For the second beer in our series, I decided to brew a Belgian blonde, mostly because it’s become one of my favorite styles of beer, but also because it’s pretty difficult to find more than a few good examples.
My assistant brewer that day was my friend Trevor, who still hasn’t managed to come drink any since we brewed.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Belgian blondes are about 6% to 7.5% ABV, light and fruity with maybe little spicy character, a mildly sweet grain front, and a dry finish. There are other style expectations too, but that’s about all I can keep in my head. In my mind a Belgian blonde is kind like a fluffy, fruity, lower ABV, less hoppy version of a tripel. I only have to make that comparison though because I’ve drank a lot more tripels than blondes. If you’ve never had one, Leffe blonde is probably the easiest to find, and is a great example of the style.
So many Belgian beers I have had from breweries and home brewers in the United States are just undrinkable to me. They tend not to have a lot of real Belgian yeast character, and they finish far too sweet. So, my main goals here were to capture at least a decent amount of the fruity, slightly spicy flavor a Belgian blonde should have, and get a nice dry finish.
- 10.33 lbs. Belgian pilsner (The extra .33 lbs. was just because I spilled a bit of grain)
- 1 lb. German wheat
- 4 oz. light dry extract (I actually forget why I put this in, I don’t have notes on it…)
- 1.25 lbs. table sugar (Try to kick up the dry finish)
Hops: (the slightly odd hop weights were because I was finishing off quantities of certain hops I had lying around that I thought appropriate for the style).
- 0.6 oz. Mt. Hood (First wort hop, boiled 60 minutes)
- 0.4 oz. Hersbrucker at 60 min.
- 0.2 oz. Mt. Hood at 7 min.
- 1 oz. Saaz at 2 min.
- 1 tsp gypsum in the mash
- 0.25 tsp irish moss at 10 min.
- 0.25 oz. coriander at 5 min.
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient at 10
- Yeast was SafBrew Fermentis T-58 with no starter
We did a full volume mash with about 8 gallons of water to account for grain absorption and boil-off, using a 70 qt. cooler with a home-made bag.
After the boil we cooled to 65F and added the yeast. After fermentation started (about 12 hours), I moved it to the basement where ambient was 60F for about 36 hours until high krausen dropped, then moved it to my fermentation closet with a plant mat to try to get it up to 75F until fermentation was completely done (about 6 days). I use a similar temperature profile, with some variation, with most beers I brew, but especially Belgians. The reason why this is important is that by starting out fairly cool during the most intense fermentation, one prevents high concentrations of hot fusel alcohols, as well as other problems like band-aidy flavors. But heating up the fermentation as it starts to cool ensures that your fermentation will finish strong, and you’ll get a nice dry finish to your beer, which as I talked about before, is so critical with Belgian brews.
After another seven days, I primed with 4.5 oz. of corn sugar and bottled. This is a little more priming sugar than I’d usually use, but Belgians should have a solid carbonation to them.
The end result: delicious! It ended up being a little too alcoholic (like 9%!!), so it started out a little astringent but over time it mellowed out, and after a couple months is amazing.
Next up: quadruppel!