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.