Sweetening Belgian Quad

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ericmcclimans

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My last triple, and current quad (14 in the primar, 16 in the second so far) are not achieving the slight residual sweetness i love in a lot of belgian strongs, and was hoping for in this recipe (think Gulden Draak 9000 Quad). any tips on non-fermentable sugars i can add when kegging which might impart some responsible sweetness back in? im glad my yeast got plenty to eat, but i was hoping there would be some left over for me :)
 

RonPopeil

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1. What's your hydrometer reading? OG and FG?

2. What is your recipe?

3. Big beers, like these styles tend to be, need lots of time to mature. Don't be surprised if it takes 3-4 months of aging before you get where you want.
 
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ericmcclimans

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Thanks, Ron. I plan on aging 3 months before cracking any full pints, and initially wanted to bottle (so i could hide it from myself/friends), but decided if i keg and need to add non-fermentables i can play w it as it ages.

Recipe:
Maris otter (14 lb)
Dark Munich (1 lb)
Belgian dark candy sugar (1 lb)
Dark brown sugar (12 oz)
Light brown sugar (12 oz)
Caramunich III (4 oz)
Special B (1 oz)

Recipe called for all that sugar in the mash roll, which i had not seen but worked fine. I broke my hydrometer before taking OG, but was aiming for 1084 OG and 1015 FG.

Appreciate any help. Thanks!
 

RonPopeil

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I count 2.5# of simple sugar which looks to be close to 20%. I would think that something like this would finish very dry and be pretty boozey while young. Might want to shelf this until mid/late summer. It will only get better.

Adding brown sugar and other simple sugars before fermentation will not give you sweetness. Simple sugars ferment easily and will cause you to have a less sweet, more alcoholic beer. The candy sugar will give you flavor from some of the maillard components but there's no real sweetness. Just flavors that remind you/the brain of sweet things. If that makes sense. It's similar with IPA's and fruity hops. The beer is actually very "dry" and has very little sugar left but the hop flavors combined with a small amount of residual sugar leads the brain to the idea of sweet fruit flavors.

Biggest thing I've taken away from this place is that: As long as you're sanitation is up to snuff time will fix just about anything. There's nothing wrong with letting a beer sit a bit longer than you wanted.
 
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ericmcclimans

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Thanks again, Ron. I know significant aging is going to do a lot of good for this beer, but it is not going to sweeten it. Are you recommending i let it be what it is rather than "artificially" sweetening it? If i tried to sweeten a bit of it (maybe a couple champagne bottles), do you have a recommendation on how? Keeping in mind, the home brewer and lactose are not such good friends :)
 

Calder

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What yeast, what mash temp, what fermentation temp?

Malto dextrin is what you would use to sweeten it. 1 lb will add .007 points, which is a lot.

Personally I like my Belgians dry, 1.008 or lower. The dryness coupled with the great yeast flavors make a really easy drinking high gravity beer. I wouldn't mess with it.
 

kingwood-kid

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If your keg is cold, there's no reason to worry about the fermentability of whatever you add. The yeast will go dormant and won't eat anything if the beer is kept at 35 or whatever. Although if you're really afraid you could add potassium sorbate. Maltodextrin, lactose etc aren't very sweet anyway; roughly 1/6 as sweet as table sugar. They will add some mouthfeel, which will kind of help.
 

RonPopeil

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aging won't sweeten it but the other things going on (hops, alcohol, etc) will fade so whatever sweetness is present will shine a little brighter. I am advocating that you employ a "wait and see" strategy. Aging could fix things for you. If you sweeten it now, before you know what it's really going to taste like, then it could be too sweet at 3 months in.
 

solbes

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I would not add any sweetener to a Belgian (insert two pennies here). The alcohol will eventually add its own level of sweetness, but it is likely not very apparent at this stage. All 5 of my high gravity belgians had this characteristic and they finished plenty dry. But it takes a few months for it to show up. Agree on waiting till late summer and late fall before they start to peak.
 

SudsyPaul

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You mashed kinda low and added a lot of sugar, so this should finish quite dry, but if you let it sit on the lees for a while, it'll get some good yeast character, and then just keg it, purge it and toss it aside for a year or two.

I don't think I've ever had a quad under a year old... best one I had was about 3 years old... DELICIOUS!
 

motorneuron

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All I know is that I kind of ruined a dubbel once by trying to sweeten it a touch with licorice. My advice is to let the beer do what it's going to do at this point, since fixing it is very difficult once it's brewed. Meanwhile, make another batch, but use a smaller percentage of sugar on the grain bill and mash higher.

All that said, I will agree with the consensus: dry is good. The main problem I have with American versions of Belgian-style beers is that they are consistently too sweet.
 

stpug

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I've got a Belgian Golden Strong on tap right now.
OG: 1.074
FG: 1.004
ABV: ~9.4%
18% simple sugar
Brewed 8/8/13

It's the sweetest beer I've had on tap in a long time, and sweeter than the Pale Ale and Amber Lager it sits next to! Low FG does not mean low sweetness.

Time DOES increase perceived sweetness in beer; particularly with higher alcohols (i.e. fusels) which belgium beers are known for.
 
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ericmcclimans

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Motorneuron- i mashed low to max fermentables and try to hit 9+% abv. My last couple brews have been more difficult ones (trippels, quads), and i am consistently falling short on OG (which is such a heartbreaker). If i mash higher and decrease sugar, how do i keep up my OG/eventual abv?

I think i executed appropriately on THIS recipe, but i think i am just too novice to read a recipe and anticipate the finishing profile. My favorite Belgians are made by Gulden Draak (definitely not American style), and have that complex, bready, sweet honey/plum profile. I think if i want to get that profile, it's about where i start, not how i finish (adding sweeteners, etc.). I think i have some more reading to do!
 
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ericmcclimans

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I THINK i executed well on this current one - i broke my hydrometer pulling it off the shelf, so i dont know what i hit with OG. Gonna have to go with the good'ole poor decisionometer to measure final abv.
 

motorneuron

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One thing to note: it's always harder to maintain your normal efficiency when you brew a bigger beer. There are plenty of tips to get efficiency up, but one thing you can do is harvest more wort and then use a longer boil.

Mashing low will up your ABV, all else being equal, but the way it does that is by lowering your FG and (a little bit) your sweetness as a result. Similarly, simple sugar is almost 100% fermented, so it ups your ABV but leaves FG alone. Thus it produces a very dry beer.

But to answer your question, mashing higher should only barely affect the OG you get on your wort. If you want to increase sweetness, mash higher and use less sugar. You can also use more crystal malts, especially (for this type of beer) Special B.

If you are mashing a lot of grain and are worried about efficiency, you can employ a longer mash. I would also, as I recommended above, use more water and thus get more wort, but boil it longer to concentrate it. And of course you can "cheat" by using a little extract, which will not really affect the flavor of a big beer anyway.

As for what you like, I hear you--there's a whole range of Belgian types. I meant my sweetness comment only in very general terms. I do think that some of what gets perceived as "sweet" in big Belgian beers is just fruitiness. That comes from both the dark sugar (which gives dark fruit kinds of flavors) and the yeast (which produces all kinds of esters). They are dessert sort of notes, but not necessarily sweet. All of this said, Gulden Draak is quite sweet compared to some of the Trappist beers, and of course you should brew what you like.

So with all of this in mind, I'm looking back at your recipe. If you want more sweetness, you can use a pound of Special B. You can also cut all of the brown sugar (probably a good idea anyway). And for the Belgian candy sugar, use 1 or 2 lbs of D-180, the dark Belgian candy syrup. That will give you some of the dark fruit notes you're probably after. Note that dark grain is not the traditional way to get dark colors and flavors--quads are not stouts, after all (nor are they doppelbocks).

Oh yeah. You should also buy a new hydrometer!
 
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