Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Homebrew Tasting: Belgian Pale Ale - 3 ways

I have finally gotten around to tasting all three versions of the Belgian Pale Ale. This is a tale of success and failure. To remind you the three versions used all the same wort with a different yeast in each:

I think the recipe for the wort worked pretty well. The color was dead on with a neat burnt orange tone. The malt backbone was solid, but really allowed the different yeast flavors to shine. I am becoming a bigger believer in how the Belgians brew with a very simple grist with the only complexity coming from yeast and the occasional candi sugar. And this may be the direction I try next year. I also think that I may need to change how I treat the yeast. From reading through Brew Like a Monk the Belgian brewers are very particular about the pitching amount. They typically underpitch compared to American brewers, but they can get away with this for a few reasons:
  • They want more flavor development than most clean american beers and most of the flavor components are created during the yeast growth phase.
  • They pitch very healthy yeast, coming from an active fermentation.
  • They ferment at higher temperatures that promote cell growth and healthier cells.
575 Version - I must have been in a hurry when kegging this one because it picked up a Brett infection and a Brett strain that is currently in a strange phase. It seems I need these constant reminders to completely dissemble, clean and replace o-rings if going from a Brett to clean beer. And this beer got funky fast since it was sitting at room temperature in the brewing closet for a month.

Rochefort Version - Actually somewhat clean for Belgian standards. The beer is very drinkable, but not all that interesting or complex. Warming the beer up did help bring out more flavor. If I was to use this yeast again I would make sure that the malt and hop bill were very interesting. So I think it would do great in a Belgian Dark Strong or even a Belgian IPA.

Achouffe Version - The crowd favorite and without a doubt, felt "Belgian" to everyone. You could smell this beer from a couple feet away and the taste was equally intense.The famous Belgian phenols were strong, but not overpowering into the smokey or plastic level. The beer finished nicely dry and had a great malt backbone.

This was a neat experiment and great way for me to try several Belgian yeast strains at once. One thing that confused me about these beers was that they used the same wort and were carbonated to the same amount, but the head retention was radically different. I never thought yeast could have this much effect but it must.

2012 NHC Results for Achouffe Version
(Changed considerably after my initial taste, should have tasted a bottle before submitting)


  1. I always under pitch my Saison yeast as it definitely adds character! Great experiment. I need to get me some 1 gallon and 3 gallon jugs!

  2. It really was helpful. I'm just about to taste my 3 Belgian Dubbels with different yeast.

    For your 1 gal jugs, look for the cider jugs at your market. I get the jugs and cider for $6/piece and that is in California.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...