Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Belgian Series: Belgian Dark Strong Ale

I decided to brew a Belgian Dark Strong as my third and final beer in my Belgian Series for this year. I always lean toward dark malty beers and I love the style, but I wasn't sure how well I could brew it. I haven't brewed very many high gravity beers. Last year, I brewed a 10% Golden Strong and initially I thought it was a pretty big failure. Then I let it sit for 6 months and it turned out to be one of my best beers and highest scoring beers I have ever made. Knowing this, I decided to go big this year and then just be patient.

After looking at a lot of recipes I realized how similar the grain bills are to Belgian Dubbels. But the extra amount of malt and alcohol really change the flavor profile. Brew Like a Monk has a great recipe section on Belgian Dark Strong Ales. And here is another great presentation from Gordon Strong on Designing Belgian Dark Strong Ales. The recipe is almost identical to my Belgian Dubbel just about 25 gravity points higher and no Dark candi syrup.

This was an interesting brew-day also. The day started around 5 in the morning, before the sun had even come up (I was trying to finish brewing before my wife got back from a bachelorette party). It was actually my longest brew session and not because of my stupid mis-haps with the copper manifold like last time. But I just had a hard time with my efficiency so I ended up boiling for 2.5 hours and with 5.5 gal instead of 6.5. The long boiling actually probably helped the flavor of this beer.

For yeast, I really liked how the Rochefort and Achouffe cultured yeast samples turned out in my Belgian Pale Experiment. I wanted the beer to be balanced, but still have some nice phenols from the Achouffe yeast. I had plenty of yeast from the 1 gal batches, so it was all pitched into a small starter the same day and I had activity in 12 hours in the main batch. And look at that 96% Apparent Attenuation.

Recipe: Belgian Dark Strong
O.G.-1.089  F.G.-1.004   IBU-32
SRM-17.4   ABV-11.4%   Batch-5.5 Gal

Grain Bill:
8.5 lb Belgian Pale Malt (52%)
2 lb  Munich Malt 10L (12%)
1 lb Aromatic Malt (6%)
1 lb Flaked Wheat (6%)
1 lb Flaked Barley (6%)
8 oz Caramunich (3%)
8 oz Caravienne (3%) 
8 oz Special B (3%) 
1.5 lb Table Sugar (9%)

.7oz Magnum , 13.5%, pellet, 90 min 36.7 IBU
150 ml of cultured Rochefort dregs and 150 ml of cultured Achouffe dregs

Brew Day:
Brewed: 8/26/11


Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1 qt/lb
Mash Volume: 3.5 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 150F @ 60min
Strike Temp: 167F
Batch Sparge Volume: 5.5 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F @ 30min

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 7.5 gal
Boil Time: 150min
Post Boil Volume: 5.5 gal

Ferment Details:
O.G.: 1.088
Ferment Temp: Pitched at 64 and allowed to free rise 2 degrees/day up into the mid 70s
F.G.: 1.004

I also did 2 - 1 gal batches with dregs from Maredsous Brune and St. Bernardus Prior 8. There will only be a follow-up post for the Maredsous version since the St. Bernardus version was murdered. I knocked it off the shelf after 3 days of fermenting. Talk about the worst time to spill my first batch. The highest gravity with still plenty of sugar left in it and it was a dark colored beer on light carpet. After about 3 weeks of cleaning it is barely back to normal.

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