Follow me as I brew a dark and malty Belgian dubbel ale.

First, there is some confusion about what exactly a dubbel ale is. Dubbel is simply a term used in Belgium for ale. It implies fairly strong ale, say 6.5-9% ABV, but it is not twice as strong as other ales. There are also Belgian tripels which are generally the strongest ale offered by a brewery or pub. These terms should not be confused with the English terms double and triple which are pronounce the same.

Now to the brewing…

[stxad]I bought the ingredient kit a few weeks ago from Beer Nut when I was in Salt Lake City for a concert. Ingredient kits are a great way to experiment with different styles without having to navigate the labyrinth of beer ingredients by yourself. Many brew stores offer them but if yours doesn’t, just check some of the larger brew suppliers online. The kit comes with liquid malt extract (LME), dry malt extract (DME), specialty grain (black patent I think), Saaz and Spalt hops pellets, dark Belgian candi sugar, White Labs Trappist Ale liquid yeast MLP500 (not pictured), bottle caps, priming sugar, and several grain bags.

Dubbel ingredients

One thing that did not come with the kit was recipe-specific instructions. There was a sheet of general brewing instructions, which you can download here, but nothing specific to brewing a Belgian dubbel like when to add the hops. I called the store to ask and was told to use the most bitter hops for the full boil and the other for flavoring.

I have been having trouble with my yeast under-fermenting lately so I decided to make a yeast starter for this beer. The day before I planned to brew, I boiled a quart of water and 1/2 cup of DME for 20 minutes, cooled it, poured it into a sanitized growler, and added the yeast. There are a couple of reasons to use a starter. If you are brewing a high alcohol beer, using a starter will give you more yeast cells so handle the higher alcohol. The starter also guarantees that you have a healthy batch of yeast. I wanted to make sure the yeast was good before I started brewing so I didn’t end up wasting a batch of wort.

Yeast starter

I started by putting 2.5 gallons of water in the brew pot and bringing it almost to a boil. I then turned off the heat, put the grain in a grain bag, and put it in the water for 20 minutes. Then I put the grain bag in a strainer and poured some of the wort over it to extract as much of the sugar as possible.

Adding the grain and pouring wort over it

I added the candi sugar, LME, and DME, stirring each to dissolve it completely before adding the next. Once all of the sugar was dissolved, it was time to bring it up to a boil.

Adding sugars

Once the water was boiling, I put 1 oz of Saaz hops in a hop bag and put it in the wort to boil for 60 minutes. I’ve found that using a nylon bag for hops results in a cleaner beer because very little, if any, hops makes it into the fermenter. After 40 minutes I added the 2 ozs of Spalt hops and after 10 more minutes I added a yeast fuel tablet (not included in the kit).

Adding hops

After the 60 minutes was up, I put the lid on the pot and put it in an ice bath to cool it down enough to pitch the yeast starter without shocking the yeast.

Ice bath

Once the wort had cooled to 76° F, I ladled it into a 6 gallon carboy using a sterilized measuring cup, added enough water to bring the total volume to a little more than 5 gallons, and extracted some for the original gravity (O.G) reading of 1.067. Since there were no instructions with the kit, I’m not sure what the O.G should be but this is a pretty high which is good. I’ll need a final gravity reading around 1.015 to hit the target ABV of 6.7% which shouldn’t be a problem. I then added the yeast starter and put an airlock on the carboy.

Original gravity

The next day when I checked to see how the fermentation was going, the kraeusen was bubbling out of the air lock. While this indicated a vigorous fermentation, which is good, if the air lock gets clogged, the pressure will blow it off and spray beer everywhere.

Air lock

I replaced it it with a blow-off tube that will allow the kraeusen to escape without letting air, or anything else, in.

Blow-off tube

I’ll move it to a secondary fermenter once the fermentation is complete then bottle a week or so after that. It probably should have several months of conditioning in the bottle to be at its best but I doubt it will last that long. 🙂