Category Archives: Belgian Dark Strong 1

Belgian Dark Strong 1

I’ve been brewing for going on three years now and I decided early on that I wanted to brew all 80 BJCP styles.  I’m about half way there and with this brew I’m knocking another one off the list.  I had also won some D-180 at a homebrew competition which I needed to get out of the refrigerator and this seemed like the best candidate 🙂  I definitely gravitate towards hoppy beers and big Belgian beers and I’ve been a fan of this category since I had my first St. Bernardus 12.  Some of the versions I’m not a huge fan of (Chimay Blue) but others I absolutely love (St. B 12, Gulden Draak).
To put this recipe together, I looked at my normal sources (Brewing Classic Styles, BYO, Zymurgy, Gordon Strong’s Books, NHC recipes) but none of these really struck a chord.  Most have very complex grain bills and did not take advantage of the great Belgian Dark Candi Sugar we can now easily get.  So, I re-read Brew like a Monk and took a lot of inspiration from the Dark Strong write up as well as the insight into how St. Bernardus brews the 12 and how Westmalle ferments their yeast in their Dubbel and Tripel.  Since I had the D-180, I also looked at their website which has a pretty good looking St Bernardus 12 and Westvleteren 12 clone recipe.  Lastly, I brewed a Tripel I was very happy with (and my first 1st place beer) in which I used Westmalle Yeast (Wyeast 3787) and 20% sugar.  So I took all this together and came up with my Belgian Dark recipe.  The brunt is Castle Pilsner malt but I wanted a nice malty aroma and flavor so I used 9% Castle Chateau Aromatique (basically super charged munich malt at 35L).  I also wanted it to dry out nicely so I mashed low (ended up at 149 rather than planned 150) and used 4% D-180 (1Lbs) and 9% table sugar (2Lbs).  Pretty basic hop bill, middle of the style range and just enough to offset some of the sweetness but not be particularly noticeable.  For the ferment, the one issue with my Tripel was it was a bit too low on phenolics and esters so I ramped the ferment faster.  I started at 64 and ramped it to 76 over three days whereas with the Tripel I did it over 5 days.
Belgian Dark Strong 1
18-E Belgian Dark Strong Ale
Size: 7.0 gal
Efficiency: 70%
Attenuation: 80%
Original Gravity: 1.090 (1.075 – 1.110) – ended up at 1.088 since boil evaporation rate was only 1G/hr                                                                                                     rather than expected 1.25G/hr
Terminal Gravity: 1.018 (1.010 – 1.024) – Tripel with same yeast finished at 1.006 so this is probably                                                                                                 high
Color: 19.13 (12.0 – 22.0)
Alcohol: 9.52% (8.0% – 11.0%)
Bitterness: 31.7 (20.0 – 35.0)
18 lb (78.3%) Pilsen 2RS Malt – added during mash
2 lb (8.7%) Aroma 100 EBC Malt – added during mash
1 lb (4.3%) Candi Sugar Dark D-180 – added during mash
2 lb (8.7%) White Table Sugar (Sucrose) – added during mash
1 oz (50.0%) Northern Brewer (10.3%) – added during boil, boiled 60 m
1 oz (50.0%) Styrian Goldings (3.2%) – added during boil, boiled 15 m
1 tsp Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 10 m
1 ea WYeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity™
mash salts:
2.2g Gypsum
3.3g CC
sparge salts:
4g Gypsum
6g CC
acidify sparge to below 5.8 (~12ml of 10% phosphoric in 10G of water)
should give mash pH of 5.4 – was actually 5.6 so i acidified the boil to get it down to 5.3
20 lb of grain
1.4 qt/lb = 28 quarts = 7 gallons
mash @ 150 – was 149
mash in water temp 160.9 so ~161 into mash tun
pitch @ 64 and ramp to 76 over 3 days then hold ~21 days.  rack to keg, drop to 45F at 5F a day and then force carb to 3.
1-18-14 : made 3.4L starter with 1 yeast pack per Mr Malty
1-20-14 : pretty normal brew day.  kettle gravity was higher than expected but then boil rate was less so ended up not having to adjust at all but came in at 1.088 rather than 1.090.  the wort was brown out of the MLT but the D-180 adds a lot of color.  maybe it will be 19 SRM but seemed darker than that.  time will tell 🙂  6.5G into the fermenter and decanted started down to 2L so total of 7G in 6.5G glass carboy.  hopefully blowoff won’t be a huge issue.  only area of concern was pH.  Mash Ph came in at 5.6 rather than calculated 5.4.  In looking further into this, I realized in Bru’n Water that I had marked the Aromatic as Roasted malt rather than Base Malt which then made the proper calculation.  I addressed it by acidifying the boil kettle with 5ml of 10% phosphoric acid which brought it down to 5.4 which dropped to 5.3 by end of the boil and is inline with the Braukaisers recommendations.
a thin krausen had formed at 4 hours with a small amount of bubbling.
1-21-14 major fermentation.  huge kreusen that has blown off some but not too bad.
1-22-14 temp up to low 70s.  fermentation slowed but still steady
1-23-14 fermentation slowed to bubbling every 2 sec
1-26-14 still bubbling every two seconds but yeast seems to be starting to drop
1-27-14 bubbling every 4-5 sec
1-28-14 bubbling every 5-6 sec
1-30-14 bubbling every 8 sec.  moved to bubble and took sample.  1.012!  wow.  nice peppery note along with dark fruit (plum, fig).  no fusels.  very clean for 10+%!  definitely not infected.
1-31-14 bubbling has greatly slowed to about 15sec.
2-1-14 almost no bubbling (> 30sec) and has started to clear
2-3-14 kegged and slow dropped to 45 @ 5 degrees a day.  measured at 1.010.
2-9-14 racked to clean keg and force carbed @ 20 psi @ 44 F
2-17-14 carbonation seems a bit low especially compared to “high carbonation” in style guide so increased to 24 psi @ 44F
2-19-14 carbonation is better although a hair lower than st bernardus 12.  bottled of some for competitions.