Brew Day: Ground Rule Double (Belgian-style dubbel)

Out of all the iconic Belgian beer styles, the dubbel might be my favorite. Witbier may be more common, while tripels and quads get more fanfare, but the plum and burnt sugar flavors found in a dubbel set it apart from other Belgian styles where the beer is soured or the yeast flavor more prominent. Technically, this is not a Belgian dubbel because it was not brewed in Belgium. Instead of calling it an American dubbel, I further Anglicized the name to come up with another baseball-themed beer name.

I hastily bought the ingredients for this beer at the same time I picked up ingredients for the Pinch Hit Belgian Pale Ale. I grabbed six pounds of Belgian 2-row barley, Special B malt, dark candi sugar, and Styrian Goldings hops. These were ingredients I had never used for the most part, but knew were common in Belgian beers.

Over the past few weeks, I intermittently tinkered with the ingredients on BeerSmith as I developed the recipe. I was shocked how little Special B and candi sugar was needed to get the reddish color the beer is supposed to have. I trusted the software and started to mash. One way to familiarize yourself with a type of grain is to taste it. Literally, pop a few grains in your mouth until you really get the flavor. When I tasted the Special B, I got the raisin flavor, and was taken aback by the intensity of the flavor. I felt comfortable that a little would indeed go a long way. I used an equally small amount of the candi sugar. I did a quick search for Chimay Red clone recipes, and saw in those recipes that the candi sugar made up a similar percentage of the fermentable sugars as my recipe. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines for the style, a low hop aroma is optional, so I did a small late hop addition. If the Styrian Goldings are similar to their relative, the Fuggle which I have used many times, the late addition should add a subtle earthy flavor.

While this was going on I still had the Subway Series Stout and Pinch Hit in their fermenters. Critically I needed to harvest the yeast from the Pinch Hit for this batch. I didn’t want to have to bottle and brew at the same time, and both beers would probably do well with a little more time to age. The solution was to rack, or transfer the wort from those batches into another fermenter, for a secondary fermentation.

I used to do a secondary for all of my beers. The traditional line of thinking was 1-2-3; one week in the primary, two weeks in the secondary, and three weeks in the bottle. The concern was, if the wort spent too much time on top of the yeast cake in the primary, the beer would have off flavors. Now convention says to keep the beer in the primary for longer so the yeast has more time to break down chemical byproducts from fermentation. Most brewers only rack when brewing bigger beers and do so after several weeks. The stout was ripe to be racked after three weeks and could use the additional time. The pale ale won’t be hurt by another week to 10 days to age before bottling. If nothing else, I always feel like my beers are clearer and brighter after a secondary fermentation. I probably do it more than most.

Another benefit to racking is that it provides an opportunity to sample! The Pinch Hit was very malty and the aroma was very sweet. The flavor from the yeast was there, and once it is carbonated the carbonation should dry out the finish. The Subway Series stout was excellent! It was everything I hoped it would be. There was bitterness and hop flavor that an American stout is supposed to have. The sweetness and creaminess from the corn was there, as was the body and silky mouthfeel from the oats. I have a lot of beer that needs to be bottled. I will embark on a bottling frenzy because, at this point, I am out of vessels in which to ferment.

The brew day, itself, went smoothly. I found a website ( which helped me determine how much water to use and I ended up with almost exactly two gallons. I channeled the water I ran through the wort chiller into my bottling bucket and mixed it with sanitizer. I can use that sanitized water on bottling day instead of it just going down the drain. I also grabbed the hose and filled up my water filter. Brewing is water-intensive, so I try to use it as efficiently as I can. The samples I had were on point. The beer is probably eight weeks away from being ready to drink. This might be one I bottle in 22-ounce bombers and save for special occasions.












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