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Recipe – Belgian Strong Dark Ale



Special occasions call for a special beer. I’m getting married late this coming summer and though marriage is of course always a special occasion, it’s extra special for someone who until a few years ago was pretty sure it was never going to happen. Like I sometimes tell people who “don’t like beer”  – you just haven’t met the right one yet… Quite syrupy, I know, but I couldn’t help myself.

Speaking of syrup, I pondered what would be a suitable beer for quite some time. I wanted to make a big beer that would hold for a long time and for a while I was thinking I’d make my second Russian Imperial Stout. My first one was also my first homebrew and like it usually does when you start of with a big and difficult style, that really didn’t work out that well…  In the end I decided that I’d make a “Quadruple” or a Belgian Strong Dark Ale as BJCP style guidelines name it. The reasons being that I think that it would be a suitable style for the occasion (somehow Belgian style beers still feel more “special” to me) and because I also brewed a Dubbel last year I would have some experience to work with since a Quad is basically a scaled up Dubbel. I had some ideas how that recipe could be improved since it seemed to need some malt complexity and the IBU’s were a bit high for the style, at least for my taste. So this recipe is basically the Dubbel recipe with some Munich and Caramunich malts added and with a higher original gravity. I also used the same syrup, the dark sugar beet syrup available in Scandinavia. It worked well in the last beer so there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t provide good results in this one.

When brewing a strong beer a healthy fermentation is paramount. If you use unhealthy yeast or pitch too few cells the fermentation might get stuck or the yeast could produce unwanted off-flavours. To make sure I had enough cells for this beer my last one, a Belgian table beer, was basically a large starter for this one. Though the starter for that beer took some time to get going, in the end the fermentation was very vigorous and the blow-off tube was needed so I’m pretty sure there are enough fresh cells for this fermentation. For optimal results I would want to use oxygen with an aeration stone in the finished wort but unfortunately that option is not available over here.

If things turn out well this beer will hopefully keep for a long time and we’ll be able to sip it for years to come on our anniversary.


Target Batch Size (Litres/Gallons): 14.00 / 3,7
Total Grain (Kg/Pounds): 4,5 / 9,92
Anticipated OG: 1.084
Anticipated SRM: 26,0
Anticipated IBU: 29,4
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

66,7%      – 3,0 kg / 6,6 lbs – Pale Ale Malt, Viking
11,1%      – 0,5 kg / 1,1 lbs – Munich Malt II, Weyermann
6,7%       – 0,3 kg / 0,66 lbs – Caramunich III, Weyermann
4,4%       – 0,2 kg / 0,44 lbs – Special B malt, Weyermann
11,1%      – 0,5 kg / 1,1 lbs – Dark Syrup

45g / 1,6 oz. Hallertau Tradition (Pellet, 4,7% AA) @ 60 min for 29,4 IBU

1 tsp Irish Moss @ 10 Min.
½ Teaspoon of yeast nutrient @ 10 Min.
2g Calcium Chloride in mash
2g Gypsum in mash

White Labs 530 – Abbey Ale, yeast cake form Belgian table beer

19.06 Litre BIAB @ 64 Celsius for 60 mins (5,03gal/147F)

3/1/15 Undershot my estimated pre-boil gravity by 10 points, efficiency really seems to go down with my setup when brewing strong beers.  Decided to boil an extra 15 minutes which will result in more IBU’s (bummer) but that concentrated the wort up to an OG of 1,082 which is close enough. Cooled the wort and racked it over the yeast cake. Shook for 3 minutes and lifted to the chamber set at 19C(66F). The plan is to raise the temperature towards the end of fermentation.

5/1/15 Fermentation seems healthy, came home to find 2 centimeters of yeast in the blow-off bottle, this despite the extra headspace of a smaller batch.

6/1/15 Set the temperature to 20C/68F. Fermentation still strong but no yeast in the blow-off bottle.

8/1/15 Raised the temperature to 21C/70F

9/1/15 Set the temperature to 23C/73F, the fermentation seemed to set at 22C/70F (the fermentation chamber doesn’t have heating and ambient is at about 20C)

10/1/15 Lifted out of the freezer to make room for the next beer. Temperature still at 22C/70F ambient at 20C/68F. I’ll let it run its course in ambient temperature.

21/1/15 Airlock still bubbling away regularly.

14/2/15 Bottled with 54 grams of corn sugar, added about 3 grams of rehydrated Safale-05 to the beer to ensure carbonation.

26/4/15 Tasting here, turned out fine and will hopefully improve over time.

From → Recipes

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