Beer Recipe: “Merlin” Belgian Pale Ale

The last Belgian pale ale I made was decent, but ended up being too sweet when the hops dropped out.  And, the yeast character ended up being rather tart and muddled.  But, I thought it had potential, and whipped up this batch with lessons learned.  Its more of a “spiritual successor” than a direct descendant with all of the changes made.

Batch Size: 5.5 gal/ 20.8L (post-boil volume)

Malt:
5 lb/ 2.27 kg     Pilsner malt (Castle)
3 lb/ 1.36 kg      Vienna malt (Franco-Belges)
1.5 lb/ 680  g     2-row brewer’s malt (Briess)
8 oz/ 230 g        Caramunich III (Weyermann)

Hops:
1.4 oz/ 40 g       Styrian Golding, 3.2%, 75′, 14.4 IBU
0.3 oz/ 0.85 g   Styrian Golding, 3.2%, 30′, 2.5 IBU
0.3 oz/ 0.85 g   Styrian Golding, 3.2%, 15′, 1.6 IBU
Total IBU:           18.5 (Tinseth)

Yeast:
1 tube                  Wyeast 3552 Belgian Ardennes

Other:
1 tsp                   Hydrated irish moss (10′)
1/2 tsp               Wyeast nutrient
45 and 30 sec   O2, 0.5 micron stone, 30′ and 12hr after pitching

Target CO2:     2.5 vol

Gravity:
OG:                    1.047 (72% mash eff; target 1.049, 75% eff)
FG:                    1.014 (70% apparent atten.)
ABV:                 4.75% after conditioning

Water:
Mash temp:          153F/ 67.2C (target 153F/ 67.2C)
Mash thickness: 1.7 qt/lb/ 3.5 L/kg
Single infusion mash, single (batch) sparge
Boil time:              75 min

Calculated Profile:

Calcium 69.3 Sulfate 84 Hardness 197
Magnesium 5.8 Chloride 72 Alkalinity 38
Sodium 135.3 Bicarbonate 46.5 RA -14

Mash pH: 5.6, Sparge pH: 6

I was pretty happy with this water profile, save for the sodium content, which is just how my water is served up.  I adjusted the sulfate to chloride ratio for a balanced finish.  I drove the RA down with some lactic acid because of the relatively light malts, and added the sparge calcium additions directly to the kettle instead of the sparge water.  (See my water treatment post here.)

Fermentation Temperature: Pitched at 72F/ 22.2C, rose to 76F/ 24.4C during the ferment.  A thick yeasty head formed soon after the start of fermentation (which was a bit delayed) and refused to fall- it was far more tenacious than any other krausen I have seen.  After a week and a half, I swirled the carboy and got most of it to fall, though some remained until bottling.  The yeast cake was extremely creamy and dense in the bottom of the fermentor.

Tasting Notes:

merlin belgian pale ale

I was playing with the lighting a bit and the head dissipated before I snapped the photo.  I definitely need to figure out this back-light situation…

Appearance: light orange, a bit of haze; pours with a small, fast dissipating head

Aroma: Belgian phenolic aroma, a bit of pear

Taste: light Belgian taste, mostly phenolic spice, background fruitiness; pleasant mild grainy huskiness, probably from the Belgian and especially French malts; well balanced with low sweetness and low hop character; otherwise very clean with very little lingering flavor

Mouthfeel: moderate mouthfeel, finishes very dry, far more so than the 1.014 FG would imply; carbonation initially sharp before mellowing slightly

Overall: This is a very nice beer, much better than my first Belgian pale ale. Comparatively, the higher color malts are toned down considerably, replaced with a fair amount of lighter Vienna malt instead- I think the balance is much nicer, and surprisingly, it doesn’t really come through with any biscuit character.  Perhaps a bit of bread lingers behind the Belgian yeast. Additionally, the yeast character is far cleaner, but still interesting. Given that this is a pale ale, the hop character could be more apparent, but I don’t mind going off style, if Belgian pale ale is even a style.

– Dennis,
Life, Fermented

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About Dennis
Home brewer, home chef, garage tinkerer. Author of Life Fermented blog.

2 Responses to Beer Recipe: “Merlin” Belgian Pale Ale

  1. brulosopher says:

    I’ve heard great things about Ardennes yeast but have yet to try a beer fermented with it, at least that I’m aware of. I’ll have to give it a shot sometime soon. The beer looks and sounds delicious. Cheers!

    • Dennis says:

      Its definitely worth a go if you are looking for something on the less funky side of Belgian. I basically took a shot in the dark because it was one of the few left in stock at the time, for whatever reason. But, its in the “use again at some point” pile now.
      – Dennis

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