Brewing Belgian Beers (#3): Doubles

Description:
1.060-1.070, 6-7.5% ABV, 18-25 IBU, 10-14 SRM Dark amber to brown. Sweet malty aroma. Faint hop aroma ok. Medium to full body. Malty, plum-like flavor. Very low bitterness, no hop flavor. Medium to high carbonation. Low esters ok. No roasted flavors or diacetyl.
This beer focusses on malt flavors, and doubles should be malty and sweet with a noticeable plum character. Modest alchohol flavor is ok, as are low levels of esters, but the malt flavors should predominate. Doubles are usually full-bodied with fairly moussy carbonation that produces a very nice head.

Brewing method

As with all Belgian beers the base should be pilsner malt with various amounts of caramel malts (Belgian varieties work especially well here, including both Caramunich and Special B) and a portions of sugar to control body (start with one pound per 5 gallons). Roasted malts can also be used for coloring, but should not be tasted. Toasted Belgian malts contribute a pleasantly nutty flavor, and these can be used in fairly high quantity (+/- 2 lbs for a 5 gallon batch). However, their use requires mashing. Yeast choice seems to offer some flexibility, though strains with a smooth, fruity character complement the raisin/plum flavors of the caramel malts better than yeasts yielding spicy flavors.

Extract brewers will not be able to use the Belgian toasted malts, but otherwise should be able to produce a nice, malty brew. Start with pale extract and a hefty infusion of Belgian caramel malts, then add sugar to the kettle.

Common problems

  1. Solvent/banana flavors. Fermentation defects due to high temperature ferments or poor yeast health seem to be the most common problem. Cooler ferments, higher pitching rates and more aeration should help.
  2. No plum flavors. Needs more caramel malts, or a switch to Belgian varieties. Belgian Munich and Special B may be especially helpful.
  3. Excessive alchohol. Even a good double will often taste like malt with a layer of alchohol over it, but this can be overdone. Fusels are particularly unwelcome. Reduce fermentation temperature or the quantity of adjuncts.
  4. Inappropriate carbonation. Carbonation should be moussy, but should not interfere with your ability to appreciate the flavors. Adjustment in priming or longer bottle conditioning may be needed.

Commerical examples

Westmalle Dubbel (6.5% ABV), Affligem Double (7% ABV), Grimbergen Double (6.2% ABV), Steenbrugge double (6.5% ABV)

Sample recipe

Andy Anderson's Aaron's Abbey Ale (slightly revised)

ANDERSO_A@HQ.NAVSEA.NAVY.MIL
All grain recipe for five gallons:

9 lb Belgian pilsner malt
2 lb Belgian biscuit malt
1 lb Belgian aromatic malt
4 oz Special B
1 lb Dark candy sugar

1.4 oz Tettnang pellets (4.4%) boiled for 60 minutes (goal is 25 IBU)
0.5 oz Hallertau Hersbrucker plug (2.9%), boiled for 5 minutes

1 Tablespoon Irish Moss, boiled for 15 minutes

Fermented with 1 quart Chouffe yeast

Primed with 1 pint of Chouffe yeast and 4/5 cup dextrose

OG: 1.065
FG: ?

Process

The malt bill assumes an extraction of 25 points/lb, so adjust to fit your brewing setup. Mash schedule:

  1. Protein rest for 30 minutes at 120F

  2. Boost temp straight to 158F for saccrification. Hold until conversion is complete.

  3. Mashout at 170F for 10 minutes and sparge with 170F water.

Fermentation

I started it at 58F but the Chouffe yeast was extremely sluggish. When I increased the temp to 60F the fermentation took off. Keep the ferment temp low or the fusel levels will greatly increase.

Bottling

The Chouffe strain is not a highly flocculating yeast. [Phil's note: I disagree, but this is Andy's recipe...] Either accept murkiness, do multiple rackings, briefly lager the beer to drop the yeast, or use some sort of finings. I used multipe rackings and finings. In any event, when priming use a greater amount of sugar (4/5-1 cup dextrose) and pitch some new and healthy chouffe.

Ageing

Give this beer at least 1-2 months before drinking. I really needs time to mature (just as we all do).

[Phil's notes: Looking at this recipe I'd probably substitute one pound of caramunich for one pound of biscuit, but I can't really complain--I was one of the judges that gave this beer first prize at the AHWBTA]


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