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Experimental Dubbel 1.0

The finished beer - look at the carbonation!
A few months ago, I placed an online order for two batches of grain. One was for an English Dark Mild Ale, the other for a Bohemian Pilsner. As it turned out, I screwed up the order and ended up with a bag of mixed German and Belgian grains. After pondering what to do about this, I decided to try turning the mix into a Trappist Dubbel. The color and malt combination wasn't too far off.

I added Munich malt to sweeten it a bit, Special B to add raisin/prune/plum flavors, plus Melany (Melanoidin) and Cara-Pils for head retention. Since I had some dark candi sugar rocks I wanted to use up, I included those. I also included some chopped golden raisins and prunes to (I hoped) help punch up the dark fruit flavor - something that's been sorely lacking in my previous Dubbels.

I'm not sure this will be a true Dubbel in terms of its specifications, but I'm hopeful it will still turn out to be a tasty brew.


4.75 pounds German Pilsen Malt
2 pounds Weyermann Munich I Malt
4 ounces Special B Malt
4 ounces Swaen Melany Malt
4 ounces Dark Candi Sugar Rocks
2 ounces Pale Chocolate Malt
2 ounces Cara-Pils/Dextrine Malt
1 ounce Carafa III Special Malt
0.25 ounces Whitbread Golding Variety (WGV) 7.1% AA hops pellets (60 min.)
0.25 ounces US Saaz 5.4% AA hops pellets (15 min.)
4 ounces chopped Golden Raisins (10 min.)
6 seedless prunes, chopped into thin slices (10 min.)
0.25 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm (for gluten reduction)
1 packet Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity (or equivalent)
2.9 gallons mash water
2.1 gallons sparge water

Why Whitbread Golding Variety (WGV) hops?  I happened to have them on-hand and my Styrian Goldings hops were very low alpha (1.3% if you can believe that).

Why US Saaz hops and not Czech Saaz? When I opened my Czech Saaz hops package, I couldn't get past the fact that the aroma reminded me of cheese or soap, meaning they had gone bad. I tossed them and opened a fresh package of US Saaz I'd bought more recently. Those smelled fine.

Why Wyeast 3787 and not another yeast?  Honestly, I happened to have a batch of the yeast leftover from a previous starter and knew it could make a good Belgian style ale. I split half of what I had (eyeballing it) into a fresh starter to grow more, and retained half to pitch into this wort. If the wort doesn't take off, I've got a starter I can use to try again.

According to BeerSmith, the finished beer is expected to have the following qualities:
  • BJCP Style: 26.B Trappist Dubbel
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was between 2.25 and 2.5 gallons, topped off with steam-distilled water to reach a little over 2.5 gallons)
  • Original Gravity: 1.070 SG (1.074 SG before dilution, 1.070 after dilution)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 1.055 SG (1.055 actual)
  • Final Gravity: 1.015 SG
  • IBUs: 23 (22.3 actual, estimated)
  • ABV: 7.7%
  • BU/GU Ratio: 0.32
  • Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.5%
  • SRM: 31.4 (see below)
If you've looked at the BJCP style guidelines, they'll tell you a Dubbel should not exceed 17 SRM. Most of my favorite (genuine Belgian) Dubbels have been much darker than 17 SRM. It's my belief that the BJCP guidelines are far too restrictive in terms of color for this style, so I'm choosing to ignore them.  A few genuine Belgian Dubbels are very dark brown, with a reddish hue to them. I'm aiming for a color somewhere between those very dark examples and the BJCP guidelines, as I'm hoping this will achieve the flavor I'm looking for. When I've tried brewing to the lighter color in the BJCP guidelines in the past, the beers always come out more like a bland, mild brown ale than a solid Dubbel. One of my favorite Dubbels is about 32 SRM, so this one is coming in a hair lighter at 31.4.

Mash Schedule

The following mash schedule was configured in the Brewie:
  • Mash in at 113F for 10 minutes (Ferulic Acid rest, to aid yeast in producing flavor/aroma)
  • Mash at 120F for 25 minutes (Protein and Beta Glucan rest, to ensure good clarity and conversion of the grain)
  • Mash at 157F for 60 minutes (aiming for body and residual sugar)
  • Mash out at 168F for 10 minutes, then sparge for 10 minutes with 168F water
The pH 5.2 Stabilizer and a half-teaspoon of Brewtan B were added into the grain bag at mash time.

Boil Schedule

Since the mash contains a fair amount of European Pilsner malt, I decided to boil slightly longer than usual to drive off any DMS we might get from that malt. The boil schedule was therefore:
  • 75 minutes: No hops
  • 60 minutes: Whitbread Golding Variety (WGV) hops
  • ~15 minutes: Candi Sugar, Raisins, Prunes, and Yeast Nutrient (manual additions)
  • 10 minutes: Saaz hops
  • 0 minutes: Chill
The Brewie was configured to automatically chill the wort to 68F after the boil was complete. (In practice, it came in around somewhere around 74F in the fermenter.

Fermentation Schedule

Having used Wyeast 3787 a lot lately, I'm very familiar with its need for a blow-off tube, so I'm starting on the assumption it's needed here as well.

My plan will be to ferment the beer in the middle of the yeast's optimum range (64-78F), then once fermentation starts to slow down significantly, I'll raise the temperature up to the top of the yeast's range to maximize its flavor and aroma contributions - as well as helping it reach final gravity.

I'll treat the beer with Gelatin Finings and cold-crash it for a few days before bottling.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

12/31/2018 1:30am: The beer came in closer to 2.5 gallons in volume than any previous batch. I'd have to say it was in the vicinity of 2.4 gallons. Gravity originally read as 1.074 SG using the Tilt Hydrometer. I diluted the wort to 2.5 gallons, at which point the gravity read somewhere in the 1.072-1.073 range. With a bit more water, I got it to hit my 1.070 SG target and come in a little over 2.5 gallons in volume. I need to tweak my spreadsheet a bit more, probably adding another tenth of a gallon or so. Then again, I did run most of the boil on this batch with the Brewie's lid open to encourage boil-off, as it looked like I might have had too much wort after the sparge. It's possible the calculations are on-target now.

Into the wort, I pitched about half of my reserved Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity yeast from a previous 1L starter (used for the Barrel Aged La Trappe Quad Clone earlier). The other half was pitched into a new starter wort to grow into more yeast for future use. If this beer doesn't start showing signs of fermentation in about 18 hours, I'll pull some of that starter to "perk things up" in the fermentation.

The beer was 73F at the time I pitched the yeast slurry into it, which is just above the midpoint of the yeast's optimum range (71F is the approximate midpoint). With the ambient basement temperature this time of year in the 63-65F range and a stainless fermenter being used, I'm expecting the temperature to decline quite a bit before the yeast really kicks into high gear in 12-24 hours. If that proves to be wrong, I'll use my temperature control setup to cool things down as needed.

1/3/2019: The gravity now reads 1.024 SG, which makes the beer 6.4% ABV, right in range for a Belgian Dubbel. If it holds at this gravity for another day or two, it will be ready to bottle.

1/4/2019: Gravity is down to 1.022 SG today. which represents an ABV of 6.7%.

1/6/2019: Gravity is down to 1.021 SG today, which represents 69% attenuation and an ABV of 6.8%. I decided to go ahead and bottle it. A taste test at bottling showed a nearly cloying sweetness and a rather interesting flavor. We'll see where things are in a week or so.

1/12/2019: I opened a bottle of the beer tonight (photo at top of post). It was so carbonated that it pretty much foamed over the top before I poured it. It pours a nearly opaque reddish brown with huge head that lasts quite a while (thanks to the Cara-Pils and Melanoidin). Aroma is noble hops and malt. The flavor is intense and complex, far more than I expected. It starts intensely malty and sweet, maybe even a bit too sweet. Right behind the malt, we get the prune and raisin, and a nice hit of dark chocolate, with a touch of roasty malt slipping in. It's good, but next time I'd let it ferment out more before bottling so that it would dry out some and not be quite so carbonated. I would also dial back the Munich, maybe by half.

4/27/2019:  I ended up dumping this batch due to the foam-over and cloyingly sweet flavor. I can't recommend brewing this one, folks.


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