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The Devil’s Acquaintance: Belgian Golden Strong Ale

April 8th, 2015 // By // Recipe of the Month // View Comments

Devils Acquaintance Belgian Golden StrongHello again, and welcome to another edition of Brew Along with Us, Great Fermentations’ recipe of the month blog. This month, we will be focusing on the delicious and beautiful Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

Belgian Golden Strong is a style of beer exemplified by Duvel, a light Belgian golden strong that was really the first of the style, and continues to represent the style so thoroughly that many other beers of the same kind make some reference to the devil in their name (Duvel comes from Duivel, the Dutch word for devil.)

I have traditionally not been a huge fan of brewing Belgian beers, sticking with my more familiar English and American style ales. True, I have a good Belgian Dubbel recipe in my repertoire, and  have played around with German lagers, Belgian ales and saisons, but I would rather throw back an imperial pint of a good bitter or IPA before delving into the realm of the fruity and effervescent Belgian ales.

Until I recently read an article by Jon Stange entitled “Belgian Beer: You’re Probably Doing It Wrong.”

His article points out what techniques U.S. brewers employ when making Belgian-style beers, what is wrong with those techniques, and how they can improve. Reading over this article, I got excited to brew a Belgian-style ale, and to try to do it correctly. After throwing some ideas around, I asked a coworker what Belgian-style beer he would brew if he could brew any.

“Duvel” he answered, without hesitation.

Which is what set me down the path to try, with my coworker, to brew an excellent Duvel-style beer: a Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

One of the biggest points that Stange makes in his article is that multi-step mashing is used by Belgian brewers with their less-modified continental malts. So important is this point, and the effects of the rich head and full attenuation that the multi-step mash accounts for, that he reiterates it over again, stating that American-made Belgian-style ales don’t often do true Belgian ales justice with their single-infusion mashes and well-modified malts.

If you have never done multistep mashing, John Palmer does an excellent job of describing, with the mathematics involved, how to do multi-rest mashes with several infusions of hot water in his book How to Brew. If you mash in a kettle on a stovetop or have the ability to direct-fire your mash, (as we plan to do on my coworker’s 10 gallon BrewEasy system) you are probably going to have an easier time of it. If you can’t or don’t want to do a multi-rest mash, I would go with a single infusion rest for a longer period of time at a low temperature, around 146F.

I am including an extract version, but note that you may not be able to get the attenuation or characteristics associated with the style. This is just the nature of extract brewing; you will still be able to make an excellent beer that you can call your own.

Duvel’s recipe uses nothing more than pilsner malt and dextrose, with Styrian Goldings and Saaz hops, and a Belgian golden strong yeast, so that’s what I’m going with. Here we go!

The Devil’s Acquaintance Belgian Golden Strong Recipe (for final volume of 5.5 gallons)

Estimated O.G. = 1.071
Estimated F.G. = 1.007
Estimated ABV = 8.4%
Estimated bitterness = 35 IBUs

Grain Bill
12 lbs. Belgian Pilsner malt
2.5 lbs. Simplicity (clear) Belgian Candi Syrup, added at the last 15 minutes of the 90 minute boil

2 oz. Styrian Golding hops (4.5% AA), added with 60 minutes left in the 90 minute boil
1 oz. Saaz hops (3.0% AA), added with 30 minutes left in the 90 minute boil

2 to 3 packs (or make an appropriate starter) Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale yeast or White Labs WLP570 Belgian Golden Ale yeast , or 2 packs Belle Saison dry yeast.

Brewing Process

  • The mashing and fermentation schedule of this beer is more complex than most beers. If you cannot follow the schedule exactly, relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew! I’ll try to offer some alternatives to simplify the process.
  • Mash-in to reach a beginning mash temperature of 131F (protein rest) & hold for 20 minutes. Ramp or raise the temperature of the mash to 146F (saccharification rest) and hold for 60 minutes. Finally, ramp or raise the temperature to 168F (mash-out) and hold for 15 minutes. Lauter and sparge to collect enough preboil volume to allow for a 90 minute boil. Proceed with the 90 minute boil, adding the Simplicity candi syrup in the last 15 minutes of the boil.
  • A Simpler Mash: mash at 146F for 90 minutes. This will allow for a fermentable wort that will still make a great Belgian golden strong. However, the head retention and clarity will not be quite what it would be with a multi-rest mash. Lauter and sparge to collect enough preboil volume to allow for a 90 minute boil. Proceed with the 90 minute boil, adding the Simplicity candi syrup in the last 15 minutes of the boil.
  • Chill to 64F, pitch yeast, and allow to raise to 82F over the course of 5 days. If unable to raise this high, raise as high as possible.
  • Ferment at 82F for 2 weeks. Then cold crash and lager at 32F for 3 weeks before bottling in Belgian bottles or kegging.
  • As I said, this recipe calls for a lot of advanced techniques. If you are unable to follow them exactly, keep calm and brew on! You will still be able to make a fabulous beer by following standard brewing procedures.

Extract Version: Replace 11 lbs of the the pilsner malt with 7 lbs. of light dry malt extract. Steep the remaining 1 lb of Belgian pilsner malt at 150-155F for 30 minutes using a muslin grain bag. Begin with enough volume to allow for a 90 minute boil. Allow the rinsed grain bag to drain for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the flame and dissolve the extract thoroughly. Turn the flame back on, bring to a boil and proceed as normal with the 90 minute boil, following the hop schedule and adding the Simplicity candi syrup in the last 15 minutes of the boil. Chill to 64F and follow fermentation schedule as closely as possible.