French Blonde Ale Recipe and Tasting
Every Labor Day for the last 20+ years my wife’s family has thrown a big barbecue in her ancestral homeland of northeastern Ohio. For this year's festivities, Audrey and I decided to brew a batch specifically for the event. The goal was something that would be accessible and appealing to people who like beer: refreshing, moderate alcohol, low bitterness, and clean fermentation.
NoteStreams are readable online but they’re even better in the free App!
The NoteStream™ app is for learning about things that interest you: from music to history, to classic literature or cocktails. NoteStreams are truly easy to read on your smartphone—so you can learn more about the world around you and start a fresh conversation.
For a list of all authors on NoteStream, click here.
Read the NoteStream below, or download the app and read it on the go!
I have difficulty when I need to bring beer to an event that isn’t beer-centric.
Most of my bottled beers are intended for slow consumption, and are thus strong, sour, weird, or some combination thereof. I usually keg my daily drinkers for consumption within a couple months. If I happen to have a suitable beer on tap I’ll fill a growler, but often what I have is a session IPA, something roasty, and a tart saison. Not exactly gateway beers for many people!
Something to Celebrate
Every Labor Day for the last 20+ years my wife’s family has thrown a big barbecue in her ancestral homeland of northeastern Ohio.
It involves a rib cooking contest, penny scramble, and cases of Bud Light, Yuengling, and occasionally some Great Lakes. In previous years I’ve brought a mixed-six to share with the handful of uncles, cousins, and siblings that lean towards beer nerdery. For this year's festivities, Audrey and I decided to brew a batch specifically for the event.
The goal was something that would be accessible and appealing to people who like beer: refreshing, moderate alcohol, low bitterness, and clean fermentation. At the same time, I didn't want to brew an American Lager.
Drawing Off Wart
Image by Michael Tonsmeire
The recipe was really simple, meaning ingredient quality was especially important.
I wanted to show off one of my favorite base malts, Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsner. Hops were restrained, Sterling for both bittering and a touch of aroma. The yeast was an accidental purchase, I was intending to buy White Labs French Saison Ale for a consulting job, but mistakenly selected White Labs French Ale. The description matched the “clean” requirement, not too different than a German/Kolsch ale strain.
Wort in one of the two fermentors, waiting for yeast.
Image by Michael Tonsmeire
Luckily the beer was a hit! Mostly thanks to Audrey’s expert sales role convincing grandparents and third-cousins to try it.
We drove home with an empty keg after draining the last quart into a water jug for her uncle to enjoy during the cleanup. This was surprisingly my first time serving a keg away from home; glad I had my 5 lb. aluminum CO2 tank retested after getting a new 20 lb. tank for the kegerator.
To keep the keg cool we placed it in a small plastic trash can with a big bag of ice and a gallon of water. Pours were predictably a little foamy by people more accustomed to pouring macro-lagers from hand-pumped kegs, but it was otherwise a great excuse to share my passion!
Rib Burn-Off Blonde
I’ve still got the second keg of this batch on tap, although it was dry hopped with an ounce of Jarrylo (its parentage looks like a royal family - Summit is both the mother and paternal grandmother).
Image by Michael Tonsmeire
About the Beer
Appearance – I had been hoping for a bit more clarity from the gelatin for presentation purposes, although no one seemed to mind. Likely my fault for not crash chilling in conjunction with fining. Beautiful, bright yellow color and a thick gorgeous head and lacing. A looker, even in a plastic cup!
Smell – What I really like about the Floor-Malted BoPils is that it doesn’t come across as grassy as Pilsner malts often do. The flavor has more inside-of the baguette (not the toasty crust, just a pure bready-grainy expression). The yeast is clean, but slightly fruitier than American Ale. Sterling provides a restrained citrusy-spice. Fresh, bright, fancy beer.
Taste – Love the balance, malty without being sweet. Low-gravity beers need a boost to compensate for less total malt, characterful base malt can go a long way in that regard. The acidulated malt keeps it from being stodgy, keeps the finish quick. Worked well with the wide range of foods served.
About the Beer
Mouthfeel – Crisp without being astringent. I incorporated some of the techniques I’ve been working on for IPAs (high chloride water, hotter mash) to ensure it didn’t end up too thin despite the low gravity. Carbonation was about right for me, which likely means a little low for people accustomed to BMC seltzer.
Drinkability & Notes – Always good to know I can brew something light, low-hopped, and clean! Probably the least exciting recipe I’ve made in recent memory, but in some ways it is the sort of beer that is becoming harder and harder to find compared to a great IPA or bourbon-barrel RIS. I enjoyed the non-dry hopped version more than the one I have on at home. The Jarrylo at such a low level comes across as a fruity yeastiness. It covers up the wonderful maltiness, replacing it with bruised orchard fruit.
• Batch Size (Gal): 13.00
• Total Grain (Lbs): 20.50
• Anticipated OG: 1.043
• Anticipated SRM: 2.8
• Anticipated IBU: 20.3
• Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%
• Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes
• 97.6% - 20.00 lbs. Weyermann Floor-Malted Bohemian Pilsner
• 2.4% - 0.50 lbs. Weyermann Acidulated Malt
• 1.13 oz. Sterling (Pellet, 8.00% AA) @ 60 min.
• oz. Sterling (Pellet, 8.00% AA) @ 10 min.
• Whirlfloc @ 5 min.
• tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 5 min.
• White Labs WLP072 French Ale
• Profile: Washington, DC
• Sacch Rest - 35 min @ 155F
• Brewed 7/18/15 with Audrey
• 7 g CaCl added to the mash. No additional acid.
• First runnings 1.040. 3 gallons of cold sparge water, filtered, otherwise untreated. Collected 14.5 gallons at 1.039.
• Chilled to 70F in the kettle, settled 20 minutes, ran into fermentors, pure oxygen for 45 seconds each, pitched yeast (one vial for each 5.5 gallons) directly. September Best By date. Left at 64F ambient to ferment.
• Good fermentation by 24 hours
• 7/23/15 Warmed up to 75F to ensure fermentation is complete.
• 7/28/15 Back to 64F.
• 7/30/15 Dry hopped one fermentor with 1 oz of Jarrylo. The other half got the Brulosophy Gelatin Method: 1/2 tsp of Knox gelatin dissolved in cold/filtered water and slowly heated to 150F in 10 second bursts.
• 8/3/15 Kegged both, topped up with CO2, put into fridge.
• 8/8/15 Hooked up the "dry hopped" keg to gas. Final pH 4.19, FG 1.014, 3.8% ABV.
• 9/1/15 Dumped a couple pints, and then shook CO2 into the Burn Off keg.
• 9/6/15 Served at the Rib Burn Off.