There’re two types of people: ones who love ales and the ones who like to indulge in lagers. If you belong to the former group, you’ll like Belgian beer. It’s essentially a type of ale rich in fruity yeast flavors and lots of malts. Unlike other ales, it has a low bitterness profile. This is why Belgian beers taste different from regular American beers.
If you’re into craft brewing and like to experiment with beer recipes from all over the world, you should try Belgian beer. In this article, we’ll discuss how to brew Belgian beer in detail and outline all the equipment and ingredients you’ll need and the steps you’ll have to follow. Even if you’re brewing at home for the first time, our how-to guide will come in handy for you.
Things You’ll Need to Brew Belgian Beer
- A boiling pot or a hot liquor tank
- Kitchen scales
- Non-rinse sanitizer
- Funnel/ bottling wand
- Fermenter and airlock
- Empty bottles and caps
Put Together All the Ingredients
You can find a host of Belgian beer recipes with slight tweaks and variations. Instead of spoiling you with choices, we’re going to share one Belgian recipe here, so don’t waste time picking the right one. Following is the list of ingredients you’ll need to brew a 5-gallon batch of Belgian beer. You can brew less or more beer by adjusting the amounts of ingredients accordingly.
- 50 kg Pilsner Malt (3.9 EBC)
- 10 kg Biscuit Malt (45.3 EBC)
- 45 kg Wheat Malt (3.9 EBC)
- 00 gm Saaz
- 00 gm Goldings from East Kent
- 10gm of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer’s yeast)
- 00 gm Coriander Seed
- Zest of 1 (Bitter) Orange
- gm Coarsely Crushed Black Pepper
First of all, sanitize all your tools and containers if they’ve been used for brewing beers before. Wash them thoroughly or use non-rinse cleaners on them. This cleaning and sanitization will ensure that you can brew the bonafide Belgian beer without any unintentional impurities.
After cleaning and sanitization, start preparing strike water. The phenomenon of “strike” water entails that when malted grains are submerged and soaked in water at a certain temperature, their dormant amylase enzymes activate and convert regular carbohydrates of the malt into fermentable sugar.
In short, soaking malted grains into strike water ensures that most of their content converts into beer. Determine the volume of strike water by factoring in the amounts of malts. Your goal should be reaching a perfect grist-to-fluid ratio.
Preparing strike water is not a mean task. Just boil the water and let it cool to 150-155F and maintain this temperature for the next 50-60 minutes. Once you’ve set this strike temperature, add all pilsner, wheat, and biscuit malts in the water and stir it for a couple of minutes. Let the malts submerge in strike water for at least 45 minutes to ensure the maximum amount of their starch converts into fermentable sugar.
The moderate heat of strike water for 40-50 odd minutes will turn the malts into the mash. You need to convert this mash into the wort, and this is the most crucial step of brewing Belgian beer or any beer for that matter. A slipup in wort preparation can throw your entire beer batch off balance with its quantity and ingredient ratio.
You need to diligently carry out these steps to turn the mash into the perfect Belgian wort.
“Mash out” the mash you’ve prepared by increasing its temperature beyond 170F for a couple of minutes. This temperature spike will kill amylase enzymes and subsequently stop starch conversion into sugar. It’s called “mash out” because it works like when you heat milk or water and boil them out by increasing the temperature at the end.
Heat 3 gallons of water separately while mashing out the malts. Once you’re done mashing out the malted mash, pass that hot water through it multiple times. The idea is to extract all the fermentable sugar content trapped in the malted pulp while simultaneously increasing the mixture’s volume.
After re-circulating this hot water multiple times, you’ll end up with the required amount of Belgian wort prepared to get converted into beer.
This step is slightly different in Belgian beers as compared to the preparation of other ales and lagers. Here, you’ll not add all the ingredients into the boiling pot at once. Keep in mind that you’ll have to boil the Belgian wort for an hour. So, take care of the following steps accordingly.
- First, pour the malted mash and Golding into the pot at the same time.
- Then, add Saaz when the wort has already boiled and simmered for 40 minutes.
- As the boiling phase is about to end, add crushed black pepper, coriander seeds, and orange zest five minutes before switching off the burner.
Let the wort cool down and prepare for fermentation.
Pour the cooled down wort in the fermenter, add the yeast to it and seal it. Belgian beer is fermented in three phases: lag, exponential growth, and stationery. All theses phase can take anywhere between 8 to 14 days. To be on the safe side, we’d recommend you ferment the wort for two weeks to get the perfect Belgian taste. Set the temperature of the fermenter around 65-70F.
Open the fermenter after a fortnight and pour your home crafted Belgian beer into a barrel or bottles.
Our Final Thoughts
Belgian beer characterizes the fruity and spicy flavors that often ‘neutralizes’ the bitterness of hops and caramelized malt. You can also add the zap of off-the-rack beer bottles to your Belgian brew by adding a single carbonation drop in every bottle while filling it with the freshly fermented wort. Refrigerate the carbonated Belgian beer and enjoy it in its chilled and frothy state.