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Christmas/Belgian Ale

So I’m sure many ppl are thinking about brewing a Christmas Ale about this time of year. I originally was going to do the NB’s Spiced Winter Ale kit but I really want the final product to be what I want in a Christmas Ale (one of the coolest things about homebrewing…I make it for my tastes).

Basically I’m hoping for input for malt, candi sugar, and yeast (will be adding mulling spices for flavor). I brew AG and I’m hoping my Christmas Ale will be like a Strong Belgian Golden Ale but not quite as high on the ABV. I’m thinking around 1.070 for the OG and i’d like a low FG so the beer will be crisp and dry. No hop aroma desired…just bittering…really want the spices to stand on their own. Not sure yet on malts and hops, but i figure low mash temp (149) to get high fermentibility and then a fairly attenuative yeast. Any input would be desired! Cheers!

This sounds very much like my own Christmas ale that I have made a few times. For spices, your best bet is to soak them in a couple of ounces of vodka for a few days, then on bottling/kegging day, add a few drops at a time of the spiced vodka until the beer tastes right. You may or may not need all of the spiced infused vodka. This works a lot better in my opinion than boiling the spices and getting “stuck” with however it turns out. If you just add a few drops at a time at the very end, none of the spicy aromas will be lost in a boil or when off-gassing during fermentation. Works very nicely.

What did you use for your malt and yeast? Maybe Pilsner, some light caramel and a belgian strain? Also, the tincture idea sounds like a good one. I want the spices to come through but not be overpowering.

My recipe was based on sort of an imperial witbier, so yes, I think I used pilsner malt, and WLP400 if memory serves. I used a lot more Christmasy spices and not any coriander.

So here is what I’ve come up with (will be brewing on Saturday). Let me know what everyone thinks:

Mash @ 149 for 75 min; mash out @ 160 for 10 min

10.5 lbs Pilsner malt
1 lb Biscuit malt
1.5 lbs clear candi sugar
1 oz Northern Brewer @ 60 min

Wyeast 1214 with a 1.5 L starter
Mulling spices

Est OG 1.068
Est FG 1.015
Est ABV around 7%

I know the gravity is not quite as high as a typical Belgian Golden Ale…but as I want to drink this around Christmas time, I don’t have time to extended age a higher gravity beer.

That sounds great. I think you’ll like it.

I have a question with regard to Mulling spices since it was brought up in the recipe (which looks good to me). I recently brewed a Christmas beer that I intend on adding mulling spices to. I took a gravity sample the other day and added a few drops of a tincture of the spices in vodka to get a feel for the taste. It immediately turned a relatively clear sample cloudy. I don’t have the means to cold crash, if that’s a possible remedy. Has anyone else experienced this? Any advice on how to maintain a clear beer when using mulling spices in a tincture?

I say brew it up. I personally like a little more malt complexity (toffee, raisin, light toasty malt, other dried fruit) going on in my christmas ale, but as you state, you are brewing what YOU LIKE, which is awesome and presumably the reason most of us brew…

I think a BGSA or maybe a ‘pale dubbel’ as this seems to be is a great base style to work with. Keep us posted on how it turns out.

One question on the recipe, does it need a full oz of NB’s @ 60 minutes? Not sure on your AA%, but for this gravity beer where you want yeast and spices to shine, you would probably want to keep IBU’s to 30-35.

Asked the same question years ago and was advised to stay away from 1214 as it can lead to banana. I had good results with 3787. I am also with Pietro with complexity, and would use a bit of special b and 20% dark candi syrup (I make my own).

I’ve also heard 1214 can produce banana but usually at higher temps. I’ll probably ferment at the low end of the range…around 68.

Regarding the darker malts…I may try that on my next batch, but for this one I specifically wanted a light colored and light bodied beer. Great thing about homebrewing is we can brew to our own desires and tastes (as Pietro said earlier)>

+1 to the above, along with 3787 you could try WLP510 Bastogne, Spec"B" for sure, mine is darker with some cara-munich, 2oz choco, D-180 syrup. It’s above 1.080 tho. The vodka soak is the answer for spices for sure. You could also go maltier with a pale base malt and a higher mash temp. It will still go low on your FG.

So, after 4 weeks in primary and 3 weeks bottle conditioning (hoping to get keg equipment for Christmas), I am trying a sample today…even though I generally like to let my bottles sit 4 weeks.

Outstanding…of the dozen or so batches under my belt, this is one of the best!! Very smooth, light body, and a very subtle warming from the booze. Not hot or solventy at all…and despite the airlock smelling like banana cream pie during fermentation (which had me worried), there is no banana flavor at all. ABV ended up not being quite as high as I wanted as I had to top off my batch to hit 5 gal (next time I probably won’t top off), but still clocked in around 6.7 ABV

Color is right where I was hoping for…straw/gold with super white head. Still a tad cloudy but that is probably because I only let it chill in the fridge for about 3 hours.

All in all, a great experiment and hopefully it will get better with age. Homebrewing is freaking awesome!

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