- Malty, sweet beer
- Good head retention
- Deep amber color
- ABV% of 6.0%-7.5%
- Lower IBU
- Hop flavors are usually low bitter, slight aroma.
- Fruity flavors, including raisin
- Sometimes Belgian sugar is added to spike ABV, color and add flavor
So how do we set out to make such a beer? We could just go copy someone else's recipe. What happens when we can't get all the ingredients? Can we trust that the recipe is accurate? Do we even care?
The answer to that last question is important. We can create great beer without following style guidelines. It may change from brew day to brew day. It can be fun to make up a style on the fly (although it's likely to exist or be a hybrid of styles). But being able to re-create the beer styles of the world is a fun challenge for the homebrewer. It also helps the brewer gain a better understanding of where their flavors are coming from, and how different ingredients are used with each other to create flavor and body profiles. It also can help the brewer hone in their brewing procedure to produce consistently great beer time and time again. It makes us better tasters of beer, and helps us find other beers to compare our own to.
Designing a Beer Recipe? Start with BJCP
If you've decided to create your own recipe for a style of beer, chances are you've tried that style before. You might think that's sufficient to accurately create the style, but chances are you have missed some of the over tones of flavor that actually contribute to the overall complexity of a brew. Or you just plain don't pay attention to color, head retention or aroma.
To accurately create a style of beer, the place to start is the Beer Judge Certification Program, or BJCP. Now, I'm not saying you need to go out and get a BJCP certification to accurately taste or create accurate beer styles. The key is what you find here: BJCP Style Guiedlines. Read them for the beer style you wish to make. Note the ingredients section. This is key because when we jump over to BeerSmith (or however we are calculating our grain and hop bill), we'll be using numbers such Original Gravity (OG), Color (SRM), Bitterness (IBU), Final Gravity (FG) and Alcohol by Volume (ABV) to calculate amounts. These say nothing about flavors. We need to know the correct type of grains, hops and and spices to get the correct flavor profile.
BJCP states for a Belgian Dubbel, a base malt of Belgian Pils or Pale Ale malt will work well. From the ingredients I have available to me, I've decided on Gambrinus Organic Pale Ale Malt. I usually use a Special Malt, usually the Organic Breiss Special Malt, 130 SRM, but my supplier can no longer get this (my supplier is all organic). This will be an issue as the special malt imparts a common raisin flavor to this beer style. I'll have to do without. I may look to lower my total base malt amount and add some carmalized Belgian sugar/syrup to help with the flavor. Color wise I'm substituting Caramel 60 (Briess). I'll be adding CaraMunich (Briess) which will add small amounts of color and some fruity flavors.
Hop wise, Goldings seem to be the main hop used in these beers.
Finally, and crucially, is the yeast we choose. Yeast has a very big effect on the final flavor, clarity, and body. BJCP gives good descriptions of flavors and yeast strain manufactures normally give a good description of how a yeast will behave, and what flavors they tend to produce. Fermentation temperature is a HUGE part of the final product, make sure you are brewing at the correct temperature for your style. This will ensure the correct flavors make it into the final product. Luckily, most yeast manufactures will have some sort of matrix to help the brewer decide on the proper strain. Also, most strains are named after the style they are meant to brew.
Building the Recipe in BeerSmith
I've slightly touched on this, but I have started to use a program called BeerSmith 2. It's a great program that keeps track of your entire brewhouse. It's fairly inexpensive, under $30, and worth every penny. There are other good alternatives, such as and not limited to, BeerTools Pro and ProMash. There are also freeware opensource programs as well as web based calculators that can do much of this as well. All this can also be accomplished with a simple spreadsheet. A spreadsheet is the most complex but is good for beginners to actually understand the calculations taking place. In a future post, I'll be designing and using a homemade spreadsheet to show how many of these calculations are made.
I've tried all three (BeerSmith, ProMash and Beer ToolsPro) and ended on BeerSmith, partially as it seems to still be in development. They all work great, and have trial periods to play with. Chose the one that you prefer. Anyway, I'll be doing a more in depth post on BeerSmith, but here I'm just going to talk about how I designed my beer using this software, the BJCP guidelines and a list of available ingredients at my local homebrew shop.
Using the guidelines from BJCP, and local available ingredients, I decided to use the following to make my beer:
Gambrinus Organic Pale Ale Malt
Breiss Organic CaraMunich Malt
Briess Organic Caramel 60
Belgian Candi Sugar, Amber
Kent Goldings Hops
Belgian Amarillo Hops
Belgian Cascade Hops
Belgian Strong Ale Yeast
Now, we can work out of BeerSmith. Once open, we can go to our recipes and create a new one. From here we need to setup our batch profile. The equipment profile and mash efficiency items we'll need to setup in the future, but if we are just designing out grain and hops, we can use the defaults. Just make sure we are choosing a 5 gallon all grain batch.
The next step is to start adding ingredients. Add your grains and hops, using amounts you think are correct. This is a high ABV beer, so I'm going to start with 12.5# of base malt. Add in the specialty malts, ensuring you are keeping these numbers low. For a 5 gallon batch no more than a few lbs total. Do the same with hops. Here you may want to adjust the AAU and BAU if these numbers are known. Adjust the boil times to your plan.
|Double clicking on our added hops we can change|
AAU, BAU, hop type, boil length and other variables
If you have an equipment, mash, fermentation and carbonation profile setup, use them. If not, you'll have to use the built in ones, look at them and find the one that fits your system best. Choose the style of beer you wish to make from the "Style Guideline Comparison" drop down menu.
Now we can look at the little sliders below our recipe. It shows us on the left hand side our projected OG, IBU, Color and ABV of our final product. On the right hand side of the sliders are the accepted range for the style selected under "Style Guideline Comparison" drop down menu.
|"Sliders" showing my recipe compared to BJCP|
|Use the buttons on the "Home" tab to automatically scale batch size, convert from grain to extract or adjust color, gravity and bitterness.|
12.5 # Gambriuns Organic Pale Ale Malt
.5# Briess Organic CaraMunich
.25# Briess Organic Caramel 120
1# Organic Belgian Amber Candi Sugar
.5 oz. Organic Belgian Amirillo hops @ 60 min
.5 oz. Organic Kent Goldings @ 20 min
.5 oz Organic Belgian Cascade @ 5 min
1 Wyest Belgian Strong Ale Yeast
Using my own equipment profile, and a two step temperature mash (which will be covered on brew day)
My Projected Values are:
For this style, BJCP states:
All within their respective ranges! UPDATE/EDIT: Although most numbers are on the high side, my IBU's are low. This could result in an unbalanced brew. Maybe by brew day I'll increase my hops. I've noted that this style is generally malty and less bitter, so that might be OK. But, remember those sliders are based on the style, which already has a low IBU\Malt ratio. By being on the extremes of Gravity and IBU's for the style, it may throw off the overall balance of the beer.