Flanders, North Belgium, is a melting pot of cultures and traditions from across Europe. The Flemish Red Beer is perhaps the best manifestation of this composite culture. It’s an intensely sour (at times sweet) brew with 6 to 6.5% Alcohol by Volume (ABV), a delectable malty flavour, and a fruity complexity featuring plums, black cherries, and red currants. The beer bears an uncanny resemblance to red wine in terms of colour (ranging from red to brown) and a typical sharpness in both, flavour and aroma emanating from acetic acid and lactic acid.
Designing and Brewing A Flanders Red Ale
The fermentation is elaborate, done in oak through unconventional, “wild” microorganisms, notably Pedicoccus and Brettanomyces. The result is a spicy, vanilla character and a crusty tart astringency that’s characteristically Belgian and inimitably Flemish. Multiple batches are aged in multiple barrels and subsequently blended to ensure consistency in body and character. While most breweries stick to tradition, some deviate. Moderately kilned malts are a permanent fixture at traditional breweries, but modern ones prefer wort comprised of pilsner malt. Know more by clicking here
Piqued your interest already? Read on to know how to brew Flemish Red Beer at home.
When it comes to grist for Flanders Red Ale, the options are multiple. For starters, the grist is crushed malt required for brewing mash. Just determine what you wish to taste and opt for a grist profile accordingly. A mix of Maris Otter and Munich, roughly five-pound each, is apt for a sumptuous, bready malt background that’ll leave the beer geek in you clamouring for more.
Aromatic malt, flaked oats (half a pound each), and Special B (a quarter of a pound) are the other ingredients for a homebrewed Flanders Red Ale. Any variance in quantity can compromise the flavour and spoil the entire experience, beware. Wheat can also be used if a mild flavour is sought. The blend accentuates the toast and grain complexity while introducing a hint of dark fruit.
Feel free to use 15 IBUs of any hop that’s accessible. Hallertau is an ideal choice, but any other low-alpha hop variety will do. When it comes to yeast, your go-to option is W-yeast 1007 German Ale for the first fermentation. The yeast is clean, but on the upside, it renders a fruity flavour. For secondary fermentation, prefer W-yeast 3763 Roeselare blend. The two yeasts work best in Flemish Red Beer to restrict diacetyl and an intense acetic flavour that are both spoilers.
The process gets underway when you perform a standard mash. Following this, fermentation with German Ale yeast at about 19C (roughly 65F) is required. As the primary fermentation nears an end, slightly increase the temperature to 69F to get rid of any precursors. Transfer the blend in another vessel, preferably made of glass to ward off oxidation. Park it in a temperature-stable area with little or no air movement and light penetration, notably basement stairs.
Now, it’s time to introduce some oak cubes. Oaking can be done either before the secondary begins or at the end, per taste. In case you suffer low tolerance to tannins, adding oak cubes at the end makes sense. Determining the toast level is critical here. For some, medium-plus is just too amateurish for a Flanders Red Ale. On the contrary, many are simply given to the contrast created by the beer’s burgundy complexion and an intensely toasted wood character.
The secondary aging time ranges from 6 to 12 months, subject to your taste. The wait is worth it when you brew Flemish Red Beer. It’s perhaps more than just a remarkable beer. Instead, it’s a gastronomical experience no beer geek can afford to miss. The moment the brew hits your sweet spot, it’s time to carbonate it to around 1.75 volumes of carbon dioxide.