Belgian Dark Strong Ale Help with Belgian Dark Strong Ale Recipe

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Dann0

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Recipe Type
All Grain
Yeast
Wyeast 1214
Yeast Starter
Yes
Batch Size (Gallons)
5.5 Gallons
Original Gravity
1.106
Final Gravity
1.032
Boiling Time (Minutes)
90
IBU
20.5
Color
19
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp)
21 days @ 65
Secondary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp)
270 days @65
15 lbs. Maris Otter
3 lbs. Vienna
2 lbs. 8 oz. Crystal 40L
1 lb. Flaked Wheat
8 oz. Caramel 90
10.5 oz. Golden Light DME
1 lb. D-45 Candi Syrup
1 lb. Golden light Candi Syrup

2.75 oz. Hallertauer @ 60 min.

Aged in secondary for 9 months on a bourbon-soaked medium toast oak spiral and one vanilla bean sliced and scraped.

I brewed this recipe last winter, and just tapped it this past week. It’s good, but has a strange flavor that I would like to pull back on. It’s a sort of raisiny flavor, at least that’s the best way I can find to describe it. I shared a bit with the family yesterday at the Thanksgiving gatherings and received many compliments, it is good. But I’d like to brew next years batch in about a month and am wondering if I can get any input on what I should maybe tweak in the recipe before brewing it. This time I have an actual barrel to age in, so I’m really looking forward to this years batch!
 

kevin58

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Just a wild guess but maybe the raisin character is coming from the crystal and caramel. That's a far more complex grain bill than I use for my Belgian Dark Strong ales. Mine is only Belgian Pilsner and less than an ounce of Special B with a pound of dark Belgian Candi Syrup near the end of the boil.
 
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Dann0

Dann0

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Just a wild guess but maybe the raisin character is coming from the crystal and caramel. That's a far more complex grain bill than I use for my Belgian Dark Strong ales. Mine is only Belgian Pilsner and less than an ounce of Special B with a pound of dark Belgian Candi Syrup near the end of the boil.
Interesting. So maybe toss the whole recipe then? I was aiming for something similar to a local beer sold by Brewery Vivant called Wizard Burial Ground. It’s one my favorites. I found a clone recipe posted and used it as the basis for mine. It’s good, but nowhere near what I was aiming for.

Does less than an ounce of Special B actually impart a detectable flavor?
 

jturman35

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Seems like a lot of Crystal malt for a Belgian Dark Strong? I did a Westy 12 clone which is just Pilsner and 3lbs D-180 sugar. Next round I’m going with 2lbs.
 
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Dann0

Dann0

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Seems like a lot of Crystal malt for a Belgian Dark Strong? I did a Westy 12 clone which is just Pilsner and 3lbs D-180 sugar. Next round I’m going with 2lbs.
I think we may have swung the pendulum too far. We brewed this once and it was lacking in the caramel and toffee flavor we were hoping for, so we bumped from 1 lb. to 3.

We are in this awkward phase of our brewing where we know what we want, we finally have our process dialed in to the point of being able to make good beers, but we still don’t know how to manipulate the ingredients to create the flavors we are after. Also are not sure about what FG to target when creating recipes. I never want to let a $5+ bottle of some of my favorites go flat just to find out what sort of FG we should be targeting, but we may have to do it just to know.
 

jturman35

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Most Quad recipes I have run across call for zero Crystal malts. I don’t prefer any toffee flavor in a quad but like the raisin, plum and dried cherry with fruity esters. You may be trying to brew something other than a Quad? I have done this with several beers. I’m learning less is more when it comes to home brewing. Just my .02
 
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Dann0

Dann0

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Most Quad recipes I have run across call for zero Crystal malts. I don’t prefer any toffee flavor in a quad but like the raisin, plum and dried cherry with fruity esters. You may be trying to brew something other than a Quad? I have done this with several beers. I’m learning less is more when it comes to home brewing. Just my .02
This was the beer that inspired us to brew a quad:

https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/24678/106692/

I'm still pretty green when it comes to recipes. I've only been brewing for 2 years. I started with a clone recipe that we found, then started tweaking from there, after reading as many articles and forums on the style as I could. The biggest challenge to brewing for me, especially here in G.R. (Beer City, USA), is that our local breweries often seem to toss out BJCP Guidelines.

A recent Founder's Brown Ale is 12%. Another local, Perrin, Brews a "Vietnamese Porter" that's 15%. New Holland is brewing Dragon's Milk White stout. You never really know if anyone is following any guidelines. ABV levels are often way outside of guidelines.

It makes it difficult to know what an actual style is supposed to taste like, and conversing on the internet with folks who are all discussing regional beers makes it pretty tough to discuss relative things, like flavors. So some of the things that I have a hard time with when designing a beer are knowing how much of anything to put in to get a certain taste out, what sort of FG to aim for with a given OG, and what bitterness ratio to shoot for so that whatever it is tastes balanced.

Wizard may fall completely outside of what should be considered a quad, but it's the only thing I have to judge what a quad could/should taste like. And I really don't know the IBU's or FG of the product. Just that I like it. Enough that we made it a goal for the year. We started researching and brewed a pilot batch (aged only 6 weeks) one year ago, and just tapped the sequel after 10 months aging. And it's not on target.

Maybe I should try seeing how forthright the brewery would be on releasing a grist.
 

jturman35

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I was just pointing out the guidelines not meaning you have to stick with them but more of a reference for the style. I agree with you some of the better ground breaking beers blow away what the guidelines call for.
Have you tried Chimay Blue yet? I’m drinking one as I type this.

As far as your recipe what was your OG and FG and what yeast did you use? I would probably ditch the dme in a quad but that’s just my personal opinion. I prefer the Trappist BLAM method which keeps it simple. I love quads and specially when brewed by a Trappist monastery.
 
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Dann0

Dann0

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I was just pointing out the guidelines not meaning you have to stick with them but more of a reference for the style.
I understand. I was just pointing out that I never really know if the beer I’m drinking fits the guidelines, so I’m not sure if I should follow them or not. I’ve never tried any of the Belgians I hear people talk about, so I’m not sure about how those would compare.

As far as your recipe what was your OG and FG and what yeast did you use?
OG 1.106, FG 1.032, Wyeast 1214

I would probably ditch the dme in a quad but that’s just my personal opinion.
it was last minute, only because my OG came in a bit low

I prefer the Trappist BLAM method which keeps it simple.
I’ve read others who have referenced this, what is BLAM?
 

radwizard

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I understand. I was just pointing out that I never really know if the beer I’m drinking fits the guidelines, so I’m not sure if I should follow them or not. I’ve never tried any of the Belgians I hear people talk about, so I’m not sure about how those would compare.



OG 1.106, FG 1.032, Wyeast 1214



it was last minute, only because my OG came in a bit low



I’ve read others who have referenced this, what is BLAM?
BLAM is the book Brew Like A Monk. It explains many of the Trappist Methods, and a simplistic approach that is much dependent on fermentation.
 

jturman35

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BLAM - Brew like a Monk. Pick up a 4 pack of Chimay Blue Reserve and see what you think.

1.034 is quite a bit on the high side. I would shoot for at least 1.010-1.020 finishing gravity. It’s really all about what you prefer, but at 1.034 I wold think it’s too sweet. I like a dry beer. I would try lowering your OG down to around 1.090 and pitch a massive starter.
 

kevin58

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Interesting. So maybe toss the whole recipe then? I was aiming for something similar to a local beer sold by Brewery Vivant called Wizard Burial Ground. It’s one my favorites. I found a clone recipe posted and used it as the basis for mine. It’s good, but nowhere near what I was aiming for.

Does less than an ounce of Special B actually impart a detectable flavor?
My bad. I don't know why I said less than an ounce. I checked my recipe and it's half a pound or 8oz.
 
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Dann0

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1.034 is quite a bit on the high side. I would shoot for at least 1.010-1.020 finishing gravity.
I believe that. I don’t think that high was our goal, but I do prefer the sweeter side. We’ve learned a lot in the past year since brewing this, like how to better control mouthfeel. Before this our beers always tasted thin, so we thought a higher FG was the answer. We’ve since learned to not be scared of the flaked grains and a bit of simple sugar to dry things back out.

My bad. I don't know why I said less than an ounce. I checked my recipe and it's half a pound or 8oz.
that makes much more sense.

If I can boil down this thread, I think we need to start over maybe.

After this advice plus some reading, I’m thinking maybe:

OG 1.100
FG 1.022
18.2 SRM
Wyeast 1214 or 3787
66.7% Belgian Pilsen
15.2% Belgian Munich
4.5% flaked wheat
1.5% Special B
9.1% D-45 Candi
3% D-90 Candi
28 IBUs Hallertauer

Age 10 months in a 2nd use bourbon barrel

thoughts?
 

brewbama

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BDSA: (Westy-12)

15# Belgian Pils
2.5# D-180 (I use 1#)

1 oz Brewers Gold 60
1 oz Hall Mitt 30
1 oz Styrian Goldings 15

Belgian yeast
 
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jturman35

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What was the mash temp on the original recipe? You mentioned thin which could be mash temp or water. I personally would get the FG down to at least 1.015-1.018 I really feel a quad should be somewhat simple and dry, let the yeast do the work. Your recipe seems fine, but I thought you didn’t like the raisin character? You added Special B which wasn’t much but will give you some raisin character. With that said I like the flavor and would probably add more like 1/2 pound in a quad. I have heard that Special B can clash with the darker Candi syrup. I’m not sure about the Munich malt but recipe looks good.

Like mentioned above D-180 is a good syrup in a Westy 12 however your chasing a beer none of us have had. Send me one and I’ll help you try and clone it [emoji4]
 
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Dann0

Dann0

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What was the mash temp on the original recipe? You mentioned thin which could be mash temp or water. I personally would get the FG down to at least 1.015-1.018 I really feel a quad should be somewhat simple and dry, let the yeast do the work. Your recipe seems fine, but I thought you didn’t like the raisin character? You added Special B which wasn’t much but will give you some raisin character. With that said I like the flavor and would probably add more like 1/2 pound in a quad. I have heard that Special B can clash with the darker Candi syrup. I’m not sure about the Munich malt but recipe looks good.

Like mentioned above D-180 is a good syrup in a Westy 12 however your chasing a beer none of us have had. Send me one and I’ll help you try and clone it [emoji4]
Original mash temp was 158 - too high, I know, but at that point we were getting ridiculous to try to get away from the thin mouthfeel we kept producing.

I don’t hate the raisin, buts it definitely the dominant flavor in this beer, which is not my desire.

I was actually there tonight, since the 2019 edition hit the taps last Sunday, and had a Wizard flight. It was utterly amazing. The 2019 BBA edition is fantastic. They had last years rum barrel variant, which I didn’t love last year, but with another year on it was my favorite. They had a Manhattan variant, which was aged in Rye barrels and then on cherries and orange peel. The flight rounded out with a soured version of the Wizard. The best flight I’ve ever partaken in.

While there I pressed a server for some grain bill info, and one of the servers had done a stint in the brewery. By what he described:

Pilsen 74.4%
Melanoidin 9.3%
Honey 9.3%
Roasted barley 7%
“plus a bag of local malt”(I’m guessing flaked wheat, based on conversation)

The roasted barley is an utterly ridiculous suggestion, which had to be a mistake since the beer is around 12-14 SRM, but does this look like a reasonable grain bill otherwise?

He didn’t mention any candi syrups, (but he did mention roasted barley, so...). With what little I know, if I drop the barley I end up around 10% each melanoidin and honey, which seems high.

I played with it and came up with this:
OG 1.102, FG 1.121, 11.1%
17 lbs Pilsen
1 lb. melanoidin
1 lb. honey malt
1/2 lb wheat malt
Hallertau to 19 IBUs
Wyeast 3787

Thoughts on this? I could throttle back a bit and toss some D-45 or D-90 in it to bump the SRM a bit
 

MSAstoria

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You're sure he meant honey malt, not actual honey? My experience with honey malt is that it creates a cloying sweetness that's way off from this style. Especially at 1 lb., which seems crazy to me.

Actual honey would dry the beer out a bit, like most sugars.
 

Dave Sarber

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BDSA: (Westy-12)

15# Belgian Pils
2.5# D-180 (I use 1#)

1 oz Brewers Gold 60
1 oz Hall Mitt 30
1 oz Styrian Goldings 15

Belgian yeast
I would not use the melanoiden. The recipe quoted here is a very good one, but it has strong stonefruit flavors, cutting back on the D180 and substituting clear Candi or cane sugar should tone that down a bit. I like the stonefruit flavor, so I use Omega OYL20. WY3787 is a good choice. So are WLP530, Lallemand Abbaye.
I would keep the wheat malt, but lose the honey malt. Step mash, OG about 1.110. It's hard getting below 1.030, so step up the bittering just a bit.
 
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Dann0

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You're sure he meant honey malt, not actual honey?

Actual honey would dry the beer out a bit, like most sugars.
No, I’m not certain. I think he barely knew what was going on in the brewery, based on the fact that he told me the FG was 1.2 and that there was 150 lbs of roasted barley in 2200 lb of grist.

He said, from what he could recall, that there was 1600 lbs. of Canadian Pilsen, 200 lbs. of Honey, 200 lbs. melanoidin, 150 lbs of roasted barley, and a bag of “local malt”. The local malt he said was typically either wheat or pale, just to “keep it local”.

I assumed honey malt, but maybe they sub’d in honey instead of candi sugar.

it creates a cloying sweetness that's way off from this style.
back to where this began, I have no idea how close this beer actually is to style. I think it’s on me to try some popular ones like Chimay and Westy to learn the real style. It would make it much easier to have conversations like this one if I understood that in the first place.

That IS the hard part of brewing, IMHO.
You’re not wrong! The part that makes it extra challenging is when you gotta wait the better part of a year to see how close you got!
 

BrewMan13

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Thought I'd chime in, not because I'm an expert at the style, but because my first crack at it got me a gold, with some notes as to my decisions that are maybe outside the norm for the style:
11 lbs 2-Row
2 lbs dark Munich Malt
1 lb Flaked Wheat
8.00 oz Aromatic Malt
8.00 oz Special B
12.00 oz D180 Candi Syrup
4.00 oz Table Sugar
1.50 oz East Kent Goldings [6.2%] - Boil 60 min
Belgian Abbey II (Wyeast Labs #1762)
Mashed long at 148F, used brown - light body bru-n water profile, fermented at normal ale temp, got great attenuation.
From 1.092 - 1.014
Grist seems busy for the style, but I chopped off 1 malt as it was and couldn't bring myself to cut any more. Thought about step mashing, but I decided I'd see what just a long mash did (only step mashed a couple times since it's a bit of a PITA with my setup). Didn't use pils malt since I honestly never have and figured I could get away without it in a dark beer. Fermented at normal ale temp as I have limited temp control. If I had to nitpick, I wouldn't have minded a touch more of a "graininess", and it was actually sweeter tasting then the FG would lead one to think. Obviously the judges liked it as I got a 39 (1 gave it a 40).
 

Dave Sarber

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Thought I'd chime in, not because I'm an expert at the style, but because my first crack at it got me a gold, with some notes as to my decisions that are maybe outside the norm for the style:
11 lbs 2-Row
2 lbs dark Munich Malt
1 lb Flaked Wheat
8.00 oz Aromatic Malt
8.00 oz Special B
12.00 oz D180 Candi Syrup
4.00 oz Table Sugar
1.50 oz East Kent Goldings [6.2%] - Boil 60 min
Belgian Abbey II (Wyeast Labs #1762)
Mashed long at 148F, used brown - light body bru-n water profile, fermented at normal ale temp, got great attenuation.
From 1.092 - 1.014
Grist seems busy for the style, but I chopped off 1 malt as it was and couldn't bring myself to cut any more. Thought about step mashing, but I decided I'd see what just a long mash did (only step mashed a couple times since it's a bit of a PITA with my setup). Didn't use pils malt since I honestly never have and figured I could get away without it in a dark beer. Fermented at normal ale temp as I have limited temp control. If I had to nitpick, I wouldn't have minded a touch more of a "graininess", and it was actually sweeter tasting then the FG would lead one to think. Obviously the judges liked it as I got a 39 (1 gave it a 40).

What kind of SRM did you end up with?
 

jswillbrewforbeer

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Cool to see someone so close! (I'm about 40 minutes west of Beer City.) I would definitely recommend keeping the recipe as simple as possible. Belgian Dark Strong Ale is all about complexity derived from high quality ingredients/process. Also, don't underestimate the power of D180. It blends really well with esters to develop the fruitiness of the style, (raisin, prune, fig.) So maybe avoid if you really don't like the raisin. Since you're BB aging it, I assume you're probably not trying to brew it completely to style but like someone else said 1.010-1.020 is where you should be for FG to be dry enough for style guidelines. High carbonation also helps create the impression of dryness. Try to find a bottle of Unibroue Trois Pistoles. It's a great example of the style IMHO, (also my favorite beer in the world.) Keep it simple to get a good baseline idea of the style then add more ingredients judiciously for more complexity if you so desire. Starting simple also helps to narrow down flavor origins. Hope my rambling is helpful!
 

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^^^^Agree. I think the D180 imparts a lot of the stonefruit flavors, so if you're trying to avoid that, substitute with lighter sugars. Belgian ales usually have a very simple grain bill, and the flavor profiles come mainly from the yeasts and sugars used, and in some cases, from spices like orange peel, coriander, and sweet gale.
 

BrewMan13

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What kind of SRM did you end up with?
22; on the higher end, but still within, the style guidelines (which mattered since this was ear-marked for competition). Also a part of the reason I didn't use the full pound of D180 and supplemented it with table sugar.
 

MSAstoria

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So here's my best guess at translating what the server said to match to the style:

1600 lbs. of Canadian Pilsen - probably right (72%)

200 lbs. of Honey - actual honey (9%)

200 lbs. melanoidin - unlikely; maybe carapils (9%)

150 lbs of roasted barley - definitely not roasted; maybe a darker caramel malt like Caramunich or even Special B (7%)

and a bag of “local malt” (wheat or pale) - who knows, try either (3%)

Brewed to an OG of 1.102 that should be about right for a quad. I'd aim for the high side of bitterness for the style (~35 IBUs) because with that much carapils, you'll need it. Personally, I'd drop the carapils and sub in a dark candi sugar, but I like those raisin flavors. If you don't, go with caramunich instead of Special B, but do consider cutting the carapils in half. Or maybe try some Vienna or Munich for depth.

But really, most important is to use a good belgian yeast and control your fermentation temps well. I like WLP530. The White Labs website has some good charts that show what kinds of effects you'll get by fermenting their strains at different temps.
 

jturman35

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Starter, Starter, Starter, did someone already mention you need a really big starter? This is critical to getting this beer to taste well attenuated, you don’t want it to taste like wort.

I second WLP530. I have used it twice, once in a Leffe Belgian Blonde Ale and once in a Westy 12 clone which is currently sitting at the 5 month mark. My Westy 12 is still young but next time I will cut the D-180 from 2.5lbs down to 1.5lbs.

I like the idea of using Special B and doing different specialty malts.
 
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okiedog

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The raisin character is what he wants to remove.
Aha! I missed that. Also, I always thought that was a characteristic part of the flavor for dark Belgian ales. Carmel/Crystal 120 does not have raison flavors, but I never considered it for Belgians.
 

okiedog

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I think we may have swung the pendulum too far. We brewed this once and it was lacking in the caramel and toffee flavor we were hoping for, so we bumped from 1 lb. to 3.

We are in this awkward phase of our brewing where we know what we want, we finally have our process dialed in to the point of being able to make good beers, but we still don’t know how to manipulate the ingredients to create the flavors we are after. Also are not sure about what FG to target when creating recipes. I never want to let a $5+ bottle of some of my favorites go flat just to find out what sort of FG we should be targeting, but we may have to do it just to know.
Great Western has a great malt for adding both caramel and toffee flavors to your brew: Crystal 75.
 
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