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 SizeBoil TimeIBUSRMEst. OGEst. FGABV
43.5 L60 min34.7 IBUs6.4 SRM1.0591.0145.9 %
Actuals1.0591.0086.7 %


Pilsner (2 Row) Ger6.35 kg63.64
Pale Malt, Maris Otter1.814 kg18.18
Caramunich Malt453.6 g4.55
Candi Syrup, Simplicity1.361 kg13.64


NameAmountTimeUseFormAlpha %
Hallertauer Hersbrucker85 g60 minFirst WortPellet4
Styrian Goldings56.7 g20 minBoilPellet5.4
Styrian Goldings56.7 g5 minBoilPellet5.4
Styrian Goldings85 g3 daysDry HopPellet5.4


Whirlfloc Tablet2.00 Items15 minBoilFining


Bastogne Belgian Ale (WLP510)White Labs77%18.89°C - 22.22°C
Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (WLP650)White Labs70%18.33°C - 22.22°C


Saccharification62.78°C60 min
Mash Out73.89°C20 min


Primary7 days18.89°C
Secondary7 days21.11°C
Aging7 days0°C


A partially carbonated sample of my Orval clone

A partially carbonated sample of my Orval clone

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