I've been meaning to try to brew a clean, malty, straightforward Belgian pale for some time now. I like the occasional Leffe so after googling some recipes I landed on the following.
1kg Munich malt
250g Melanoidin malt
250g Biscuit malt
50g of Saaz 2.19AA @ 60 mins
White Labs WLP530 Abbey Ale Yeast
As it turns out, "straightforward" was not to be. This was probably the most disastrous beer I've ever made.
I made a yeast starter with 250g of DME and 2.5 L water, and that's when things stopped going well.
On the brew day, I heated 15 L to 74 C and mashed for 60 minutes. So far so simple. I then brought 12 L to boiling and added it to the mash to raise the temperature to 80 C. I then tried to sparge. Stuck! I then quickly brought the remaining 5 L up to boiling temperature and added it to the mash too. Still stuck!
No amount of draining off wort and heating it to bring up the temperature, blowing through the outlet tube, or even belatedly stirring in rice hulls into the mash would get the wort flowing. Eventually, I resorted to drawing off the mash bit by bit and draining off the wort through a filtered funnel. It turned into a sticky, horrible mess, and I lost a load of wort, but it sort of rescued things. I concluded that the problem was actually the fineness of the milling, because the wort wouldn't flow even through the relatively coarse filter in the funnel, and when I finally came to poor the boiled wort into the carboy it wasn't until hours later that a thick layer of sediment settled out. Hey ho, on to a new supplier for my grains.
The fermentation was one of the most aggressive I've ever seen. Considering it was a few litres of wort shy of where it should have been (see above paragraph), I was pretty surprised when the krausen reached through the bung and started making its way down the outside of the fermenter. When I eventually came to keg it after about 3 weeks in the carboy, a lovely layer of mold had grown on the top of the bung. Luckily it hadn't affected the beer, and after gingerly removing it I managed to keg about 15 litres without further incident.
It goes to show that a lot can go wrong while brewing and you can still end up with a perfectly respectable beer. This cleared up quite nicely after some gelatin and a couple of weeks at 1 C. Overall I would say that it's pleasant and very obviously "Belgian". Not a raging success, and not a dead ringer for Leffe, but pretty agreeable given its very rocky start in life.