24. Belgian Ale


(Biere de Garde, 16D), BeerSmith Recipe File


You’ve seen them: Belgian beers in 750mL bottles with profound one word names. Why should we not join in here at Klaserhausen?

It’s with Trepidation that I take on this style of beer. Commercial examples often have that musty-woodsy character that I love so much. But I came to the Realization that I cannot replicate these complex flavors and aromas. I can probably make a damn good beer here, but it will ultimately be a disappointment in my eyes. If you read the Guidelines, they even say home brewers likely won’t reach the character that the pros do, because those flavors and aromas we love so much are the result of “indigenous yeasts and molds”. I’m worried that without this important part, I’ll experience Dissatisfaction.

This grist is pretty much a shot in the dark, as the style itself is quite broad, and many examples are very different from each other. This recipe puts the beer firmly in the middle of the color range. I’m not using the proper noble hops, but Crystal is a solid lager hop with a hint of spiciness, so I it will fit nicely in the overall profile of this beer. Assumption.

I’m also using a White Labs Platinum Strain, Antwerp Ale yeast, which they describe as lager-like. I think it will be perfect for this beer. The Guidelines specify ale or lager yeast, some I’m hoping a low Fermentation temp will help achieve that lager-like quality that makes these beers so tasty. Calculation.



12 lbs. Belgian Pilsner Malt
1 lb. U.S. Vienna Malt (it’s all I had access to at the time, oh well)
1 lb. Belgian Caramunich Malt
0.75 lb. Belgian Aromatic Malt
0.5 lb. Belgian Special B

Mash @ 147° for 90 min (single infusion, 1.5 qt/lb). Sparge with 3.9 gal

Boil for 90 minutes
1 oz Crystal (6% AA) boil for 60 minutes
1 oz Crystal boil for 10 minutes

WLP515, 1200mL starter

OG:  1.070
FG:  1.013
ABV:  7.8%
IBU:  22.5
SRM:  13

Fermentation Temp: 64-70° (lagered @ 36° for 3 weeks)


Brew Day


The brew day was lonely with both Jason & John absent. I briefly encountered a stuck sparge, due probably to my eagerness to begin lautering. I stopped the lauter, stirred the grain up (it was really compacted, my rate was too high and I compacted the bed), re-cirulated about 6 quarts until it was running clear again, and resumed lautering.

Very pretentious first runnings
Very pretentious first runnings

Beyond that, it was a uneventful brew day. I boiled for 90 minutes, cooled the wort quickly (~13 minutes thanks to super cold tap water) to 66°, pitched the yeast and set the fermenter in the fridge. I set the temp controller to 65°.



I initially set the temperature controller to 65°, and after 24 hours set it to 62°. I did this because I still hadn’t gotten my thermowell yet, and I’m trying to compensate for my likely inaccurate temperature readings from the controller. Also, because this beer is supposed to be lager-like, I’m attempting to keep the yeast a few degrees below the recommended lower range (which is 67°), to keep ester production to a minimum.

On day 5, activity was beginning to slow, and I raised the temperature to 65° on the controller. On day 7, I raised the temperature to 67°, and on day 9 I raised it again to 70°. I let the beer sit at 70° for 2 more days, and then began cooling 2 degrees every 12 hours until I hit 42°. This temperature is about the lower limit of my Fermentation fridge.

FG: 1.013
FG: 1.013



When the beer got to 42°, I transferred it to a keg, and stuck it in my serving/lagering fridge.  I keep this fridge at 36°. I let the beer lager for 3 weeks, during which I carbonated it to 2.8 volumes of CO2. I’m hoping I can reach a more appropriate level of Carbonation than the last time I attempted this level, in Tripel Happiness.

Now, I was worried that my home-brewed example of Biere de Garde just wouldn’t compare to commercial examples. So, I elected to pitch 1/4 of a vial of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, which is the strain of Brett most known for its horsey, leathery, barnyard-type character, and not for sour flavor. I feel this will help make this beer smell and taste more like the real deal. Authentication.

Love a good floor corker
Love a good floor corker

I added the Brett at bottling, and allowed the bottles to age 8 weeks. The bottles with Brett were corked and caged. I did not add Brett to The Stig’s sample, more out of sticking to the Guidelines than anything else.


My Take

I thought this beer was quite nice, even without the Brett. Sure, it was a little too “clean” compared to commercial examples, but I think it is a solid beer.

I also tasted the Brett version after 6 months in the bottle. I dosed each bottle with 10 drops from an eye dropper. I think that dose was simply too small, because the beer really lacked anything bold in the Brett department. It was there, but barely. I now know that the White Labs Brett vials only contain 2-3.5 billion cells vs. a brewers yeast vial containing 100 billion. So future bottle dosing will be adjusted.


The Stig

And now it’s time to turn the beer over to our Team Tasting Imbiber. Some say several strains of Brettanomyces have been isolated from His unmentionable body hair, and that His favorite kind of dog is a badger. All we know is, He’s called The Stig!

Aroma: Fairly clean malt character with notes of quince paste, toast, brown sugar, and toffee. Little to no hop aroma.

Appearance: Clear amber, about 11 degrees SRM. Off-white head with fine bead. Barely any head retention, no lacing, with only a faint, spotty film of foam persisting.

Flavor: Candied, fruity, subtly herbal with flavors of toffee, baked apple, and a hint of sage. Negligible perceived bitterness. Clean malt sweetness without being bread-like. A bit cloying.

Mouthfeel: Full and round, but lacking structure (could use more grain-like tannin, husk quality). Low carbonation and not quite as attenuated as the style should be. ABV is very well disguised with barely any warmth in the finish.

Overall: Really pleasant and technically well within style parameters. Personally I would prefer a drier, more attenuated, and rustic beer for this style. Could use more earthy hop and grain character, and more carbonation or acidity to break up malt sweetness. No overt or obvious flaws.



I agree with The Stig, a more earthy hop profile would take this beer to the next level. And perhaps adding some simple sugars would help dry the beer out, or maybe mash at 145°, or both. The lack of carbonation is a bit puzzling, I thought I had that under control. I was hoping the Brett versions would be much better, but the Brett has yet to assert itself. So overall, I’d call this one a disappointment. Sure it doesn’t have any overt flaws, and it is a solid beer, but it really isn’t anything special. I suppose it was karma: I was too busy making fun of the commercial names of belgian beers to brew a great version myself!


Books I referenced for this recipe:

Zainasheff & Palmer. Brewing Classic Styles. 2007.

Palmer & Kaminski. Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers. 2013.

2008 BJCP Guidelines.



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