Belgian Dark Strong

John Crabbe

Sunny February day seemed perfect to get the spring bottled seasonal brewed.  Year before last I brewed a Dubbel that turned out really well so I wanted to brew another darkish Belgian ale.  For this one I used a similar grist composition as the Dubbel and bumped up the starting gravity.  I also switched out the yeast strain to give Wyeast 3533 – Belgian Ardennes a try. So far this yeast has behaved similar to the strain I used in the Dubbel, really foaming a ton when trying to build up the yeast starter. Although this strain does seems to flocculate much better.

OG: 1.082
FG: 1.014
ABV: 9%
Mash: 151 (60 min)
Boil: 90 min.

Water Profile:

Ca: 69
Mg: 1
Na: 215
So4: 51
Cl: 60
BiCarbonate: 85
Mash pH: 5.4

71.2% Belgian Pilsner Malt
9.8% Munich 10L
4.9% Belgian Aromatic
4.9% Caramunich (57L)
4.9% Belgian Candi Syrup – 90L
2.5% Dextrose
1.8% Special B

1.75 oz Sterling (4.5%) 60 min.
1.00 oz Sterling (4.5%) 10 min.

Wyeast 3522 – Belgian Ardennes

Made a 1 liter starter 5 days before brew day and tried to step it up before decanting. Yeast created too much krausen, so I had to take it off the stir plate and just shake it every few hours. I’m not really anticipated that effecting the final gravity at all. Pitched yeast at 67 and set the temp. at 70. I’m planning on letting it stay at 70 until activity slows down and then will slowly ramp it up to finish off the fermentation.

Bottled on 3/24/15 w/ 4.6 oz of dextrose and targeting around 2.6 vols/co2.

Tasting notes – 5.12.15

Appearance: Dark ruby with a foamy off white head.

Aroma: Tart cherry really dominates with some spicy esters and a little bit of alcohol.

Taste: Tart cherries up front with a little bit of grainy maltiness following and gives way to a fruity and slightly figgy finish. Yeast esters are a mix of fruitiness and a little bit of spice. Little bit of sweetness remains on the tongue, but not cloying or under attenuated.

Medium: Medium with medium plus carbonation.

Overall: Not too bad for a first attempt. This drinks much smoother than the 9% that it is. I really enjoy the sour cherry fruit notes that the yeast gives off. I do wish the ester profile was a little bit more prominent however. I want to rebrew this beer again using my favorite Belgian yeast, 3787 Trappist High Gravity and see how it compares. Overall it tastes and drinks exactly how you’d think it should and the sweetness is at nice level and doesn’t seem overly sweet or cloying in anyway.

Update: 1/15/16

This beer has really aged nicely with no signs of oxidation or excess carbonation. The tart cherry ester is still dominant, however all the rough edges that were there previously have dulled and drinks much more balanced.  There is still an intense dark fruit flavor and combined with the high alcohol gives a slight warming effect, but not overly boozy or out of style. Really does drink smoother and easier than the 9% abv would suggest and is just getting better with age. I have about a six pack left that I’ll need to hold on to until the end of the year for a final tasting.

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