Orval: God’s homebrew

The first time I tried Orval, I was shocked. I distinctively remember thinking that it was like drinking a liquified leather boot. A lot has changed since then. For one, Orval has earned a place as one of my top 5 favourite beers. In my experience as a homebrewer, I’ve generally found pursuing clones unrewarding. However, with Ontario’s limited availability of Orval (every couple years the LCBO seems to include it in a seasonal release, and it quickly sells out), I don’t have much choice but to brew my own. This is a post on version one of my homage to the beer that is sometimes referred to as God’s homebrew; the delicious Orval.

As you may have seen in my 2016 brewing schedule I plan to make another Orval clone later this year. This may have some adjustments based on how version one compares to the real deal, and the ingredients available to me. Version one was made largely with ingredients on hand, which meant I was using German pilsner malt instead of Belgian, a bit of Maris Otter instead of Belgian Pale, and some Caramunich malt instead of Caravienne. These substitutions are all quite reasonable, but if I get my hands on imported Belgian malts, they may not be used in version two. I suspect that one really important factor to a good Orval clone, that I did not consider much for version one, is water chemistry. The chloride levels in Guelph water are very high, at 128 ppm on average. High chloride can lend to softer mouthfeel in beer. The water at Orval purportedly is 13ppm chloride.

The first thing that stuck out to me when brewing this beer was the distinctiveness of the Bastogne yeast. I’ll often try some of the starter when trying a new yeast for curiosity’s sake… and in this case… the starter had a very unique acidity to it. Yeast character under different conditions is one of the most interesting parts about brewing for me. I was immediately excited, but would have a long wait ahead of me…

The beer was brewed in September 2015, and the Brettanomyces Bruxellensis was added October 2015. The beer was transferred from my conical fermentor into a 15 gallon sanke keg for bulk aging in my basement for approximately 6 months. I tasted the beer before adding the Brett, and it was delicious. Tart, dry, with notes of orange and grapefruit. I think the Bastogne yeast would make a very interesting Saison… I’ll have to try that sometime. Gravity at this time was 1.014.

I kegged the beer at the end of March. The Brett had ate up another 6 gravity points, and had really transformed the beer. Tastes of leather, anise, lemon rind, and peaches, and quite earthy and herbal. I’m excited to see how the beer matures further, I’ll have to bottle some of it away.

There are many Orval homebrew recipes out there. Stan Hieronymus’ book Brew Like a Monk also provides detail on Orval’s production. Here are the recipes I consulted:

And finally, my recipe is included below. Good luck!

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
11.5 gal 60 min 34.7 IBUs 6.4 SRM 1.059 1.014 5.9 %
Actuals 1.059 1.008 6.7 %

Fermentables

Name Amount %
Pilsner (2 Row) Ger 14 lbs 63.64
Pale Malt, Maris Otter 4 lbs 18.18
Caramunich Malt 1 lbs 4.55
Candi Syrup, Simplicity 3 lbs 13.64

Hops

Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Hallertauer Hersbrucker 85 g 60 min First Wort Pellet 4
Styrian Goldings 56.7 g 20 min Boil Pellet 5.4
Styrian Goldings 56.7 g 5 min Boil Pellet 5.4
Styrian Goldings 85 g 3 days Dry Hop Pellet 5.4

Miscs

Name Amount Time Use Type
Whirlfloc Tablet 2.00 Items 15 min Boil Fining

Yeast

Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Bastogne Belgian Ale (WLP510) White Labs 77% 66°F - 72°F
Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (WLP650) White Labs 70% 65°F - 72°F

Mash

Step Temperature Time
Saccharification 145°F 60 min
Mash Out 165°F 20 min

Fermentation

Step Time Temperature
Primary 7 days 66°F
Secondary 7 days 70°F
Aging 7 days 32°F

 

A partially carbonated sample of my Orval clone

A partially carbonated sample of my Orval clone

  3 comments for “Orval: God’s homebrew

  1. March 28, 2016 at 8:38 am

    Well done on the recipe research. You really did your homework before tackling this time consuming brew. I hope it turns out as expected and thanks for sharing the recipe.

  2. Dave
    June 4, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    Great read and recipe. I am planning to brew candi syrup’s version next month but I like the looks of this one as well. I’ll be using Brett that I’ve grown up from an Orval bottle. Why the caramunich instead of caravienne?

    • June 4, 2016 at 8:00 pm

      Hey Dave the Caramunich is just what I had on hand. I have a draft of a blog post of a side by side with the real Orval that I haven’t gotten around to finishing yet. Will do that in the next week or so with detailed notes. The brett character in my version ended up being much stronger than that in bottle of Orval I compared with… Though I’ve had other bottles with a stronger Brett character more similar to my version… the beer age may explain this variation to some degree.

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