Why do we make Belgian Inspired Ales?
Inspired by the great beers of Belgium , our brewer and owner Vinnie Cilurzo has created a line up of Belgian inspired beers. It all started back in 1989 when Cilurzo took a trip to Europe, on a day trip to Belgium he fell in love with ales of Belgium. One week later he finally left the tiny little country.
In 1994 while brewing at Blind Pig Brewing Company in Temecula , CA , a local home brewer, Darrel Flood would bring Cilurzo samples of his homebrewed Belgian style ales for Cilurzo to sample. Cilurzo always wanted to brew Belgian style ale at Blind Pig; however, due to the fact that all of his fermenters were plastic, he did not want to take a chance of having the Belgian yeast stay permanently impregnated in the plastic fermenters. So, he waited.
Finally, in 1997 Cilurzo & his wife Natalie moved to Northern California where he was hired by Korbel Champagne cellars to brew at their new brewery Russian River Brewing Company. On the weekends he would homebrew Artisan ales. Eventually, he created his first Belgian Inspired ale called California Abbey Ale. Than came Damnation and several other "tion" Belgian inspired ales.
How are "Belgian inspired ales" different than actual beers of Belgium ?
Out of respect for our brewing friends in Belgium , we choose to use the word "inspired" when explaining these types of beers. We certainly do not set out to copy any Belgian ale. But we do take inspiration from them. Like all of our beers, we brew them with our own unique California craft beer twist.
How are these beers different from our more traditional ales such as Blind Pig IPA & Pliny the Elder?
The difference between our Belgian inspired ales and non-Belgian inspired ales all starts with the yeast. The yeast used to ferment our Belgian style ales can ferment at much warmer temperatures as compared to our non-Belgian style ales, sometimes as high as 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Often, we start the fermentation in the 60 degree range and then shut the refrigeration off and let the beer "free rise" up to the warmer temperatures. These warmer temperatures can create some beautiful fruity & spicy character. Any other yeast fermenting at these warm temperatures would create too much diacetyl (butter & butter scotch).
Often, we add sugar to the kettle while the wort (unfermented beer) is boiling; the addition of sugar adds more fermentables to the beer. All of these sugars will eventually ferment to alcohol although there will be no body or mouth feel contributed to the final flavor profile of the beer. In Salvation, our dark strong ale we use some more flavorful sugars that add more personality to the beer.
Finally, our Belgian style ales are 100% bottle conditioned, this means that they go through a second fermentation in the bottle which creates the beers carbonation. A fine layer of yeast is left in the bottom of the bottle as a result of this bottle re-fermentation. This secondary fermentation in the bottle will add even more unique character to the final beer. Sometimes we go as far as using a second yeast in the bottle fermentation thus adding a second yeasts personality to the beer.