Saturday, May 15, 2010

Buckwheat's Belgium Pale Ale

Recently (well .. relatively recently) I brewed Buckwheat's Belgium Pale Ale.  My wife picked out a recipe from Jamil Zainasheff's and John Palmer's book Brewing Classic Styles called "Antwerp Afternoon", and I scaled it down and modified it a bit based on some ingredient / process preferences I have developed.

In my humble opinion, the beer turned out great.  My wife says it is her favorite beer, so apparently she thinks it is pretty good as well.  It is a nicely balanced, clean tasting beer with a nice biscuit malt background.  I call it a little brother of my Phat & Tyred Ale.  It is very tasty.

I never had a Belgium Pale Ale before I tried mine.  But, since then, I have tried two beers that call themselves Belgium Pale Ales.  One is made by the Blue Moon Brewing company called Pale Moon.  The other was a seasonal brew at a local brew pub called C.B. & Potts.  Neither of these beers taste like mine.  They do not really taste like each other, either.  The Pale Moon tastes like maybe they included coriander and/or orange peel like a regular Blue Moon does.  The BPA at C.B. & Potts tasted like it had a similar grain bill and hop flavoring to mine, but it also had the funky yeasty flavor that I associate with Belgium wheat beers and / or Rye beers.  I think this is called a "Phenolic" taste.  If you have ever had a Mothership Wit from New Belgium Brewery, you probably know the taste I am talking about.  It is a taste I do not care for.  Apparently some people like it, because it comes through in lots of commercial beers I've had.  The BPA at C.B. & Potts had just a touch of it, not nearly as bad as many I've had, but I could detect it.  My wife's cousin (who was the one who actually ordered the beer) could detect it too (and liked it even less than I do).

So, I'm wondering ... since my Belgium Pale Ale tastes nothing like either of the commercial BPA's that I have had, is my BPA not really a BPA?  Of course, the two commercial examples I have had taste nothing like each other either. 

I suppose it doesn't really matter since I like the beer, and my wife likes the beer.  It is a beer that will not last very long.  I think what I am going to do is brew a double batch of Buckwheat's Belgium Pale Ale.  I'll split it into two fermenters.  In one, I'll use the same yeast I used for my first batch.  For the other, I'll use a more traditional Belgium-like yeast.  The key will be to make sure I keep the fermentation cold over the first couple days so that the phenolics don't come through too strong.

Not sure when I'll get a chance to try this.  My next batch will be a Whisky Wife Wheat II and then I need to brew up Quarter Life Crisis and Stone Soup IDA again.  Maybe after those three brews I'll have an opening for the great BPA experiment.

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