I like using a Chimay-syle yeast for this recipe, either Whitelabs WLP500 or Wyeast 1214, since it produces some really strong fruit and spice aromas and a distinct sweet Belgian finish. This recipe also turns out great with the more subdued flavors of the Westmalle yeast, which is Wyeast 3787 or Whitelabs WLP530.
Whichever Belgian yeast you choose, you will need to make a two liter starter 24-48 hours in advance. If you don't have the time or equipment to make a starter, use two packages of yeast to ensure proper fermentation. I do not recommend using any type of dry yeast substitute for Belgian styles of beer.
For purposes of conditioning and clarifying, you will need an additional 5 gallon glass carboy to transfer the beer into after primary fermentation is complete. This step adds a couple weeks to the brewing process, but it allows the complex flavors of the Belgian yeast to fully develop and produces a better looking and tasting homebrew.
As always, the first step to success is proper sanitation. Mix up at least three gallons of sanitizing solution in your sanitizing bucket (either Iodophor or Star San), and sanitize every utensil that comes in contact with the wort after the boil is complete. Before you transfer your wort to the fermentation vessel, pour the sanitizer into the vessel and swirl the sanitizer around so it touches every surface, then pour it back into the sanitizing bucket. There is no need to rinse the sanitizer or foam off of anything you use—there will be no residual flavor and the residue will actually help to keep everything clean.
- 9 pounds Pilsner malt extract
- 1 pound light Belgian candy sugar
- 1 pound Carapils malt, crushed
- 2 ounces Hallertau hops - 60 minutes
- 6 gallons of tap water, split
- 2 Liter starter of liquid Belgian Ale yeast (Whitelabs WLP500 or Wyeast 1214)
If possible, place 3 gallons in the refrigerator to cool in a sanitized container.
Tie the Carapils malt in a large mesh grain bag or hop bag. Place the bag in 3 gallons of water in a 5 gallon pot and immerse the grain.
Begin to heat, making sure mesh bag isn’t sitting directly on the bottom of the pot. Remove the grain bag when the temperature reaches 170°.
Bring wort to a vigorous boil. As water is heating, slowly add 2 pounds of Pilsner liquid malt extract, stirring constantly until completely dissolved. When the boil begins, add 2 ounces Hallertau hops in a mesh bag.
After 45 minutes of boiling has passed, add remaining 7 pounds of Pilsner liquid malt extract and 1 pound of Belgian candy sugar, stirring constantly until completely dissolved.
After total of 60 minutes of boil, remove from heat. Warning: After wort cools below 180°F everything that touches it should be sanitary, and exposure to open air should be limited as much as possible.
Cool wort by placing pot in ice bath until it is below 85°F. Transfer to sanitized fermentor (either a carboy or a fermentation bucket). Top off to make 5 gallons using refrigerated water.
Use a sanitized auto-siphon racking cane to remove enough wort to take a gravity reading with your hydrometer. Make a note of this number, since you will be using it to calculate the actual alcohol content when it's done fermenting. The reading should be around 1.075.
Carefully pour yeast into cooled wort (it should be below 70°F), and agitate vigorously. Cover fermentor with a sanitized stopper and airlock. Ferment in dark place, keeping ambient temperature consistent, preferably between 68 and 70°F.
After primary fermentation is complete (take at least two consistent gravity readings), transfer to a secondary carboy for conditioning as discussed here and store as cool as possible.
Bottle after another four to six weeks using enough priming sugar for a high level of carbonation according to these instructions.