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Brewing a Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Grains: Belgian Pilsner malt, Munich malt, White Wheat malt
– Belgian Pilsner malt
– Munich malt
– White Wheat malt

Previously in this series of articles on How to brew different Styles of Beer? we covered Brewing a Kolsch V2, this time the Beer Style comes from the ‘Strong Belgian Ale’ category in the BJCP 2015 Guidelines and is the style of a Belgian Grolden Strong Ale.

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.


Styrian Goldings & Czech Saaz hops
Styrian Goldings & Czech Saaz hops

According to the BJCP Guidelines this style was originally developed by the Moortgat Brewery after World War I as a response to the growing popularity of Pilsner beers. Moortgat are the brewers of the go-to example of this beer style, namely Duvel.

Commercial examples of this style include Brigand, Delirium Tremens, Dulle Teve, Duvel, Judas, Lucifer, Piraat, and Russian River Damnation.


In the BJCP 2008 Style Guidelines the Belgian Golden Strong Ale was part of the Belgian Strong Ale category. The style name has remained the same though the category has had a slight name change to Strong Belgian Ale:

BJCP 2015 BJCP 2008
Category 25: Strong Belgian Ale
18: Belgian Strong Ale
Styles 25A: Belgian Blond Ale 18A: Belgian Blond Ale
18B: Belgian Dubbel
25B: Saison
18C: Belgian Tripel
25C: Belgian Golden Strong Ale
18D: Belgian Golden Strong Ale
18E: Belgian Dark Strong Ale

In the new guidelines the darker strong Belgian styles have been separated out from the lighter ones. The vital statistics of the Belgian Golden Strong Ale are as follows:

  • Original Gravity (OG) = 1.070 – 1.095
  • Final Gravity (FG) = 1.005 – 1.016
  • Alcohol By Volume (ABV) = 7.5 – 10.5%
  • Bitterness (IBUs) = 22 – 35
  • Color (SRM) = 3 – 6

There are no changes in the above from the 2008 guidelines.


Rice Hulls to avoid a stuck mash
Rice Hulls to avoid a stuck mash

According to the BJCP 2015 Guidelines the following are characteristic ingredients used in the brewing of a Belgian Golden Strong Ale:

  • Malts: Pilsner malt with substantial sugary adjuncts.
  • Hops: Saazer-type hops or Styrian Goldings are commonly used.
  • Yeast: Belgian yeast strains are used – those that produce fruity esters, spicy phenolics and higher alcohols – often aided by slightly warmer fermentation temperatures.
  • Water: Fairly soft water.
  • Additions: Spicing is not traditional; if present, should be a background character only.


Below are some recipes for 5 gallon batches of a Belgian Golden Strong Ale from leading authors in the homebrewing community together with some analysis on how they comply with the style guidelines:

– Duvel clone –

Source: Clone Brews
Author: Tess & Mark Szamatulski

Corn Sugar adjunct
Corn Sugar adjunct


  • 10.8 Lb Belgian 2-row Pilsner malt
  • 4.0 oz Belgian Aromatic malt
  • 2.0 oz German Light Crystal malt (Cara-Hell)
  • 1 Lb Belgian clear candi sugar
  • 1.2 Lb Cane sugar
  • 1.4 oz Styrian Goldings hops (bittering – 90 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Styrian Goldings hops (flavoring – 15 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Czech Saaz hops (flavoring – 15 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Czech Saaz hops (aroma – 3 mins)
  • Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II or Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes yeast


  • Mash @ 151 deg F (66.2 deg C) for 90 mins
  • Boil for 90 mins
Enthusiastic yeast starter
Enthusiastic yeast starter


  • OG: 1.080 – 1.081
  • FG: 1.013 – 1.014
  • ABV: 8.5%
  • IBU: 31
  • SRM: 5


  • Malts: Base malt and sugar adjunct are within style. The specialty grains are not strictly to style.
  • Hops: Both hop varieties are within style.
  • Yeast: Both yeast options are Belgian strains.
  • Statistics: Starting and Finishing Gravities are within their respective ranges with the final gravity towards the top end. Alcohol content is within range whilst the bitterness and color are towards the top of their ranges.

– It’s All In The Details –

Source: Brewing Classic Styles
Author: Jamil Zainasheff & John J. Palmer



  • 11 Lb Pilsener malt
  • 3 Lb Cane sugar
  • 2.25 oz Czech Saaz hops (bittering – 90 mins)
  • White Labs Belgian Golden Ale (WLP570) or Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale yeast


  • Mash @ 149 deg F (65 deg C) for 90 mins
  • Boil for 90 mins
  • Pitch yeast @ 64 deg F (18 deg C) and allow to rise to 82 deg F (28 deg C) over 1 week
  • Carbonate to 4 volumes of CO2
Brew-Boss tablet & hops additions
Brew-Boss tablet & hops additions


  • OG: 1.072
  • FG: 1.007
  • ABV: 8.5%
  • IBU: 32
  • SRM: 3


  • Malts: A very simple recipe with a single to-style base malt plus plenty of sugar to help dry the beer out.
  • Hops: A single bittering addition that is a within style variety.
  • Yeast: Both yeasts are appropriate Belgian strains.
  • Statistics: The Starting and Finishing Gravities are both towards the bottom end of the respective ranges and an alcohol content that is mid-range for ABV. Bitterness is towards the top of the IBU range whilst the color is at the bottom of the SRM range.

– Vinnie Cilurzo’s Strong Golden Ale –

Source: Brew Like a Monk
Author: Stan Hieronymus

Whole flower hops in wort
Whole flower hops in wort


  • Pilsener malt (80 – 100%)
  • Munich malt (2.5 – 5%, optional)
  • Wheat malt (2.5 – 5%, optional)
  • Sugar – candi rocks, turbinado, or dextrose (5 – 20%)
  • Styrian Goldings (30% of hop bill, bittering – 90 mins, 13 – 15 IBU)
  • Styrian Goldings (35% of hop bill, flavoring – 30 mins, 7 – 10 IBU)
  • Saaz (35% of hop bill, aroma – 0 mins, 3 – 5 IBU)
  • White Labs Monastry Ale (WLP500) or Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey yeast


  • Mash @ 151 – 152 deg F (66 – 67 deg C)
  • Boil for 90 mins
Transferring wort to carboy
Transferring wort to carboy


  • OG: 1.066 – 1.072
  • FG: 1.006 – 1.012
  • ABV: 7 – 8%
  • IBU: 23 – 33
  • SRM: n/a


  • Malts: The Pilsener base malt is to style whilst the optional use of Munich and Wheat are not but will add some more flavor and body / head retention respectively. Simple sugars are also added to help attenuate the beer.
  • Hops: Both noble hop varieties are to style.
  • Yeast: The Belgian yeast strains are appropriate for this beer.
  • Statistics: The top end of the Starting Gravity range falls within the lower end of the style Original Gravity though the Finishing Gravity range is fully within style. The alcohol content straddles the lower end of the style. The bitterness range maps closely onto the IBU range within the style guidelines.


Temperature profile during brewing
Temperature profile during brewing

The recipe chosen for brewing this batch of Belgian Golden Strong Ale is Vinnie Cilurzo’s Strong Golden Ale with the reason for this decision being primarily because the original Russian River Damnation beer that the recipe is based on is very difficult to buy on the East-coast of the USA whilst Duvel that the other two recipes are similar to is easily available. This therefore gives an opportunity to sample how this beer differs to the Moortgat original.

Below is the actual recipe that I went with:

  • 12.75 Lb Belgian Pilsner malt
  • 6.0 oz Munich malt
  • 6.0 oz White Wheat malt
  • 1.5 Lb Corn sugar
  • 1.0 Lb Rice Hulls
  • 0.75 oz Styrian Goldings hops (bittering – 90 mins)
  • 1.25 oz Styrian Goldings hops (flavoring – 30 mins)
  • 1.0 oz Saaz hops (aroma – 0 mins)
  • White Labs Abbey Ale yeast (WLP530)
Active primary fermentation
Active primary fermentation

The recipe was converted from percentages to weights within the BeerSmith brewing software and then adjusted so that the various beer statistics fell within the middle of their respective ranges. The only real change was to use the White Labs Abbey Ale (WLP530) yeast as this is a personal preference over WLP500 with respect to flavor in the final beer. One addition I always include when brewing a strong beer is Rice Hulls to avoid a stuck mash.

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 153 deg F before mashing-in.
  • Mashing for 75 mins at 151 deg F for the Saccharification rest so the starches convert into sugars (pH 5.4).
  • Raising the temperature to 168 deg F to mash-out for 10 mins to 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.
  • Add Corn Sugar to boil.
  • Continue boiling for 60 mins with the bittering hop addition.
  • Add flavoring hop addition and boil for a further 15 mins.
  • Add Irish Moss with 15 mins left of the boil to help clear the beer.
  • Add aroma hop addition at flame-out.
  • 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 69 deg F and allowed to rise to 72 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 72 deg F for another week before cold crashing and bottling.
  • Beer was force carbonated to 3.0 – 3.5 volumes of CO2 after cooling the beer to 36 deg F.


Measuring the Final Gravity
Measuring the Final Gravity

According to the style guidelines an American Brown Ale should have the following characteristics:

  • Appearance: Yellow to medium gold in color. Good clarity. Effervescent. Massive, long-lasting, rocky, often beady, white head resulting in characteristic Belgian lace on the glass as it fades.
  • Aroma: Complex with significant fruity esters, moderate spiciness and low to moderate alcohol and hop aromas. Esters are reminiscent of lighter fruits such as pears, oranges or apples. Moderate to moderately low spicy, peppery phenols. A low to moderate yet distinctive perfumy, floral hop character is
    often present. Alcohols are soft, spicy, perfumy and low-to-moderate in intensity. No hot alcohol or solventy aromas. The malt character is light and slightly grainy-sweet to nearly neutral.
  • Flavor: Marriage of fruity, spicy and alcohol flavors supported by a soft malt character. Esters are reminiscent of pears, oranges or apples. Low to moderately low phenols are peppery in character. A low to moderate spicy hop character is often present. Alcohols are soft and spicy, and are low-to-moderate in intensity. Bitterness is typically medium to high from a combination of hop bitterness and yeast-produced phenolics. Substantial carbonation and bitterness leads to a dry finish with a low to moderately bitter aftertaste.
  • Mouth-feel: Very highly carbonated; effervescent. Light to medium body, although lighter than the substantial gravity would suggest. Smooth but noticeable alcohol warmth. No hot alcohol or solventy character.
  • Overall: A pale, complex, effervescent, strong Belgian-style ale that is highly attenuated and features fruity and hoppy notes in preference to phenolics.

How did my batch of Belgian Golden Strong Ale turn out?

Brewing preparation began a few days earlier with a yeast that was slow to get going in the starter but once it did then it was extremely enthusiastic and overflowed the Erlenmeyer flask on a couple of occasions and ejected the sponge bung.

The brew day went smoothly with a wort that was within 3 points of the target Starting Gravity. Fermentation finished 3 points short of the desired attenuation which may have been down to the choice of yeast. The combination of these gravity differences left a slightly lower alcohol percentage but all statistics were still within style.

Tasting the finished beer
Tasting the finished beer

Here are the actual vital statistics:

  • OG: 1.074
  • FG: 1.013
  • ABV: 7.9%
  • Bitterness: 23.9 IBUs*
  • Color: 3.8 SRM*

* calculated via BeerSmith software.

The tasting notes are as follows:

Yellow in color with a white head and slight haze plus visible rising bubbles. The aroma was light lemon citrus with some accompanying banana and clove. The flavor was primarily of banana and clove. Carbonation was high as per the style and a medium body with some slight alcohol warming.

Overall I am extremely happy with how this beer turned out. It is not quite as dry and crisp as Duvel but has plenty of flavor and is great to enjoy. I have entered it into two upcoming competitions so will see how it fairs judging wise.

What’s Next?

In my next article in this series I will be examining Brewing a Belgian Dubbel which is in the ‘Trappist Ale’ category so please check back for that article to be published.

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