Homebrew Recipe: Thunder Dragon Belgo-Bhutanese Blonde

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This recipe appears in Michael Dawson’s book, “Mashmaker: A Citizen-Brewer’s Guide to Making Great Beer at Home.” Learn more at mashmakerbook.com.


In keeping with this month’s cosmopolitan theme, we’re going to bash together some disparate elements to make a global whole. Using a Belgian blonde ale for the superstructure, we’ll mix in the nontraditional adjunct of red rice—the chief agricultural export of Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom of the Thunder Dragon—and co-ferment with a sake yeast and a Belgian ale strain.

This month’s recipe is inspired by (but not a clone of) Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale. Let’s cut the shuck and jive, like the man says, and brew some unique beer.

Going by the numbers

The most recent BJCP guidelines tell us that Belgian blonde ales clock in at a respectable original gravity of between 1.062 and 1.075, for an ABV of 6 to 7.5 percent. Hop rates are low relative to gravity, with as little as 15 on up to 30 IBU being standard. Like the name suggests, these are pale beers—deep straw to golden 4–7 SRM.

What makes it tick

Belgian blonde ale is a modern category, developed to compete with mass-produced international pale lagers. As such, it’s milder and cleaner than comparable styles like tripels and Belgian golden strong ales. The style guidelines call it “subtle but complex.”

As with other strong Belgian ales, sugar adjuncts are often employed to boost gravity and ABV while lightening body. Our tweak will be to replace sucrose or dextrose with red rice, which will bring a nutty, sweet, perhaps slightly mineral-like quality to the ale, as well as a faint pink hue to the grist. The only catch: it may be hard to find without ordering it online (see below for suggested alternatives).

Simultaneous co-fermentation with two different yeast strains will bring in some complementary complexity—the requisite spicy phenols and fruity esters from a Belgian strain, with earthy, floral undertones from a sake strain that will play up the rice portion of the grist.

A recipe to try

Thunder Dragon Belgo-Bhutanese Blonde
Target OG: 1.072, Target IBU: 24–26

Grain

• 10 pounds Belgian pilsner malt
• 8 ounces flaked barley

Hops

• 1 ounce Chinook

Yeast

• Your favorite all-purpose Belgian ale strain—I’m going to use Wyeast 3522 Ardennes
• A sake yeast strain—like Wyeast 4134

Adjunct

• 2½ pounds Bhutanese red rice or Thai red cargo rice

Next page: Key points and brewing method

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