Swordfight 4: Another Belgian Blond with Meyer Lemon Leaves Recipe - Brain Sparging on Brewing


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September 25, 2018

Swordfight 4: Another Belgian Blond with Meyer Lemon Leaves Recipe

As I discussed in my last post, I've moved off to Denver and starting off a second chapter in my brewing. While I spent the first nine years exclusively bottling (yes, really) I now have a home with a kegerator which gives me the opportunity to brew beers for tap in addition to bottling beers for aging. For my first batch in the new house and the first kegged batch I opted to reach back to my very first homebrew experience. In July 2009 I brewed this fairly awful Belgian blonde extract kit I bought at a ridiculous markup from the local homebrew shop. I've since brewed two all grain batches (Swordfight 2 and Swordfight 3) and decided to take a third stab at a recipe for this legacy beer. Like prior batches, this beer targets the loose Belgian blonde style in the vein of Leffe Blonde, Chimay Doree (Chimay Gold) and all those middling ABV Belgian blondes that were left in craft beer's discard bin at the end of the 2000s. Light, fruity and dry--this style makes an excellent summer beer (although I'd happily drink it any time) so it's an opportune time to brew it.

Developing the Belgian blond recipe

Meyer lemon leaves
In the past I've spiced this beer with some of the more common Belgian beer spices. For this version I opted to look to my own garden for a milder spice component to mix with a late hop addition. Here I opted to blend a small amount of leaves from my meyer lemon tree. Citrus tree leaves generally carry a similar fruit flavor as the tree's fruit but with an herbal flavor. Lemon tree leaves are not as well known for cuisine as certain types of lime leaves (particularly makrut limes) but they are used in some manner virtually everywhere lemons grow. For this beer the yeast will do most of the heavy lifting in the fruit flavor area so the leaves will be a slight addition to round out the yeast flavor with a little herbal and citrus flavor. Similar to the typical coriander and orange peel approach but with a slightly different flavor.

Otherwise this recipe is a straightforward rendition of the style. Pilsner malt with a little wheat. Light hopping. I'm bringing back around WY1214 for this beer. It's such a finicky yeast but I really want to learn to tame it. I've added a little table sugar although I've cut down the typical percentage because I've dropped the ABV down from the style's typical 5.5-6.5% to 5%. I don't want the beer too thin but it needs to be a little lighter than an all grain beer. 

Swordfight 4: Belgian Blonde Ale Recipe

Batch Size: 3.1 gallon
Est. ABV: 5.5%
Est. IBU: 27.4
Est. OG: 1.049
Est. FG: 1.007
Est. SRM: 3.4
Expected Efficiency: 72%
Grain BillPoundsOuncesSRMPct. Grist
Belgian pilsner412280.90%
Unmalted red wheat12213.50%
Table sugar515.60%
Water Profileppm
Modified Bru'n Water Yellow Balanced
PH: 5.3
Water AdditionsMashSparge
Epsom Salt0.6g00.5g
Canning Salt0.1g0.1g
Baking Soda
Calcium Chloride0.9g0.8g
Pickling Lime
Lactic Acid1.1ml
Mash ScheduleStep Temp.Step Time
Single decoction mash with cereal mash
Mash volume: 8.92 qt
Sparge volume: 2.05 gal
Infuse 3 qt with wheat and boil 30 min21230
Add cereal mash to 5.92 qt mash water
Infuse mash with 8.92 qt total at 160F148F20
Decoct 1.71 qt and boil
Return decoction to raise mash158F40
Boil ScheduleVolumeUnitTimeIBU
60 minute boil
Belma [12.10%]0.3oz6024.2
Belma [12.10%]0.2oz53.2
Meyer lemon leaves1.5g00
Fermentation Schedule# DaysTemp.
Yeast: WY1214
Pitch 1L starter
Pitch at 64F164
Free rise to 72F1572
Cold crash135

Brewday & Fermentation Notes

Brewed 7.6.18.

Too excited about getting to brew again to take notes.

Tasting Notes and Thoughts

Tasting about two weeks after putting the keg on tap.

Appearance: Pours a light gold color with an icy white foam. Foam is fluffy with nice lacing. Hangs on to the bitter end. Beer is slightly cloudy.

Aroma: Whole wheat bread, lemon, hay, strawberry, clove and a little banana. A mild herbal note appears as the beer warms.

Flavor: Spice hits first with clove, pepper and a generic phenolic flavor. Lemon and a light herbal tea follow along with graininess, hay, white bread. The beer ends with an angel food cake-like flavor followed by a subtle lemon aftertaste. As the beer warms the herbalness comes out more but does not dominate. Bitterness is mild but there is a touch too much alcohol heat for the ABV.

Mouthfeel: Light body appropriate for the style but maybe a little too thin. It's helped out by the softness of the foam. Carbonation is spritzy but doesn't distract. 

Overall: The lemon leaves added a subtle character to the beer but it was such a mellow flavor that it didn't stand out as anything special. On one hand I think using a larger volume might help but on the other I fear it would add too much herbal flavor. I can't say the leaves added a preferable flavor over lemon peel or any of the common lemon-flavored brewing herbs. 

I wasn't a fan of how much phenolic flavor and how little fruit flavor I got out of fermentation. I think I fermented a little too cool for what I wanted from the yeast but the yeast were pretty old so there might have been some petite mutations changing up the character. I feel like I don't love the flavor I get out of brewing with the Chimay strain so I'll probably try out some other Trappist/abbey strains on subsequent brews.

After a couple more weeks on tap the spice mellowed and the lemon came through more. More banana in the aroma as well. I like it a lot more after additional age seemed to smooth out the beer but I still feel like I should try out some other yeast strains. 

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