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Belgian Dark Strong Ale Westvleteren 12 Clone - Multiple Award Winner

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First off I want to say thanks to CSI for the super detailed recipe's and guidance on brewing this beer, and to everyone else for all the great info in this thread. I brewed this up with a buddy of mine a few weeks ago and can't be happier with how it's turned out, and with no aging at this point, definitely a bit green, but still pretty tasty.

This was our first ever big beer, but we have about 15 batches under our belt and were able to hit all the numbers. We followed the pilsner/pale ale recipe, couldn't find Brewers Gold so swapped in Northern Brewer hops, pitched a 3 liter starter that we decanted before pitching. We didn't aerate the starter since it was on a stir plate, but did aerate the wort for about 10 minutes with a regular aquarium pump and aeration stone.

Took a note from this thread and used a 1 inch blowoff tube on the Fermzilla, which was needed, because wow, this yeast takes off! Fermentation temp peaked at 75, and a couple of weeks later we got 1.013 as our FG. Thankfully didn't have any problems with the fermentation stalling, not sure if we got lucky or did something right. We have it conditioning in a keg right now, we didn't hook it up to the keezer so hopefully we can keep our hands off it for a few months.
 
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Congrats! Love to hear results in 6 months. You getting the real stuff to compare?
@OkieNotFromMoskogee
Naw, I honestly don't know where I could get it, and I'm not worried about it being a perfect clone, I just want a good strong belgian that I can brew myself and try and keep on hand :)
 

PianoMan

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Naw, I honestly don't know where I could get it, and I'm not worried about it being a perfect clone, I just want a good strong belgian that I can brew myself and try and keep on hand :)
If you get the point where your interested. Pricey but 3 bottles and a glass was enough for me.

https://belgianmart.com/
 

PianoMan

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Just picked up everything I need to brew this. Planning for next weekend. Going to start fermentation at 70 for 2 days, then bump up 2 degrees every dayish till 84
That's the ticket. My next attempt I'll probably just ferment at 80. I'll be curious if you get those fruity esters mine are missing.
 

PianoMan

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Exciting! What are you using for temp control?
I have a small chest freezer with an Inkbird controller. Controller has a cool and heat output. The 'heat' goes to a small heating pad inside. Just fermented a Kveik yeast IPA at 85F and turned off the chest freezer itself so it wouldn't quickly cool.
 
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I use a heat wrap on the fermenter, a tc coil for cooling, and a 2 stage inkbird to control them.
Nice, I've looked at the coils a few times but it seemed like another thing to clean, and I didn't want to have to build/buy a chiller for it. Seems like a really space effecient way to cool though.

I have a small chest freezer with an Inkbird controller. Controller has a cool and heat output. The 'heat' goes to a small heating pad inside. Just fermented a Kveik yeast IPA at 85F and turned off the chest freezer itself so it wouldn't quickly cool.
Do you have any trouble getting 5 gallons in and out of it? I thought about going that route but recently got a Fermzilla and wasn't sure about getting it in and out of a chest freezer.

For mine we put it in a cool spot in the house (about 66° ambient), and used the natural rise and a heated seed map to ramp up the temp. Since the Fermzilla tank is only rated for 122° max I was a little concerned about using a normal heat wrap, because none of them specify the temp range and I couldn't find one that listed it in the specs.

Have brewed many times. Here's my oops from the most recent iteration. Came home from work to find an unexpected experiment in open fermentation.View attachment 671977
Wow, yeah, that yeast is a beast.
 

Dave Sarber

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Nice, I've looked at the coils a few times but it seemed like another thing to clean, and I didn't want to have to build/buy a chiller for it. Seems like a really space effecient way to cool though.



Do you have any trouble getting 5 gallons in and out of it? I thought about going that route but recently got a Fermzilla and wasn't sure about getting it in and out of a chest freezer.

For mine we put it in a cool spot in the house (about 66° ambient), and used the natural rise and a heated seed map to ramp up the temp. Since the Fermzilla tank is only rated for 122° max I was a little concerned about using a normal heat wrap, because none of them specify the temp range and I couldn't find one that listed it in the specs.



Wow, yeah, that yeast is a beast.
I live in southern Arizona, so temp control is a problem for me. During the winter months, I can ferment at room temp, approx 68°. For the summer, I use a 7.5 cu ft chest freezer, which can fit two 6.5 gallon big mouth bubblers. My 9.25 gallon fermentasaurus will not fit in there. The freezer is temp controlled. The only problem in our 9 month long summers is keeping the fermentation cool enough, heating is not a problem.
 

Tom Buchanan

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I've just bottled this after 7 weeks in the primary. I followed the original recipe from the first post and FG came out at 1010. I fermented it around 70 and then after 4 weeks brought the temp up to 75.

Having sampled the beer at bottling I'd be inclined to ferment at a higher temp if I did this again. I've had a Westie 12 and distinctly remember the deep plum flavours and the fact that the flavour lingered. Admittedly the sample I'm drinking straight out of the primary is going to change a fair bit but for me it already it lacks the deep plum I'd been hoping for.
 
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Jumping back into brewing with both feet using the second recipe of the Westy 12 clone. I've made both versions and while both are super delicioso, I find the second and more complicated grain bill gives the best version. It just has more complexity.

My brother and I have "merged" our breweries (LOL!) and will do an eleven gallon batch on Friday, 7/3... Then we'll partigyle a small beer for a total of 16 gallons. Two 5.5 gallon batches will use the Westmalle strain (wlp530) in a starter of 4L, and the other will be dry yeast Safale BE-256 which is for Abbey ales. It's new to me but excited to try it out.
 
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Big Monk

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Jumping back into brewing with both feet using the second recipe of the Westy 12 clone. I've made both versions and while both are super delicioso, I find the second and more complicated grain bill gives the best version. It just has more complexity.

My brother and I have "merged" our breweries (LOL!) and will do an eleven gallon batch on Friday, 7/3... Then we'll partigyle a small beer for a total of 16 gallons. Two 5.5 gallon batches will use the Westmalle strain (wlp530) in a starter of 4L, and the other will be dry yeast Safale BE-256 which is for Abbey ales. It's new to me but excited to try it out.
BE-256 is closer to a Saison type yeast. Lallemand Abbaye is the one to use, unless you already made your purchase.
 

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Made the purchase already but do not fear my friend! I plan on using it in the small beer from the second runnings. It will have everything but the Candi sugar and the hop variety will be different. I love saisons so that works well, but was told that it's not really a grist for a saison, but I'm willing to experiment.
 

jturman35

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Even CSI, who sells syrup, later reduced the syrup in that batch size from 2.5 lbs to 2 lbs. And you can mess around with the malts. To me, an all pilsner recipe is just as good as the (more or less) half pilsner, half pale ale.

Great recipe.
I know I’m late to the party but where did you see this? Seems like the CSI site still shows 2.5lbs of D-180.
 

Kee

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I know I’m late to the party but where did you see this? Seems like the CSI site still shows 2.5lbs of D-180.
I can't find that exact post, CSI in this thread has mentioned a couple of times (best I recall) slightly modifying the amount of D-180. In post #392, he says they were using 5 pounds for 11 gallon batches, which is the recipe on page 1, although in post #395 he seems to imply that it was to match the SRM of the import.

When I have time I'll see if I can find the post I was going by, but you can't go wrong just following the listed recipe.

EDIT: No, didn't find it. And even if you do the math for a 5 gallon batch, instead of 5.5, you still come up with 2.27 lbs. of D-180. I would round down for a 5 gallon batch, but more for convenience. YMMV.
 
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jturman35

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Thanks for the reply!

I used 2lbs 10 oz ounces D-180 on the original and at a year old it stands up well when compared right next to Chimay Blue. I learned my lesson, don't keg this and put in the keezer right away. The keg version I have is still not ready compared to the bottle version. I bottled about a 18 pack using a beer gun, and left them age at room temp. The bottle version is a 40point beer. This beer needs to sit at room temp and age to come around. Even at a year in the keezer the keg version is still not ready.

I'm brewing this on my next batch and im going to try 2.5lbs D-180 this time with 50% Pils and MO whixh is pretty much the same as my last batch. This is one of the better recipes i have come across after having 45 brews under my belt.
 

jturman35

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Hey guys looking for some input! I pitched a 3l starter and got this up to 81deg and she still didn’t finish down 1.010-1.012 like I hoped for. It’s been 22days in the conical and I was wandering if I should rack over to a keg pitches with a pack of Nottingham yeast hoping to get it down? Right now I’m stuck at 1.018. Would this be a bad idea if I let it sit a room temp for a few months in the keg? I could rig up some sort of spunding valve if need be but I wouldn’t think it would generate much co2 at this point.
 

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Kee

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Hey guys looking for some input! I pitched a 3l starter and got this up to 81deg and she still didn’t finish down 1.010-1.012 like I hoped for. It’s been 22days in the conical and I was wandering if I should rack over to a keg pitches with a pack of Nottingham yeast hoping to get it down? Right now I’m stuck at 1.018. Would this be a bad idea if I let it sit a room temp for a few months in the keg? I could rig up some sort of spunding valve if need be but I wouldn’t think it would generate much co2 at this point.
It certainly won't hurt to rack it to a keg while you considering your options. Whether you can get it down a few more points is an open question. I've only had one batch stuck in that range, but since my wife liked it I just went with it.
 

Big Monk

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Hey guys looking for some input! I pitched a 3l starter and got this up to 81deg and she still didn’t finish down 1.010-1.012 like I hoped for. It’s been 22days in the conical and I was wandering if I should rack over to a keg pitches with a pack of Nottingham yeast hoping to get it down? Right now I’m stuck at 1.018. Would this be a bad idea if I let it sit a room temp for a few months in the keg? I could rig up some sort of spunding valve if need be but I wouldn’t think it would generate much co2 at this point.
What was your mash schedule and original gravity?
 

jturman35

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90 min mash @ 149

1.089-1.018

I didn’t know if pitching a pack of Nottingham in the keg and letting it sit at room temp for a few months to age would get this down a few more points.
 
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Big Monk

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90 min mash @ 149

1.089-1.018

I didn’t know if pitching a pack of Nottingham in the keg and letting it sit at room temp for a few months to age would get this down a few more points.
A few things:

1.) You are at 84% Apparent Attenuation, which is pretty admirable. Contrary to what was reported in some versions of BLAM, Westvleteren 12 achieves 86% AA and finishes around 1.016 (if we do the math) rather than the 1.013 shown in the book.

2.) In future iterations, a dual beta rest, or a single rest lower than 149 F, may help you to eek out a few more points. For matters of attenuation, look to improve fermentability in the mash, not asking/expecting more of your yeast in the fermenter.
 

Kee

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CSI was on to something capturing fresh krausen from one batch to pitch into the next. I "cheat" by pitching my entire starter at high krausen with this yeast. (Obviously you have to adjust your OG upward or you will lose a couple of points). I know, I know, some will turn away with shock and horror at the thought, but 6 or 7 days later the batch is down to 1.012 or 1.013. Fresh yeast really seem to make a difference here.

YMMV
 

Big Monk

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Fresh yeast really seem to make a difference here.
This is something that has been on my mind lately. Fresh, healthy yeast is very important but can only do so much. Many people mistakenly attribute the entirety of the mechanism behind the limit of attenuation to the yeast when in actuality, attenuation is aided and mostly established in the mash tun.

You could have the freshest, healthiest yeast in the world but if you mash the beer at 170, final gravity WILL bottom out at a value higher than expected/desired. This is why multiple beta rests can be a real game changer for people looking to fine tune their apparent attenuation for specific beers.

The point? The science of microbiology (academic) is fairly complex but the applied science of microbiology (what we do) is fairly simple. Conversely, many have simplified the mashing process too much when in actuality it is a fair bit more complex than we give it credit for.

Make sure you pitch fresh/healthy yeast into a "quality" (from a fermentability perspective) wort and you will hit the limit of attenuation every time. This is really the hallmark of these Trappist beers.
 

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I saw some comments above on ordering westvelteren. You can always check hop cask and barrel for what they have in stock in the DC area. Its always been one of my favorite USA beer shops and one of the few places that has had cantillon and westvleteren in stock.


Also, I need to brew this beer soon. Ordering the real thing is too expensive, but I found a couple bottles when I was in Brussels. It has a cherry note that is just phenomenal. It is worth trying if you want to splurge.
 
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Big Monk

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Note: I passed the window to edit here but am posting these changes here to account for the error in calculations

1.) You are at ~81% Apparent Attenuation, which is pretty admirable.

2.) In future iterations, a dual beta rest, or a single rest lower than 149 F, may help you to eek out a few more points. For matters of attenuation, look to improve fermentability in the mash, not asking/expecting more of your yeast in the fermenter.
Just wanted to update this to show your actual apparent attenuation. I made a math error in Post #1,387.

I'll again reiterate: If you had a sufficient amount of healthy yest, look to your mash schedule the next time to increase fermentability.
 

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Has anyone entered this into Beersmith? I am getting much higher numbers for color.
33 srm but should be between 12-22 (for style)
66 ebc but should be between 23-43 (for style)
Beersmith shows it as black.
Brewer's Friend has it around the same values.

For those who have brewed it, is it really that dark?

Also... What recipe have people been brewing with. The above color numbers are with the 2nd (more specialty) recipe.
 
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Northern_Brewer

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Has anyone entered this into Beersmith? I am getting much higher numbers for color.
33 srm but should be between 12-22 (for style)
66 ebc but should be between 23-43 (for style)
European brewers tend not to have read the BJCP style guides.

The Roncoroni & Verstrepen book lists Westvleteren 12 at 61EBC (31SRM), and 29 IBU.

Whilst I'm about it, they have St Bernardus Abt 12 at 64EBC and 14 IBU.

And Rochefort 10 is 76EBC and 10 IBU.

Clearly the monks are brewing their beers wrong if the BJCP says they should be 23-43 EBC.
 

PianoMan

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Has anyone entered this into Beersmith? I am getting much higher numbers for color.
33 srm but should be between 12-22 (for style)
66 ebc but should be between 23-43 (for style)
Beersmith shows it as black.
Brewer's Friend has it around the same values.

For those who have brewed it, is it really that dark?

Also... What recipe have people been brewing with. The above color numbers are with the 2nd (more specialty) recipe.
Yes, mine was definitely darker then authentic Westy12. I was more concerned that I didn't have the fruity esters that W12 has. 2lbs of 90 instead of 180 will be much closer to the true color.
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How long do you guys let yours age? Have everything ready to do one .
 

jturman35

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I'm a firm believer in at least 6 months at room temperature.
 

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I'm just starting the process to start brewing this. My brew day is planned for Halloween. Tonight I started the stage 1 of 2 starter. When I purchased the Wyeast 3787, I got 2 right away. I will use one for starter, but the other I want to use for bottling later on. What is the best recommended process and amount? I will be brewing a 10 gallon batch, so could I pitch the whole packet or will I need to split it or even make a starter for it?

Also, I saw a few talking about the boiling of the first runnings. Some say it's not worth the extra work, others have said they think it could have added some flavors. I will be using D-180. Might that be enough? I was thinking at this point that it could be interesting to try out. Any more opinions on this?

I will keep updating as to how it brews and ultimately turns out.
 
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