – I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to liquid yeast and the starter cultures they usually require. The only time I’ve used a liquid yeast (with a starter) was the hefeweizen earlier in the year that used the WLP300. The starter seemed to be fine but the fermentation was sluggish and the temperature control was non-existent. For various reasons that have been well-documented, the beer was pretty disappointing. A complete banana-bomb, with some inappropriate Belgian-style esters and very little mouthfeel (though in fairness, this was probably caused by using 100% malt extract). Having been disappointed with the Belgian flavours in my hefe, here I am attempting a beer where I actually want those types of esters!

The yeast I’ve chosen for my upcoming series of Belgian ales is WLP550. It’s reported to be cultured from La Chouffe, a fantastic example of a Belgian golden ale. I’ll be doing a moderate gravity Belgian pale ale to kick things off gently. Then I’ll be stepping up the gravity and doing a “faux” saison, before doing a heavily-hopped Belgian IPA. This yeast has a high level of attenuation, flocculates reasonably well for a Belgian yeast and has a nice spicy Belgian character. It’s reported to have a moderate level of esters so I might be compensating for this with some fruity/floral hop choices in the upcoming beers.

Having scorched the feck out of my 2l conical flask and no way of removing it without buying some spooky chemicals, I used a 2l plastic mineral water bottle. I used 1.5l of the mineral water itself (yeast starters are not supposed to have any chlorine present) and added 150g of light spraymalt. I boiled for 10 mins in a saucepan to sanitise and chilled the saucepan in a sink filled with icy water. It cooled down in a surprisingly short length of time. I was sure to check the pitching temperature which was 17C. I transferred the starter wort to the plastic bottle and aerated the wort by putting the plastic bottle cap back on (which had been sanitised) and shook the hell out of it several times, opening the cap each time to get more air into the bottle.

The first surprise was when the yeast vial started fizzing when I opened it. I’ve done a bit of reading on this and it’s supposed to be quite normal. Pitched the yeast anyway, it already had that signature Belgian aroma. I think a couple of Belgian beers are in order tonight. I’ll give the starter a few days to work it’s magic before pitching into my 15 litres of Belgian pale ale! Here’s hoping!

I also sanitised the vial of WLP550 before shaking well to dislodge the compacted yeast.

01/09/2013 – No sign of the starter kicking off yet, even though it’s been about 18 hours since the yeast was pitched!

02/09/2013 – Big fermentation going on in the start today. Huge streams of bubbles. Should hopefully be about 2 days until I can brew with this.

04/09/2013 – Note to self… do the yeast starters mid-week so that you can do brewing at the weekend, not the other way around! It’s Wednesday and I have to brew tonight!! 🙂

So what’s this recipe? The idea is to start off my WLP550 yeast in a moderate-gravity beer instead of putting it straight into a strong dubbel or Belgian IPA (those recipes will be coming up shortly). It’s a fairly basic recipe, ripped off from Jamil’s “Brewing Classic Styles” – pilsner malt, CaraMunich, Munich, CaraPils and Biscuit. The CaraPils is my own addition, just to help the head retention. This is my first time using pilsner malt, so I’ll be doing a 90-minute boil instead of the usual 60 minutes. This is done to reduce dimethyl-sulphide (DMS) in the beer. I’ll still be adding my first hop addition at 60 minutes though. Hops will be all East Kent Goldings, an English hop (obviously) but a very common ingredient in Belgian beers. I’m also taking advantage of the freedom afforded by the fact that I’m “doing a Belgian” to add some funky spicing. I’ll be adding some coriander and orange peel. Just a little bit, to give the beer an extra something.


Boil Size: 17.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 15.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Color: 8.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 25.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


3.20 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM), 82.4 %
0.24 kg Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM), 6.1 %
0.16 kg Munich Malt (9.0 SRM), 4.1 %
0.16 kg Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM), 4.1 %
0.13 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 3.3 %
20 g Goldings, East Kent [5.80 %] – Boil 60.0
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
5.00 g Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 mins)
24 g Goldings, East Kent [5.80 %] – Boil 0.0
1.0 pkg Belgian Ale White Labs #WLP550 – 1.5 litre starter – 3 days old

Brew Day 04/09/2013 – Doughed in at 72C, mash temperature of 67C, bang on target. I fished the muslin bag containing the 5g of coarsely crushed coriander seeds before I turned on the immersion chiller. Not sure if this is the done thing, but I’d rather have too little coriander flavour in this than too much. The smell from the spent seeds is amazing – I really hop some of that flavour makes it through to the fermented beer. Really citrussy, reminds me of Christmas cake in a  weird way. It’s pretty cool not having to deal with (f’ing) malt extract for a change. I’m looking forward to making the move to my full all-grain setup. I also quite like not having to worry about yeast hydration etc. I can just pitch the starter into the fresh wort.

09/09/2013 – This is well finished! Only 5 days later! Bit worrying really, but I’d heard this yeast was a bit of an animal. I’d noticed a couple of days ago that the fermentation had slowed right down so I was keep an eye on it. With a fair amount of trepidation (given my last experience with liquid yeast and starters) I took a gravity reading and was delighted to read 1.010. Right on target but I’ll leave it another 1-2 weeks in the FV to do a little cleaning up. I had a taste from the trial jar and it’s not bad at all. Bit yeast, alcohol a little too prominent. But there’s a superb grainy flavour from the beer – the pilsner malt I presume. I does remind me a little of a nice crisp lager. Seems to be plenty of fruity Belgian yeast character in there though. Happy with that.

15/09/2013 – Bottled with 97g of dextrose (13l at 2.5 vol) into all 500ml bottles. Got 24 bottles from the batch. Sample was a bit yeasty, but there’s a nice underlying biscuit flavour and plenty of Belgian yeast flavour.

13/11/2013 – I think this has really improved. Past tastings have been a little cidery, a little astringent perhaps. But that’s mellowed a lot. You can really taste the sweetness of the Pilsner malt. The crystal malt (CaraMunich) is very evident, maybe a little too much, but it’s probably appropriate for the style. I think I’d make this a little drier if I was doing it again.

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