Monday, 22 December 2014

Tasting : Belgian Session IPA

This beer, a Belgian IPA that I had brewed with the intention of having it come out with an ABV of less than 5%, was one that I knew had a lot of potential to be problematic. Aside from the usual problems you can encounter with a Session IPA - watery, thin body, harshness from the high hopping, vegetal or grassy notes from the hops - you also throw in the possibility of the hop aromas and flavors clashing with the aromas and flavors provided by the Belgian yeast. I'm happy to say that this beer, a Belgian Session IPA, avoided most of these problems. Most.

I was a bit nervous taking my first smell and taste of this beer. However, the aroma was fantastic. Big, citrusy, fruity, with just a bit of spiciness... the Citra, Amarillo and Westmalle yeast worked really well together. I didn't find that anything clashed, and I wasn't getting any strong, medicinal phenolics, either.

Now, on to tasting it. The good news is that the aroma translates well into the flavor, with a big hop presence that is complemented nicely by the Westmalle yeast. It all gels together about as well as I could have hoped, with a moderate bitterness in the dry finish. The bad news... the body is slightly too thin. Perhaps if I took the time to increase the carbonation for this keg only - without affecting the other three kegs on tap - it would help. In hindsight, I should have used a higher mash temp than 153 F. I chose this because for my last Session IPA I used 153 F and was happy with the results. But I forgot to consider that the Belgian yeast has a higher average attenuation than US-05, bringing the FG down a few points lower than the other Session beers. Luckily, it's not watery... just a bit more body and it would be a great beer.

Otherwise, I have no complaints about this beer, and would highly recommend the recipe to anyone who was looking to have a similar style on hand. I'm very happy with how Amarillo and Citra work with Westmalle yeast; the combo would work great for a full-strength, Belgian IPA. My only suggestion for this Session type would be to increase the mash temp to 156 F or so; it seems a bit high when you look at it on paper, but I think with these highly-attenuative Belgian yeasts, it's a good idea.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white creamy head; retention is so-so; faded to a thin film after a few minutes. Body is a dark golden color, very good clarity.

Aroma: Wonderful aroma, lots of citrus and tropical fruit, and a touch of dankness. Backing spiciness from what I assume is the Belgian yeast.

Taste: Big fruity flavor, but with a slight phenolic spiciness that works surprisingly well. Finishes with a firm, medium bitterness (almost medium-high), and nicely balanced, leaning towards dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Overall: A really tasty beer... took a bit of time to come together, but I'm loving how the flavors of the hops and Belgian yeast are working together.


  1. Interesting, I had purchased a couple of Session IPA kits from OBK, first one being a Galaxy/Wakatu hop version, brewed with the supplied US-05 yeast, and it turned out very well. The 2nd kit is a Cascade/Centennial hop variety, and a Belgian flair on it I think would be great. The Wyeast 3797 Trappist High Gravity looks like it may have been sourced from Westmalle yeast....may have to give it a try!

  2. Yep, 3787 is definitely Westmalle yeast (and therefore Achel and Westvleteren, to a degree, anyway). I re-used this yeast slurry to brew a Tripel, which I have yet to bottle; curious to see if it will taste at all similar to Westmalle Tripel, which I've always really liked.