After brewing up a porter and a big hoppy IPA I’m in the mood for something a little lighter and a little more yeasty. I really want to make something that could be considered a “table beer:” light, dry, refreshing, and with, dare I say, an almost white wine character. So, for my next first cut at a house recipe: the Basilica Blonde (Belgian Pale Ale).
The Idea: Most people who know a little bit about beer know about Trappist monks and the double, tripple, and quadruple ales they are famous for mastering. Less popular, however, are the lighter beers that they keep for their own consumption. I haven’t had too many actual Belgian “Abby Normal” or “single” beers, but I have had two really interesting North American interpretations: Beau’s Farm Table and Russian River’s Redemption. These two beers are the basic inspiration for the recipe, however, after a bottle of Bellwood’s Nelson Sauvin single hop pale ale I had an idea. What if I pushed these “table beers” closer to a table wine by combining the spicy and fruity character of the Belgian Abby Yeast with some fruity and wine-ish New Zealand and American hops?
The Name: There weren’t really any major Abby’s in Newfoundland to speak of, however, St. John’s iconic church, simply named The Basilica, seemed like a close enough fit for the name of this beer. Plus, Alliteration!
The Design: Every part of this beer required some serious consideration.
Malt: Beau’s Farm Table uses “Organic Pilsner, Organic Wheat, Organic Caramunich, Organic Rye, Organic Caramel 20” and I’ve seen clones of Russian River’s Redemption using “91 percent 2 row, 3 percent acidulaed, 3 percent wheat malt, [and] 3 prcent vienna malt” (apparently this is from an e-mail from Vinnie Cilurzo himself!). I’ve decided to go with Pilsner malt as the bulk of the grain bill and I’ve included wheat malt because both recipes have that in common. I’ve added a fair bit of crystal malt (40L) for color, a little robustness in the flavour, and some sweetness. It’s all rounded out with a little Beau’s inspired rye and some Biscuit just because I love biscuit malt. Lots of fun flavours and lots of variables to tweak in future batches.
Hops: I’m using Magnum for straight up bittering, so the aroma hops are going to be what sets this beer apart. I’m using a combination of Nelsion Sauvin and Citra to try to pull out some fruity white wine character. The Sauvin will be mostly for body and supporting the citrus and tropical fruit of the Citra aroma hop addition Can you imagine it yet? Is this at least in the white wine ballpark? I think maybe!
Yeast: There are lots of options out there for Belgian Yeast, but I’ve settled on White Labs WLP530 Abbey Ale Yeast. It’s “possibly sourced” from Westmalle, so it lines up with the original “Abby Normal” concept. It’d be the yeast that the monks had around for their other beers. Yah, that’s right. 100% “traditional.”
Water: Just a Campden Tablet for dechlorination.
I’ve increased my batch size to 21L to give me a little more volume and because I tend to be pretty bad at hitting my final volume. I’m also doing a 90 minute boil because my poor old electric stove doesn’t do boiling large volumes very well, so more time is intended to make up for lack of intensity.
Everything is pretty nominal here, though I have over designed the recipe a little to be a bit ambitious with my efficiency, so I’m actually shooting for a little lower than this gravity and ABV. I would almost like to go below the 4.8% BJCP for future versions, but that’s for the future.
Yeast, Part 2: I get the point everyone, I need to make a starter. I get it. Ok. Doing that this time. I don’t have a stir starter yet, so for now it’s just shaking and a growler.
I can really only do a 1.5 L starter (in an old growler) and shake/swirl the hell out of it until I pitch. That should get me somewhere near a good pitch rate. In any event, it shouldn’t hurt my yeast count. (100% someone is going to comment that this will hurt my yeast count or simply add more risk to the whole process.)
Overall, I’m really excited about this beer and if it comes out anything like I have imagined it will be a great starting point for a beer to tweak. Even if it doesn’t, it should be a pretty decent low ABV beer to counter the bigger ones I have conditioning.