Brewing Belgian Beers (#4): Oud Bruins

1.045-1.060, 4.8-6% ABV, 15-25 IBU, 10-20 SRM Red, deep copper or deep brown with red tints. Acidic aroma with some fruitiness. Flavor sweet, sour and fruity, esp. cherry-like. Lactic and acetic flavors ok. Attenuation low to medium. Medium carbonation, body medium to full. Addition of raspberries or cherries ok, should blend with other flavors, may provide additional acidity. Low bitterness, no hop flavor or aroma. No diacetyl.

Most commercial examples are richly colored with a fruity, acidic aroma and an intensely fruity, sweet and sour palate. Sourness varies in commercial examples, many of which are filtered and sweetened. Can become wine-like with age. Many commercial examples include a secondary fermentation on raspberries or sour cherries, and the flavors this contributes should be clear and should balance with the existing acidity and sweetness.

Brewing method

Homebrewers have yet to master this style. It appears that basic grists include pilsner malt, caramel malts, sometimes Vienna or Munich, and sometimes roasted malts in very small quantities for coloring. In some cases the deep color is achieved by long boils. Lactic and acetic bacteria provide the necessary acidity, and these may need a long time to achieve the proper acidity. Additions of lactic acid to finished beer may work. When used, fruit should be added to the secondary at 1-2 lbs per gallon of beer. Any cherries used should be sour! Carbonation is relatively standard, so 3/4 to 7/8 of a cup of sugar should be used to prime a 5 gallon batch.

Extract brewers should start with pale extract and use lots of caramel malts. Try to pick a yeast that's not going to attenuate too much.

Keep in mind that you're experimenting. However, if you're the first to brew a really good one of these, you will earn a substantial laurel wreath, and perhaps the Homebrew Nobel Prize.

Common problems

  1. Inadequate acidity. Add lactobacillus culture, ferment longer, or add lactic acid.

  2. Fruit flavors thin or inappropriate. Increase quantity of fruit, or use sour fruit instead of pie cherries!

  3. Too light in color. Increase use of caramel malts and/or boil time.

Commercial examples

Goudenband (5.1% ABV), Rodenbach Grand Cru (6.5% ABV), Liefmans Framboise (5.7% ABV), Liefmans Kriek

Sample recipe

Bill Ridgely's Framboise (partial mash recipe for 5 gallons)

3.3 lbs   American Classic Light liquid extract
2.0 lbs   Pale dry extract
1.0 lb    Pale ale malt
0.5 lb    Munich malt
0.5 lb    80L crystal
0.5 lb    Wheat malt
0.5 lb    dextrin malt

1.0 oz    Hallertau (4.2%) boiled for 60 minutes
1.0 oz    Saaz (3.2%) boild for 45 minutes

6.0 lbs   Tart red raspberries

Fermented with Wyeast Belgian yeast

OG: 1.062
FG: 1.015
Used step mash for grains--120 degrees for 30 minutes (protein rest), 150 degrees for 60 minutes (saccrification rest). Gypsum was added to adjust the mash pH. Total boil time 1.5 hours. Raspberries were crushed and added to the brewpot at the end of the boil, then steeped for 15 minutes before wort chilling. The raspberries were left in the primary for 7 days, then strained during transfer of wort to the secondary. Total fermentation time: 24 days. Fermentation temperature: 62F.

Recommended All-Grain variation (using Belgian malts at 27 points/lb):

9.0 lbs   pale ale malt
1.0 lb    aromatic malt
1.0 lb    wheat malt
0.5 lb    caramunich
0.5 lb    Special B
All other ingredients and procedures remain the same.

[Phil's note: This recipe was the closest to the real thing I've tasted, with one exception: it lacked the necessary sourness, although some was supplied by the raspberries. Nevertheless this recipe with an additional acid component or lactic fermentation seems like an excellent starting point for experimentation]

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