Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Belgian Strong Dark Ale

As the name suggests this is a high gravity style. ABV is in the 8-11% range and the style is pretty open for interpretation. Today it is mostly brewed by Trappist and Abby breweries. What’s the difference? A Trappist beer is made in the monastery by monks that follow strict rules. Today there are only 7 such Trappist breweries. The most well know is Chimay and the oldest is Westmalle. Abby beers are made in commercial breweries and are licenced to use the names of monasteries. They attempt to recreate the styles of beers that were or still are brewed in the monastery. Some well known examples are Leffe and Grimbergen.

With this style the alcohol can be well hidden or in your face. The body can be medium to heavy. The hop profile can range from 20 - 35 IBUs. Some versions tend to be dry (or as Belgians say “more digestible”). The differences and variations in this style will become apparent when comparing commercial styles such as Chimay Blue to Gulden Draak. All should have some fruity esters from moderate to strong, and can contain raisin, plum, dried cherry, fig or prune notes. Spicy peppery like phenols may also be present. All versions contain a significant amount of sugar in addition to rich malts. This style never uses any spices. Everything you smell and taste will come from the sugars, malts, and yeast that were used.

Alcohol by Vol: 9.6 %
Bitterness: 25.5 IBU
Est Color: 17.0 SRM

This BDS is still an infant really. It is probably about 3 months old and will only start to peak at around 12 months. It is intensely fruity with a lot of raisin and fig aroma and flavor. The hop level is low and the 9.6% ABV is very well hidden. In producing this 4 gallon batch 14 pounds of malt, 1 pound of homemade inverted amber candy sugar and 1 pound of Belgian amber candi syrup was used.

This is an ABV bomb! If you’re a Belgian fan, Bottoms up, but beware!

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