The Land-Grant catalog is full of tasty beers that span a wide range of styles—hop forward IPAs, German lagers, brown ales, big malty stouts, even the occasional English pale ale or ESB—but Belgian (and French) styles have been a rare sight at the Franklinton brewery. That scenario recently changed with the release of three new beers: Oval Beach, Folie de Mars, and Dubbel Overtime.
The distinctive flavors and aromas that come from the yeasts developed in Belgium are what make most Belgian ales stand out from the crowd. As I reported a few weeks in a post on the Land-Grant University Yeast 101 class, the brewing team at Land-Grant evaluated five different yeasts for their Belgian series—French Ale Yeast (White Labs 072), Bastogne Belgian Ale Yeast (White Labs 510), Belgian Golden Ale Yeast (White Labs 570), French Saison Ale Yeast (White Labs 590), and Belgian Strong Ale Yeast (White Labs 545). From this process, they selected Belgian Golden Ale Yeast (White Labs 570), a strain derived from the yeast used to brew Duvel, the archetypal Belgian golden strong ale.
At the Yeast 101 class Head Brewer Jamie Feihel commented that they chose WLP570 in part because it gave off less phenolic by-products than many of the other Belgian yeast strains. Phenols are organic molecules with a hydroxide group bonded directly to an aromatic ring. Some phenols are desirable in specific styles of beer, particularly the molecule 4-vinylguaicol, which imparts clove-like flavors and aromas to German Hefeweizens and many Belgian ales. Phenolic compounds can also introduce pleasant spicy flavors like allspice and black pepper. However, phenolic compounds can also give undesirable flavors like smoke and band aid that are rarely appropriate in beer.
Land-Grant put the Duvel yeast strain to good use, producing both Oval Beach, a Duvel-like Belgian Blonde and Dubbel Overtime, a Belgian Dubbel. Interestingly for their Biere de Garde, Folie de Mars, they turned to a Kölsch yeast (White Labs 029) rather than one of the French ale yeasts they auditioned. While that might seem an apostasy on the surface, lager or kölsch yeasts are commonly used in France for brewing this style.
Oval Beach is currently available in 6-packs of cans around Columbus area and in select draft accounts. The other two beers are draft only, but both are pouring at Land-Grant taproom and at select accounts in Central Ohio.
Here are some more details and tasting notes on each beer.
Dubbel Overtime (7.4% abv, 21 IBU)
Released in the tap room this past Friday (3/30/17), Dubbel Overtime is the final act of the trilogy. Six different specialty malts are used in combination with a Pilsner malt base to produce flavors not unlike freshly baked biscuits drizzled in caramel and sprinkled with rum soaked raisins. The Duvel yeast adds subtle fruity esters in the background, and just enough hops (Magnum and Tettnang) are used to keep the malt sweetness in check. Dark Belgian candy syrup is used to darken the color, and boost the abv. It has the same dark fruit, caramel flavor characteristics of the classic Belgian dubbels, but to my palate it drinks a little brighter, perhaps because it is so much fresher than any beer imported from Belgium. The muted phenol character makes for a less complex yeast profile than a classic Trappist dubbel, but due to the rich malt profile that’s not something you’re likely to dwell on. All in all a very respectable foray into the world of abbey ales that holds its own against any Ohio-brewed dubbel that I’ve come across.
Oval Beach (6.6% abv, 17 IBU)
Oval Beach is made with a simple malt bill, consisting of Castle Chateau pilsner and red wheat malts, that allows the distinctive flavors of the Duvel yeast shine. The lack of roasted malts leads to a translucent, shimmering pale golden ale. Keeping with Belgian traditions, dextrose sugar is used to boost the abv without adding residual sweetness from unfermented sugars in the malts. I’ve always struggled to find the words to describe the taste of Duvel—restrained fruitiness (lemons, bananas, pineapples, ?), a little funky/earthy, with a touch of clove like spiciness on the finish—but if you’ve got a soft spot for this classic Belgian ale you owe it to yourself to pick up some Oval Beach.
Folie de Mars (7.7% abv, 21 IBU)
The French name, which is inspired by the madness surrounding the just completed NCAA Basketball tournament, is fitting for a March release of a French farmhouse ale. Like Dubbel Overtime the emphasis here is on malts, even more so given the use of the very clean kölsch yeast to carry out the fermentation. Once again European Pilsner malts are the canvas, and darker roasted varieties (Munich, Caramel, Vienna, Amber and Midnight Wheat) add color and flavors of caramel, toasted grains, and nuts. The French connection continues with the use of Strisslespalt hops, augmented by a dose of English Fuggles, but make no mistake malts are the focal point of this beer. Consider taking home a growler, because this beer would pair nicely with roasted or grilled meats.