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06/20/05 09:38 AM  
Belgian style embarrassment
I have to admit something. I have brewed so many Belgian styles and done well with some very difficult ones. I feel really confident with Flanders red, oud bruin, OK with lambic and more, but there is one style I have never gotten right. I have never pulled off a dubbel that I have been happy with. Kills me, dubbel seems so "Belgian style 101". But I have never achieved that great rummy, cakey but still dry character.

Is anyone else out there haunted by this seemingly easy style?

Does anyone out there feel very confident in their ability to make a killer dubbel? If so is there anything you'd care to share?

06/20/05 12:33 PM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
I've tried this style twice and haven't been satisfied. It's on my summer brewing list to try again...
06/20/05 01:40 PM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
Ha, this is great. I feel exactly the same way. In my defence I have only tried this style once, but it came out way too dry & thin.

One of these days I need to try again, but too be honest I have not been too enamored of dubbels recently.

Tim L
06/20/05 10:33 PM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
I got to tell you. I would just like to know the secret of how they hide the alcohol burn in all their strong beers? I have a 1/4keg of a Wesmalle clone. It did fairly well some what close. But it still didn't have that chocolatey thick Westmalle double taste like at the Café Trappisten. What do you think about lagering for a while?? Just a thought. I'm stumped too! Alcohol burn is also a killer for me! The Old Ale was the second highest High Gravity beer I made, so far. I do have the base for another Winter Warmer.
06/21/05 04:01 AM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
The alcohol burn might come from too high a fermentation temp for that particular yeast.
06/21/05 09:41 AM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
I guess the first thing to ask when commenting on the alcohol burn is how much alcohol are we talking about? Dubbel is strongish, but not really that strong.

My dubbels (the two or three I've made) have always come out like a brown ale with a general Belgiany character. Very aggrivating.

Tim L
06/26/05 10:41 PM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
Nick for abelgian that would be over 90F.

Steve. a little 7-8%. I know it's a little. But some how, the Belgians have practically eliminated or masked it. Even with a trippel. It is so, frustrating.

06/27/05 11:16 AM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
Tim, there is some weirdness that surrounds the hotter fermentation temperatures that are supposed to happen alot in Belgium. I personally saw a thermometer on a fermentor at DuPont, it was a hair above 90F. Thing is, at temperatures above 80F yeast can produce more fusel alcohols. The taste of this undesireable alcohol is consistant with your complaint. It makes me wonder a couple things. Like the relationship between ambient temperature and fermentation temperature. The DuPont fermentor was at 90+F because the fermentation was so vigorous. But the surrounding air was no where near that hot. So when you say you ferment at 90F, is the the surrounding air temperature or the temperature that you fermenting beer is at?

Second, it makes me wonder if the places applying those high temperatures are using a yeast specifically designed to limit fusal production. If so, and if the yeasts we get here are less than completely authentic, then maybe the truth is they can ferment hot in Belgium but we better not here as homebrewers.

06/29/05 11:37 PM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
In my very limited experience brewing Belgian-influenced beers at home, I was happy to get that rummy-yet-still-dry effect strictly from 1/2 lb. Brown candy sugar in a 5 gallon batch and using Wyeast 3787. I did not expect to get as much flavor from that sugar as I ended up getting.
06/30/05 07:10 AM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
Alec, do you know off-hand how far down your beer fermented? I have to admit its been nearly a decade and a half since I've played with brown sugar, that is something I have never tried with this style. It's not really consistant with the common belief of sugar use in dubbel but brown sugar certainly has more flavor in its raw form than dark candi. Good comment, thanks!
06/30/05 11:08 AM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
Inspired by Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing book, I've been on the prowl for less refined sugars to experiment with.

From what I've read, the good ol' US brown sugar is the highly refined white stuff w/molassus added back in vs. the much less refined sugars that have a lot more "impurities" that give them more character.

So far I've collected some piloncillo (Mexican brown cane sugar), and panocha (filipino brown cane sugar). I'm thinking of doing a Dubbel with one of em.

Yesterday I stopped in at an asian grocery and came away with some fun stuff: yellow lump candy (Chinese cane sugar), brown candy (Chinese brown cane sugar), gula jawa (Indonesian palm sugar), and some Thai palm sugar.

I'm going to try the yellow lump in a Belgian style golden, the Thai palm sugar in a Tripple, and the gula jawa in a saison. Maybe the Chinese brown in the dubbel experiment also. That should fill my summer up!

Other sugar info I've seen lately was on either the Homebrew Digest or the AHA tech talk. A poster (maybe Mosher? I can't remember) said that there is a candi sugar syrup that is commonly used in Belgain brewing, rather than the hard candi sugar sold in homebrew stores. Evidently there is a difference between them.

Maybe someone with first hand experience can confirm/deny this?

06/30/05 11:56 AM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
I've always figured they liquified it prior to addition. That would make sense, if you tossed in chunks of candi sugar some would end up burning on the bottom. When I have used it I've pulled some boiling wort and added the candi to that, waiting till its thouroughly dissolved before adding to the boil. So in a sense I've always added a syrup as well.
06/30/05 05:03 PM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
I took it to mean that it came as a syrup, and that it was a different product than the hard candi sugar (as opposed to the same product dissolved in water).

Unfortunately, they don't archive the AHA Tech Talk, so I can't go back and look it up...

06/30/05 06:11 PM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
Ok, I emailed Randy Mosher and asked him about it, and here's his response:

"Hi Chet,

That gula jawa is just great, isn't it? People kind of go nuts over it whenever I've had it at a tasting.

Yes, the syrup is a very different product from the crystals--it is caramelized. Technically it should be made from invert sugar with a nitrogen compound like ammonium carbonate to create class III caramel, which is stable at beer pH and alcohol levels. Many Belgian brewers mean this when they say "candi" sugar, and the same goes for the old books. The syrup can also add a lot of color; even the darkest rock candy is pretty pale. The brown rock candy is a partially-refined sugar, which has very different flavors (and not much of them as far as I can tell).

I have written to the Belgian sugar manufacturer I linked to, to further clarify the issue. I will post whatever answer I receive from them. If it were up to me I would get rid of the term "candi" sugar altogether. It's just too confusing. We should be talking about "rock candy" and caramel syrup.

Thanks for the enthusiasm!


I'll have to check w/my chemist wife to break it down for me, but good info...

07/01/05 06:58 AM  
<<Yes, the syrup is a very different product from the crystals--it is caramelized.>>

I thought that whenever a simple sugar product was dark it was due to caramelization. My understanding of how to actually make caramel is to put sugar in water and simmer it down. At some point the sugar element will start to darken and, if left as is, ultimately burn. But you catch it when it is nice and brown to get caramel.

If that is true then whatever sugar triples use could not be caramelized or it would darken the beer. And if you use crystalized candi sugar that is dark it would have to be caramelized.

07/01/05 11:05 AM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
I think that some of the brown sugars like the piloncillo/panocha are brown due to impurities that aren't removed by the extreme processing done in the US (vs. add'l carmelization).

In that sense, even white sugar has been somewhat carmelized in the intitial boiling down to raw sugar (which is light tan). Adding this (sold as "Raw Sugar" "Sugar in the Raw", or Demara) has practically no effect on the beer color (promash lists it at 1 srm, less than pils malt).

Light brown sugar has an srm of 4.

I'll admit to using Promash as a crutch here, but using an all Pilsner malt base (80%) and and light brown sugar (20%) results in an srm of 5.5 - within trippel color range.

All speculation/conjecture on my part of course, but I believe that degree of color/carmelization is variable. Although in his reply, Randy does say "The syrup can also add a lot of color...", so maybe I'm off base (wouldn't be the first time!).

Off on another tangent, haven't people reported seeing bags of white sugar at Belgian breweries? And I remember seeing a quote somewhere regarding a brewer adding starch (powdered?) to the mash - the quote something like "why should I pay someone to process it? The mash will do it"...

There are probably a number of methods/materials in use; they are Belgian!

I'll keep an eye out for further discussion ("I have written to the Belgian sugar manufacturer I linked to, to further clarify the issue. I will post whatever answer I receive from them.") and post if something comes up.

07/04/05 03:42 PM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
Steve - sorry for the wait, I just found my notes for it. OG was 1.056 and FG was 1.012.
Jonathan Haynes
12/21/05 02:10 AM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
Randy Mosher's comments about class III caramel syrup intrigued me. So I brewed a simple dubbel with a small amount of special b as the only specialty malt. My goal was to make a beer where I could identify the flavor contribution of the caramel syrup.

I made invert sugar and added the ammonium carbonate to it. The solution turned a dark reddish amber after a couple minutes of boiling. It tasted quite good and definitely different from the plain invert sugar. This was then added to the boil kettle. The sugar accounted for 10% of the grain bill.

After several weeks of conditioning the beer tastes good. While I can taste the contribution of the class III caramel, it is indeed subtle and doesn't add much to the overall flavor. My guess is that by the time you add a normal amount of special b, biscuit, aromatic, etc. to a dubbel and ferment with a flavorfull belgian yeast, that there's not too much room left for a class III caramel syrup to contribute.

12/21/05 07:03 AM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
<<It tasted quite good and definitely different from the plain invert sugar.>>

My only experience with invert sugar is Lyles Golden Syrup. If you're familiar with the stuff (absolutely delicious) can you compare the tastes?

Jonathan Haynes
12/22/05 02:54 AM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
I wish I could. I've never had the pleasure of using Lyles Golden Syrup. I made invert sugar from table sugar by adding water and citric acid and then bringing to a boil. I originally wanted to use corn syrup like Mosher suggests, but couldn't find any that didn't have preservatives and vanilla added. I should also mention that ammonium carbonate is not that easy to find. Check baking supply places under the name "baker's ammonia".

Here's Mosher's recipe:


10/14/06 09:17 PM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
I read the posts and maybe need some clarification.I have a Belgian Triple in the primary, which called for 3 lbs. of Belgian clear candi sugar. Not wanting to spend a huge amount, I followed a recipe and made my own invert sugar from table sugar and citric acid heated to hard crack. The color was more amber than clear, but I think the brew will be fine. I once made some hard candy using clear Karo syrup heated to hard crack. Any comments on the tech of these 3 sugars and in essence are they interchangeable for brewing?

Thanks, Gary

10/16/06 11:56 AM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
Gary, I made rock candi once for brewing a triple. It did not come out in a way I would define as triple, but it was a great beer, actually better than most triples I have made! I've never used Karo but I have used Lyles Golden which is invert sugar. Personally I like rich, banana-like triples like St. Bernardus and Watou. I have not made one using an alternative candi source that captured those flavor profiles, but they all have been fine beers.
Matt Walker (mwsf)
10/17/06 02:57 AM  
Re: Belgian style embarrassment
I've had AlanC's version of Tomme Arthur's Dubbel about a third of the way down this page:


It's damn good and probably the best homebrewed Dubbel I've tasted.

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