In Praise of Big Beer Part 1

dubbel I’ve given a lot of love to small beers so far, so I think it’s only appropriate that I turn my attention to bigger beers for a minute.

I’ve been working on an Abbey Dubbel since late November. I added Belgian candi syrup and (probably too much) table sugar on day three of primary fermentation. I bottled in mid-December after three weeks of primary fermentation. The beer had dried out to 1.004, far lower than the style. The original gravity was 1.066 and added another 0.04 points with the candi syrup and about 0.05 from the table sugar, which puts the true original gravity at 1.075.

If those are correct, then the beer is 9.3% ABV.

The good news is that it doesn’t overwhelm with alcohol, so the fermentation was clean.

I let the beer carbonate for two weeks, which may not have been enough (and/or I didn’t use enough priming sugar). I’ve been lagering them in the fridge for the past two weeks, so it’s coming up on two months since I first brewed these.

And it’s been nice. I brewed at a breakneck pace in the fall: altogether eight batches between August and December, so on average twice a month. I’m sure this is pretty standard fare for a lot of homebrewers who are putting out much bigger volume (and probably souring/aging a good portion of their product), but it was a lot for me. It’s been nice to ring in 2015 by chilling out a bit and waiting for this big beer to come through. It’s also nice to have a winter sipper.

A couple of notes:

1. Carbonating in the bottle takes at least two weeks, maybe more with big beers. I’m guilty of wanting to try out my beer as soon as possible, but it’s usually best to give the beer time to carbonate. Sometimes even three weeks or more may be necessary.

2. Let the beer age cold. Lagering can help a lot of different beer styles, and it’s as easy as putting bottles in the fridge. I haven’t noticed all that much difference with this Dubbel, but I had a Rye Saison that really improved in the fridge post-carbonation.

3. This is a tentative recommendation because I want to see if this beer gets bubblier when I take it out of the fridge, but skew your priming sugar additions on the high end as long as you are sure the beer has attenuated to the final gravity. If the beer hasn’t fermented out completely and you add more sugar, it could lead to bottle bombs. That said, if you’re certain it’s fully attenuated, add priming sugar to get 2.5-2.7 volumes or so to ensure you get a nice bubbly beer.