Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ommegang Belgian Pale Ale

So, I've finally gathered enough equipment to brew my first batch since making the move to Texas (Working at Austin Homebrew Supply for the past month has definitely helped the cause). I have been debating about which style to brew first. With summer on the way and temperatures already climbing into the mid 90's here in central Texas I don't want to brew anything that would be to big and heavy. I want to keep it refreshing. So I have decide to brew a series of Pale Ales. The first being a Belgian Pale Ale, with English and American styles to follow.

My new low-tech equipment and work table in the garage.

I've picked next Saturday (5/14/11) as my brew date for my first batch of BPA. I've spent the past few weeks developing a partial mash process that I am extremely excited to try out. I've also been pouring over several BPA recipes and weighing their strong and weak points against what I enjoy about the style. More on all of this in a few days.

My favorite example of a Belgian Pale Ale is Ommegang Belgian-style Pale Ale (even though it is brewed in Cooperstown, New York about 4 1/2 hours drive east of Buffalo). Not only is it a great example of the BJCP style (16B) it is a great beer in general, one of my favorites in fact. So today I'm going to spend some time with Ommegang BPA as it is the bench mark for my own brew.

Style: Belgian Pale Ale

ABV: 6.2%

IBU: Unknown

Vessel: Nonic (poured from an 12 oz bottle)

Appearance: The first thing that grabs your attention is the tremendous fluffy bone white head (which has impressive retention). As you drink the glass down there is a moderate amount of lacing left behind. This brew pours a clear golden color which appears to me to be around the 7 -8 SRM. Clarity is very good. It's a handsome pint. (5/5)

Aroma: Slightly sour yeast dominates. Biscuity malt blends moderate citrus notes. Low citrusy hop aroma  (4.0/5)

Flavor: Fruity with just a hint of peppery flavor as I first sip brew. Orange and grape fruit flavors begin sweet and finish just slightly sour. Smooth, sweet and toasty malt that finishes with a strong biscuit flavor that lingers on the palate. There is little hop flavor ( a taste a bit of cascade citrus likely from their addition as a dry hop). A nice hoppy bitterness finishes the sip and balances the malt perfectly(4.5/5)

Mouth Feel: Medium-light bodied. Perfect carbonation level for the style. Ever so slightly warming but no detectable alcohol. Clean and refreshing.(4.5/5)

Overall: I love this beer. Its balanced perfectly which is a rare treat. I can't wait to cool down with this in the July heat of central Texas. Usually I'm not a fan of lingering flavors but the biscuit left between sips is really nice. It's just sweet enough, just bitter enough and has a wonderful mouth feel. It is one handsome fellow when poured into a glass. (18/20) 90%

I'm excited to put my skills as a home brewer to the test next weekend. This isn't a big beer or anything off the wall. In fact Belgian Pale Ale is a wonderful style that is just the opposite. It is balanced in a way that is uncommon and that is where the challenge lies. Its takes a steady and light hand to create a delicately balanced beer. By using Ommergangs BPA as a benchmark I feel that over the course of a few batches I will be able to create an outstanding beer. Stay tuned for a post about the brew session, recipe and techniques next week.

 - Jay

P.S. Happy Mothers day

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