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Recipe: Luyks Bier (Bière de Liège)

I recently finished reading Marco Daane’s Bier in Nederland: een biografie, a book about the history of beer in the Netherlands. It is a super fascinating read for those that speak Dutch and comes highly recommended (link). It also makes me super eager to try and recreate some of the ancient beers described in this book (like I did with my Koyt).

The most elusive is the book is Nijmeegse Mol, a sweet predecessor of styles like Berliner Weisse. This style looks like quite some work and only keeps well for about 2 weeks. I need to plan a keg and plenty of people to drink it with… In the meantime let’s discuss Luyks bier. Most of the description is based on the information in the book. liege-blaeu-00

Luyks bier or Bière de Liège originates from the then largely independent Prince-Bishopric of Liège. This style of beer was born in 16th century and was based on a very little used grain: spelt. Spelt was already used for brewing in the 14th century but quickly faded into brewing obscurity, along with rye, in the 15th century. The reason to use spelt was quite simply that it grew well in the region and was plentiful available. The availability of grains and hops was quite important for the development of styles.

The proto-version of Luyks was called Bullion, a dunbier (thin beer) based on spelt. This style failed to impress much though, as the first Dutch beer historic Martinus Schoockius described it as some bran and wheat soaked in poor quality water.

Like other beers of it’s time there were two version of Luyks. The first is a lighter beer, a bière de jeune, which needed to be consumed quickly after brewing. It was brewed with barley, spelt, wheat and oats. The stronger ‘oud’ (old) Luyks, also known as bière de saison, was brewed with only spelt and wheat in a 4:5 ratio and malted only the spelt and not the wheat.

Luyks was a very clear and long lasting beer. After brewing it was kept for four to six months to mature. Also it could be kept for over a year, which was quite unique for a wheat beer in this time. Competing wheat-based beers from Hamburg or Lübeck needed to be consumed quickly or they would go off. The reason for Luyks longevity was the large amount of hops that was used in the brew, especially for its time. Also the wort was boiled for a longer period than most other beers, 15 to 16 hours on an open kettle. The combination of these two factors really made the conserving qualities of the hops shine. The beer was brewed mostly in winter (November to March) so they could cool and store the beer shortly after brewing. The brews that were made in December were especially sought after in these days.delfts-luyks-bier

The style was quite unique in its time. Where other beers were quite sweet, Luyks was a lot more bitter. The hops that grew around Liege were more bitter than hops grown elsewhere. Because the fermentation was allowed to fully finish before being sold it was also a lot more dry and stronger in alcohol than other beers. These qualities ensured that it quickly became popular in the Netherlands and stayed popular for a long time. Many Dutch brewers copied the recipe and named their beers after the city it was brewed in, like Delfts Luyks. Some added ingredients like juniper to the beer or completely changed what grains were used, some even did not use spelt. What these brews had in common is that they all were slightly more hopped beers.

These are most recent Liege beer guidelines by D. Walsh (08-01-2015)

Brewing grains for Liege beer are exclusively spelt, wheat and barley according to the proportions below:
– Malted spelt (±3-7 EBC), minimum 55 weight % of the grist.
– Unmalted wheat (±2-3 EBC), maximum 25 weight % of the grist.
– Pils- or Pale Ale malt (±2-9 EBC), maximum 20 weight % of the grist.

Liege beer should be golden-amber colored (ranging from 15 to 30 EBC). The color of the malt/grain mixture will before cooking be no more than 11 EBC. Therefore a total 1.5 – 2 hours of cooking (30 – 60 minutes without followed by 60 minutes with hops) is advised to reach ± 20 EBC.

Hops are only the older European/English landraces (aroma varieties):
Hallertau Mittelfrüh, Saaz Saaz, Tettnang Tettnang, Hersbruck-/Hallertau Hersbrucker (Spät), Lubelski Lublin, Elzasser Strisselspalt, Styrian (Savinjski) Goldings, Kent-/Hereford Goldings of Kent-/Hereford Fuggles.

Other additions like herbs, spices, plants, fruits, wood-chips etc. are not allowed.

Hop-bitterness should be around 30 – 60 EBU.

Stamwort of the beer is between 1,060 and 1,075 s.g. / 14,70 – 18,20° Plato (brewhouse efficiency ± 75%).

Liege beer is fermented with a neutral yeast (no Bavarian Wheat beer strain, Saison or wild yeast) with a moderate degree of fermentation of between 70 – 80%.

Alcohol by volume should be between 6 – 8.

The beer may be somewhat hazy.

Should at least contain a lasting layer of foam.

Of course I want to take a stab at creating a recipe. It uses the modern beer guidelines, with some historic sensibilities, and personal preferences.

The grain bill is pretty straight forward with loads of spelt. I was thinking to boil the unmalted wheat in a small amount of water to get it gelatinous and increase extraction, then add the water extract and malt to the mash.

As a yeast I want to use a Belgian yeast, but within this constraint I wanted to use the cleanest option. I ended up with Antwerp Ale yeast. Given the description it is absolutely perfect for this beer:
“Clean, almost lager like Belgian type ale yeast. Good for Belgian type pales ales and amber ales, or with blends to combine with other Belgian type yeast strains. Biscuity, ale like aroma present. Hop flavors and bitterness are accentuated.”

As a hop I took some liberty by going for a Saaz descendent, Kazbek. I loved what this hop brought to my Saison and none of the original hops used in this style are available nowadays. The extra punch that Kazbek gives is exactly what this recipe needs – a hop forward profile. Also, Kazbek is dirt cheap.

Batch Size 20.0 L
Boil Time 90 min
OG 1.067
FG 1.016
IBU 40
ABV 6.7%

Amount Fermentable pct
4.2 kg Spelt Malt (DE) 70.0
1.0 kg Unmalted Wheat (BE) 16.7
0.8 kg Pale Ale (BE) 13.3

Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
50.0 g Kazbek (CZ) 60 min Boil Leaf 5.3%
30.0 g Kazbek (CZ) 20 min Boil Leaf 5.3%
20.0 g Kazbek (CZ) 10 min Boil Leaf 5.3%

Name Lab/Product Attenuation
Antwerp Ale Yeast White Labs WLP515 76.5%

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