Leffe Lentebier / Bière de Printemps

Leffe 'Spring Beer'

I picked this up at Noel Cuvelier’s. I’d never seen it before, but at a mellow 6.6% ABV, I thought I’d give it a try.

‘Lente’ is the Dutch word for spring (in Afrikaans too, fwiw), so I was half-expecting a Belgian take on a Maibock. After tasting it, I’d like to call it a Belgian Blonde ale despite it being fairly dark in colour, although not nearly as much as the picture would suggest (the flash makes it look much darker – apologies for poor photography skills).

While I didn’t have one for a side-by-side comparison, it certainly tastes a lot like I remember Leffe Blonde to taste, but it manages to finish (slightly) drier. I always found the blonde to be just a little too cloying, this  is just dry enough to be drinkable, and it may be my imagination but perhaps slightly more bitter. It’s extremely well-balanced, anyway.

The flavours I picked up were caramel, honey and sweet pilsner malt, balanced by very gentle hops, with plenty of fruity and spicy flavour coming from the yeast. It has the same Leffe yeast character as their other beers – I perceive it as mostly banana and clove.

Overall this is a really nice beer, I really enjoyed it and to be honest, I’d buy it over Leffe Blonde any day. It’s a shame it’s only a seasonal.

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4 Comments

Filed under Beer

4 responses to “Leffe Lentebier / Bière de Printemps

  1. Bertie Davel

    Ohhh Gary,
    This sounds like a really nice beer. I do like the Blonde but it’s just that wee tad too sweet, or cloying, as you put it. I’ll try to find it here in Scotland but I’m not too hopeful.
    You don’t, by any chance, want to go out on a limb and put together an AG recipe for this? I’m a beginner (Mini) BIAB brewer – found your blog via the BIAB site.
    Oef – and those wines in the previous post…

    • Hi Bertie, thanks for stopping by and many thanks for the kind words! I really enjoyed this beer, I must admit. I’m not sure where Leffe have rolled it out, but the name has had a lot of search engine hits on my site so people are definitely drinking it!

      I’m a little hesitant to give out a recipe out for it as I’ve only ever drunk one bottle. Also, Belgian beers are not my specialty as a brewer (ironic, I know). To be frightfully honest, the Belgian Blonde style is my nemesis, a beer that I’ve tried to brew from the very beginning of my brewing career and have managed to fail miserably at several times. I kind of liken it to failing your driving test; Once you’ve failed a few times, you’d probably be hesitant to give it another go even if you were still learning to drive at the time and could do a much better job now.

      I’d guess at something along these lines (try at your own risk! I haven’t brewed this myself):
      OG about 1.060, from a base of Belgian / German / Czech pilsner malt with about 4% aromatic malt, about 6% plain white table sugar (added to kettle) and some european crystal malts (caravienne, caramunich). The crystal malts will give the caramel flavours and some colour, but you would do well to be careful with these as too much can spoil the brew and make it sweet and sickly. I’d probably try no more than about 7% caravienne, with maybe say up to 3% caramunich II or III if you want some darker caramel flavours in there too (the higher numbers are darker malts, with ‘darker’ caramel flavours), hopefully this isn’t too much. You could also substitute 5% wheat malt for some of the pilsner malt base if you want to ensure a good head on the beer.

      I’d hop it once with something noble like Hallertau or Saaz at 90 minutes left in the boil (do NOT first wort hop this beer) to about 25 IBUs, and ferment with a Belgian yeast of your choice. This is the tricky part as they are all unique in terms of flavour and Leffe’s own strain is proprietary. If you like their beers, you could try Chimay’s strain (Wyeast 1214 / White Labs 500), but start the fermentation cool and let it rise to no more than 20 degrees or else your beer will taste strongly of bubblegum and cloves. You could use any Belgian strain here, your beer will exhibit a similar character to the source brewery where the yeast originally came from. Be sure to make a big starter and pitch lots of healthy yeast!

      Let me know you get on, email me if you need any help or more info at fatgary at calcom dot co dot za 🙂

      • Bertie

        Hi Gary
        Whoa! Thanks for the reply & the recipe. One question though – what would you reccomend as the mashing temp? The standard 65C or should I try to go a bit lower for a drier finish? I’ve got some White Labs 550 and Wyeast Belgian Strong 1388 yeats so I’ll try either of these yeasts (maybe do a split batch to do some proper experimentation!).
        As an absolute novice BIAB brewer I’m still in that happy, hazy, place called “Ignorance”. Also, I’m doing around 10L brew lengths so I feel that I can afford to “lose” some batches in the name of experimentation. I’ve been lucky so far that I’ve never had to throw beer away but 2 or so of my brews are not the greatest tasting beers around. They do serve a purpose though – nothing like getting unwanted guests out of the house by plying them with funny tasting beer…

        I will make the recipe and let you know how it turned out – I’ll try to do it in August in order to add it to my Xmas/New Year beer stock.

        Bertie

      • I’d go for around 65 degrees C, although to be honest I don’t think it matters too much as you have plain sugar in the recipe and Belgian yeasts are very highly attenuative as a rule. I’ve used Wy1388 (Duvel) before but can’t say I liked it. It’s a temperamental yeast at the best of times and it is a very poor flocculator – meaning your beer will take a long time to clear. I’d stick with WLP500 or WLP550 (and keep them cool!) if I were you but I guess there’s no harm in a split batch. Also remember that a strong beer like this will take quite a long time to condition in the bottle before it tastes good.
        Do let me know how you get on with this?

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