Don’t be shy about trying out more intense versions of this recipe—if you can produce it with more character malts, higher ABV, and more hops while still preserving its smooth and drinkable character, go for it. However, here’s a relatively easy-to-produce version that hits all the key points and minimizes your risk.
For more on nailing this style, see Make Your Best Belgian Dark Strong Ale.
Batch size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
Brewhouse efficiency: 72%
11 lb (4.9 kg) pilsner
3 lb (1.4 kg) Munich
4 oz (113 g) Special B
HOPS & ADDITIONS SCHEDULE
2 lb (907 g) Belgian dark candi syrup at first wort
2.5 oz (71 g) Hallertauer Hersbrucker at 20 minutes [28 IBUs]
0.5 oz (14 g) Styrian Goldings at flameout/whirlpool
Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey
Mill the grains and mash at 149°F (65°C) for 90 minutes. Add candi syrup to the kettle, but no heat. Recirculate until the runnings are clear, then run off into the kettle, allowing the warm wort to fully dissolve the candi syrup. Sparge and top up as necessary to get about 6 gallons (23 liters) of wort. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops according to the schedule. After the boil, chill to about 62°F (17°C), aerate thoroughly, and pitch the yeast. Ferment at 62°F (17°C) until visible activity begins, then increase by 1°F (~0.5°C) per day until you reach 70°F (21°C) and hold there. When fermentation is complete, crash the beer to 35°F (2°C), package, and carbonate to about 2.75 volumes of CO2.
We want a fully attenuated beer here, and that long, slow mash and ramped fermentation will help us get there. The yeast should do the heavy lifting; starting cool but promptly beginning the slow rise should encourage a full expression of fermentation characteristics to complement the complex dark-sugar flavors. These beers are best when the alcohol is noticeable but not hot and when the body is light—“digestible,” as the Belgians say.