If Belgian beers can be distilled to one essential characteristic, it’s the specialty yeasts that offer all the fruity funkiness that has been bred out of other yeast styles for the sake of subtler yeast flavour and aroma.
I’ve made a few Belgian beers so far and they’ve been popular with just about everyone.
Here’s one recipe I made recently. You can find a basic list of equipment here.
- 3kg Pilsner liquid malt extract
- 450g light dried malt extract
- 500g cane sugar for first fermentation
- 110g cane sugar for secondary fermentation (priming for carbonation)
- 200g Victory malt (aromatic)
- 56g 4% alpha acid Hallertau hop pellets (60 minute)
- Belgian yeast: White Labs WLP500 (Trappist Ale) or Wyeast 1214 (Belgian Ale) yeast
- Prepare your yeast starter to multiple yeasts by the billions.
- Lightly mill or crush your grain (with a rolling pin or mortar and pestle). You want the grains to be cracked but not refined to flour)
- Get a large metal pot and heat half a litre of water. “Mash” your aromatic grains to extract sugar, flavours and aromas from the grains by holding the mash for an hour between 66 and 71 degrees Celsius. Aim towards the lower end. Any higher than 71 may deactivate the enzymes from the malted grains and prevent the conversion from starch to sugars. A sweet taste tells you that starches converted to sugars.
- Strain your sweet tea through the spent grains (save those grains to make some granola if you like!). Strain another litre of hot water to wash any remaining sugar from the grains into the sweet tea. This is called “sparging.”
- Start boiling about 20 litres of water (less if you don’t have a means of cooling the wort quickly – the wort is pre-fermented beer). Add the 1.5 litres mash. Add the dried and liquid malt extract and mix to dissolve. Add your hops (these are hops to add bitterness – other styles will also include aromatic hops at the end of a boil but not here)
- Add your cane sugar 45 minutes into the boil.
- After 60 minutes, chill the water as quick as possible. If you have a wort chiller, use that. If you haven’t invest in one yet, use ice water in the sink or another vessel. If you can’t make enough ice water, add cold water to the wort to bring it up to 18 litres. Cool to about 18-25C.
- Transfer your cooled wort to your 19 litre carboy. Add yeast starter.
- Instead of an airlock, attach a tube to your rubber bung and put the tube end in a sink or a bowl to catch the blow off. You want to blow off as much of the hops as possible for flavour and clarity reasons. Once most of the fermentation is over (this should take a week to 10 days depending on the temperature), transfer (“racking”) your beer to a clean carboy, leaving as much of the yeast and hop blow off behind. Attach an airlock to the carboy.
- Transfer the beer to a bottling pail with priming sugar for your secondary fermentation. Belgian ales tend to be more carbonated than other styles. Don’t go overboard with the priming sugar or your bottles might explode! Bottle or keg your beer. Wait for secondary fermentation to produce carbonation (about 2 weeks). Enjoy!