Last year, I had fantastic results with a Belgian pale ale, even if it’s not a style I typically make. They can be interesting beers, so it seemed worth another attempt. This time, though, I’m not worried as much about brewing to style as I am wanting to use up ingredients on-hand. The result is a kitchen sink recipe that tastes pretty good, even if it isn’t precisely any style. We’ll just call it a Belgian ale.
Odds ‘n’ Ends Belgian Ale
9 lb. 15 oz. 2-row malt (Rahr)
8 oz. Carared (Weyermann)
6 oz. honey malt (Gambrinus)
2 oz. Carafa Special II malt
2 oz. coffee malt (Simpsons)
2 oz. Special B malt (Dingemans)
1 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (5.2% alpha), 60 minute boil
1 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (5.2% alpha), 10 minute boil
1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (3.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
1 pkg. Abbaye Belgian ale yeast (Lallemand)
1.050 s.g., 1.013 f.g., 4.9% abv, 29 IBU, 13 SRM
Full volume mash, 152° for 60 minutes, 168° mash-out for 10 minutes
Claremont tap water adjusted with lactic acid and mineral additions, to achieve calculated water profile of 60 Ca, 6 Mg, 84 Na, 30 SO4, 137 Cl, 156 HCO3, RA=82 ppm.
I mashed in with 7.5 gallons of water at 158°, to hit a mash temperature of 152°. I added 4.3 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust the mash pH.
I held the mash at 152° for 60 minutes, while recirculating, before raising the temperature to 168° for a 10 minute mash out.
After the mash, I removed the grains. In total, I collected 6.6 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.041, for 66% mash efficiency.
As I brought the runnings to a boil, I added 1 g of CaCl to adjust the water.
I boiled for 60 minutes, adding hops per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled the wort to 64° before transferring to the fermenter.
I started with 5.5 gallons total and a gravity of 1.048. I brewed this beer on 7 April 2023, and fermented at 64°.
On 15 April 2023, I pulled the beer to ambient.
I kegged the beer on 30 April 2023. It had a final gravity of 1.010, for 5.1% abv. A thin white pellicle was forming on top of the beer, but overall it tasted just fine. Either way, I’ll need to do a deep sanitize/sterilize of my equipment.
The beer was a bit hazy to start, but had dropped fairly clear by 23 May 2023, and had dropped brilliantly clear by 1 June 2023.
The beer pours with a fluffy, ivory head that subsides to a persistent blanket across the entire top of the beer. The beer itself is a deep amber color and brilliantly clear.
This beer has plenty of clove yeast character at the front, with some black pepper. There is caramel and dark bread crust maltiness behind that.
Yeast is at the front, with clove and sweet apple fruitiness, with a bit of pepper. Malt character is smooth, with some caramel and bread. Moderate level of bitterness, but not much hop character otherwise.
Medium body, medium carbonation, smooth finish with an off-dry quality.
Would I Brew This Again?
This is overall a good beer, with interesting qualities but not too interesting. Is it a Belgian pale ale? Sure, we can call it that. I’m grateful that I caught the pellicle before it went too far down the sour or funky road….as it is, I don’t really pick up anything. Phew! It’s squarely in the category of “decent, but probably won’t be brewed again.”
We’re into the season of Lent on the liturgical calendar, often observed through simple food choices or abstinence from dietary pleasures like chocolate and alcohol. Although I won’t go quite so far as to give up beer for the season, I do think it’s worth trying something a bit different for my beer. Along these lines, it seemed appropriate to make a Lenten beer, focused on the principle of simplicity.
I was inspired by the concept of a patersbier, or a low alcohol table beer that might be served at an abbey or monastery. This of course brings associations with Belgian styles, leading me towards a Belgian ale yeast. I was determined to go for simplicity in recipe and process, and so decided to execute a SMaSH recipe. I had some pilsner malt to use up, and chose whole Cascade hops from South Dakota. I also wanted to go lower alcohol, perhaps around 4% or so, to be safely on the session side of things. A hotter mash temperature would keep the result from getting too thin, and I also wanted to keep the hop rate down to avoid being overly bitter. Finally, I aimed to keep the fermentation simple. I would do an open-style fermentation (no airlock), and let it ride at ambient temperature. Finally, instead of force carbonating, I would let the keg condition with corn sugar. It was a fun experiment! I wouldn’t claim this fits any style particularly well — the whole concept is pure fantasy, but that made the brewing even more fun as a creative process.
I mashed in with 7 gallons of water at 159°, to hit a mash rest of 154°. I added 7 mL of 88% lactic acid, and recirculated for 60 minutes before raising the temperature to 168° for 10 minutes.
When I pulled the grain basket, I had 6.4 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.039, for 75% mash efficiency.
I brought the wort to a boil, adding the hops and boiling for 60 minutes.
Once the boil was done, I chilled to 68° and transferred to the fermenter, before pitching the yeast.
Starting gravity was 1.043. I brewed the beer on 5 February 2022.
In the interest of simplicity, I left the beer to ride at ambient indoors (the garage was going to be a bit too cool). I also tried an open fermentation of sorts–instead of an airlock or blowoff tube, I just put a bit of foil over the outlet of the fermenter.
I kegged the beer on 16 February 2022, adding 2.6 oz. of corn sugar boiled in a cup of water. The beer carbonated at room temperature for about two weeks, before I put it into the keezer.
Final gravity was 1.014, for 3.8% abv.
Straw colored beer, very hazy, with a thin white head that sticks around only as a thin ring around the margin of the glass.
Spicy yeast character, and a bit of clove aroma. It’s very clearly Belgian, and pretty nice. As the beer warms up, I get a tiny bit of hot alcohol character.
Slightly grainy malt flavor, with low bitterness. Yeast character has a very slight tartness, and a bit of pepper and clove.
Medium light body, with medium-low carbonation. There is a slight astringency on the finish; it’s not over the top, but a bit noticeable.
Would I brew this again?
This was a super fun experiment. I enjoyed the freedom that the simplicity brought, in not having to really fret over a recipe or over the details of mashing and fermentation. It isn’t the best beer I’ve ever made (the slight astringency is a bit of a ding), but the experience was really enjoyable, and it’s a highly drinkable brew.
I often make a special, small-batch beer for Christmas, something that’s rich and high alcohol and perfect for cold (southern California) evenings next to the fire. For the 2021 edition, I threw together a Belgian-style winter warmer. I wanted a rich, sumptuous malt backbone, and to let the fermentation add any spice, rather than using actual species. I used up a few ingredients on-hand, which just happened to be perfect for my vision of the beer.
Winter Dream Ale
8 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
1.25 lb. Munich light malt (Chateau)
11 oz. Special B malt (Dingemans)
4 oz. Crystal 120 malt (Great Western)
0.75 oz. Magnum hop pellets (10.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
1.5 g yeast nutrient (WLN1000, White Labs)
8 oz. honey, add to flameout
2 pkg. Abbay Belgian ale yeast (Lallemand)
1.086 o.g., 1.018 f.g., 9.2% abv, 22 IBU, 22 SRM
Mash held at 150° for 60 minutes, and 10 minute mash-out at 168°, with ~0.75 gallon sparge
Claremont tap water
I heated 4.5 gallons of water to 159°, and added the grains to hit a mash temperature of 150°. I held here (with recirculation) for 60 minutes, before raising the temperature to 168° and holding there for 10 minutes. Then, I removed the grain basket and sparged with 0.75 gallons of hot water.
I collected 4.5 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.060, for 71% mash efficiency.This was a good efficiency but too high of a volume. So, I boiled for an extra 30 minutes before adding hops.
After 30 minutes of boiling, I added the hops, honey, and finings per the recipe, boiling for an addition 60 minutes.
Starting gravity was 1.076; this was a bit short of the recipe, but I didn’t worry about it too much.
I chilled to 80°, transferred to the fermenter, and let the wort chill overnight before pitching the yeast.
I brewed the beer on 12 October 2021, and pitched the yeast on 13 October 2021.
I fermented at 65°, and raised the beer to 70° (free rise) on 20 October 2021, to help the yeast ferment out.
I kegged the beer on 5 November 2021. Final gravity was 1.020, for 7.5% abv.
Deep reddish amber and very clear; there is a persistent and creamy ivory head.
Spicy aroma, with a bit of caramel and dried dark fruit.
Wonderfully rich! There is a caramel and toffee malt character with a bit of dried fruit and sweet candy. A bready malt quality sneaks up behind that. Bitterness is moderate, and the yeast character has a slightly spicy quality. Fermentation quality is really nice, and I dodged any hot alcohol character.
Medium body, with medium-high carbonation and a smooth finish. The body is maybe a little thinner than I had envisioned.
Would I brew this again?
I am really, really happy with the results in this recipe. It absolutely hit the rich, complex qualities I wanted, and is highly drinkable. The fermentation quality is perfect too! The only minor ding is that starting gravity was a touch low, which decreases the body a little, but I think that worked out okay in the end. I would rather the body be somewhat thin, than the beer be too sweet and cloying.