Cheers to Belgian Beers: The Ultimate Primer

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Ambacht Name: Ambacht Black Gold Concept: Brewer Tom Kramer described his beer: "Ambacht Black Gold that we brewed for the PCTBB is a variation on our regular Ambacht Black Gold that brewed with the Farmhouse strain of yeast and bumped the OG up a bit to make it a bit more festive. Method: "We brewed it early February, just after the yeast became available and it spent two weeks in the primary getting up to 80°F, we then let it age for a month at about 50°F before kegging/bottling. We carbonate all our beers with honey which we find leaves just a bit of residual sweetness to the taste." Comments: "The farmhouse yeast added some new flavors and we are very happy with how it turned out." Stats: 15.2P, 6.8% ABV, 25 IBU

Block 15 Name: La Fermé de Demons (The Demon's Farm) Concept: Founder and brewer Nick Arzner described his complex beer: "Playing off the saison theme I developed a recipe similar to a saison, using Belgian Pilsner and French wheat. Since we were required to brew a dark/ high beer, the addition of Carafa III blackens the beer and dark candi sugar boosted our fermentables without adding more body. I was hoping for a good blend of light bourbon vanillas and caramel, tannic Oregon oak, and Pinot barrel character. The Pinot barrel we used came from a winery that had tested the wine for low counts of Brettanomyces. I was hoping to pick up a bit of this character, though the timing was not in favor of this." Method: "Primary fermentation started at 75 degrees, rose to 80, finished at 68 over two weeks. Into barrels; roughly 1/3rd each fresh emptied pinot noir, Oregon oak, and bourbon. The beer spent 2 weeks in the oak and two months in the pinot & bourbon. Blended with a touch of organic black cherry juice. I was surprised at the even fermentation and solid attenuation. In the past we have had to baby saison strains, sometimes over a month to finish the beer. This yeast really evolved its character from primary, secondary, and barreling. At peak primary a good amount of banana and clove where present with some nice fruit. Towards the back end, more spice, wood and light pepper." Comments: "The keg sent up to the fest will be the only keg of its kind. The Demon's Farms pours a ruby black glass with an off white/ruddy brown head. Oak barrel aromas dominate with background spice and fruit. Medium-bodied with barrel character, a bit of roast, vanilla, and a hint of sweet cherry. The finish is warming with a coating mouthfeel and vinous qualities."

Big Horse Brewpub Name: Cuvee Du Ferme Concept: If you haven't been to Big Horse in the past year or two, you need to go try new(ish) brewer Jason Kahler's beers. "Describing "Cuvee Du Ferme" gets a little complicated, because two of the three beers going into it were experimental in process. All three use the selected strain; I suspect people will assume that it involves other "yeast." It does not." Method: " I brewed the 2 younger beers in early Feb. and allowed them to condition warm until about 2 weeks ago. Sour Mash Wheat: 72% of the blend, FV temp. 78F, sour mashed 1/2 the grain for 48hrs. Rye Saison: 24% of the blend, FV temp. 80F. The Old Gold: 4% was a beer I did years ago with the [same strain of yeast], I put up a 1/2 barrel of it with pediococcus/lactobacillis and let it ride at ambient temps, hot in summer, cold in winter. This beer on its own is very acid, it's one that I use strictly for blending." Comments: "[The soured beer] adds a layer to the cuvee that I really enjoy. As far as the [festival] strain is concerned, it is probably my favorite of the commercial Belgians. Stats: Final, blended beer 6.3% ABV

Stats: 19P, 8.8% ABV, 31 IBU

Cascade Name: Frite Galois ("Frite Galois harkens back to old French and was a fried Welsh Pastie. The filling was a mystery and needed to be approached with caution.") Concept: Ron Gansberg, whose ways are never simple, describes how he avoided letting the yeast take the upper hand: "I just have never been a big fan of the flavors this yeast produces. I feel that three months in the barrel has done wonders in mellowing the flavor."

Method: "Frite Galois was fermented in the low 70s F. and then put into the White Port barrels that had just contained the Noyeau [the strong sour made with apricot meat]. The beer was aged at the Cascade Brewing Barrel House on Belmont for three months in the barrel room at 60 F during normal lactic fermentation. Comments: "It is a pleasant refreshing sour ale that is a much needed diversion from the heavy/hopped ales of winter."

Fort George Name: Mangifera Indica Belgae (Mangifera Indica is the latin name for mango) Concept: Owner and brewer Jack Harris has long experimented with adjuncts, and this year's beer utilizes "the world's most popular tropical fruit." Method: "After the long slow experience of last year we started this batch much earlier and it has had nearly two months to condition. It fermented out nice and dry in a reasonable amount of time. We used whole, frozen chunks in a secondary ferment." Comments: "The profile is subtle, but distinctly Belgian with some spicy overtones. The fruit came through very pleasantly, flavorful, but not sweet. At around 8% abv the Mango Beer ought to hold its own among fruit beer snobs. We tried it a couple weeks ago at a brewers dinner and it was fantastic."

Stats: 14P, 4.6% ABV, 13 IBU

Double Mountain Name: Bonne Idée, Bonne Idée Avec Kriek. The name, "good idea," comes from a story in brewer Matt Swihart's history when, while in Berundi, he tried to communicate to a bartender that another beer was a bonne idee. Neither man's French was very good, and lingustic hijinks ensued. The incident stuck in his memory. Concept: "This beer was a three way collaboration between myself and our two other brewers Kyle Larson and Greg Balch. It was Kyle's idea to try to blend the finished beer with a little of our aging Kriek. The kriek coming out this year has double the cherries and is on a brown beer base. It is very dark and inky, and just now starting to show off the Brett character. It was brewed in June 2009 and features July’s Bing harvest. What we were shooting for the beer was to show off the characteristics of the yeast strain but subdue the overly sweet/fruity character that you can get with the farmhouse strain." Method: "The beer was fermented in the upper 60s.... We boosted the bitterness and hop back character to balance the higher alcohol, and then blended in 20% of our Kolsch yeast to dry out the beer for more attenuation. The higher yeast count fermented nice and strong and I believe the kolsch finished off the ferment quite nicely." Comments: "We really dug the fruit profile and slight smokiness of the yeast blend so brewed another batch of the Bonne Idée to have it one tap in Hood River for awhile. We also brewed a whole other beer that is a light red/wheat/farmhouse beer that is coming out around next week in the taproom, yet to be kegged and named." Stats: 17.2P, 8.4% ABV, 50 IBU, Kriek: 8% ABV, 48 IBU

Stats: 19P, 7.9% ABV, 15 IBU

Hopworks Urban Brewery Name: Diablato Concept: Brewer Ben Love described the host brewery's thinking behind their selection of the festival's yeast strain, the described Hopworks' beer. "We initially picked the Wyeast 3726 strain out of the five different strains we test brewed with because of the aroma and flavor profile, but also the fermentation and flocculation characteristics. Diablato is essentially the same recipe as El Diablo (8.9%) and Diablito (5.8%) completing our Belgian Golden Trilogy. (El Diablo and Diablito were fermented with Ardennes)." Method: "Recipe 87% Gambrinus Organic Pils malt, 1% Acidulated, 12% Organic Evaporated Cane Juice. Diablito was brewed on the 15th and started at 23 Plato. We held fermentation at 68F til it hit 15 Plato (to limit harsh higher alcohols), then let it free rise. It hit 78F. It attenuated 90%, down to 2.3 Plato (same attenuation as El Diablo and Diablito), resulting in ~11% ABV." Comments: "The aroma is complex floral with slight banana and spice, medium bodied with a fruity and floral flavor, warming finish and subtle bitterness." Stats: 23P, 11% ABV, 20 IBU

Laurelwood Name: Infared Concept: From brewer Chad Kennedy: "It's loosely based on our Free Range Red. Basically, we brewed an ESB and fermented it with Belgian yeast--kind of like a Belgian IPA." Method: "Temp wise we let this go--the warmest it got as 82F. As far as hops, we did go fairly heavy on it. As far as hops, we did go fairly heavy on it. We used Ahtanum and Sirachi Ace--two fairly fruity varieties that blend well with the yeast flavor." Comments: "I find the ester and phenol profile to blend well with the hops. It's a good beer that is best tried fresh- with the true yeast and hop character there." Stats: 17P, 7.5% ABV, 65 IBU

Method: " I was tempted to "let er rip" and not use the jackets, but my head brewer talked me down from that and we knocked out at about 70-71F and set the jackets at 75. It climbed a bit, but never got above 72.5. We thought it was nearly finished--started cooling down, very little activity--but upon bunging, it just kept building pressure, so it trickled a bit, down to 1.6 deg Plato. Brewed 3/19. Racked 4/6-so only about 18 days in tank." Spicing Method: "We decided to use lemon peel and rose hips in the original recipe. If you see it around town outside of HUB (only four kegs went to Portland) it will just have those. We went very light-handed, and because of that and the yeast phenolics, they are not real apparent. I wanted to experiment with other spices as well, so I cleaned up three bung sided kegs, and aged the finished beer in three different kegs. One had Grapefruit peel and Grains of Paradise. One had Orange Peel and Pink Peppercorns and the third has Pink Peppercorn and Jasmine." Comments: "The beer was on the spices for about two weeks and there were very subtle differences. I sent the Grapefruit peel and Grains of Paradise keg to PCTBB because I could pick up the Grains of Paradise and I like the slightly spicy character. The difficult part of all this is that the yeast is both fruity/citrus and spicy, or at least that's what we got from it." Stats: 15.8P, 7.8% ABV, 15 IBU

Lucky Lab
Name: Malt Bomb V Concept: This is the fifth year brewer Abby Sherrill has made Malt Bomb, all with a different yeast. Method: " I started at about 17 plato and at about 7 I really had to be patient and it eventually hit 5.5. I believe I fermented it at 75 F. I conditioned it for over a month, I believe it was nearly 6 weeks pre-rack." Comments: " This yeast is pretty yummy, but the tartness does coat the palette in an unusual way." Stats: 16P, 5.4% ABV, 25 IBU

Pelican Name: Le Pélican d'Or Concept: I didn't talk to brewer Darron Welch, but received a spec sheet on this beer. "Le Pélican d'Or is our experimental variation on a Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale. It uses malted rye to emphasize the balanced spicy character inherent in the 'Farmhouse' yeast." Method: Made with pale and rye malt, Mt. Rainier, Santiam, and Tettnang hops, and a bit of white sugar. Comments: "Le Pélican d'Or finishes with a clean, snappy balance of malt flavor, hop bitterness, and slightly tart, spicy yeast character." Stats: 18.1P, 8.4% ABV, 45 IBU

Oakshire Name: La Ferme Concept: Brewer Matt Van Wyk explained how he landed on the idea of a spiced ale: "Farmhouse ales, as with many Belgian-style beers, offer the brewer a playground of opportunities to try new ingredients. [With the method I used] I can do very small experiments without over-spicing a full batch. On how I choose the different spices: sometimes when deciding to do stuff like this, I think about the foods that I think would go well with them and how each spice would play with the aromas and flavors in certain foods."

Rock Bottom Name: Floreal IV Concept: Brewer Van Havig started out talking (colorfully) about how this is a style where people shouldn't be focused on IBUs. He continued: "As far as the rest of the beer, not to sound boring, but I feel these beers are an exercise in letting the yeast express itself." Method: "So the grain bill is very simple, just two row and acidulated malt for pH. We added some dextrose so that we would increase the amount of ester formation. The hops aren’t too important. Fermentation temperature was at a very mild 70 F (too hot and the esters tend to get blown off). No exotic ingredients. Total time in the tank was 18 days – contrary to the beliefs of many, I feel these beers (like most) are best served fresh, not after the esters have had a chance to volatize out of the beer Comments: "What do I get out of it? A nice white pepper spiciness and banana and apricot." Stats:13P, 5.9% ABV, 35 IBU

nearly the same degree of acidity. I'll be curious to taste the other darker beers to gauge the "maltiness" of the yeast and also the pale ones to assess the ester profile more." Stats: 16.8P, 7.2% ABV, 22 IBU

Widmer Name: Biere de Table Concept: Brewer Ben Dobler reports: "The goal was simple very light and very low abv. I also figured most brewers wouldn’t go this route. Looking at the Belgian Table Beer style and history I was surprised to see that it was served at many schools for the children up until the 80’s and 90’s, and was then replaced by soda. Belgians are considering bringing it back due to childhood obesity. Beer is much more healthy than soda. Duh! I personally have been on session beer/lighter beer kick lately. Method: Note: the stats seen elsewhere were from a test batch. Widmer reformulated the recipe and accurate stats are below. "Overall this yeast was fun to work with. We cooled the batch to 56F and then let it free rise to 72F. The second batch fermented much slower than the first. It was around a 2 week fermentation. When you are starting at 8P it is tough to have a fermentation run much longer. We used US Goldings. Finishing at 2P was nice and helps give it some mouth without it being overly dry." Comments: "It has a very pleasant aroma and flavor for being so light." Stats: 8.2P, 3% ABV, 14 IBU

Upright Name: Mingus and Monk (brewed with Confucian Brewer Corey Blodgett and named for jazz greats Charles Mingus and Thelonius Monk) Concept: Corey has some thoughts at his blog. Here's Alex's take: "We made a brown ale with lots of pale caramel malt and just a bit of Briess special roast which has a lightly toasty/bready flavor that came through more than expected in the non-barrel aged portion before blending." Method: "We didn't hit high attenuation in the open fermenter (even reaching a peak of 91F) but that had more to do with the fact that it was only 10 barrels in there (20 barrel tank) and extremely shallow so the yeast dropped out early (our yeast is so non-flocculent that it never becomes an issue in that situation). The beer did end up drying out more in the barrels and the acidity balances out the residual sugar nicely. Our finished beer was about 45% barrel aged and picked up a bit of brettanomyces and other souring organisms in the oak so it's not very representative of the farmhouse strain on its own." Comments: "The non-barrel portion also had a finish that was more tart yet much more soft than our house strain. The Dupont strain has similar soft finish but not