This One Tool Could Boost Your Belgian Beers Going Forward

coriander seeds isolated on white background

Although it may not be near the top of your sales each month at your brewery, there is an appreciation for Belgian-styled beers made the traditional way. In a world of innovative practices, sometimes the simplest things can improve something from a classic style.

Jonathan Porter of Smog City explained to fellow brewery folk at the 2023 California Craft Beer Summit that they make a full-time Belgian Wit (From LA Wit Love) so having the proper tools and ingredients are important.

“One thing to remember about the Belgian tradition is that for more than 100 years they were in the middle of two world wars,” he said. “I think that that gave them these brewers a lot of ingenuity in sourcing ingredients and the things that they were putting in beers.

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“I think Americans have taken a lot of inspiration for the sort of unusual ingredients that they put in.”

When it comes to hops in their Belgians, Smog City traditionally sticks to European varieties. “With Belgian Wit, we treat the hop addition more like a spice than a hop because it’s gotta play well with the other spices,” Porter said. “I don’t want too much citrus if I want the coriander to shine, it becomes a little overbearing.”

The quality of those ingredients is just as important as the quality of your hops and the quality of your malt, he noted.

“Don’t buy old stale, coriander,” Porter said. “We actually have a mill, a Burr grinder dedicated to coriander in our brewery. It doesn’t get used for anything else. And I think that freshly ground and straight into the kettle makes a big difference.”

Spending something like $25 on a piece of equipment like that can help make a difference, added Beachwood Brewing’s Julian Shrago.

“Fresh ground spices are king,” he said.

Having on hand at all times, Smog City employs coriander, sweet orange peel, and bitter orange peel.

“We’ve messed around with those ratios a lot because bitter orange, actually is slightly numbing on the palate,” he said. “If you taste the beer with it or without, you really notice it. In the beginning, we were putting just way too much. It has this like Sichuan peppercorn sensation, especially on the finish.”

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