Sunday, April 16, 2006

Brewlog: Belgian Small Ale

Batch #22, 4/14/06: Belgian Small Ale

I've long thought that the "smaller" Belgian ales -"singles," Belgian pale ales, etc. - are perhaps the most underdone style in the world. Everytime I have one of these beers, I wonder, "why the heck don't more people make beer like this?" These beers take the quirks of bigger, and more widely available, Belgian beers - funky yeast characteristics, spicing, adjuncts, etc. - and play them out on a smaller scale. With a beer such as a Belgian pale ale, you get the delightful yeast funkiness and biscuit-ey maltiness of bigger Belgian beers, but in the smaller, easy to drink, session-style package of an English or American pale ale. With these beers, I can enjoy a session beer with all the palate-expanding craziness of the big Belgians, without the excessive alcohol. Inspired by these beers, and by DeKoninck in particular, I brewed what I will call a "Belgian Small Ale" this past Friday. I use that term as what I made ended up with an original gravity of 1.045, aligning with the parameters for English "small beers" such as milds and bitters, and what I ended up making was so dark as to make the term "Belgian pale ale" seem utterly absurd. I also eschew the "single" label, because I'm not entirely sure it's not just a construct derived in reverse from the "dubbel" and "tripel" styles... Anyway, on with the recipe. It's an extract recipe for 6.5 gallons. Here goes...


  • 7 gallons Yreka tap water, untreated (it's pretty damn good water - you'd want to soften for Bohemian beers or harden for Burton-style beers, but for most everything else it does well as is)

  • 4oz caramunich
  • 2oz Belgian special B
  • 2oz roasted barley (Am I crazy? Maybe I am...)
  • 4oz Belgian aromatic
  • 4oz chocolate

  • 7 lbs pale malt extract
  • 12 oz piloncillo sugar (two of the 6oz cones)


  • 2oz 4.0% Styrian Goldings at 60 minutes
  • 1oz 3.8% Saaz at 30 minutes
  • 1oz 3.8% Saaz at 10 minutes


  • 1/2 gallon starter of WLP 570, Belgian Golden Ale


Steep grains to 170 or so. No need to stress out about them, they're mainly for color and unfermentables... Add pale malt extract and bring to boil. Commence 90 minute boil (I wanted good caramelization on the malt sugars...) Hop according to schedule. At 15 minutes, add two tsp Irish moss. At ten minutes, add the piloncillo (you don't want the crazy flavors of this uber-unrefined sugar to get masked by caramelization, so add late in the boil). Knock out and cool according to your preferred method. Top wort to 6.5 gallons, aerate, transfer, and pitch yeast.

Post boil I had just over 4.5 gallons of wort at 1.060. At this point the wort tasted wonderfully malty with a definate breadiness coming from the aromatic and chocolate malts. I made the exectutive decision, however, to water down the wort to lower the original gravity to 1.045, which brought it closer to what I'd envisioned. The color of the final wort is on par with most American brown ales, perhaps even darker. I really hope that the breadiness that I tasted in the wort carries over the finished beer, as that's part of what inspired me about DeKoninck. As of now the yeasties are hard at work. Within a month I should have some updates on progress and the finished beer...


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