Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gail, Belgian Dark Strong Ale

Growing up my Grandfather would always give me a nickel when he came over.  I remember being so excited to drop that shinny coin into my piggy bank, as I got older the receiving nickel got a little, well "Old".  Now looking back, that nickel was him showing love to the Grand-kids, as any affection from him would of shocked everybody.  To my Grandfather Gail, a nickel was a lot of money, the simple act of giving that away was a big deal to him which I will always remember. 

Gail, like most other men of his age was sent off to war.  He ended up in France and Belgium for most of WWII.  During this time he developed a strong hatred for anything French.  He would randomly state, "French Pussies." and other inappropriate comments as he got older.  No one can understand what happens during war but I can assume it's not pretty.  He would talk about how the French Troops would be running away from the German's while the American's stood firm protecting their country.  Even with this hatred for French men, French women on the other hand he loved.  Eventually marring an American born, French girl.

This love hate relationship reminded me of my relationships with strong dark Belgian beers.  When it comes to Homebrewing, I brew, I brew a lot.  Honestly in this area I'm in the 1%...but this style of beer has always eluded my homebrewing mind.  So I wanted to start with a proven recipe.  Going into Jamil's Brewing Classic Styles Book, I pulled up this recipe.  I've only darken the color 3 SRM points with the addition of Carafa III.  For some strange reason I felt his 13 SRM's was to light.  The style is acceptable up to 21 SRM's

The plan is to bottle 3 gallons of this beer for normal consumption.  The other 2.5 or so gallons, I'll add a Belgian sour mix to at bottling.  Letting them over time develop sour characteristics. 

Belgian Dark Strong Ale
Type: All Grain Date: 11/12/2012
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal Brewer: Chris Lewis
Boil Size: 6.34 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 60 min Equipment: Lewys Tower
End of Boil Volume 5.72 gal Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Final Bottling Volume: 5.26 gal Est Mash Efficiency 72.0 %
Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage Taste Rating(out of 50): Me: 42 NHC 2013: 41.3
Taste Notes:  Please see my "Tasting Notes" for this recipe.
Competitions Entered: NHC 2013 "Tasting Notes" , America's Finest Homebrew Comp.  "Tasting Notes"
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
13 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 68.1 %
2 lbs Munich Malt - 20L (20.0 SRM) Grain 2 10.5 %
1 lbs Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM) Grain 3 5.2 %
1 lbs Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM) Grain 4 5.2 %
8.0 oz Melanoiden Malt (20.0 SRM) Grain 5 2.6 %
8.0 oz White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 6 2.6 %
1.6 oz Carafa III (525.0 SRM) Grain 7 0.5 %
1 lbs Cane (Beet) Sugar (0.0 SRM) Sugar 8 5.2 %
2.00 oz Tettnanger [5.30 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 9 27.5 IBUs
1.0 pkg Abbey Ale (White Labs #WLP530) [35.49 ml] Yeast 10 -
Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.094 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.079 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.016 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 10.4 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 9.10 %
Bitterness: 27.5 IBUs Calories: 275 kcal/12oz
Est Color: 18.2 SRM
Mash Profile
Mash Name: Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge Total Grain Weight: 19 lbs 1.6 oz
Sparge Water: 2.85 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F Tun Temperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.20
Mash Steps
Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Mash In Add 22.63 qt of water at 164.8 F 153.0 F 45 min
Sparge Step: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 3.17gal) of 168.0 F water
Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).
Carbonation and Storage
Carbonation Type: Bottle Volumes of CO2: 2.3
Pressure/Weight: 4.53 oz Carbonation Used: Bottle with 4.53 oz Corn Sugar
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 70.0 F Age for: 30.00 days
Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage Storage Temperature: 65.0 F
Fermentation Notes
Primary: 63 Degrees for 7 days
Created with BeerSmith


  1. That's a pretty interesting grain bill what with the melanoidin, caramunich and aromatic malts. I think you did a good thing by making the color adjustment with Carafa III. It is a "Dark" Strong Ale after all. I'd probably keep some extra sugar/DME around on brew day just in case I didn't make it to the desired OG; you seem to be quite a bit better at maximizing efficiency than I am though.

    What sort of sour bugs are you thinking about adding to the 2.5 gallon portion?

    1. Danny, I am really up in the air on the bugs. I have a White Labs Sour Blend that I am itching to use....I had a change and didn't use my 2, 3 gallon better bottles because my Carboy #1 opened up. So now that the batch is together I might change my mind on this one and keep it clean. Maybe brett at bottling?

      For some reason my efficiency is sucking the last couple of batches...I need to do some research.

    2. What about WLP665 Flemish Ale Blend? It has the same strains as Sour Mix 1 (Brett, Lacto, Pedio, Sacchro) but is supposed to impart stronger flavors associated with dark stone fruit. Sounds perfect for a Dark Strong Ale.


Thanks for Commenting, Prost!