Brewing a Belgian Session IPA

Well, it was bound to happen at some point. I’ve fallen behind on blog posts, and as I’m writing this post this beer has already kicked, weeks ago. Summer is such a busy time, as I’m sure it is for everyone, and one of the last things on my priority list is putting aside time for writing, unfortunately. I do have a new respect for brewers that post on a timely, and consistent basis.

A little while ago I had mentioned that I still hadn’t brewed any iteration of a Belgian IPA. It’s something I’ve always had in my line up, but I kept pushing it back again, and again. Of course, I’m not talking traditional Belgian IPA, though those are very enjoyable in their own right. I mean a hop forward IPA, similar to the American styles I brew, fermented with a Belgian strain that would hopefully compliment the hops used in the recipe. This, I believe, is the most challenging aspect, mixing a Belgian strain with American, Aussie, etc hops.

To be completely honest I haven’t had many super hoppy Belgian IPA’s, only a few each of commercial, and home brew examples. The best iteration I’ve sampled has to be a home brew made by a friend of mine, he termed it a Belgian APA, the recipe can be found here. I highly recommend trying that recipe if you’re inclined to brew something along this “style”.

This beer was yet another learning experience for me in brewing. I have come to the realization that when brewing a new style for the first time that it is very helpful to brew someone else’s recipe, and preferably something you’ve sampled previously, and enjoyed. Using the recipe I mentioned above would have been the safe, and smart move. Unfortunately, I decided to throw caution to the wind and craft my own recipe, and this is where I went wrong.

Not to say this particular beer was undrinkable, or that I dumped any of it. Let’s just say that I was happy to see it go, and I gave away as much as possible (with fair warning, of course). I believe the grain bill, and hops I used should have produced a reasonably good beer, but my choice of yeast strain is what lead me astray.

Image taken from Brewery website


Getting specialty strains at my LHBS can be a challenge at times, so when the strain I wanted wasn’t available I decided to go with what they had in stock, Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes. I had used this strain previously for my attempt at a Houblon Chouffe clone,  and although I didn’t exactly hit the mark that time, it did have similarities to the real deal. I had thought I could at least partially remember what to expect from this strain, and that it would work well with my hop choices.

If you read the product description from the Wyeast website it sounds like a very reasonable, and safe strain choice for an IPA. Here is how it reads on their site:

“One of the great and versatile strains for the production of classic Belgian style ales. This strain produces a beautiful balance of delicate fruit esters and subtle spicy notes, with neither one dominating.”

I had decided early on I wanted to use Amarillo, and Waimea for this beer. Amarillo is known for its floral, and citrus character, though I tend to get a lot of fruit as well when it’s used correctly. Waimea is a hop I’ve only used once previously, but it has descriptors of citrus, and pine. I’m still confident these two hops would work well together, citrus, fruit, and pine sound like qualities that would mesh well with a strain known for mild fruity esters backed with light spice. I’m certainly not looking to brew this recipe again any time soon, but I will try to brew a Belgian IPA again at some point with a different yeast strain. Maybe I’ll even take my own advice, and use the recipe I mentioned above.

Recipe Targets: 4.0 Gallons, OG 1.043, FG 1.010, IBU 45, ABV 4.3%, SRM 4.7


2.30 kg               Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM)           79.1 %        
0.14 kg               Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)                5.0 %         
0.14 kg               Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM)                  4.9 %         
0.14 kg               White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)              4.9 %         
0.09 kg               Carared (20.0 SRM)                      3.1 %         
0.09 kg               Acid Malt (3.0 SRM)                     3.0 %         



4.00 g                Waimea [17.20 %] - Boil 60.0 min              
14.00 g               Amarillo [8.20 %] - Boil 10.0 min           
14.00 g               Waimea [17.20 %] - Boil 10.0 min              

28.00 g               Amarillo [8.20 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  10 min    
28.00 g               Waimea [17.20 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  10 min  
28.00 g               Amarillo CHILLER [8.20 %] 
28.00 g               Waimea CHILLER [17.20 %] 

14.00 g               Amarillo - Dry Hop (Day 5)
14.00 g               Waimea - Dry Hop (Day5)

28.00 g               Amarillo - Dry Hop (Day 9-14)
28.00 g               Waimea - Dry Hop (Day 9-14)               


1.0 pkg               Belgian Ardennes (Wyeast Labs #3522)


1.00 tsp              Yeast Nutrient (Boil 10.0 mins)
1.00 Item             Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)


Brewed by myself May 23rd, mashed in with 7.5L of strike water to hit mash temp of 152F for 50 minutes. Mashed out with 4.3L of 200F water for 10 minutes, and finally batch sparged with 3.8 gallons of 168F water. 60 minute boil, chilled to 62F, and transferred to carboy. Wort shaken for approximately two minutes prior to and after pitching yeast starter. OG hit the mark at 1.043. Fermentation active within 36 hours, temperature never rising above 72F.

  • May 26th – 28g each Waimea, and Amarillo added to primary.
  • May 30th – 42g each Waimea, and Amarillo added to primary.
  • June 3rd – FG reached 1.006, a few points lower than expected.
  • June 4th – Transferred to CO2 purged keg, set to 30psi.
  • June 6th – Lowered CO2 to serving pressure.



This was taken about a month after kegging, and has lost the slight haze it had initially.

Appearance: Pours with a white head, quarter finger that fades to a thin ring after several minutes. Light orange/copper in color, mostly clear with only slight haze.

Aroma: Phenolic, mainly clove initially. Followed by some light hop aroma coming through afterwards, they seem a bit muddled and somewhat difficult to describe. Light fruit, and floral is the best I can do.

Taste: Follows the aroma, phenloic with light fruit, and floral hops. Something near the end that’s off putting, more than bitterness, and a little harsh. This faded some what with time, and eventually the fruit character of Amarillo seemed to punch through.

Mouth feel: Medium carbonation, with light-medium mouth feel, finishing slightly dry.

Overall: As mentioned above, this was decent, but not at all what I had hoped it would be. It did get better with time, when the yeast flavor seemed to subside, at which point I enjoyed what Amarillo brought to the beer. But, I couldn’t pick out Waimea really, or it was muddled by the yeast strain. Not to mention that harsh and/or bitter finish. I will come back to this style at some point. But for now I’m going to brew something in my comfort zone to get my confidence back up.