Quest for the Perfect Belgian Blanche

Written by Damon on August 30, 2008

Summer is pretty much over here in Vancouver, it’s been cold and rainy for two weeks now and I’ve sort of lost hope for a return of the sun.

Simone Hudson

Vancouver Summer | Photo Credit: Simone Hudson

Summer may be over, but I’m just starting to brew my first wheat beer of the season. I was in Belgium earlier this summer and sampled a lot of Belgian Blanche beers (well, actually, I sampled a lot of beer). Since, coming back home I’ve tried several local attempts at Belgian Blanche beer, including some from very well known Belgian-style North American brewers. Most of the beers had the right flavour, but didn’t seem nearly as intense or full-flavoured as their Belgian counterparts.

So I’m devoting my next few brews to making a full-flavoured Belgian Blanche beer. Dan, of Dan’s Home-Brewing fame, suggested that I just need to use more spices and orange peel—the local commercial brewers, he says, have their hands tied by needing to account for local preferences.

I hope he’s right. I recently modified my set-up to let me do a mini, experimental side-beer which should help me figure this problem out.

For my Blanche beers, I’m going to use this to try different quantities of herbs and spices (I’m thinking of trying fresh coriander instead of dried for one beer). Then I’ll be able to taste the two different combinations made with the same mash, grain-bill, and hops side-by-side and make adjustments for my next batch based on the comparison.

The Scent of a Belgian

Scent of a Belgian

Scent of a Belgian | Photo Credit: EverJean

A second obstacle to the perfect Blanche is the aroma. There is an aroma that I associate with most Belgian beers. I think it might be in the yeast, but it’s present across all styles. Maybe the aroma is from the conditioning yeast. So far, none of my Belgian beers have had that aroma and I can’t say that any of the domestic Belgians have been the same.

Ripping-Off Floreffe

One of my favourite breweries in Belgium was the Abbey de Floreffe. I went with my sister and one of her friends and we loved all of their beers. We were on bikes, and so probably would have liked a Molsons if it had been put in front of us. But these were exceptional.

Not only did we like their beers, but it was the only abbey that was accessible to independent travellers. Most abbeys and monasteries are happy to welcome a tour bus full of money (the people are an unfortunate parasite that lives on money), but a small group of 3 has no chance of seeing the abbey.

Cycling to Floreffe

Cycling to Floreffe

Their Blanche, like their other beers, poured very easily down our bicycle-parched throats. Compared with other Blanches we had, I think it had more anise than other beers and used lemon instead of Seville orange. I probably don’t remember it well enough to get it perfect, but I’ll be happy if I get something I like using the same ingredients.

My Next Nine-Dozen Pints

My next few batches will be Blanche beers. If you have any suggestions for getting the full flavour and aroma of a Belgian Blanche, please share.