How To Brew Belgian Blond Ale | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Updated: May 13, 2021

Belgian Blond Ale is less than 100 years old, yet it is based on one of the most glorious brewing traditions in the world.

With its brewing roots as old as the Middle Ages, when beer was brewed for substance, Belgian beers made a home for many beer lovers.

People at this time would rather drink a glass of sanitary beer than risk the possibility of illness by drinking water. 

Keeping Up With the Times

All across Europe lager beers were sweeping through the land like wildfire. Belgian brewers knew that if they wanted to stay relevant, they needed to adapt to the new love for pale colored beers instead of the dark beers that everyone was accustomed to.

This was an opportunity for Belgian brewers to get creative, since they still wanted to complete in the beer business.

These brewers still used their distinctly Belgian ale yeasts, but included pale pilsner malt, thus creating a whole new style of beer. 

More Similarities Than Differences

There seems to be a general theme when looking at Golden Strong, Blond, and Tripel comparatively. Each beer appears to have the same color and the grain bill usually consists of a common malt, Pilsner malt.

It is uncertain if the Golden Strong evolved from the Blond or the Blond from the Golden Strong. Belgian Blond ales do tend to be slightly sweeter and lack some rich complexity of the Golden Strong and Tripel. 

Belgian Blond Ale is less than 100 years old, yet it is based on one of the most glorious brewing traditions in the world. With its brewing roots as old as the Middle Ages, when beer was brewed for substance, Belgian beers made a home for many beer lovers.

People at this time would rather drink a glass of sanitary beer than risk the possibility of illness by drinking water. 

Keeping Up With the Times

All across Europe lager beers were sweeping through the land like wildfire. Belgian brewers knew that if they wanted to stay relevant, they needed to adapt to the new love for pale colored beers instead of the dark beers that everyone was accustomed to.

This was an opportunity for Belgian brewers to get creative, since they still wanted to compete in the beer business. These brewers still used their distinctly Belgian ale yeasts, but included pale pilsner malt, thus creating a whole new style of beer. 

Style Profile for Belgian Blond Ale

Appearance

The color can range from pale to gold, usually with suburb clarity. A white to off-white, dense creamy head. Decent head retention and lacing in the glass.

Aroma

The aroma is subtle. There is a sweet grain character from the malt. Hops are light and contain a earthy spice to them. Beer may be slightly sugar sweet. Yeast character can be complex and contain some fruity esters, often orange or lemon-like. Spicy phenols are present.   

Flavor

Beer contains a smooth rounded flavor. Moderate grain sweetness with medium bitterness. Notes of soft caramelization or honeyed sweetness.

Hop flavors come through lightly as qualities of earth and spice.

Yeast character is subtle and mellow with fruit, perfume-like esters, and alcohol. Some phenolic spiciness. Finish of this beer can be moderately dry to dry. Some alcohol warming may be present in the aftertaste. 

Mouthfeel

Creamy and smooth, medium body, with light to medium alcohol warming qualities. Moderately high to high carbonation, which will be very noticeable on the palate. 

Food Pairings

The subtleness and lightness of a Belgian Blond works well with any fish. Chicken, pasta, or seafood also pair well.

Spicy cuisine such as Mexican, Indian, or Asian foods pair well due to the high level of carbonation across the palate.

Cheese that pair well includes brie, gouda, or aged jack. Desserts could include spiced cookies or spiced vanilla ice cream. 

Tips for Brewing your own Belgian Blond Ale

Grain

Most of the grist for a Belgian Blond consists of high-quality pilsner malt. This should be at least 60% of the grain bill and as high as 95%. The rest of the grist will be made up of some sort of light adjunct sugar such as cane or beet sugar, along with honey. This sugar can be from 5 to 30 percent.

Avoid using high caramel malts such as crystal or cara malts. Also avoid roasty dark malts. These malts will add too much color to the beer. Instead try specialty malts such as Vienna, aromatic, light Munich, Belgian biscuit, or light colored Aroma malts.  

Hops

Since the hop profile for this style is pretty mellow, a restrained,  a floral, earthy, and/or spicy hop with medium to low bitterness is common for the style. Stay away from overly fruity hops. 

German noble varieties such as Tettenag, Saaz, Hallertauer, and Spalt. All of these choices give off a nice floral, spicy notes that work well with the soft lager-character of this beer style.

Also you can consider Styrian Golding, Mount Hood, Liberty, Brewer’s Gold, Santiam, and East Kent Goldings. 

Yeast

Like most Belgian beers, yeast is important. There is a wide selection of yeast to choose from for this style. They include the following:

  • White Labs: Belgian Strong Ale Yeast (WLP545), Belgian Ale Yeast (WLP550), or Monastery Ale Yeast (WLP500).
  • Wyeast: Wyeast Belgian Strong Ale (1388) or Belgian Ardennes (3522).
  • Dry Yeast: Fermentis SafBrew T-58 or Mangrove Jack’s Belgian Tripel (M31)

Belgian Blond Ale By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 4 – 7 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.062 – 1.075 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.018 FG
  • IBU Range: 15 – 30
  • ABV Range: 6.0 – 7.5%

Martin Keen’s Belgian Blond Ale Recipe

Grain

  • 82%        11 lbs     Pilsner Belgian
  •   7%          1 lb       Vienna Malt
  •   7%          1 lb       Wheat Malt  
  •   4%          8 ozs      Aromatic Malt

Hops

  • 1 oz         Stryian Goldings – Boil – 60 min
  • 1 oz         Tettnang – Boil – 5 min

Yeast

  • 1.0 pkg   Wyeast Belgian Ardennes #3522

Directions

  1. Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins
  2. Boil for 60 mins 

Transcript: Belgium blonde ale is something of a Belgium beer, middle ground. It’s quite high in alcohola nd has some of those Belgium, phenols and esters that you would expect out of a Belgium beer. That’s the style I’m looking to initially brew today.

And then I’m going to mix things up at serving time by using this Blichman hop rocket as a rattler.

Thanks for joining me. My name’s Martin Keen. I’m taking The Homebrew Challeng to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. Today’s beer Belgium blonde ale is light refreshing and has some earthy tones, which I’m going to try to turn on its head a little bit in today’s brew.

But, uh, before we get to that, let’s start to mash in. So, a grist like this, you want to mash it fairly low. I’m going to mash this one at 150 Fahrenheit, so that’s 67 Celsius.

And grist like this that are so pale. This one really is quite a light beer. I do tend to add a little bit of lactic acid into the mix here because that’s going to help with conversion just to keep the pH down a little bit. All right, let’s set this one on its way.

I’m in the car now. This is, this is where I do a lot of my editing, actually, what I’m sitting here waiting for my son to complete soccer practice and just looking at the footage, the next little segment coming up where I talk about the recipe. Some reason I screw that up and I’m super blurry. So just want us to say, sorry about that. But yeah, there we go.

Um, right back to the brew day, I said this bit is quite strong. We are looking at an ABV of around 7%. So I’m looking to build an original gravity of 1.068 for this beer.

Now, because this style does emphasize pale malts, you do want to use a high quality based malt. I’m using a Belgium Pilsner malt at 82%. I’m also adding in at 7% Vienna malt.

And then something I like to add to quite a lot of my paler beers for mouthfeel purposes is some wheat. So I’m going to be adding in 7% of pale wheat malt. And then finally, the remaining 4% of the grist is aromatic malt.

Draining out of the grain basket, now we’re getting ready for the boil. The hops I’m using for this beer, well, these are going to be a familiar theme in a lot of the Belgium beers I’m going to be doing, because I just think that these work really, really well.

I’m using Styrian Golding as my bittering hop. That’s what we’ll go in at the very start of the boil. It’s a nice low alpha acid hops, which is what we’re looking for. With five minutes to go. That’s when I’ll be adding that Tettnang, that’s going to add some herbal and spicy aromas and flavors to the beer.

Now I’ve used the hop rocket before when I was brewing a black IPA. And in that instance, I used the hop rocket to add hops right at the end of the boil. So effectively as a Whirlpool hop addition, let’s give it a try. It’s working!

Now, when we got to tasting the beer, I think we felt the effect was quite subtle. Now I still have some cascade hops left over from that experience. And I want to revisit the hop rocket now to use it instead as a rattler.

Which is to say, rather than running the wort through the hop rocket straight after the boil, I’m going to do it when the beer is being served. So this will sit between my keg and my tap. And I’ve picked the style of Belgium blonde to try this because I think it will give me the best chance to really pick up the difference that the hop rocket is making.

Because I’m adding in cascade hops here, and these are not hops that you would typically add into a Belgium blonde ale. This is going to give off aromas of, of grapefruit primarily, which is not really consistent with the style of Belgium blonde.

So by using the hop rocket as a rattler, we’ll be able to compare sort of a regular Belgium blonde, and then a Belgium blonde enhanced by Cascade.

The beer transferred. I’m going to add in my yeast, I’m using Belgium Ardennes Yeast then used for that that’s wyeast 3522. That would give just a little bit of the fruity esters that I’m looking for.

So I’m going to let the beer fully ferment, move it into the keg,. and only when it’s ready for serving is when I will add the rattler.

So Lauren today is a tasting in two parts. So let’s, first of all, do part one, which is to look at this Belgium blonde ale and see what we think of its color.

Okay. Well personally it looks quite blonde. Yeah. Yeah. It does look the desired color. Yeah. Looks very inviting. Color-wise. It smells quite light with like multi smell and a little bit, little bit fruity.

Just a touch, right? Yeah. A little bit of malty sweetness. I think I definitely taste more malt than I smelt. Um, and I smell, I taste less fruit, but I smell. Okay.

So it, yeah, it tastes to me what I was expecting, which is very malt forward. Not at all fruity, whereas the smell, the aroma was that a little bit, uh, I don’t think from the aroma, you could tell how malty this was.

Okay. So we’ve tried the beer. Um, I think we both picking up the same sort of thing. Very malty, not hoppy at all. So what if now we were to employ a rattler to make it hoppy?

We’ve got this set up here, like massive, thank you to Atlantic brew supply. I just took the hop rocket to them and said, I need to connect this up to my keg and to a party tap. And they searched the place to find two hookups that would allow me to do that.

So what I’ve done is I’ve taken my whole hops and I’ve put them into the hop rocket. And now the idea is that I have a keg down here. That’s going to send beer into the bottom of this, uh, will then be filled with the beer, come out the top.

And at that point it would have passed through all of the hops and through the party tap to our glasses. All right, let’s try this out.

I’ve got whatever it set here. Uh, so as soon as I push down the, uh, the liquid post, then we’ll see what happens. This is closed. Because it says hop rocket, like, I dunno what pressure to use either. I’m using 10 PSI. Uh, that might be too much. So I’m going to drop it down.

Okay. You ready? No. Oh my goodness. Guess didn’t do that tight enough. Oh no. I think it’s still, yeah, it’s still leaking. Good.

And now we haven’t gotten beer just comes out really fast. Yes.

You’re high now. So the ceiling didn’t work, I’ve got an absolute ton of beer in here from leakage. Something isn’t sealed properly to handle pressure, or maybe just can’t have as much pressure. Okay. So, um, I think a lower pressure would be the way to go, but you do have a little, few floaty things in, in that beer.

So the question is, is there any difference to this? I’m just from appearance. I mean, they look, let’s say minus some floaty things. Yeah. Yes. I think the floaties give it character. So I’m okay with that. You know, the, uh, hop rocket, um, smells less malty than this one.

Agreed. Yeah. There’s this smell now, now that when you compare the two, I think the original one smells a lot more malty than the other one. Let’s give it a go. Oh, well that tastes different. It definitely tastes different. Doesn’t it? I am definitely tasting a bit more of that sort of fruity character to it.

It’s like, I don’t like the first one anymore. Yeah. It tastes so malty. So malty and so strong. And like I said, that had more of like an alcoholic base, like kick to it. So I having this, after it went through that thing like mellowed it out.

And I think I definitely prefer this one over the non-rocket. I vastly prefer this one as well. And I quite like that originally, but now, originally, now when you put them side by side,

Right. That’s really, that’s crazy to think that it’s like the same beer. I just had like an extra step to it.

All right. Well thank you for, uh, for trying out this, I told you, Scott, I’m sorry. You good?

Well, thank you for trying the hop rocket with me and the experiment. I am super excited for next week’s beer. One of my favorite styles coming up, but until then, it’s the double fisted.

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.