Successful Brew Day: Belgian Pale Ale

I must be upfront.  I love Belgian style beers!  That is why I choose to brew this style more than the others.  Yet it’s like most phases.  When I first started homebrewing my kick was IPA’s.  This will explain why 5 out of my last 6 brew sessions have been Belgian related.

This time I needed to tone down from my last 3 brew session of a Belgian Trippel (8.7%), Doppelbock (10%), and Grand Cru (7.5%).  Yes, I like big beers but not so much during football season.  I found I was pretty drunk by halftime.

As a guide I mimicked a recipe from BYO’s July-August 2008 issue called “Hopping Through Antwerp”.  The original recipe called for Belgian Pilsner & CaraVienne malt – which unfortunately I didn’t have access to.  I simply used 2-row American Pilsner & Veinne malt as substitutes.

So here’s the recipe I brewed:

9.5 # – 2-Row American Pilsner
1 #  – Vienna Malt
4 oz – Biscuit Malt – Belgian

38 g – Saaz (5.8% AA) at 60 min
28 g – Saaz (3.9% AA) at 0 min

For the mash – I added 1.5 tsp of Gypsum because I brew with RO Water (reverse osmosis).  My house has well water that is high in nitrates.  The mash had a rest of 60 minutes at 151 degrees.  After the hour rest I attempted to raise the temp to 168 degrees before sparging with 170 degree water.  Well – that little attempt wasn’t much success – so we’ll just say I sparged with 170-ish water.

I learned a great sparging technique from a friend that involves using aluminum foil instead of a sparging arm device or the back of a spoon.  You basically take a piece of aluminum foil (big enough to fit in your mash tun) and poke a bunch of holes in it for the water to drain through onto your grain bed.

WARNING:  You may end up with a fork in your head if you decide to create this handy devise when your wife is napping on the couch!  I noticed her standing in the doorway glaring at me.  I honestly thought she was about to turn into the Incredible Hulk-ina.

I was able to run-off about 7 gallons into my brew kettle and boiled it for 1 hour adding my hops at the times noted above.  Thanks to a couple more tips from my friend – I had:

  • No boil-overs when boiling 7 gallons in a 7.5 gallon pot (this is a first!)
  • Hops did not boil up all over the side of my brew pot
  • Skimmed foam off of top of wort to help with clarification

These simple techniques made the whole brewing session cleaner, easier to handle, and quite frankly more enjoyable!

Post boil and wort cooled – I ended up with 5.25 gallons of wort with an SG (starting gravity) of 1.045 – which is currently a alcohol potential of 5.8%.  For yeast I’m using the dry yeast by Fermentis – Safbrew S-33 – which should still lend some Belgian type flavors into the beer – hopefully not too over powering.

All in all – it was a great brew day despite the 28 degree weather!

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