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This week???s Beer Style of the Week will be continuing with the Belgian theme from last week. This week???s beer style is the Belgian Golden (or Pale) Strong Ale. This is a classic Belgian style ale brewed with traditionally Pilsner malts and one of the many varieties of Belgian rock sugar or even table sugar. These potent ales have complex fruity aromas, decent malt character, some phenolic characteristics, and a nice kick. I have brewed and tasted many of these over the years and it is a great starting point for exploration of the amazing brewing repertoire of Belgian brewers. I???ll give you the published guidelines first, then give you my impressions of some recent ones I have consumed as well as brewed.

 First up, the guidelines: Here are the stylistic guidelines from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) 2008 Style Guidelines publication.

18D. Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Aroma: Complex with significant fruity esters, moderate spiciness and low to moderate alcohol and hop aromas. Esters are reminiscent of lighter fruits such as pears, oranges or apples. Moderate spicy, peppery phenols. A low to moderate yet distinctive perfumy, floral hop character is often present. Alcohols are soft, spicy, perfumy and low-to-moderate in intensity. No hot alcohol or solventy aromas. The malt character is light. No diacetyl.

Appearance: Yellow to medium gold in color. Good clarity. Effervescent. Massive, long-lasting, rocky, often beady, white head resulting in characteristic ???Belgian lace??? on the glass as it fades.

Flavor: Marriage of fruity, spicy and alcohol flavors supported by a soft malt character. Esters are reminiscent of pears, oranges or apples. Low to moderate phenols are peppery in character. A low to moderate spicy hop character is often present. Alcohols are soft, spicy, often a bit sweet and are low-tomoderate in intensity. Bitterness is typically medium to high from a combination of hop bitterness and yeast-produced phenolics. Substantial carbonation and bitterness leads to a dry finish with a low to moderately bitter aftertaste. No diacetyl.

Mouthfeel: Very highly carbonated. Light to medium body, although lighter than the substantial gravity would suggest (thanks to sugar and high carbonation). Smooth but noticeable alcohol warmth. No hot alcohol or solventy character. Always effervescent. Never astringent. Overall

Impression: A golden, complex, effervescent, strong Belgian-style ale.

History: Originally developed by the Moortgat brewery after WWII as a response to the growing popularity of Pilsner beers.

Comments: Strongly resembles a Tripel, but may be even paler, lighter-bodied and even crisper and drier. The drier finish and lighter body also serves to make the assertive hopping and spiciness more prominent. References to the devil are included in the names of many commercial examples of this style, referring to their potent alcoholic strength and as a tribute to the original example (Duvel). The best examples are complex and delicate. High carbonation helps to bring out the many flavors and to increase the perception of a dry finish. Traditionally bottle-conditioned (???refermented in the bottle???).

Ingredients: The light color and relatively light body for a beer of this strength are the result of using Pilsner malt and up to 20% white sugar. Noble hops or Styrian Goldings are commonly used. Belgian yeast strains are used ??? those that produce fruity esters, spicy phenolics and higher alcohols ??? often aided by slightly warmer fermentation temperatures. Fairly soft water.

Vital Statistics: OG: 1.070 ??? 1.095

IBUs: 22 ??? 35

FG: 1.005 ??? 1.016

SRM: 3 ??? 6

ABV: 7.5 ??? 10.5%

Commercial Examples: Duvel, Russian River Damnation, Hapkin, Lucifer, Brigand, Judas, Delirium Tremens, Dulle Teve, Piraat, Great Divide Hades, Avery Salvation, North Coast Pranqster, Unibroue Eau Benite, AleSmith **** Devil

Here are the stylistic guidelines from the 2012 Great American Beer Festival.

73. Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale A. Subcategory: Belgian???Style Pale Strong Ale Belgian pale strong ales are pale to golden in color with relatively light body for a beer of its alcoholic strength. Often brewed with light colored Belgian "candy" sugar, these beers are well attenuated. The perception of hop bitterness is medium-low to medium -high, with hop flavor and aroma also in this range. These beers are highly attenuated and have a perceptively deceiving high alcoholic character???being light to medium bodied rather than full bodied. The intensity of malt character should be low to medium, often surviving along with a complex fruitiness. Very little or no diacetyl is perceived. Herbs and spices are sometimes used to delicately flavor these strong ales. Low levels of phenolic spiciness from yeast byproducts may also be perceived. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures.

Original Gravity (??Plato): 1.064???1.096 (16???22.9 ??Plato) ??? Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (??Plato): 1.012???1.024 (3???6 ??Plato) ??? Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 5.6???8.8% (7.0???11.0%) ??? Bitterness (IBU): 20???50 ??? Color SRM (EBC): 3.5???10 (7???20 EBC)

Now some of my tidbits of information, opinion, and recent tastings and brewing. Belgian strong blond/golden/pale ales are a great gateway into Belgian style beers. They are mild to fruity in flavor and aroma, are not overly hoppy, and easy drinking. Care must be taken when drinking these potent brews since the higher than average alcohol content can sneak up on you and knock you out quickly. I have made this style a handful of times and they always turn out complex. The pilsner malt keeps them fairly light. The addition of table sugar or rock candy / candy sugar boosts the alcohol content and also necessitate a longer aging than traditional for ales. The longer aging helps dull the potential alcohol ???burn??? and aid in overall drinkability. Again, use a Belgian ale glass to drink this beer. A Belgian ale glass has a sturdy base, a thick stem and a fairly wide body. As the glass nears the top, it curves in slightly before flaring out like a tulip white wine glass.

I have tried and enjoyed both Great Divide???s Hades and Duvel offerings of Belgian strongs. You can find these in well-stocked stores and also in Belgian-style restaurants across the country. Two restaurants that I have had the chance to eat and drink at are Caf?? Hollander in the Milwaukee area and Brasserie V in Madison, WI. If you are in southern Wisconsin I strongly recommend you stop by one of these establishments. You will be pleased with the food offerings and amazed with the beer selection. Also, Denver???s Cheeky Monk has a decent beer selection and food menu.

On to NFL news:

The Oakland Raiders agreed to pay JaMarcus Russell $3 million of his remaining guaranteed rookie contract, thus settling one of the worst draft selections in the history of the NFL. What is Russell going to do with all that extra money? My guess is he will just eat it away. Talk about a college player completely unprepared for the rigors of professional football. I don???t know if it was his lack of motivation and drive or a lack of guidance while he was at LSU, or a combination of both. Either way, he was awful. Maybe the front office staff at the Raiders will finally get better at evaluating talent and draft better. Maybe without Al Davis pulling the strings they may join football in the current decade. Or just maybe, they will continue to be the lowly, underperforming Oakland Raiders that we???ve had the displeasure of watching for a long time.

Just my opinion???

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