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11/29/09 03:47 AM  
Westmalle dubbel attempt - bitterness and colour?
One of my favourite beers is Westmalle Dubbel. The last time I tried it was bought from a retailer so I had the opportunity to allow it to warm before drinking it (usually if I can find it at a bar, it's served straight out of the fridge).

Two things struck me.

1. The beer is a lot darker than I'd originally presumed.

2. The beer has a good level of bitterness. The bitterness didn't taste so much like hop bitterness (and my understanding is mid 20s) which means either - the candy sugar they use is almost burnt OR they use a dark roasted malt like choc or black patent OR both.

I've been having a play trying to get a good dubbel going with this as my benchmark. It's mainly pils malt, some biscuit, choc and crystal, homemade copper/brown candi sugar, no spice additions, hopped to mid 20s with noble hops and using 3787. I've also recently discovered that mashing low gets the attenuation and dryness characteristic of a good trappist ale.

For the next one I'm thinking of subbing out my choc additions with some black patent, and making my candi sugar a lot darker. I was also going to add in some special B but I don't want to overcomplicate things. Should I sub the crystal with the special (never used special b before) or put both in?

Does anyone have any feedback/suggestions on how this may work? I did a search on Westmalle dubbel but most clone type threads referred to the tripel and were a few years old.


11/29/09 12:38 PM  
Re: Westmalle dubbel attempt - bitterness and colo
A nice med crystal (60 lovibond or so) and the special B addition makes for a good malt backbone along with some munich, and aromatic. I would probably keep the special B and crystal malt additions to a 1/2 # each and no more as you do want the beer to finish somewhat dry. Be careful on the black patent as a little goes a long way and you definitely don't want any roasted flavors in a dubbel, IMO.
11/29/09 03:03 PM  
Re: Westmalle dubbel attempt - bitterness and colo
Personally, I'd avoid black patent. BLAM lists pilsner, caramel, dark malt (for aroma), and dark candi sugar. When the D2 syrup came out, I thought this be closer to the syrup Westmalle uses, but after using it, I don't think so. It definatley darker than D, but not as complex in flavor. I'd try blending the D and D2 syrups if you are not set on making your own candi sugar. As for the dark malt, I like using chocolate wheat. Similar to debittered carafa, you get color without the astringent coffee like notes of black malt. I'd try about 2 oz per 5 gallons. For caramel, I like caraMunich wihich is in the 60L range as brewinhard recommends. I really like aromatic in my dubbels, I'll use about 1 lb per 5 gallons. If I use any biscuit, I sub that lb for lb for the aromatic.
11/29/09 04:37 PM  
Re: Westmalle dubbel attempt - bitterness and colo
The BLAM description is what I based my original recipe on but I'm sure the last one I had was somehow roastier.

The westmalle dubbel is not widely available near me but I'll try and get my hands on a few more and carry out an analysis using my nose and taste buds.

11/30/09 03:32 PM  
Re: Westmalle dubbel attempt - bitterness and colo
My dubbel is probably the most compelx grain bill that I use. In it I have special B, aromatic, pils/pale, full variety of caramunichs and viennas, and a smidge of carafa or choc malt. also a healthy chunk of german/belg munich malt.

I had always used dark solid candi sugars until recently trying the dark syrups. They seem good and complex too. I did use a 2 bottles split between D1 and D2.


12/01/09 01:14 AM  
Re: Westmalle dubbel attempt - bitterness and colo
I'm of the mindset that simple is best and while I'm yet to brew a perfect dubbel, each one is getting closer to where I want it.

Simple grain bill, decent candi sugar (I've had good results with homemade but have bought some commercial syrup to judge if there's a difference and if I can replicate the product), low mashing temp and ageing all seem to point towards a complex, malty, rich beer that avoids being cloying.

Obviously there's more than one way to brew a beer so if yours are turning out tasting how you want then you're doing something right.

12/02/09 04:47 AM  
Re: Westmalle dubbel attempt - bitterness and colo
Had another one tonight but got the bar guy to leave it out of the fridge while I drank 3 other beers.

Not as roasty/bitter as recent memory but definitely simple plus candy is on the path I reckon. A touch of special b and a touch of biscuit for my next one but let the yeast do its thing.

12/02/09 02:05 PM  
Re: Westmalle dubbel attempt - bitterness and colo
"Had another one tonight but got the bar guy to leave it out of the fridge while I drank 3 other beers."

LOL. So the tasting trade-off appears to be:

OPTION A: Receive beer too cold. Bitterness enhanced, sweetness subdued, many subtle flavors very muted.

OPTION B: After consuming 3 other hefty craft beers, receive beer at proper temp . . . temp-a . . .hey, it'sh pretty warm now. No, serioushly . . . I LIKESH ME SHOME DUBBEL (HIC)!


12/03/09 08:29 AM  
Re: Westmalle dubbel attempt - bitterness and colo
That's it. More study needs to be done.

Much more study.

Which may involve drinking.

I think I'm on the right train - I just need to work out which station I'm supposed to get off at and when.

12/31/09 12:21 AM  
Re: Westmalle dubbel attempt - bitterness and colo
Put something down yesterday.

Pils with a hint of dark crystal, special B and biscuit malt, bittered slightly higher (around 30) with Northern Brewer and hallertau. Waiting for high Krausen to add candi sugar (trying a commercial version this time to see how much it differs from my own).

12/31/09 08:51 AM  
Re: Westmalle dubbel attempt - bitterness and colo
Is that hard candi sugar or syrup? What crystal malt are you using? Any munich or vienna? The biscuit sounds like a nice addition. I brewed a belgian pale ale with .5# biscuit and really liked the malt in the finished product.

When adding the candi sugar I would think you could even add it just as primary begins to slow to be sure that the beer attenuates enough.

01/01/10 01:25 AM  
Re: Westmalle dubbel attempt - bitterness and colo
It's a syrup. Normally I make my own syrup but allow it to cool/set before I add it in. I want to see if it's worth the expense ($15 AUD as opposed to $2 AUD and a bit of time)

The crystal malt is just Joe White Dark Crystal (Australian 2 row malt).

I try and keep my Belgian trappist type attempts very simple using 90-95% pilsner malt and just building up a bit of colour and flavour with small amounts of spec malt. I'm hoping this will allow the yeast to shine through. Therefore I've avoided using any other base malts like vienna or munich.

I add biscuit malt into to a large number of my brews - it's got a superb toasty, nutty quality that I love. It's Dingemans so it is a Belgian spec malt and very much in place with this brew but I also use it in porters, stouts and brown ales too.

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