Mar 15, 2014

Brewday: De La Tas (a hoppy Belgian pale ale)

One of my recent arrivals from Belgium
It's been a bit quiet around here this week. I've got a few other things going on including working on the plans for the home brew club and at this stage that means taking energy from blogging. There are tastings, reflections and a couple of other things to post about so hopefully in the next week or two I'll manage to get things flowing nicely again.

Today's brew is inspired by De La Senne's Taras Boulba, a hoppy, 4.5% ABV Belgian pale ale. Hoppy Belgian beers are pretty glorious; De Ranke's XX Bitter is one of my all time favourite beers (Actually, all the De Ranke beers I've had have been impressive). There's something about the interplay between the bitterness and the Belgian yeast character that totally does it for me.

Having said that, I haven't been super impressed with many of the Belgian IPAs I've tried. To my mind the most successful hoppy Belgian beers could be considered the Belgian cousins of the English pale ale. Belgian IPAs are generally based on the American IPA and they can be very hit and miss but the ones that are more like a bitter/English IPA seem to work far more often. I think it's because American/NZ/Australian hops in large quantities tend to overwhelm the yeast character and that ends up defeating the purpose of the beer. I also think floral and spicy flavours tend to be better companions to these kinds of beers than the fruit, pine or dank hops although Styrian Goldings and First Gold are exceptions to that rule. Although I didn't intend it when I was designing the recipe, the numbers for this beer happen to fit a best bitter much more closely than a Belgian pale ale. I feel like there's plenty of fun to be had exploring hoppy Belgians within the English pale ale paradigm.

The Hallertau Hersbruker and Topaz hop combination I've chosen for this one is a little odd and I'm not 100% sure how it'll turn out. My thinking was to use a decent whack of Hersbrucker for its floral and spicy goodness and use a smaller amount of the locally grown Topaz alongside it to provide a light lychee highlight. With its ridiculously high 17.8% aa, I decided to keep the hops to a post flame out steep to avoid overdoing things. There are also plans for dry hopping depending on how it tastes post fermentation. I've bought a couple of 10L jerry cans to use as fermenters so I can do split batches with different yeast strains or different dry hops so I might try hopping 1/2 of the batch with my home grown Hallertau. Another time I'd like to try a version with East Kent Goldings and First Gold or Styrian Goldings. I'd also like to try it with Saaz as a solo hop because that's what I'd guess Taras Boulba uses and because everything is better with Saaz.

The grain bill is primarily Belgian pilsner malt and has a small amount (5%) of Caraamber for a little extra depth. I'd also consider using some wheat and munich malt instead of the Caraamber another time. It doesn't need to do too much, just tie the yeast and hops together, and I think it'll do the job nicely.

For yeast I went with the old faithful, WLP530, the Westmalle strain. I like it because it's not too crazy but still has some character. With the bitterness and aroma turned up a bit, I want to be able to tell it's using a Belgian yeast but not be assaulted by it. I'll start fermentation off at the low end for the same reason.

The actual brewing was nice and relaxed. I'm recovered enough physically to be able to manage to brew without too many problems. Happy days are here again.

My 2 new 10L fermenters. If I was properly
organised I'd have used a different strain
of yeast in each one.
De La Tas (Hoppy Belgian Pale Ale) (18L batch)
OG: 1.044 (measured)
FG: 1.010
IBU: 33
EBC: 8
ABV: 4.5%

95% Dingeman Pils Malt
5% Weyermann Caraamber

7g Aramis @ 60 minutes
50g Hallertau Hersbrucker @ 0 min
25g Topaz @ 0 min
40g Hallertau Hersbrucker @ dry hop
20g Topaz @ dry hop


  • 8g CaSO4, 5g CaCl2, 2g MgSO4  to raise the calcium and sulphate level
  • 2ml lactic acid for pH correction
  • Stepped mash: 65C (45 minutes), 72C (15 minutes) and a mash out at 78C.

  • 90 minute boil
  • 7g Aramis @ 60 min
  • 1/2 tablet of whirlfloc @ 10 minutes
  • 50g Hersbrucker @ 0 minutes
  • 25g Topaz @ 0 minutes
  • 20 minute hop stand before chilling

  • Oxygenated after chilling for 60 seconds (30 seconds each fermenter)
  • Pitched an estimated 150 billion cells of WLP530
  • Began fermentation 17C, planning to increase to 20C over the course of the week

15/03/14 - Brewed


  1. So you do the glad wrap thing? Do you just prick a hole to let the co2 out?

    1. Yep, I've been doing it for the last 60 batches or so. I love being able to watch what's going on and it avoids the potentially infected airlock water ending up in the beer when moving the fermenter. I normally use the rubber ring from the fermenter lid to hold the glad wrap in place.

      No need to prick a hole though, the glad wrap will probably bulge a bit but the CO2 will find its own way out.

  2. Have to say, I think using water carriers as fermenters is a brilliant idea. One I might have to steal in future.

    1. If only I could take credit for it! It's borrowed from AHB like the glad wrap thing. Bunnings is the place to go, they've also got round 25 and square 30L containers.

    2. I use these for smaller batches. But I just drilled a hole through the lid for a grommet and airlock.

    3. Yeah, it doesn't really matter either way, it's just a about personal preference.

  3. What's with the 90min boil? Do you do that often?

    1. It's just a precaution to make sure the DMS is removed. Pils malt tends to be higher in DMS precursors so 90 minute boils tend to be employed when pils malt is being used. If you haven't had any problems though don't worry about it. I was doing it for every batch for a while because I was trying to keep my process the same each brew but now I only do it for beers with pils malt.

  4. Sounds delicious! Did you order the Taras online?

    1. Yeah, it was part of that free shipping deal from the Belgian Shop. I ended up with Dupont, Chimay, Orval, Duvel, De La Senne, De Ranke and De Dolle, some classics and some highly rated new school ones.


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