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Old 01-18-2010, 12:01 AM   #1
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Default Recipe critique: Belgian Pale Ale

Hi all,

I'm trying to educate myself on Belgian styles by making them. If there are any experts out there who could take a look at critique my recipe, I'd appreciate it. I've already brewed this one, so I'm mainly looking for educational critique so I know what qualities to look for in the finished beer, and for future reference as I continue to make Belgian styles.

This one is supposed to be a Belgian Pale Ale, though, I don't know, it might more appropriately fit into the catch-all category "Belgian Specialty Ale".

Most of the Belgian Pale recipes I've seen looking around here and online are trying to be similar to DeKoninck. This one isn't, but I have no idea how this recipe might compare to other examples of the style.

Ingredients for 5.25 gal:
4.5 lb pilsener
0.25 lb Special B
0.25 lb Carapils
0.62 lb Crystal 40
0.31 lb sucrose (late addition)
3 lb pilsener LME (late addition)

Mashed with temps swinging between 145-155 F for 75 min (I use a stovetop brew-in-a-bag method, so temp control isn't great).

1 oz styrian golding 3.2%AA 60 min
0.5 oz german tradition 5.3%AA 60 min
0.5 oz saaz 3.4%AA 15 min
Belgian Strong Golden (WLP570/Wy1388)

My brew software says:
predicted OG: 1.053 (actual OG was 1.050)
predicted IBU: 25
predicted color: 12 SRM (though it looks a little lighter than that to me - I think my software's default color for Special B is darker than the Special B I actually had)

The BJCP style guidelines say fruity, malty, toasty/biscuit, spicy.
The WLP570/Wy1388 yeast is supposed to be more on the fruity / less on the spicy side compared to WLP515, which many other people use in Belgian Pales. (Indeed, there are already pear/melon smells coming out the airlock!)

The Crystal 40 and Special B are supposed to impart caramel flavors, and not so much malty/toasty/biscuit, so this may be where my recipe most departs from style.

Any educational thoughts/suggestions? Thanks in advance.

Random Fact: Human Immunodeficiency Virus particles have approximately the same density of 1.170 wort. I know because I float them on a sucrose gradient in the lab to purify them for research.

Primary: nada

Drinking: Belgian strong golden, Northern Brown, Porter
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Old 01-19-2010, 03:25 PM   #2
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I guess to simplify my question: this recipe seems to be somewhere in between a Belgian Pale Ale and a Belgian Blonde. It hits the stats (gravity, IBU, color) for a Belgian Pale, but lacks toasty/biscuit/spice that the style guidelines say are characteristic. The caramel and fruityness seem to be more in line with Belgian Blonde guidelines, but the gravity it too light. Any Belgian style nerds want to weigh on what style this best fits?

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Old 01-19-2010, 06:25 PM   #3
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IMO, if your aim is to educate yourself on Belgian styles, then brewing this will not help one bit. You say Belgian Pale Ale / Blonde / something, but this is none of the above. A Belgian pale ale is all about a toasty background and noble hops (Biscuit, vienna, etc).

A Belgian Blonde is all about malt and yeast esters which create a clean, perfumy beer with just enough bitterness and little to no hop character (Pilsner malt, maybe a little munich / aromatic / *maybe* a little light crystal, one hop addition at 60 mins).

Also, by and large, the Belgians do NOT use Special B as far as I am aware. This is something that typically American homebrewers use to emulate the raisiney flavours found in dark belgian beers like dubbels and strong darks, which comes from dark candy syrup in the authentic versions (The real bought stuff (syrup, NOT rocks). The homemade versions are simply NOT the same, no matter what anyone tells you). Caramunich and Caravienne are more authentic but of course will not have the same character as a dark crystal (nor should they).

As for sugar, sure, in a bigger gravity beer (1.060+). IMO, it is simply not needed for a blonde or a pale ale, only for a Golden Strong or a Dubbel, or Strong Dark. I think it will only make your beer thin in a 1.050 beer, and you can get that with mash temp if you really want that effect.

For yeast, I'd stay away from 1388. It's very fruity and won't flocculate easily. 1214 is the classic, 1762 is my favourite. Try to pitch fairly cold (16 - 18C) and allow to warm up during fermentation but don't let it ferment too warm or you will end up with a banana and other ester bomb, to the point of being unpleasant.

My advice would be to pick a style and try to brew it. Jamil's book Brewing Classic Styles will be a great start, and if you are really serious about Belgians, then get Stan Hieronymus's (spelling?) Brew Like a Monk. Also try some commercial samples, if you can get them.

Good luck!
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Old 01-19-2010, 09:29 PM   #4
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I second the fact that Belgians do not use Special B. That being said, I have made home made syrup that tastes pretty darn good when I brewed a Dubble with it. Alot of the west coast breweries are making their own syrup as well, so something must be good about it. I know it's not the "REAL" thing but a much better substitute than Special B.
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