Belgian Golden Strong Ale – Recipe & Review

Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Belgian Golden Strong – Not My Finest Moment as a Brewer

A natural temptation for any homebrewing blogger is to write only about their greatest achievements. After all, for most of you reading this, your only way of judging my brewing abilities is through the write-ups I share.

Though this approach to sharing would undoubtedly boost my ego, I find it misleading and limiting as we all seek to better ourselves as homebrewers. Sometimes, I brew a beer that simply sucks. Whether through flawed recipe creation, poor technique, fickle yeast, or acts of God, bad beer happens. This is a fact for most homebrewers and one of the truths we can own without facing any real consequences. Sometimes the cost of a batch isn’t worth choking down a sub-par beer. Luckily this isn’t a big deal for us since our costs are low and we’re not driven to sell our creations—something, perhaps, that some commercial brewers could learn from.

Rant aside, this beer was unfortunately a dumper. While the recipe itself is solid, I made two critical mistakes.

First, I rushed the process, crashing the fermenter and bottling the beer way too early. When I crashed the beer, I was left with an overly sweet, under-attenuated malt bomb. This particular strain of yeast likes to take its sweet time to completely attenuate and I simply didn’t allow it to. After I bottled and stored the beer at room temp, fermentation began again, creating dramatically over carbonated beer. Luckily I bottled the beer in very thick Belgian bottles, which prevented any bottle bombs.

My second mistake came when I cold crashed the beer. Hoping to prevent air suck back through the airlock as the beer chilled and lost volume, I decided to bung up the Better Bottle. Unfortunately, some CO2 was still being generated by the ferment, which popped off the bung, and left the carboy open to the atmosphere for about 16 hours. This oxidized the beer and gave the malt a honeyed sweetness that didn’t help what was already a sweet beer.

Needless to say, I learned from these mistakes and hopefully won’t repeat them. If this can prevent even a single beer being dumped by others then my work was worth the effort!

Belgian Golden Strong Ale Recipe

Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 70%
Attenuation: 75% (target was 93%)

Original Gravity: 1.072
Terminal Gravity: 1.018 (target was 1.005)
Color: 4.66 SRM
Alcohol: 7.12% ABV (calculated) (target was 8.69% ABV)
Bitterness: 15.9 IBU

Malt Bill:
7.25 lbs. (81.7%) Dingemans Pilsner Malt
2 oz. (1.4%) Weyermann Acidulated Malt

Sugar Additions:
1.5 lbs. (16.9%) Dextrose (Corn Sugar)

Mash Profile:
122°F – 5m
146°F – 40m
154°F – 20m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
2 g. Gypsum (to mash)
2 g. Calcium Chloride (to mash)

28 g. Styrian Goldings (2.8% AA) – 60m
28 g. Styrian Goldings (2.8% AA) – Whirlpool 15m

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea. Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5 tsp. Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 25C Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Aroma (7/12):
Lots of intense fruit aromas jump from the glass. There is plenty of pear and apple esters as well as just a minute amount of cherry. There is a medium-plus banana or bubblegum ester which I’m particularly sensitive to (and not a huge fan of). There is a hint of peppery phenolic spice that adds a bit of complexity to the fermentation character. While the nose is dominated by fermentation byproducts, the malt comes across as quite bready and sweet with some honey-like undertones. The malt is just a touch oxidized with some prune-like aroma.

Appearance (1/3):
The beer is a very light blond color with some haze. The beer pours with a big white head with cascading bubbles from the ample carbonation. Good retention and lacing.

Flavor (11/20):
The beer has a lot of malt flavor, frankly more than I’d hope to find in this style. There is a honeyed pilsner character that is particular to Belgian pilsner malts that I’ve used in the past. Unfortunately, there is also an undercurrent of light oxidation with some subtle dark fruit notes. There is a bit of low sugary sweetness that is the antithesis of the hallmark of the style. The fruit flavor is high with lots of characterful fermentation elements including fruity pear and apple esters. The high fruitiness blends with the residual sweetness to give an overly sweet impression. Bitterness is very low—a bit more would be welcome.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
High carbonation bursts from the beer giving a very prickly, almost sharp mouthfeel and scrubbing what would otherwise likely have been a somewhat syrupy beer.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This beer is a bit too boisterous in its fruit character compared to the quiet elegance of a beer like Duvel, the quintessential Belgian Golden Strong Ale. Additionally, the overly sweet impression and slight oxidized notes detract from the drinkability that is key to achieving a good Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

Good (28/50)

Bonus: See how judges scored this beer at the 2017 Homebrew Alley competition in NYC.

Spawn of Duvel Review

Belgian BlondTasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 18a Belgian Blond. Recipe can be found here.

Aroma (7/12)
At first pour the nose is a bit biting due to an abundant amount of CO2 coming out of solution. This sharpness combines with a strong ester character making it a bit over-the-top. Aromas of under-ripe pear and a touch of nondescript berry dance from the glass. Once some of the carbonation dissipates, softer honey-like malt components become apparent and are quite inviting. No phenols or alcohol apparent. As the beer warms, a light touch of banana ester becomes barely perceptible.

Appearance (2/3)
Medium golden in color with a light chill-haze that clears up as the beer warms. High carbonation levels (to style) push forth a large billowy white head that is constantly replenished and very attractive.

Flavor (14/20)
The potent ester character found on the nose is much more subdued on the palate. The beer strikes a nice balance between fermentation character, and a beautiful soft pilsner malt backbone. The Belgium pilsner malt has a honey-like sweetness that is very nice. There is a touch of herbal hop flavor coupled with a balancing medium level of hop bitterness. The flavor is very round and soft, but finishes quite dry with a slight mineral note.

Mouthfeel (4/5)
Bright prickly carbonation; perhaps a touch high for style. The beer is medium bodied and has a pleasant dry finish.

Overall Impression (7/10)
This is quite a pleasurable beer that changes dramatically as the beer warms in the glass and loses carbonation. At first, the beer is quite brash. After some time in the glass, the beer flavors round out, making for a softer, much more nuanced beer. In the end, the balance of fermentation flavors and very attractive soft pilsner malt character make this a solid rendition of the style.

Total: 34/50 Very Good

Note: This beer was entered into the Second Round of the National Homebrew Competition. It did not place in the competition, but it did receive a 36.

Spawn of Duvel – Homebrew Tasting

Judged as a BJCP Category 16B Belgian Pale Ale

Note: The Spawn of Duvel wasn’t really brewed to fit the Belgian Pale Ale category, but that is the closest category it fits into.

Spawn of Duvel
Aroma (6/12)
Very prominent banana ester that is reminiscent of artificially flavored banana candy or even under ripe green bananas. There is a bit of sharp alcohol that merges with this and reminds me that this beer is only 3 weeks old. The pear ester that I was hoping for is present, but in quantities that are barely perceptible. The is a very pleasant round pilsner malt aroma that is probably my favorite part about this beer. A herbal / earthy hop aroma is very low, but present.

Appearance (2/3)
The beer is a hazy rich gold color. The head is persistent and white. A couple weeks in the fridge should transform this into a much brighter beer.

Flavor (15/20)
The beer has a really nice slightly sweet pilsner malt character. The malt is a bit bread-like and features a very low, but complimentary toasty note on the finish. The banana ester and alcohol that was on the nose is much more subdued on the palate. Again, the hops are perceptible, but much lower in flavor than i had hoped or would have suspected based on the recipe formulation. There is a nice clean firm bitterness that doesn’t linger and perfectly balances the malt. At the finish there is a slight mineral note that is bit chalky.

Mouthfeel (3/5)
The beer has a medium mouth feel with a nice creamy texture. The carbonation is in line with most beer styles, but could used a bump to better fit the category. No alcohol heat or astringency.

Overall Impression (6/10)
This is a very enjoyable Belgian Pale Ale. It doesn’t have the malt complexity that the style guideline would call for which would likely hurt its scores in a beer competition. The main  problem I see with the beer is that the banana ester is way too dominate. This muddies the familiar resemblance to Duvel that I was hoping for. In next iteration of this beer I need to figure out how to change my fermentation profile to better create the ester character I was striving for. Additionally, I would like to dry the beer out a bit more by mashing at a lower temperature.

Total: 32/50 (Very Good)

Spawn of the Duvel – Homebrew Recipe

UPDATE 11/17/2013 – Read the review here.

UPDATE 2/20/2014 – Beer placed 2nd as a Belgian Blond in Category 18 Belgian Strong Ales at the 2014 Homebrew Alley 8 competition.

UPDATE 4/5/2014 – Beer placed 1st as a Belgian Blond in Category 18 Belgian Strong Ales at the 2014 First Round of the National Homebrew Competition (NYC Regional).

Duvel. You sneaky little bastard. Crisp, refreshing, complex, yet not overbearing. Your austere dryness and pear-like ester melds with an ever-so-sweet pilsner malt background striking a balance that is tough to resist. I know it’s not a problem for you, but your 8.5% ABV is for me. I need a beer that possesses everything I love about Duvel, but doesn’t leave me spinning after a few.

This recipe intends to do just that. I’ve started this beer at 1.054 original gravity versus Duvel’s reported 1.069; mashing a bit higher and not including any simple sugars to decrease the wort’s fermentablity and create a mouth feel comparable to Duvel while having significantly less alcohol. Duvel attenuates in the 90%+ range helping it hit 8.5% ABV with a somewhat modest starting gravity. With the lower gravity of my beer, I’m hoping to achieve a similar balance by lowering the attenuation rate and finishing the beer at a more sessionable 5.5% ABV.

Duvel is reputed to contain only pilsner malt and simple sugar; up to 17% by some accounts. I’ve dropped the alcohol boosting simple sugar in favor of an all-malt grain bill, including a touch of character malts to bring some complexity to the wort composition. For hops, I’ve decided to go ahead and bump up the continental hop character found in Duvel by increasing the amount of late hops in the beer. This beer is by no means meant to clone Duvel, but will hopefully capture the spirit and attributes that make it such a great beer. We’ll know how successful I was when I taste the finished product in a few weeks.


Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 78.0% (projected)

Original Gravity: 1.054 sg
Terminal Gravity: 1.012 sg (projected)
Color: 5.81 SRM
Alcohol: 5.53% ABV (projected)
Bitterness: 22.6 IBU (doesn’t account for whirlpool isomerization)

6.5 lb (87.4%) Belgian Pils (Dingemans)
.5 lb (6.7%) Pale Wheat Malt (Weyermann)
4 oz (3.4%) Belgian Biscuit (Dingemans)
3 oz (2.5%) Acidulated Malt (Weyermann) – pH Adjustment

1 oz Styrian Goldings (3.2% AA) – 60 m
0.5 oz Czech Saaz (3% AA) – 20 m
0.5 oz Czech Saaz (3% AA) – whirlpool 20m
1 oz Styrian Goldings (3.2% AA) -whirlpool 20m

0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

WYeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale™

Mash Regiment:
154 °F – 60m
168.0 °F – 10m

Water Treatment:
Carbon filtered tap water. Salts added to the mash.
4g Calcium Carbonate
2g Calcium Sulfate (gypsum)

Yeast Notes:
Final Volume into Fermenter = 2.75 Gallons
Yeast Required = 104 billion (per Mr. Malty)
Yeast Production Date: 9/3/2013
Yeast Starter = 1L @ 1.040 on stir plate (per Mr. Malty) =  4 1/8 oz. DME

1. Chill to 62°F and keep at 66°F until activity slows (1 week+).
2. Raise temp to 74°F 3 days
3. Crash to 32°F 5 days
4. Verify gravity has stabilized. Bottle condition in 12oz bottles primed to 2.8 volumes CO2