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Belgian Pale Ale

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As the popularity of Pilsner and other pale lagers spread through Europe, even Belgian brewers had to take notice. Their response was the Belgian Pale Ale, a malty, light-colored ale. Unlike English Bitter and American Pale Ales, the Belgian Pale has very little hop character, sometimes using aged hops to reduce it to almost none. Instead, sweet malt and complex, flavorful yeasts dominate this style.

Contents

[edit] Types of Belgian Pale Ale

Traditional Belgian Pale Ales were malty and sweet. However, as with all Belgian styles, there are always exceptions. Some brewers use spices in their Pale Ales to balance the sweetness, and the latest trend, as with many Belgian styles, is to add a stronger hop character to some versions as well.

There is also a stronger version of this style, the Belgian Strong Pale Ale. Exemplified by Moortgat's Duvel, this is a beer with the refreshing characteristics of a Belgian Pale Ale but at the strength of a Tripel.

[edit] Brewing Belgian Pale Ale

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[edit] Competition Styles

Both the BJCP and the GABF recognize Belgian Pale Ale as a style, although neither definition is as wide as the true category of commercial beers, which now includes both spiced and highly hopped brews.

[edit] BJCP Style Guidelines

[edit] Belgian Pale Ale

16B. Belgian Pale Ale Vital Statistics
BJCP Style Guideline Definition (2004)
IBUs: 20-30 SRM: 8-14 OG: 1.048-1.054 FG: 1.010-1.014 ABV: 4.8-5.5
Aroma: Prominent aroma of malt with moderate fruity character and low hop aroma. Toasty, biscuity malt aroma. May have an orange- or pear-like fruitiness though not as fruity/citrusy as many other Belgian ales. Distinctive floral or spicy, low to moderate strength hop character optionally blended with background level peppery, spicy phenols. No diacetyl.
Appearance: Amber to copper in color. Clarity is very good. Creamy, rocky, white head often fades more quickly than other Belgian beers.
Flavor: Prominent aroma of malt with moderate fruity character and low hop aroma. Toasty, biscuity malt aroma. May have an orange- or pear-like fruitiness though not as fruity/citrusy as many other Belgian ales. Distinctive floral or spicy, low to moderate strength hop character optionally blended with background level peppery, spicy phenols. No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-light body. Alcohol level is restrained, and any warming character should be low if present. No hot alcohol or solventy character. Medium carbonation.
Overall Impression: Prominent aroma of malt with moderate fruity character and low hop aroma. Toasty, biscuity malt aroma. May have an orange- or pear-like fruitiness though not as fruity/citrusy as many other Belgian ales. Distinctive floral or spicy, low to moderate strength hop character optionally blended with background level peppery, spicy phenols. No diacetyl.
History: Produced by breweries with roots as far back as the mid-1700s, the most well-known examples were perfected after the Second World War with some influence from Britain, including hops and yeast strains.
Comments: Most commonly found in the Flemish provinces of Antwerp and Brabant. Considered "everyday" beers (Category I). Compared to their higher alcohol Category S cousins, they are Belgian "session beers" for ease of drinking. Nothing should be too pronounced or dominant; balance is the key.
Ingredients: Pilsner or pale ale malt contributes the bulk of the grist with (cara) Vienna and Munich malts adding color, body and complexity. Candi sugar is not commonly used as a high gravity is not desired. Noble hops, Styrian Goldings, East Kent Goldings or Fuggles are commonly used. Yeasts prone to moderate production of phenols are often used but fermentation temperatures should be kept moderate to limit this character.
Commercial Examples: De Koninck, Speciale Palm, Dobble Palm, Ginder Ale, Op-Ale, Vieux-Temps, Brewer's Art House Pale Ale, Ommegang Rare Vos (unusual in its 6.5% ABV strength)


[edit] GABF Style Listings

[edit] Belgian Style Pale Ale

59A. Belgian Style Pale Ale
GABF Style Listing (2007)
Belgian-style pale ales are characterized by low, but noticeable, hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma. Light to medium body and low malt aroma are typical. They are golden to deep amber in color. Noble-type hops are commonly used. Low to medium fruity esters are evident in aroma and flavor. Low levels of phenolic spiciness from yeast byproducts may be perceived. Low caramel or toasted malt flavor is okay. Diacetyl should not be perceived. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.044-1.054 (11-13.5 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.008-1.014 (2-3.5 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 3.2-5.0% (4.0-6.0%)
Bitterness (IBU): 20-30
Color SRM (EBC): 3.5-12 (7-24 EBC)