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What to Brew in April: Belgian Strong

03/30/2013 6:11 PM | Anonymous member

Belgian Strong Ale

Ahh, the Belgian Strong. Nothing makes me think of long summer naps in a hammock faster than a short pint or two of these beauties. With FIVE substyles to choose from and a minimum Original Gravity of 1.062 these have “incredible beer-nap” written all over them.

Let’s see: you’ve got Blonde, Dubbel, Tripel, Golden Strong, and Dark Strong. No, Quadruppel and Pentupel are not 'real styles'. 

If you get that summer hankering for the more potent side of these fruity, estery beers, now is the time to start brewing:
The OBC style competition program will be accepting your entries for judging in September.

A special strain of Belgian yeast will be provided at the April Meeting for this competition. All entries will require this yeast.

These phenomenal and often phenolic (phenolenal?) ales take a little bit time to get there, so plan ahead if you want to get your best shot at a Leffe, Westmalle, Duvel, or maybe even Westvleteren ‘12’ clone in for comparison.

Generally, you’re looking for a highly attenuated beer with high alcohol character and medium body. In spite of any hop bitterness, keep your aroma and flavor low: this style is a yeast flavor showcase. These beers tend to be highly carbonated, even ‘foamy’ with lace that clings to the glass.

Personally, if there’s one beer in this style you’re going to want to try (and then try and make) it’s got to be Moortgat’s Victory Ale, better known as Duvel. If you haven’t had this yet, go find it. You’re looking for a highly carbonated golden ale, with fruit and nut notes. This beer starts sweet and finishes dry, and is stronger than you might think (8.5%). You’ll get some clovey phenolic flavor, but it’s going to be subtle.

If you want to make something like this, start by thinking about the yeast. If you’re going to work with an “off-the-shelf” yeast, Wyeast 1388 (Belgian Strong) is where I would start (if you're entering the SCP for Belgians this year, see above). To get this alcohol and dryness, you’re going to need sugar. A lot of sugar. Here’s a recipe I've had laying around in my "to brew" pile, I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ll give it a go:

A Duvel Clone:

90 Minute Mash @ 150F:

9.75 lb Belgian Pilsner
.5 lb CaraPils
4 oz Belgian aromatic malt

90 minute boil:
1 lb Belgian Clear Candi Sugar
1 ⅓ lb Dextrose
1.25 oz Styrian Goldings (5% AA)

@ 15 min:
.5 oz Styrian Goldings
.5 oz Czech Saaz

@ 3 min
.5 oz Styrian Goldings

Ferment in primary for 7 days (1388 yeast can go warm, let it...).

In secondary, add 1lb of dextrose boiled in 1 pint of water (cooled).

When that fermentation is complete, age for 4 weeks at cool temperatures (35-45F).

Bottle or Keg to 3.3 Volumes CO2.

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