Belgian IPA is a fledgling style, first introduced in the BJCP 2015 style guidelines under the new Specialty IPA category. It's a hybrid beer that melds Belgian yeast with hoppy IPAs, almost like a Belgian Tripel that has been brewed with too many hops. Flavours tend to be spicy and estery from the Belgian yeast, coupled with fruity hop notes that are pushed much further than typical Belgian styles.
Brewed originally in 2006 by Brasserie D'Achouffe located in the tiny village of Achouffe in Belgium, Houblon Chouffe was one of the first commercial Belgian IPAs ('houblon' is French for hops). It was three times as bitter as their flagship La Chouffe Belgian Blonde beer. Founder Chris Bauweraerts explained the history of Houblon Chouffe in a 2011 interview with Food GPS:
I've been to the States and to Canada, and I know what's an IPA, what is bitterness. Our importer asked us to make a cross between a Belgian tripel and an American IPA style. We didn't want to brew it because we wanted to reduce the number of beers. What's new, I hate it, it was not our philosophy. We said to our importer, if you order 500 barrels we will brew it. We hoped that they wouldn't order, but they did! So we had to make the beer, and because we wanted to make a bridge between Europe and the United States, we used American hops. We knocked on the door of American hop experts, Yakima Chief, who advised us to use Amarillo and Tomahawk hops, and also European Saaz hops for the finest aromatics. Two weeks after brewing, we tasted the beer from the tank. It's good, I said, but it's not bitter enough. They look at me like, "This guy's crazy". I said, "That's not what they want in the States. Send samples to the States". So that's what we did, three different samples: The bitterness level from the tank, 10 percent higher, and 20 percent higher. We sent samples to Chicago, L.A. and New York. The comments told us 20 percent higher was the best direction. For Belgians, it's an extremely bitter beer, but for American standards it's just bitter enough.
Our Belgian IPA is heavily inspired by this popular Houblon Chouffe, and uses a similar malt backbone and hop selection to the original.
The yeast of choice for this beer is Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes (also available as White Labs WLP550 Belgian Ale) as it is sourced directly from Achouffe. The fruity esters and subtle phenolic / spicy notes from the yeast have to be carefully matched with the hop choices and Yakima Chief made excellent recommendations: Tomahawk (also known as Columbus or Zeus) for the dank citrus character, Saaz to compliment the yeast's spicy notes, and Amarillo for the citrus / fruit flavours and aromas. Feel free to swap out the base Belgian pilsner malt with your favourite pilsner malt if you like (Weyermann German pilsner malt works wonderfully), but try and avoid yeast or hop substitutions as it's easy to produce results that will clash horribly.
The combination of the strong Belgian yeast strain with classic and new-world American hops definitely makes this one of the more forward Belgian IPAs out there: Citrus hops up front with spice and clove phenols from the yeast, finishing with traditional cracker / biscuit malt notes.
Brew up a batch and let us know how you like this hop forward Belgian style!
Size: 12 US gallons (post-boil @ 68F)
Mash Efficiency: 93% (lower due to high gravity)
Calories: 254 kcal per 12 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.077 (style range: 1.058 - 1.080)
Final Gravity: 1.009 (style range: 1.008 - 1.016)
Colour: 4 SRM (style range: 5 - 15)
Alcohol: 9% ABV (style range: 6.2% - 9.5%)
Bitterness: 59 IBU (style range: 50 - 100)
21.5 lb Belgian pilsner malt (1.4-1.8L)* (85%)
1.5 oz Columbus hops (17%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min [43.4 IBU]
0.75 oz Columbus hops (17%) - added during boil, boiled 20 min [12.2 IBU]
1 Whirlfloc tablet (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
3.8 lb Regular table sugar (15%) - added during boil**, boiled 10 min (add slowly)
3.2 oz Czech Saaz hops (3.2%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min [3.3 IBU]
2 oz Amarillo hops (7.7%) - added immediately after boil
2 oz Amarillo hops (7.7%) - added to fermenter near the end of fermentation, steeped 3-5 days
*Can't find Belgian pilsner malt? German pilsner malt (1.5-2.1L) will make an excellent Belgian IPA as well.
**It's been said that moving the addition of simple sugars like table sugar to the end of fermentation can help if you have attenuation problems. (We've never had issues so we always add to the boil per our recipe). If you prefer to add at the end of fermentation, heat up some distilled water to near boiling (above 180F) and stir in about 1lb of sugar. Let it cool and add directly to the fermenter. Keep doing this every 2-3 days until all of the sugar is used up. Why is this said to help with attenuation? Yeast likes to eat simple sugars (like table sugar) first before it attacks the more complex ones produced by the grain. By giving the yeast only the 'less tasty' stuff (complex sugars) first they're more likely to finish it all before moving on the 'tasty stuff' (simple sugars). Giving them both at the same time is like giving your kids dinner and dessert at the same time. They'll eat dessert first and then be too full to eat their dinner. Given them dinner first, and there's always room for dessert. 😉
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Notes / Process
- Add 500mg potassium metabisulphite to 20 gallons water to remove chlorine / chloramine (if required).
- Water treated with brewing salts to our Balanced flavour profile: Ca=50, Mg=10, Na=16, Cl=70, SO4=70 (Hit minimums on Ca and Mg, keep the Cl:SO4 ratio low and equal. Do not favour flavour / maltiness or bitterness / dryness. For balanced beers.). While this is an IPA, the goal is a more balanced beer than the hop forward American counterparts so we don't go sulphate heavy as we would with our Hoppy flavour profile. Try it both ways and see which you prefer. For complete details on how to adjust your water, refer to our step by step Water Adjustment guide.
- 1.25 qt/lb mash thickness.
- Start the mash at 131F and hold for 10 mins (high end of the protein rest range).
- Ramp up to 148F and hold for 90 mins (beta rest).
- Ramp up to 155F and hold for 30 mins (alpha rest).
- Raise to 168F mashout temperature and hold for 10 mins.
- If your system does not allow for step mashes, try a single infusion mash at 148-150F for 90 mins, followed by a mashout to 168F for 10 mins (if possible).
- ~90 min fly sparge with ~5.6-5.8 pH water (measured at mash temperature). Collect 14.9 gallons.
- Boil for 90 minutes, adding Whirlfloc and hops per schedule. Lid on at flameout after post-boil hops are added, start chilling immediately.
- Cool the wort quickly to 66F (we use a one-pass convoluted counterflow chiller to quickly lock in hop flavour and aroma) and transfer to fermenter.
- Oxygenate the chilled wort to a level of 14 ppm dissolved oxygen. For complete details refer to our Aerating / Oxygenating Wort guide.
- Pitch yeast and ferment at 68F (wort temperature) for the first 3-4 days and then let it free rise to as high as 75F (don't worry if it doesn't get that warm). We use modified stainless fermenting buckets in wine fridges and simply turn off the fridges, allowing the beer to naturally rise to room temperature.
- Add dry hops once fermentation is nearing completion (i.e. 5 points from final gravity). Steep hops for 3-5 days while fermentation finishes. Assume fermentation is done if the gravity does not change over ~3 days.
- Before packaging you may optionally rack to a brite tank (we use 5 gallon glass carboys) that has been purged with CO2 to avoid oxygen pickup, add 1 tsp of unflavoured gelatin dissolved in a cup of hot distilled water per 5 gallons of beer, and allow to clear for 2-3 days. Gelatin may "round off" some hop flavour / aroma so we tend to skip this step with hop forward beers like this.
- Package as you would normally. Though some will argue that Belgian beers should only be bottled, if we still had to bottle we wouldn't be brewing beer. 😉 We rack to kegs that have first been purged with CO2 and then chill the kegs to near freezing while carbonating at the same time in a 6-keg conditioning fridge. After ~1-2 weeks at serving pressure the kegs will be carbonated and ready to serve. In a hurry? Feel free to raise the CO2 pressure temporarily to 30-40 PSI to carbonate fast over a 24 period, and then turn back down to serving pressure. Some hop bits will have invariably made their way into the keg during transfer so we use a Hop Stopper Keg Edition filter to ensure that hops do not clog the dip tube and/or end up in the glass. There's no need to wait a few days for any hop bits that made their way into the keg to first settle out. Force carbonating at high pressure and using a Hop Stopper filter allows us to serve this beer 24 hours after kegging, though given the high ABV a few weeks of conditioning is recommended.
- Carbonate this beer to higher than normal levels, around 2.5 to 3.5 volumes of CO2.
For detailed brewing instructions, see our Brew Day Step by Step guide.
Questions? Visit our Belgian IPA forum thread.
Pictures / Videos
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Brasserie D'Achouffe located in the tiny village of Achouffe in Belgium. Image (c) chouffe.com
Touring the Achouffe brewery. Image (c) chouffe.com
The Achouffe brewery pub. Image (c) chouffe.com
Enjoying a beer and charcuterie at the Achouffe brewery pub. Image (c) chouffe.com