Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Brewday - Belgian Pale Ale 2

Going into this brew I was a little unsure of how to improve on my previous effort. My first Belgian pale ale was a beer I really liked, but seemed to meet with a lukewarm reception from a number of people who tasted it. I had sent this beer into the Calgary homebrew competition and neither judge (neither of which were BJCP certified) liked it very much. This I could handle as competition is the best way to get unbiased, educated advice to improve your beers. Their comments however, left me scratching my head a bit. One of them said "phenolic spices quite bold in flavour... are too big in this beer". The other said, "a little spicier would enhance it". To muddy the waters further a couple weeks later this beer won third place at the competition in Lethbridge, leaving me a bit confused.

One thing I did garner from the judges sheets was this beer could be a bit darker, with some richer, more complex malt flavours and aroma. To take it in this direction I moved away from Jamil Zainasheff's lighter recipe that had been my starting point and towards Randy Mosher's darker, richer and predictably somewhat zanier beer. Instead of just using a pilsner base I substituted in some vienna malt for complexity and sweetness, upped the caramunich slightly, added some aromatic malt, and for an added touch I put in a spot of Indian jaggery.

Splitting the batch...
I wanted to take advantage of some of my newer brewing equipment with this beer, and so I went for a 10 gallon recipe. This would allow me to experiment a little with the beer and still have plenty around for drinking. Fortunately for me this brew went immeasurably smoother than my first attempt at brewing to 10 gallons, and before I knew it I was preparing the beer for fermentation. I started by splitting the batch into two primary fermenters. One of these, likely destined to be kegged, was put into an ambient temperature of about 19 C, and just left to do its thing. The other went into my fermentation chamber to be strictly controlled to not come above 19 C. I was interested to see how different the two beers would be, particularly the Belgian fermentation characteristics, from these different fermenations.

After a few days, I tasted the beers, and was surprised to be thus far more impressed with the uncontrolled version, which had a bolder and more complex flavour, while the controlled version seemed a little bland at this stage. I expected the first to be too fruity, but so far that doesn't seem the case, however there is still plenty of time for the flavours to change.

After tasting I transferred the beers to secondary, splitting the controlled version into two separate carboys. One carboy I took out of the chamber, and the other went in with the temperature cranked up to 25 C. I was looking forward to seeing how the yeast would react to this change, hopefully spitting out some more intense character in the warmed beer. Unfortunately, the effect could be fairly limited as the large starter I made for this beer fermented faster than expected and the beers were close to final gravity by the time they were transferred. One day earlier would have been perfect, but you can't get everything right.

Ingredients: Belgian pilsner malt, local vienna malt, aromatic malt, caramunich 60, biscuit malt, jaggery, East Kent golding hops, Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes

One in the chamber...

... and two in the closet


  1. I have a Belgian Blonde ale that I'm really loving right now. Similarly, everyone I give it to is just telling me it's ok. I really like the Wyeast Belgian Ardennes yeast. After about three months in bottles the beer has really developed a nice complexity.


  2. Just a note to let you know.. Your brew Blog is good ! I also like your Beer reviews:-) . Thanks From George..

  3. Thanks a lot George, I'm glad you like it!