How To Belgian IPA

by Steve Thanos | Updated: February 15, 2021

Belgian IPA is an IPA with the fruit and spice notes that usually derive from the use of Belgian yeast. This specialty IPA tends to be lighter in color and more attenuated.

Some say the Belgian IPA is a cross between an American IPA and a Belgian Tripel.

The difficult part of this beer is pairing the hops with the yeast so the outcome does not become muted or clashing. 

Hops in Belgium

Brewing in Belgium goes back some 2000 years. The first recorded use of hops was in Picardy, France in 822 A.D.

Since Picardy is some 125 miles away from Belgium, it is possible and probably even likely that hops were involved in Belgian brewing around the same time period. By the 1300s, hops were being grown in some of the low countries, including Belgium. 

Hoppy Beers in Belgium

Evidence of hoppy Belgian beers was discovered with Brouwerji Van Eecke’s offering, Poperings Hommel ale. This brewery first brewed this beer in 1981.

Well before the IPA craze, this beer contained four different hops and contained an IBU rating of around thirty to forty. Much of hoppy Belgian beers were inspired by the American craft beer movement. 

The First IPA-Inspired Belgian Beer

Urthel Hop-it was the first IPA-inspired hoppy Belgian beer brewed by Hildegard van Ostaden. It was after a trip to the United States in 2005 that grew his curiosity and interest in the hoppy style.

De Rank XX Bitter and Houblon Chouffe also came about a year later. Stone Brewing Company’s Cali-Belgique was also released in 2008. 

Style Profile for Belgian IPA

Appearance

Belgian IPA are light golden to amber in color. The beer’s clarity is usually dependent upon dry hopping. The beer can be really clear or very hazy. Long-lasing moderate to large head with an off-white color. 

Aroma

The aroma of an Belgian IPA is smooth and that of sweet grain maltiness. Light caramel and some sweetness from the Belgian candi sugar.

Hop aroma should be moderate to high. Fruity esters of apples, bananas, and pear can be moderately high. Clove-like phenols should be light, but are still present.  

Flavor

The Belgian yeast is in the forefront in the initial flavor of this beer style. The clove-like phenols and the fruity esters of apples, bananas, and pear are present in the taste.

Bitterness of the beer may be high and may be heightened by the spiciness from the yeast. Dry finish with lingering sweetness.  

Mouthfeel

The body of this beer is dependent on the carbonation level of the beer. Usually ranges from light to medium. Carbonation level can range from medium to high.

Some warming from higher alcohol content. 

Food Pairing

The dryness and the high bitterness of this beer works really well with spicy foods. Asian, Indian, Mexican, Vietnamese foods all come to mind. A peppercorn rubbed steak, spicy fish tacos, spicy shrimp pasta all come to mind.

Sharp and tangy cheeses pair well with a Belgian IPA. Sharp aged cheddar, goat cheese or blue cheese all pair well. Desserts should not be ignored here. Fruity desserts like pineapple upside down cake and creme brulee are good options. 

Tips for Brewing your own Belgian IPA

Grain

Domestic 2-Row or pale ale usually make 80 to 100% of the bill. There should be a low malt profile to this beer. Also, keep specialty malts constrained. Crystal malts should be used sparingly, less than 5% of the grain bill.

Some light Munich or Belgian biscuit malt can also be considered. The ultimate goal is to make a drier beer that will accentuate the hop profile of the beer. To this point, adjunct sugar is commonly used for two reasons.

One, it will boost the alcohol content that Belgian IPAs are known for and two, the sugar will dry out the beer. Adjunct sugars can make up 30% of the recipe’s bill. 

Hops

Hops selection is pretty open with this style. However, there are some things to consider. The major thing to consider is how the hop flavor will play with the Belgian yeast.

If the hops and yeast do not work well together, the outcome may be either the hops or the yeast muting the other or clashing. In most cases hops that possess fruity, floral, or spicy notes are going to play nicely with the Beligian yeast.

European hops, specifically noble hops, are usually a safe bet.   

Yeast

A dry fermenting yeast is what you are looking for since the beer should be dry to accentuate the hops. White Labs Abbey Ale WLP530 or Belgian Strong Ale WLP545 and Wyeast Belgian Ardennes 3522 or Belgian Abbey 1214 are good choices for liquid yeasts.

As for dry yeast, Safbrew Abbaye BE-256 or Mangrove Jack’s Belgian Tripel are good choices as well.  

Belgian IPA the By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 5 – 15 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.058 – 1.080 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.016 FG
  • IBU Range: 50 – 100
  • ABV Range: 6.2 – 9.5%

Martin Keen’s Belgian IPA Recipe

Grain

78 %           10 lbs         Pilsner; Belgian     

15 %             2 lbs         Belgian Pale Malt

  7 %             1 lb           Biscuit Malt  

Hops

2.00 oz         Styrian Goldings – Boil 60 min

1.00 oz         Saaz – Boil – 15 min

1.00 oz         Tettnang – Boil 15 min

1.00 oz         Tettnang – Boil   0 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg   Wyeast Belgian Ardennes #3522

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins 

Transcript: At last, at last, I’ve been on this Homebrew challenge for over a year, and I’m finally gonna make my first Belgian beer Belgian IPA. And in the course of doing that, I’m also going to put to the test, this pressurized growler from craft master.

I’m Martin Keen taking the Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. And my excitement around this style is because Belgium beer styles are my absolute favorite beers. And this one is a doozy. It is a combination between an American IPA and a Belgian triple. What is not to like about that?

Eagle eye viewers may have noticed that I usually brew two and a half a gallon batches. I have a lot of beer to drink, but not this week. I’m going all in with a five gallon batch. So let’s get this into the water, which I’ve already heated up to a strike temperature of 154 Fahrenheit.

Now there are a few ways you can approach this style. What I’m doing is I’m going to build a beer that uses a Belgian grains and European hops.

But actually you could approach this style, even using American grains are say two row pale malt, for example, uh, the important thing of course is that you do use Belgium yeast. That really is a must.

So for my recipe, I am building a beer here of 10 66 original gravity. So about 7% beer, 78% of my grist is Belgian pilsner malt. I’m also adding in 15% of Belgium two row pale malt. And to add a little bit of biscuity character, well, I’m adding an 8% of biscuit malt.

Now, when you want to take your beer on the road, a growler is always a good option, especially this delightful saints and devils brewery growler. Now the, uh, the thing with growlers is, is they’re very easy. You can just literally fill them up straight from the tap. Uh, the downside is the beer. Well, it will go flat and stale pretty quickly.

So you’re going to want to drink it probably the same day as you fill it.

Enter a pressurized growler. Now I love the idea of pressurized growlers, and I’ve had a few of these and what this does is it keeps the beer under pressure, just like it was in a keg. Um, and this one comes with a tap handle as well. Now this specifically is a craft master growler, and it’s 128 fluid ounces. So a gallon of beer, double what this can store. I think they do. So one that is 64 ounces as well.

Now I have actually been using this quite extensively for neighborhood parties and whatnot. It’s a really nice way of taking my beer out. Um, it appears to have some kind of insulation in it as well because, uh, I had this in direct sun on hot summer days and it seems to have kept the beer pretty cool.

So I’m just going to show you really how it works. Basically what it comes down to is that you’ve got the, you’ve got the, uh, growler itself here and yeah, insulated, I think. And it also comes with this, which is where you install a CO2 cartridge. So when you get this growler, you’ll want to get some of these CO2 cartridges. Mine shipped with some, these are 16 gram CO2 cartridges, and they just slot into here and then screw in tight.

On the top here is a pressure relief valve. And then this dial here allows you to turn the gas on or off. And there’s a little PSI pressure gauge here as well. So you can see how pressurized the beer is. They recommend that you keep this a little bit below 15 PSI. This also ships really tiny little packet of PBW to give this thing a clean. Uh, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to clean this thing out, sanitize it with some starsan, and then fill it up.

I just want to purge to the oxygen that’s in here so I’m going to pull on the pressure relief valve and put a little bit more gas back in and purge it one more time. Okay. So I’m gonna set this to serving pressure, which is just around 15 or 10 PSI, and then turn it off.

And then periodically I would switch this back to on again, when I need to top up the pressure. One of those little CO2 cartridges should be sufficient to serve everything that’s in here. Okay. That’s actually see what sort of poor we get. I think it’s pretty good, right? Cheers.

For the hops for this beer, Well, we’re going for an IBU of 53. It’s going to be hoppy. I mean, this, this is an IPA.

So the way I’m going to get there is with all European hops and I’m going to use Styrian Golding as my bittering hop, this’ll get me to about 40 IBU. I’m going to put this in at 60 minutes and I have two ounces of Styrian Golding land with 15 minutes to go for my flavor hop.

I’m going to be adding a Tetnang and Saaz, one ounce each of those, those will go in at 15 minutes and then right at the end. So flame out, I’m going to throw in one more bag here of tatnang.

I’ve cooled an aerated the wort and the yeast for this one I’m using is wyeast, 3522. That is Belgian ardennes. That yeast is going to give notes of fruit and spice, which is the whole thing we’re going for in this beer.

It’s highly flocculant, really lumpy, so should mean that the beers pretty clear as well. I’m going to ferment reasonably warm. I’m going to start out at 70 Fahrenheit or 21 Celsius, and then probably bump it up a couple of degrees over the next few days. Now it’s just a case of waiting for this thing to ferment.

Did I mention how much I’m looking forward to trying this one?

I am obviously massively excited to try the first Belgium beer of the Homebrew challenge. So let’s take a look. What do you think about this one? Um, to me, it is, hold on, hold on.

We have help this time. To you it is pick one of the descriptors from the BJCP guide wheel.

And you can, you can tell me which one it is. We were struggling a bit with this last time. So, um, well I was going to say golden, golden. I think there’s a golden Amber color. I mean, you can see a glare it, but it’s quite hazy. Yes, it is a little bit hazy. It has not cleared up. Yep. Yeah. Okay.

So do you think we can steal some descriptors for the smell? Well, let’s smell it first and see what we can come up with? Okay. Crazy idea. Okay. It smells like Belgian yeast.

I don’t know what descriptor that is, but to me and drinks have a very distinctive aroma and I love it. What are you getting? So I smell like a very subtle fruitiness kind of smells like banana. Oh, okay. You’re getting some, some sort of banana-ry esters. Um, no, I, I can see what you mean.

Not a world away from like a hefevizen sort of smell. So banana is actually right here, so, okay. Estery. I cannot pronounce any of those. Ethyl acetate, ethyl. Hexa I know Tate does that, right. Is that how you say it? I have no idea. Okay. I think I’ve got the first one, right?

Hopefully it tastes like this; alcoholic. Um, I see this one of your favorite descriptors here – watery. Yeah. And you laugh at me. It is a thing. All right.

Let’s try it. Yep. Yeah. It still tastes like fruit to me.

Definitely. Definitely a, uh, there’s a lot of work. I don’t know how to pronounce any of those. Carolina, like plastic. Like, no, it’s none of those things now. Um, Oh, is that the mouth feel one? Where’s that? Okay. It’s not powdery. We’re drying for the mouth feel it’s kind of, kind of has like a light coating. Yeah. Like it’s not thick, like some of the other beers you’ve done.

I think you were picking up on a lot of wheat beer kind of characteristics. So you said smelled like banana and he sort of looked cloudy in a, uh, fruity sort of tastes. So yeah. It’s not, it’s not massively far away from that. Yeah. I, I know, I know that you like Belgium beers a lot. Um, to me they taste like the big brother of a Whit beer, who was that awful? And I just said, Oh, it wasn’t rancid rancid.

A rancid beer? I mean, borderline Martin smoked beer could have been. That was pretty right. Yes. Um, I think that one was also burnt liner, burnt rubber and the shrimp, like, no, not shrimp. Like don’t do that to shrimp. Shrimp. Shrimp is good.

So if you wanted to make this beer and I highly recommend it, link is in the description to the Atlantic brew supply kit. Plus I also have my recipe down there, but, um, yeah, I think this was a total success.

It’s it’s fruity. It’s refreshing. And wet as an otter’s pocket. Absolutely. Cheers. Cheers.

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.