New brew: Belgium strong ale


Another brew for Xmas; “Krispy Belgium Strong Ale” is now in the fermenter, and is still bubbling strongly 3 days later.

I wanted to have a couple of strong (8-9%) ales for Xmas, all bottled in my new green 1 litre bottles – better than 2 litres I had been using, as a) you can control how much you drink easier – without having to leave half opened stuff), and b) less chance of yeast mixing, as you probably only pour twice, rather than 4 or 5 times with a two litre, each time mixing more and more yeast in.

Some of the ingredients in my 'brew box'

Some of the ingredients in my 'brew box'

Ingredients for this brew were (as my previous 2 beers, no recipe – just my own decisions);

  • 2 x 1.5kg of light malt extract
  • 1.5kg of belgium candy sugar
  • 300g of extra light dried malt
  • 250g of Belgium ‘Special B’ malt grains
  • 300g of light crystal malt grains
  • 50g Brewers gold hops (fairly high acid bittering hops)
  • 50g Saaz hops (famous continental ‘lager’ flavour/aroma hops)
  • Wyeast Belgium Abbey ale liquid yeast (1214)
  • 5g of irish moss (add last 15 mins boil to help clear proteins)

The candy sugar is in there to give the beer the strength, without making it too full bodied – belgium beer is often very strong but not over malty – they use sugar to add alcohol without dominating the beer with malt making it heavy).

Yeast Starter (brewing technique helper)

I have used another liquid yeast, as while they are expensive, they are meant to be very true to type giving better results than dried yeast.  They do recommend making a ‘yeast starter’ though – as the 25 billion yeast cells are not quite enough to really get your fermentation going quickly (for a standard UK 5 gallon batch).  To make a yeast starter, I did the following;

Yeast starter

Yeast starter

  • Prepare liquid yeast (smack the pack 3 hours before as instructed, to mix yeast with nutrients, and leave in warm (25c) place.
    • If doing this with dried yeast, rehydrate, add yeast to cooled boiled water and leave covered for 30 – 45 mins, stirring only after first 15 mins.
  • sanitise a small container – I’m using a £5 glass jar which just about takes 2 litres of liquid.
  • get a medium saucepan, and too it;
    • add 150-200g of dried malt extract (better than sugar as closer to what the yeast will be eating in your main brew)
    • add 1.5-2 litres of boiling water (I don’t want to completely fill my container!)
    • Boil for 10 minutes
  • Pour the boiling liquid malt into the glass jar
  • COOL!  (I carefully put the glass jar in a sink of cold water)
  • Once down to between 21-25c;
    • Seal container, and SHAKE!  You want to get a lot of oxygen into it – but be careful not to make a mess!
    • add the yeast (from smack pack or rehydration container)
  • Leave in a warm dark place for 2-3 days!
    • for my belgium yeast between 20-24c)

The yeast will ferment the mixture, eating up all the sugars in the malt, and multiplying out in the oxygen rich wort.  This will give you upto 2 litres of yeasty mixture!

For this brew I was using a new thermometer – as I managed to break my previous one!  This time it was a probe and electronic unit one from Lakeland – and it’s really the business.  The probe is on a fairly long wire to the unit, and the unit acts as a timer, and readout, and also you can set max / min temps in it to monitor for, and it will beep when they are reached.

Monitoring temperature with new gizmo

Monitoring temperature with new gizmo

So during the making of the beer, after adding the water and grains to the boiler, I set the upper limit alarm to 65c, and turned the heater to full.  I went off to read, and when the ideal steeping temp is reached, the alarm went off, and I could then set the heater back down to 2-3, to just maintain that 65 temp.  I then set the timer to 20 mins, and left it like that… alarm told me it was time to remove the grains and turn up the heat!

I then added the 2 cans of malt extract (which i had in boiling water for 20 mins to soften up the mixture inside), the 1.5kg of candy sugar (bit by bit as the water kept heating, stiring it in to help it disolve!), and some dried malt extract too which I had left over.

Once the wort was reaching close too boiling, I added 50g of my bittering hop (brewers gold – a popular German lager hop), and boiled for 75 mins.  I then added my wort chiller to sanitise, and 5g (one teaspoon) of Irish moss.  After 5 mins, the first 40g of Saaz hops for flavour, and then 9 mins later 10g more Saaz for a bit of hop aroma.  Heat off 1 min later (for a total 90 min boil), and then cold water turned on to chill the wort down.  I could use my new temp probe to tell me when it had reached 25c – very handy.

So once chilled, my wort is ready.  I quickly took a hydrometer reading – doing it now as there isn’t any foam on the surface – 1080 original gravity – good strong stuff!  I used a new stainless steel funnel (with strainer inside, I think it’s for jam making) to help me transfer the wort from the boiler tap to my clear fermenter – allowing the beer to drop a good distance to help get as much oxygen into it at this stage as possible.  The only problem is it gets so much oxygen, it foams right up – so I have to keep mopping up during the transfer.  Half way through I add in the yeast, just pouring all 1.5 litres of yeast/wort starter in.  Then top up with the last of the wort, some 19-20 litres.  I capped it off with a blow off tube (some tubing which is fed into a container of water – in case the fermentation foams up so much it would blow through a normal airlock causing possible contamination.

All in fermenter, my stout in barrel to the side

All in fermenter, my stout in barrel to the side

Because it’s in a clear fermenter, I can see the yeast getting to work – and within 12 hours it’s really going mad!  84 hours later it’s calming a little, but still bubbling strongly.  I’d expect it to stop the main fermentation soon – 3-4 days later (as my yeast is so strong after using a starter).  I’ll probably bottle after 2 weeks – but if it’s clear sooner than that I’ll change my mind.

Yeast going mad - it's like a snowstorm

Yeast going mad - it's like a snowstorm

Author: Krispy

Webmaster of this and many websites over the years. I've been a Senior developer (Java JEE and Oracle DB, specialising in SEAM/JSF/Hibernate web development). Ex Lead Developer at New Scientist magazine, where I worked on creating a new WordPress based website, using almost 100% custom created widgets, plugins and theme. My own projects include websites created in WordPress and custom written with PHP and MySQL, and have my own dedicated linux server to run them from. Currently proud of; Mags Direct - a site I created for my work at the Frontline Group. An online magazine shop, which I created with almost zero budget within a week (since had a full theme upgrade). Found at Married, one cat. Beer fanatic (wife probably says bore) - real ales and craft beers. I have spent for too much on home brew gear, I create full mash craft beers. I spend a lot of time either going to gigs or organising them - I'm part of a small bunch of friends putting on DIY Punk shows called "The Scary Clown Presents..." our website can be found here; Also a fan of the local footy team - UP THE POSH!

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  1. UPDATE: nearly two weeks into the fermentation now – and it’s looking like it’s starting to clear ready for bottling. This seemed a longer than normal ferment, which isn’t a bad thing – the main work was done in 4 days, and it carried on for another 4 or 5, and since has been quietly finishing off the more complex sugars.

    I added my hydrometer after 7 days – just steralised and drop into the fermenter rather than keep taking it in and out oor samples. Showed under 1020 – so obviously has done its work, as the target was 1020. Now 13 days in and it’s probably about 1013 – which is far lower than expected – the belgium abbey yeast is obviously very good stuff. So I think the ale will now be reaching 8.5-9% strength – proper Xmas ale then 🙂

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  2. Bottled tonight, after 14 days fermenting.

    I think I probably could have left it another week.. just to clear – but I wanted to space back in the kitchen 🙂 It may be another brew which doesn’t quite clear – i’m not sure how or why I am getting those now and then…

    WOW ITS STRONG! The final gravity did reach 1010 – so the belgium ale is just tipping over 9% – and while not quite golden, only a little darker. The taste was of slight fruity tones, a touch of sweetness left (which surprised me), but strong alcohol running through – but for only 2 weeks quite smooth and not at all too bad. I’ll try and leave alone until .. 18th dec or so, to give it 6+ weeks in the bottle to condition a little. I’ve used about 180grams of brewing sugar in the 19 litre bottles (dissolved in boiling water) – so going for fairly high carbonation. Bottled in my now favoured 1 litre green bottles – to protect a bit from light.

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  3. It all looks great Krispli and quite complicated 🙂 where are the pics of the finished product in its green bottles! I want to see labels with your face on the front 😛 or maybe just some labels!

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  4. Still drinking this brew – it’s pretty fierce! Got that sweet fruity yeasty flavour that you expect from a beer of its type. Hits hard too.

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