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Belgian beers for people who don't like Belgian beers

On another board, I was talking with some people who are all over the Belgians. Some like certain Belgians and do not care for others, etc. but I have to admit that I have tried various commercial and homebrewed Belgian beers as well as erroneously thinking I should try to make some homebrewed Belgians myself. I have never had a Belgian beer that I like. I should say for the record that I generally don’t care for the burn I get from beers that are 8%, 10%, etc. I have tried Leffe Blonde which was suggested by a few people and did not care for it. I have tried Kwak which I thought was terrible. I mistakenly brewed up a Dubbel with Wyeast 1214 and did not like the bubble gummy character of that. You have your French Ales, Farmhouse beers, Saisons, dubbels, trippels, Quads, Belgian Pale Ales, etc. and I can’t seem to find any I like. Does anyone know of one of the zillion Belgian strains that produces a Belgian beer that is cleaner or more neutral? Can anyone suggest a commercially-made Belgian beer that seems different than some of these that I mentioned? It’s very possible that there IS no Belgian beer that I like, I suppose.

The thing is, Belgian beers are almost all about the yeast and the esters produced. The fruitiness of the dubbel and quad, spicier in the saison and tripels, etc.
If you don’t like Belgian styles, don’t drink them, you don’t have to brew them unless you are doing so for someone else.
For the longest time, I didn’t like those styles either, they just didn’t do it for me, but over time I grew to like them, and these days, Saison is one of my favorite styles.
I would say to not force it, over time you may grow to like them also, but I wouldn’t try too hard.

I completely agree. I don’t want to like them just for the sake of liking them. But I do wonder if in some remote corner of the Belgian Beer World there is something that I am missing. If someone else thought they did not care for Belgians and then found [something], I would love to know. As it is, I like neutal styles… American Ales, English Ales, German Lagers. Not much room there for “complex”.

A witbier is a little different animal, go easy on the coriander and use plenty of orange peel. And you can make a saison with the French yeast that is dry but has great body, fruity but not terribly so.

Have you tried Rochefort 10? Its a BDS but I don’t think it has near the bubblegum character of a Westmalle dubbel.

Otherwise, I’m a little like you in that I am kind of burned out on the Belgians. I’ll occasionally make one for taking to brew club but its not something I reach for a lot.

[quote=“tom sawyer”]A witbier is a little different animal, go easy on the coriander and use plenty of orange peel. And you can make a saison with the French yeast that is dry but has great body, fruity but not terribly so.

Have you tried Rochefort 10? Its a BDS but I don’t think it has near the bubblegum character of a Westmalle dubbel.

Otherwise, I’m a little like you in that I am kind of burned out on the Belgians. I’ll occasionally make one for taking to brew club but its not something I reach for a lot.[/quote]
Do you have a strain number for the French yeast you mentioned? No I have not tried Rochefort 10. I’m actually a little squeamish to try anything at this point because a lot of these come in 750ml bottles and are pretty expensive. If I don’t like it, it’s a waste. Someone suggested WLP550 at one point saying it was a nice yeast and very “dialed down” for a Belgian yeast. Does anyone think that there is a yeast I could try where I fermented it cool (or cooler than ordinary) to get a subdued Belgian character? Do all Belgian yeasts call for a high fermentation temp? Thanks gang.

EDIT: I actually do like Hoegaarden and other Witbier examples and I have brewed with WLP400 Belgian Witbier yeast. It’s not something I brew very often (haven’t made it in 10+ years probably) but I could drink one and enjoy it, I think.

WY3711, NB’s description is pretty darned accurate.

Rochefort and most of the Trappist ales come in the smaller 11.5oz sizes, still they are $5-6 but not as big of an investment as the larger 750s. I think the Rochefort has a rich chocolatey character that stands out over any spice. In fact I just used the WLP540 Rochefort yeast for a BDS and it seemed to have this charaacter too. Definitely a lot less bubblegum than WLP530.

How about a Belgian dark ale? Something with enough other flavor to not make the yeast stand out so much. Have you had Delirium Nocturnum?

I tried Delirium Tremens (sp?) and it did not go over well with my tastebuds. For awhile, our local Chicago & Milwaukee forum would have a tasting once a month and someone would pick the beer and everyone would go out and get it and then we would all go into the “chat” area and compare notes. Almost every time the beer was some sort of 9% Belgian that tasted like ass (to me, anyway) so I have actually tried more of these than I thought but probably tried to scrub the memory from my brain because most of these were poured out after a couple of [hesitant] sips. Someone else did mention 3711 as a good one to try.

You have Binny’s up that way so you ought to be able to find the smaller versions of the good Belgians. But its entirely possible that you won’t like any of them, in which case its no big deal. I quit trying to like everything long ago, in fact I’m glad I have preferences since it at least narrows things down a bit. Its hard to be good at everything at once.

I agree with that. When I started brewing I ordered kits that were all over the map. I liked some and really had a problem with others. But I’m glad I did that because it shaped my preferences and I’m pretty clear on what I like and do not. I feel that the areas I like are diverse enough for me to continuously brew those styles and tweak them for the next 30 years without getting bored. But I do feel like the Belgian territory is so big that I am discounting too many styles and yeast strains. Again, you might be right… these just may not be my beers.

I’m not a Belgian fan either, but, I recently brewed a Belgian Tripel and hopped it like an IPA (Belgian IPA) and it’s way too easy too drink right now, even at 9.75%. Way too easy!!! I don’t have a LHBS anywhere near by so I tend to use dry yeast most of the time. I used a T-58 cake from a Witbier on this one. 10 gallons is not going to last long. My next door neighbor (quality control) is fixated on it right now… Cheers!!!

My house Saison for a 10 G batch is:

15# Pilsner
1# Honey malt
1# Table sugar
FWH only to about 30-35 IBUs with a NW hop(I know, not traditional)
3711, pitch and ferment in the mid-upper 70s

This is kind of funky, I’ve fermented in the mid 60s and it was more subdued, but still good. It sounds like you like milder, well restrained but well made beers. You could try finding a belgian/saison recipe, (I really like mine above…maybe cut a few #s of base malt and the honey malt in half) and ferment in the low 60s to cut some of those esthers out…but as mentioned above, maybe you just dont like belgians.

I think by using the T58, you’re bypassing everything that Belgian-haters would have a problem with. I can make a “Belgian” recipe with a clean yeast and probably enjoy it but I’m not sure I would call it a Belgian because the yeast was not Belgian.

[quote=“thome9”]My house Saison for a 10 G batch is:

15# Pilsner
1# Honey malt
1# Table sugar
FWH only to about 30-35 IBUs with a NW hop(I know, not traditional)
3711, pitch and ferment in the mid-upper 70s

This is kind of funky, I’ve fermented in the mid 60s and it was more subdued, but still good. It sounds like you like milder, well restrained but well made beers. You could try finding a belgian/saison recipe, (I really like mine above…maybe cut a few #s of base malt and the honey malt in half) and ferment in the low 60s to cut some of those esthers out…but as mentioned above, maybe you just dont like belgians.[/quote]
Yeah, this is what I was hoping to hear. Maybe use a Belgian yeast at a lower temp to see if it might produce a spicy, complex beer but with less of that in-your-face Belgian complexity.

T58 is supposed to kick out a little spicy character, not sure it wualifies as Belgian though.

I don’t think I fermented the 3711 warm, although I did bring it up a few degrees as the ferm progressed. It still finished in single digits yet had a great mouthfeel. I guess its a high glycerol producer.

I didn’t think I liked Belgians much until I visited a brewery near me (Old Dominion) a few weeks ago. I tried their Gigi which they bill as a “Belgian influenced farmhouse ale”. I really liked it. Even though I live about 30-40 minutes away, I’ve never seen it locally or had heard of it. This is from their website:

[b]GiGi’s Farmhouse Ale
GiGi is a bottle conditioned, Belgian-influenced farmhouse ale. The flavor is sweet at first, due to the use of pilsner, oat, and torrified wheat malts, but the subtle influences of Bravo, Select, and Cascade hops add spice and a little mystery to her personality.

•7.2% alc/vol
•18 IBUs
•Pilsner, Torrified Wheat, and Oat Malts
•Pairs well with spicy cuisine and seafood
•Serve in a tulip glass at 45-50ºF
•Available in 12oz bottles (in the Pinup Pack) and on draft[/b]

When talking with them in the tasting room they indicated they used 5 different kinds of peppercorns. I could taste a really complex peppery-ness (not black pepper but more like those blends that come in a grinder). No or not much fruitiness and no bubblegum. I’m currently on the hunt to find some locally. I think a Total Wine might have it. Not sure if Old Dominion is out your way though.

In my mind, this is a misconception of homebrewers (read: the people that BREWED THE BEER, not you, who TASTED THE BEER). The beer is a little ‘hot’, phenolic, or estery, and it becomes “Belgian”.

No, its garbage, just dump it down the drain.

The good Belgian-inspired beers I have had are NOT hot with alcohol (and the bad ones ARE usually!).

I was in the same place as you for a long time on Belgians, but phenols and esters, when tasted in balance with a nice dry beer, can be amazing. If a beer that is fermented with enough yeast and low enough temperatures still has heat or booze to it, it needs to AGE.

To the other posters’ points, I would start with a really simple saison. +1 to WY3711, its a great yeast that will dry the beer out beautifully and provide some great character. Saison is Garrett Oliver’s desert-island beer style, and for good reason. It is great on a hot day (or a cool day!), and it pretty much makes any type of food light years better (including ones that wine can’t, like Indian, Ethiopian, or Thai…and don’t give me that Riesling BS :mrgreen: )

90% pilsner
10% wheat
to about 1.050

Saaz or another noble hop (though styrian goldings are best) to about 20 IBU

A nice big slug of 3711 (this next part is key) fermented starting at 65, ramped up by 2-3*/day after day 3 of fermentation. I also find that an effervescent, champagne-like carb is key on a good saison.

You seem to be a pretty disciplined brewer who knows that ferment temp, conditioning, and proper yeast pitches are hugely determinative of good beer. It just may be that the people whose beer you were tasting (that turned you off of Belgian-inspired beer) did not know those things :cheers:

maybe your getting shitty bottles that are oxidized, skunked…etc…
Keep trying and Im sure you will find one you like

I think the issue is that the man doesn’t LIKE the flavor of Belgians. A lot of Belgian styles hold up pretty well in the bottle. Sounds to me like Ken’s done his due diligence, he lives in the Chicago area which is hardly a place where good beer sits on shelves for years.

doesnt have to sit for years to be bad…He may not like Belgains but that is a huge spectrum of beers. I am sure he will find one he likes if he keeps looking.

I think by using the T58, you’re bypassing everything that Belgian-haters would have a problem with. I can make a “Belgian” recipe with a clean yeast and probably enjoy it but I’m not sure I would call it a Belgian because the yeast was not Belgian.

[/quote]

Sorry 'bout that. I assumed when I read “Does anyone know of one of the zillion Belgian strains that produces a Belgian beer that is cleaner or more neutral?” you were looking for something a little more subdued. T-58 will give you esters & pepper, just a little more subdued… Cheers!!! :wink:

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