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2018 Dubbel v1.0

The finished beer, poured into a glass
I have made a number of Belgian Dubbel recipes over the years. All of them have been nice enough beers to drink, but none have approached what (in my mind) is a truly good Belgian Dubbel.  I've even tried my hand at a recipe or two of my own design, with a similar lack of success.  Recently, I think I figured out why.

I've been keeping my beer's color within the BJCP guidelines of 14-17 SRM.  The genuine Belgian Dubbels I've liked the most are rated with colors as dark as 41 SRM.  These Dubbels, instead of being brown with a tinge of copper, are more of a dark ruby red.  This time, I worked to get a color and grist that seemed right to me and ignored the BJCP color guideline (while staying within the others).  I'm anxious to see how this one turns out.  I'm looking for a slightly-sweet, deep ruby color, with a strong dark fruit flavor and some noble hops aroma.

Recipe

3.25 pounds Belgian Pilsen Malt
2 pounds Munich Light Malt
5 ounces Carapils/Dextrine Malt
8 ounces Melanoidin Malt
5 ounces Caramunich Malt
5 ounces Aromatic Malt
2 ounces Special B Malt
2 ounces Chocolate Malt
4 ounces D-90 Candi Syrup
0.55 ounces Styrian Goldings hops @ 6.2% AA (60 min.)
0.55 ounces Czech Saaz hops @ 3.0% AA (10 min.)
1/2 tsp. Irish Moss (10 min.)
1 packet Wyeast Belgian Abbey II 1762 yeast
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
3.25 gallons of water

The PicoBrew recipe crafter estimates the following characteristics for the finished beer:
  • Original Gravity: 1.075 SG (Actual was 1.067 SG, 16.0 Brix)
  • Final Gravity: 1.019 SG (Actual was 1.013 SG)
  • IBUs: 20
  • SRM: 28
  • ABV: 7.3% (actual is 7.1%)
  • Volume: 2.5 gallons (actual was 2.1 gallons)
  • BU:GU ratio: 0.267 (actual was 0.30)
An advanced mash profile was configured for the brew, with the following schedule:
  • Dough In at 102F for 20 minutes
  • Ferulic Acid rest for 5 minutes at 113F (this is intended to help the yeast produce flavor)
  • Mash at 152F for 20 minutes
  • Mash at 158F for 46 minutes
  • Mash out at 175F for 10 minutes
Boil Schedule will be:
  • 60 minutes:  Add Styrian Goldings hops pellets (hopper #1)
  • 10 minutes:  Add Czech Saaz hops pellets and Irish Miss (hopper #2)
  • 0 minutes: Extract wort from keg, chill to 70F, and transfer to fermenter
The plan is to let the fermentation run as the yeast see fit, not using temperature control unless it gets unreasonably high.  Primary fermentation will run for 10 days, and then I'll likely transfer the beer to a sanitized secondary fermenter and give it another 7-14 days to condition before bottling.

Post-Brewing Notes

Changing my grain mill's crush setting to (approximately) 0.045 seems to have been a smart move. The grain bed flooded completely this time, ensuring a more-complete mash. I've had other brews before the change where the grain bed did not flood completely and the gravity was incredibly low as a result.  This is the second batch I've made since the change and both have flooded completely during the Dough In and Mash phases.

Original gravity, measured with a hydrometer after chilling, was 1.067 SG.  Measured with the refractometer, it was 16.00 Brix which BeerSmith adjusts to a 1.067 SG as well.  I seem to have dialed in the refractometer's wort correction factor.  Unfortunately, the lower gravity means the beer may not have quite the flavor profile I'm hoping for. On the plus side, it had the right color.

I screwed up and placed the Saaz hops in the third hop cage in the machine before brewing. They should have gone in with the Irish Moss in the second cage. That means we'll come up a couple of IBUs short and lose the Saaz aroma I was hoping for.  Live and learn, I suppose.  Since the beer came up 8 gravity points low, maybe the missing hops will be offset by the lack of balancing sugar. We'll see.

I pitched the entire container of yeast in the beer, so there's little risk of underpitching.

01/30/2018:  Fermentation has slowed, so I took a sample from the fermenter to see how it's coming along. The aroma at this point is yeasty but has some dark fruit elements to it.  The color is still more brown than the ruby I was looking for, but closer than my last few attempts.  The flavor on this batch also seems to be getting closer to what I'm looking for.  I think this will be a decent beer, but expect that there will be a version 1.1 or 2.0 in the future.

02/04/2018:  Fermentation appears to have finished, so I prepared a dose of gelatin finings and poured it into the beer.  I moved the fermenter into my mini-fridge to chill the beer and help the gelatin do its job.  I'm expecting to bottle the beer next weekend.  Initial taste tests should happen 2-3 weeks from now.

02/17/2018:  The beer was removed from the mini-fridge today and bottled with 2.25 ounces of corn sugar. The final amount of beer before bottling was approximately 2.1 gallons. Color was fairly dark but did have a reddish tint to it as I hoped, though I wanted a more ruby color.  This yielded 26 twelve-ounce bottles of beer. Those were placed in a 82F "hot box" to carbonate.  In about a week it should be carbonated. 

04/15/2018:  I chilled a bottle and poured it into a glass for the photo at the top of this post.  Although it looks black in the photo, the real color is more a dark brown with a very deep ruby element to it. I don't plan to enter this one into competition, but here's my take on it based on the BJCP criteria, and my score if I was judging it:

  • Aroma (8/12):  Aroma is malty with definite dark fruit notes, with a slight perfume element. Hops elements are absent, as they should be.  Could maybe use some spice elements.
  • Appearance (2/3): It's dark, even for the style, looking more dark brown with ruby notes than the "deep reddish copper" color called for in the guidelines. The head on this one was comparatively thin, though it did last a while.
  • Flavor (16/20): Sweet malt with plum notes to it, and a clean but sweet finish. Malt takes the foreground, and hops bitterness is restrained as it should be.  It's definitely gotten better with age, because I don't remember it being this good earlier. 
  • Mouthfeel (3/5): Medium body, with medium carbonation. Carbonation may be a little low for the style, in fact. No alcohol warmth. Very smooth and easy to drink.
  • Overall Impression (7/10):  With a lighter color and more carbonation, it would be a much closer match for the style than it is now.  The flavor is actually very close to what it should be, without too much hops bitterness or too much malty sweetness.  Dark fruit flavor comes through clearly without being overwhelming.  
  • Total Score: (36/50 Very Good)


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