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Gulden Draak Clone, version 2.0

About two years ago, I decided to try my luck at brewing a Gulden Draak clone. Gulden Draak is one of my favorite Belgian beers, but its price makes it one that I don't drink nearly as often as I'd like.

To do that particular clone, I cultured up yeast from the dregs of four bottles of the real beer and tossed it in an extract beer I'd brewed based on a recipe in a book.

This time around, I wanted to do an all-grain clone and see if commercial dry yeasts would result in a beer that was close to the original.

As you can see in the image at the left, the clone came out very close in color to the original beer. Unfortunately, while there were similarities in the flavor and aroma, in those respects the clone needs more work.

The recipe below is derived from one I found somewhere... in a book or online.

The Ingredients

13 pounds Belgian 2-row Pale Malt
1 pound Caramel/Crystal 40L
1 pound WhiteSwaen Wheat Malt
8 ounces Melanoidin Malt
5 ounces Caramunich I Malt
4 ounces Biscuit Malt
2 ounces Acid Malt
1 pound Rice Syrup Solids
1 pound D-90 Candi Syrup
0.90 ounces Magnum hops pellets @ 12.3% AA
0.60 ounces Styrian Goldings hops pellets @ 6.2% AA
1 ounce Styrian Goldings hops pellets @ 1.3% AA
1/4 teaspoon Super Irish Moss
1/2 teaspoon Yeast Nutrient
1 package Safbrew T-58 dry yeast
1 package Safbrew Abbaye yeast

The original recipe called for Caramel 60L which I didn't have and listed Brewer's Gold for bittering hops. I swapped the 60L out for 40L and Magnum for Brewer's Gold (since I had a lot of Magnum and no Brewer's Gold). Since the Brewer's Gold was there only for bittering, the switch might not be detectable anyway.

Per BeerSmith, with my equipment profile, this beer is estimated to have the following characteristics:
  • Batch size: 5 gallons
  • Original Gravity: 22.7 Plato (23.6 Brix)
  • IBUs: 27.5
  • Color: 16.8 SRM
  • ABV: 10.5%
  • BU/GU ratio: 0.28
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 21.9 Plato (22.8 Brix)
  • Final Gravity: 4.4 Plato (4.6 Brix)
When I finished brewing, these were my actual results:
  • Final kettle volume: 5.8 gallons (approx.)
  • Original Gravity: 22.0 Brix (20.5 Plato)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 18.8 Brix (before addition of rice syrup solids and D-90)
  • Fermenter volume: 5 gallons (approx. 0.6 lost to trub in the kettle)
  • Final Gravity: Refractometer reading, unadjusted, was 10.6 Brix. Adjusting for the presence of alcohol and original gravity in BeerSmith gave a final gravity of 3.07 Plato, 1.012 SG.
  • ABV: 10.65% estimated
I came out a little short on gravity, which means I need to do some adjusting in BeerSmith so I can dial in the estimates in the future. The lower gravity is possibly due to a reported reduction in The Grainfather's efficiency for grain bills over 11 pounds.

The Mash

The recipe called for a 90-minute mash at 156F. This is followed by a 10-minute mash-out at 168F.

Mash water in The Grainfather was calculated to 6.4 gallons, but I dialed it back to 6 for easier measurement.

Sparge water was calculated at 1.6 gallons, which I adjusted to 1.5 gallons.

The grains were crushed, mixed, then scooped into the 156F water and stirred to ensure they were all moistened properly. The Grainfather's recirculating pump was engaged and the wort left to mash for 90 minutes.

After the 10 minute mash-out, 1.5 gallons of 168F sparge water went over the grain to rinse out the last of the sugars.

BeerSmith estimated pre-boil volume was 6.25 gallons. My actual volume was: 6.4 gallons after adding some water.

The Boil

With the grain sparged and discarded, the wort was brought to a boil. Boil time was 90 minutes.

For the first 30 minutes of the boil, no hops were added. This was done to help clarify the wort a bit and hopefully reduce chill haze, which is something I see frequently with The Grainfather. In a beer this dark, that was probably unnecessary but I decided to do it anyway.

The last 60 minutes of the 90-minute boil went as follows:
  • 60 minutes: Add Magnum hops pellets
  • 15 minutes: Add Styrian Goldings (0.6 oz. @ 6.2%) pellets, yeast nutrient, rice syrup solids, and candi syrup
  • 10 minutes: Add rehydrated Super Irish Moss dissolved in cooled wort
  • 7 minutes: Recirculate wort through counter flow chiller to sterilize
  • 0 minutes: Add the Styrian Goldings (1 oz. @ 1.3% AA) for aroma, run cold water (but not wort) through the chiller to cool it down. With the chiller cooled, the wort was pumped into the fermenter.
Post-boil volume was 5.8 gallons at an original gravity of 22.0 Brix.


Wort was chilled to 68F via the counter flow chiller. Fermenter volume was a touch over 5 gallons. Pure oxygen was added for 60 seconds, then the yeast and White Labs Clarity Ferm were added.

The yeast was permitted to ferment at its own natural temperature with no attempt to control the temperatures. This is my standard approach for Belgian style ales. I saw a slight temperature increase in the wort about 3 hours out, and frequent airlock activity at the 7-hour check.

Update 1/16/2017: While bottling, it was clear that the fermentation was extremely vigorous. There was the usual ring of yeast on the inside of the fermenter, but it had gotten all the way to the lid of the 7.5 gallon fermenter and into the bottom of the airlock. A blow-off tube wouldn't be a bad idea in the future.

Post-Mortem and Other Notes

This brew, weighing in at over 16 pounds of grain plus two pounds of adjuncts, pushes the 20-pound grain bill limit of The Grainfather. Getting the grain stirred into the mash and the wort recirculating was a bit of a challenge, but The Grainfather handled it fine.

Something I've learned that saves me some elapsed time in brewing is to clean as I go. For instance, when I've finished sparging, I drop the grain basket into a stainless kettle that's large enough to hold it. I scoop the spent grains out, into a plastic bag inside a trash can. While I'm doing this, the wort is heating to boiling temperature. By the time the wort hits the boil, I've dealt with the spent grain and rinsed the grain basket, lid, and kettle. Once the hot break is done and the risk of a boil-over eliminated, I mix up PBW in the stainless kettle and clean the grain basket, lid/bottom, tubes, and anything else I'm finished with. Generally, by the time the boil is over, all I have left to clean is The Grainfather's kettle itself and the few plastic containers I use to measure and hold hops additions, Irish Moss, etc. The leftover PBW in the kettle is used to clean up The Grainfather itself.

12/22/2016: Within about 7 hours the beer was fermenting well. The fermenter temperature remained pretty low for the first 12 hours, eventually climbing from 68F to around 73F. Airlock activity seemed to stop around there. Several hours later, it picked up again and the temperature seemed to climb into the 77F range. I think it's safe to say the yeast are happy.

12/23/2016: I opened an actual bottle of Gulden Draak last night and compared the color to a sample I removed from the kettle during brewing. The color of the two is very close, so I am hopeful there might be similarity in the flavor as well. Won't know for a while, of course.

Sample during the boil. Note that the D-90 and Rice Syrup Solids had not yet been added so the color is a bit light here.
01/16/2017: The beer was bottled yesterday with 5.3 ounces of corn sugar and Montrachet wine yeast for carbonation and conditioning. It's said that the actual beer is conditioned with wine yeast so that's what I chose to use here. The yield was 44 bottles varying in size between 12 ounces and 22 ounces. The bottles were moved to my "hot box" (insulated cooler with a heating element inside) where they'll stay at 76F until I'm ready to test carbonation. The beer at this point is very cloudy, and is something of a reddish brown color. It has a fruity aroma and (even while flat and warm) a decent flavor. I don't know that it tastes at all like a real Gulden Draak at this point, but that may change with conditioning, carbonation, and cooling.

A sample of the beer at bottling time, showing color and cloudiness
If I brew this again in the future:
  • I would consider adding some Special B, more D-90, and the Caramel 60L that the original recipe called for. This would darken the beer a little, like the original, and might amp up the dark fruit flavors a bit.
  • A blow-off tube on the fermenter seems a good idea. This one very nearly blew out through the airlock at the high point of fermentation, despite a lot of head space.
  • I would consider using temperature control to slowly ramp the temperature up over several days and hold it at 76F at the end to finish out. This version has a definite warming element from the high alcohol content which is mellowing out a little with conditioning, but some temperature control might have solved that.
  • I view the real Gulden Draak as a bit sweet, and this beer did not turn out that way. I'd probably mash at a higher temperature next time to increase the residual sweetness.
  • The combo of T-58 and Abbaye yeast strains seemed to work well. The beer has a great aroma, certainly reminiscent of Gulden Draak, and the fruity/spicy elements are present.
Tasting Notes and Parting Thoughts

At the right is a photo showing the clone beer on the left and the real Gulden Draak on the right. The two are very close in color.

The clone needed more carbonation and its head didn't last as long as the real beer's, as you can see in the photo. The real beer was poured first and had a head far longer. To correct that, I'd probably increase the Melanoidin Malt the next time, or swap out some of the 2-row Pale for Cara-Pils malt.

The real Gulden Draak aroma is very much sweet dark fruit, like raisins, figs, and/or plums. The clone's aroma is more caramel malt. Switching to one of the liquid yeast strains like Wyeast's Forbidden Fruit might help bring the aroma closer.

The flavor of the real Gulden Draak is sweet, loaded with dark fruit, and has the faintest warming note to it. The clone's flavor is more caramel, has a stronger warming note to it, and only a small amount of fruitiness. I think that adding some Special B malt to the mix might bring out that flavor, as well as perhaps increasing the D-90 syrup a bit. While I like the clone's flavor, it doesn't hold a candle to a real Gulden Draak.

The bitterness level was about right, so I wouldn't tweak that element of the recipe at all.

The changes I plan to make in version 3.0 are:
  • Swap out some of the Pale Ale Malt for Cara-Pils malt, maybe only 4 ounces. This would be to increase head retention.
  • Swap out some of the Pale Ale Malt for Special B malt, maybe 4-5 ounces. This would hopefully bring out the dark fruit flavors. It may darken the beer a bit, though, so it probably won't look like the real beer.
  • Consider adding 8 ounces of additional D-90 syrup, perhaps during secondary. This would also help to bring out the dark fruit flavors.
  • Consider actually adding raisins near the end of the boil, to add that flavor.
  • Swap out the dry yeasts for Wyeast Forbidden Fruit.
  • Instead of an airlock, use a blow-off tube, as the fermentation was unusually aggressive. Despite having 2 gallons of head space in the fermenter, I found yeast residue on the lid.
  • Although I usually don't use temperature control on my Belgian style beers, next time around I plan to do so. I'm thinking a ramp up of temperature from pitching temp to 76F over a 1-2 week period would work, using heating and cooling to hold the desired temp.
  • Give the beer a conditioning phase at 50F for a couple of weeks to smooth it out before bottling.
You might think, from this volume of changes, that the beer isn't very good. That's not true. It's very drinkable and enjoyable as-is, it's just not the Gulden Draak clone I was looking for.


  1. I've just bought a Grainfather today and was searching for advice on how best to utilise it, and what else I might need as I am a complete novice! Thanks for all the tips, especially the 6 part series which I've now read all the way through!

    Made me much more confident in running my first brew when the Grainfather arrives!

    Thanks again!


  2. Hi Michael.
    Your investigations and try outs on Gulden Drake looks very interresting. Would there be a chance that you would make the final reciepe public on the Grain Father communinty?
    Thanks for your blog post :-)
    Br. Anders Jensen


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