1.062-1.120, 6-12% ABV, 16-30 IBU, 3.5-20 SRM Pale to dark brown. Low hop bitterness and aroma ok, should blend with other flavors. Medium to high esters in flavor and aroma. Phenols ok. Often highly aromatic. Spices or orange ok. Strength evident, but alchohol flavor subdued or absent. Medium to full body, sometimes with a high terminal gravity. Medium to high carbonation. No roasted flavors or diacetyl.
Belgian strong ale recipes are usually formulated to show off yeast character, with all other ingredients playing a supporting role. The flavor may be subtly complex, but should not be crowded. Body is comparatively light for beers of this strength, due to use of brewing adjuncts or of pilsner malt only. High carbonation also helps; these beers should feel like mousse on the palate and have an impressive head. The best examples may be noticeably strong but still have no alchohol flavor. Flemish examples tend toward higher terminal gravities (1.025-1.050), while Walloon versions are usually more attenuated.
Due to the vagueries of AHA style categories, Trappist strong ale clones (Chimay, etc.) should be submitted in this category. Despite what Michael Jackson says, Saisons are strong ales and should also be submitted to contests in this category.
Infusion or step mashing techniques are standard procedure. Most commercial versions use pilsner malt as a base, but many also use substantial quantities of sugar or flaked corn as an adjunct. Caramel, Munich and toasted malts are often used in small quantities; roasted malts are sometimes used in very small amounts for coloring only. All classic hop varieties are common, but are used in small and judicious quantities. Sugars are added in the kettle, as are spices. Many spices have delicate aromas and should be boiled for just a few minutes, if at all. Common choices are bitter or sweet orange peel, coriander, vanilla, and anise.
Extract brewers will do fine in this category. Start with pale extract, adding judicious quantities of caramel malts and sugar (1-2 pounds) to the kettle. The secret is to choose the right yeast and to keep your ferment as clean as possible.
Priming should be about 7/8 (125 grams) for five gallons. Addition of fresh yeast at bottling should assist with carbonation; a 1-pint starter is sufficient.
DeWolf-Cosyns pilsner malt 9 pounds DeWolf-Cosyns aromatic malt 0.6 pounds DeWolf-Cosyns caramunich 1 pound Flaked maize 1 pound Light candy sugar 1.5 pounds BC Goldings 1 oz boiled for 15 mins Mt Hood 1 oz boiled for 15 minutes Saaz 0.25 oz boiled for 60 minutes Made 5.75 gallons at 1.062Mash in the malts (not the maize) at 98F in 3.5 gallons water and adjust pH. Raise to 120F and hold for 30 minutes. Raise to 153, add maize, and hold until conversion (about 45 minutes). Raise to 175 for 15 minutes for mashout.
Add sugar to kettle and boil for 90 minutes. At 1/2 tablespoon rehydrated Irish moss to boil for 75 minutes.
Ferment with Wyeast White, prime with 1 cup corn sugar.
[Phil's note: This produced the best and most authentic Belgian-style homebrew I've tasted. This is the one to beat!]