Previously in this series of articles on How to brew different Styles of Beer? we covered Brewing an Oatmeal Stout, this time the Beer Style comes from the ‘Trappist Ale’ category in the BJCP 2014 Guidelines and is the style of a Belgian Dubbel.
In the following sections we are going to examine different aspects of this style such as its background, the style guidelines, ingredients used, sample recipes, brewing process, and finally the outcome of brewing a batch of this beer.
A Belgian Dubbel / Bruin (in Dutch or Flemish) or Belgian Brune (in French) is a style of beer originally brewed by monks in the Middle Ages and is sometimes also thought by many to represent the “Abbey” style according to Stan Hieronymus in his book Brew Like a Monk.
Many of the Trappist breweries produce a Dubbel as part of their line-up, as do many more Abbey and Craft Beer breweries around the world, especially in the USA.
The origin of a “Dubbel” beer being brewed is from 1856 at the Trappist Abbey of Westmalle though other Trappist breweries also now brew this style; Achel 8 Bruin, Chimay Red, La Trappe Dubbel, and Rochefort 6.
The strength of a Dubbel is between a Blond and a Tripel in general with some overlap with both but the color is brown and the flavor more malty.
Commercial examples of this style include Belgian and Dutch ones such as Westmalle Dubbel, St. Bernardus Pater 6, La Trappe Dubbel, Corsendonk Abbey Brown Ale, Grimbergen Double, Affligem Dubbel, Chimay Premiere (Red), Pater Lieven Bruin, Duinen Dubbel, and St. Feuillien Brune.
US versions of this style include New Belgium Abbey Belgian Style Ale, Stoudts Abbey Double Ale, Russian River Benediction, Flying Fish Dubbel, Lost Abbey Lost and Found Abbey Ale, and Allagash Double.
In the BJCP 2008 Style Guidelines the Belgian Dubbel was in the Belgian Strong Ale category (see here), but now in the revised 2014 Guidelines the category has been split with the three darker beers going into the Trappist Ale category and the remaining two lighter beers going into the Belgian Ales category as follows:
|BJCP 2014||BJCP 2008|
|Category||26: Trappist Ale
||18: Belgian Strong Ale|
|Styles||26A: Trappist Single|
|18A: Belgian Blond Ale
|26B: Belgian Dubbel||18B: Belgian Dubbel
|26C: Belgian Tripel||18C: Belgian Tripel|
|18D: Belgian Golden Strong Ale|
|26D: Belgian Dark Strong Ale||18E: Belgian Dark Strong Ale|
In the new guidelines the vital statistics of the Belgian Dubbel have no changes and remain as follows:
- Original Gravity (OG) = 1.062 – 1.075
- Final Gravity (FG) = 1.008 – 1.018
- Alcohol By Volume (ABV) = 6.0 – 7.6%
- Bitterness (IBUs) = 15 – 25
- Color (SRM) = 10 – 17
According to the BJCP 2014 Guidelines the following are characteristic ingredients used in the brewing of a Belgian Dubbel:
- Malts: Impression of complex grain bill, although traditional versions are typically Belgian Pils malt.
- Hops: Saazer-type, English-type or Styrian Goldings hops commonly used.
- Yeast: Belgian yeast strains prone to production of higher alcohols, esters, and phenolics are commonly used.
- Water: Not specified.
- Additions: Caramelized sugar syrup or other unrefined sugars providing much of the character. No spices are traditionally used, although restrained use is allowable (background strength only).
Below are some sample recipes for 5 gallon batches of Belgian Dubbel from leading authors in the homebrewing community together with some analysis on how they comply with the style guidelines:
– Abbey Dubbel –
Source: Wisdom for Home Brewers
Author: Ted Bruning & Nigel Sadler
- 11 Lb Pilsner malt
- 1 Lb 1.6 oz Caramalt
- 1 Lb 1.6 oz Belgian Dark Candi sugar
- 1 oz Styrian Goldings (75 mins)
- Belgian Ale yeast
- OG: 1.068
- FG: 1.014 (calculated)
- ABV: 7.0%
- IBU: Not specified
- SRM: Not specified
- Malts: these are within style.
- Hops: a single bittering addition which is within style.
- Yeast: no specific strain specified but meets the guidelines.
- Statistics: the Starting and Finishing Gravities plus alcohol content are within style but the bitterness and color are unspecified so the recipe would need putting into some brewing software to calculate these figures.
– Chimay Red –
Author: Tess & Mark Szamatulski
- 10.33 Lb Maris Otter 2-row Pale malt
- 4 oz Belgian Aromatic malt
- 8 oz Belgian CaraMunich malt
- 1 oz British Chocolate malt
- 1.5 Lb Belgian Clear Candi sugar
- 1.3 oz Tettnanger hops (bittering – 90 mins)
- 0.25 oz Styrian Goldings hops (flavoring – 15 mins)
- 0.25 oz German Hallertau Hersbrucker hops (flavoring – 15 mins)
- Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey yeast or Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II yeast
- OG: 1.070
- FG: 1.014-1.015
- ABV: 7.1%
- IBU: 25
- SRM: 18
- Malts: using a British base malt is not to style but the specialty malts are in the main except for the choice of British Chocolate malt.
- Hops: Tettnanger and Hallertau are not exactly within style but are still noble varieties.
- Yeast: both choices of yeast are Belgian.
- Statistics: the Starting and Finishing Gravities plus resulting alcohol content are within style as is the bitterness which is at the top of the range. The color is 1 point higher than the top of the range for that characteristic.
– Tomme Arthur’s Dubbel –
Source: Brew Like a Monk
Author: Stan Hieronymus
- Belgian Pilsner malt – 58.8%
- Wheat malt – 8.4%
- Belgian Aromatic malt – 6.7%
- Belgian or German Munich malt – 4.2%
- CaraMunich malt – 3.4%
- Gambrinus Honey malt (or substitute CaraVienna) – 3.4%
- Belgian Special B malt – 3.4%
- Belgian Biscuit malt – 3.4%
- Dark Candi sugar (rocks) – 8.4%
- Raisins (at end of the boil) – 4 oz for a 5 gallon batch (113g for 19 liter)
- Styrian Goldings hops (90 mins) – 11 IBU
- Liberty hops (60 mins) – 4 IBU
- White Labs WLP500 Monastery Ale yeast
- Mash @ 152 deg F (67 deg C)
- Boil for 90 mins
- Start fermentation at 64 deg F (18 deg C) for 5-7 days
- Cold condition in secondary for 2 weeks
- OG: 1.067
- FG: 1.014
- ABV: 6.9%
- IBU: 15
- SRM: Not specified
- Malts: the base Pilsner malt and Belgian or German Specialty malts are all within style.
- Hops: Styrian Goldings is within style though Liberty is part of the Hallertau family but still a noble variety.
- Yeast: a Belgian yeast choice meets the guidelines.
- Statistics: the Starting and Finishing Gravities plus alcohol content are in the middle of the style ranges and the bitterness is at the bottom of the IBU range.
The recipe chosen for brewing this batch of Belgian Dubbel was Tomme Arthur’s Dubbel and the reason for this choice is that I am a big fan of Trappist beers so with it being quoted as a sample recipe in Brew Like a Monk it seemed the obvious on to go with.
The ingredients were as follows for my batch with the original recipe specifying them as percentages:
- 8 Lb Pilsner malt (Belgian)
- 1 Lb 2 oz White Wheat malt
- 14.5 oz Aromatic malt
- 9 oz Munich malt
- 7.5 oz Biscuit malt
- 7.5 oz CaraMunich malt
- 7.5 oz Honey malt
- 7.5 oz Special B malt
- 1 Lb 2 oz Dark Candi sugar (90 mins)
- 16 oz glass of chopped & pitted Dates (0 mins) – replacement for raisins in the original recipe
- 0.70 oz Styrian Goldings (90 mins)
- 0.35 oz Liberty (60 mins)
- Trappist Ale (WLP500) yeast and Wyeast 3787 (Trappist HG) yeast*
* The reason for using two yeasts is that the vial of White Labs WLP500 was very slow at rousing in the Yeast Starter which I think may have been down to low viability so fortunately I had some spare vials of Wyeast 3787 in my yeast bank which I added to the starter once defrosted and this helped swell the numbers and activity.
The 5 gallon batch of beer was brewed following these steps:
- Charcoal filtering the borough water and leaving it to stand overnight in order to vent off the chlorine.
- Measuring out and milling the grains, also measuring out the hops and Irish Moss.
- Sterilizing the fermentation equipment.
- Heating the strike water to 154 deg F before mashing-in (adding the grist to the hot water).
- Mashing for 60 mins at 152 deg F so the starches convert into sugars (pH 5.2).
- Raising the temperature to 168 deg F to mash-out and stop enzymatic activity i.e. halt the conversion of starches to sugars.
- Removing the grain bag.
- Boiling for 10 mins to allow time for the hot break to clear.
- Continue boiling for 30 mins with the first bittering hop addition and Organic Sugar.
- Add second bittering hop addition and continue boiling for 45 mins.
- Adding Irish Moss at 15 mins to help clear the beer.
- Addition of Chopped Pitted Dates at flame-out (0 mins).
- A yeast starter was prepared comprising of 8 oz of DME (Dry Malt Extract) in two liters of water and placed in a flask on a stir plate together with one packet of yeast.
- Yeast nutrient was added to the wort once it had been cooled.
- Wort was aerated with Oxygen (60 secs) via a diffusing stone connected to an O2 tank with a regulator.
- Yeast starter was decanted prior to pitching into the wort so that most of the spent wort did not go into the beer.
- Primary fermentation was at 65 deg F for one week in a temperature controlled freezer.
- The beer was racked off the trub (sediment) into the secondary fermenter and held at 68 deg F for 10 days.
- Beer was force carbonated to 2.75 volumes of CO2 after cooling the beer to 36 deg F.
According to the style guidelines a Belgian Dubbel should have the following characteristics:
- Appearance: Dark amber to copper in color, with an attractive reddish depth of color. Generally clear. Large, dense, and long-
lasting creamy off-white head.
- Aroma: Complex, rich-sweet malty aroma, possibly with hints of chocolate, caramel and/or toast (but never roasted or burnt aromas). Moderate fruity esters (usually including raisins and plums, sometimes also dried cherries). Esters sometimes include banana or apple. Spicy phenols and higher alcohols are common (may include light clove and spice, peppery, rose-like and/or perfumy notes). Spicy qualities can be moderate to very low. Alcohol, if present, is soft and never hot or solventy. Low to no spicy, herbal, or floral hop aroma, typically absent. The malt is most prominent in the balance with esters and a touch of alcohol in support, blending together for a harmonious presentation.
- Flavor: Similar qualities as aroma. Rich, complex medium to medium-full rich-sweet malt flavor on the palate yet finishes moderately dry. Complex malt, ester, alcohol and phenol interplay (raisiny flavors are common; dried fruit flavors are welcome; clove or pepper spiciness is optional). Balance is always toward the malt. Medium-low bitterness that doesn’t persist into the aftertaste. Low spicy, floral, or herbal hop flavor is optional and not usually present.
- Mouth-feel: Medium-full body. Medium-high carbonation, which can influence the perception of body. Low alcohol warmth. Smooth, never hot or solventy.
- Overall: A deep reddish-copper, moderately strong, malty, complex Trappist ale with rich malty flavors, dark or dried fruit esters, and light alcohol blended together in a malty presentation that still finishes fairly dry.
All the sample recipes used Noble hops varieties as well as Belgian yeast strains. The hopping regimes included bittering and sometimes flavoring but no aroma which is per the style guidelines because a Belgian Dubbel gets its aroma from the malts, sugars and yeast used, not from the hops. The key difference in the grists was with the Chimay Red clone which used a British base malt rather than a Belgian or German Pilsner malt.
How did my batch of Belgian Dubbel turn out?
The Original Gravity was within 1 point off what I was shooting for though the fermentation did not attenuate quite as much as hoped and finished 2 points short even after leaving the beer in the secondary for 10 days in the late 60’s temperature wise. The ABV ended up 0.34% low which is close enough in my mind.
Here are the actual vital statistics:
- OG: 1.066
- FG: 1.016
- ABV: 6.56%
- Bitterness: 15 IBUs
- Color: 28.9 SRM
The tasting notes are as follows:
Cloudy orange in color with a cream head and visible rising bubbles. A banana dominated aroma and flavor. Highly carbonated with a medium mouth-feel and a slight carbonic sharpness.
This is a recipe I have brewed previously but not with my current system and last time it was bottle conditioned rather than force carbonated. The flavor of this batch turned out a little sweet which is probably because the beer did not attenuate as much as stated in the statistics of the recipe but mainly I believe this is due to some suspended yeast as can be seen in the taster sample photo.
The suspended yeast had carried over from the secondary into the keg which was used to cold crash the beer then force carbonate. The yeast should settle out in the bottles and allow the malt complexities to shine through over time. To avoid this problem in future it may make more sense to cold crash the secondary then transfer into a keg for force carbonating.
In my next article in this series I will be examining Brewing a Dunkels Weissbier which is in the ‘German Wheat Beer’ category so please check back for that article to be published.
Comments or questions? If you have any comments or questions on this article please do not hesitate to leave them below.