How to Brew Belgian Dubbel

by Steve Thanos Updated on June 15, 2021 Belgian Beer Brewing Recipes

Belgian Dubbels were created by Belgian monks at the Westmalle Monastery near Antwerp in 1856. This beer was stronger version that the monks drank. 


Characteristics of a Belgian Dubbel

Belgian dubbel are characteristically known for being dark brown in color and contain a strong dark fruit flavor which includes: raisins, prunes, and dates. The color of a Dubbel does not come from any roasted malts. 

These colors and flavors are both the result of heavy addition of highly caramelized beer sugar, which ferments into alcohol. This also lightens the body of the beer and dries out the beer.

The beet sugar is also a contributor of maillard flavors which include: chocolate, caramel, and nuttiness that a Belgain dubble is known for. 

A True Trappist Ale

After the French Revolution, Trappist monasteries reestablished themselves and once again began their brewing traditions. A Belgian Dubbel is only considered Trappist if the monks either brew the beer themselves or supervise the production of the beer. 

If a brewery is brewing the beer without the monk’s supervision, the beer is considered to be a Belgian-style, but not Trappist.

The Trappists received their name from the region where they were founded. The first monastery, La Trappe, which is actually located in Northwest France. 

Style Profile for Belgian Dubbel

Appearance

Belgian dubbels are dark amber to copper in color. Generally, this beer is clear. A large, dense, long-lasting head sits on top with an off-white color.

Aroma

Rich, sweet malty aroma with hints of chocolate, caramel, and/or toast. Never should the aroma come across as roasted or burnt. Fruity esters that come across as raisin, plums, and dried cherries are noticeable.

Esters sometimes include banana or apple.

Spicy phenols will include such notes as: light clove, spice, peppery. Low to no hop aroma. If it is present, hints of herbal or florbal hop aroma is common. Alcohol supports the esters and malty sweetness. 

Flavor

The flavors are similar to the aroma. Rich and complex, the flavor of a dubbel is malt forward. Complex malt flavor, esters, alcohol, phenol all play harmoniously.

Medium-low bitterness that does not last in the aftertaste. Low spicy, floral, or herbal hop flavor is possible, but not always present. 

Mouthfeel

Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied. Medium-high carbonation. Beer should have noticeable low alcohol warmth, but never hot. 

Food Pairings

When it comes to pairing a Belgian dubbel, a contrast in flavors helps with this beer and food pairing. A grilled skirt steak with a chimichurri sauce, a good cheeseburger with bacon jam, and Korean-style tacos.

Cheese that pairs well includes: Aged Chevre, Colby,Gorgonzola,Triple Creme, Asiago, Gontina, and Parmesan. Dark chocolates also pair well. 

Tips for Brewing your own Belgian Dubbel

Grain

This complex grist starts with Maris Otter and Belgian Pils malt. This sound give the beer a nice grainy/bready backbone that this beer deserves.

Now comes the onslaught of specialty malt;  a pound of Munich 10L, Red Wheat, and Victory malt. Also, add a half pound of Special B and Carapils.

I am not done yet. One to two ounces of Black Patent will be added for some color.

Finally, twelve ounces of Belgian dark candi syrup should be added. In order not to burn the candi syrup, take your kettle off the flame and stir. 

Hops

Since the hop profile for this style is pretty important, choose your hops wisely. Usually German noble hop varieties are used for a Belgian Dubbel. Using hops such as Hallertau or Styrian Goldings is fairly safe.

Usually the hop schedule will look like Styrian Goldings at 60 min. (5 IBUs’ worth), a half ounce of Styrian Goldings at 20 minutes. At the end, you should end up with around 23-24 IBUs.  

Yeast

Like most Belgian beers, yeast is important. There is a wide selection of yeast to choose from for this style.

They include the following:

  • White Labs: Belgian Golden Ale  (WLP570), Belgian Ale (WLP550), or Abbey IV Ale (WLP540).
  • Wyeast: Wyeast Belgian Strong Ale (1388), Belgian Ardennes (3522), or Trappist Style High Gravity (3787).
  • Dry Yeast: Mangrove Jack Belgian Ale M41 or SafBrew Abbaye BE-256.

Belgian Dubbel By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 10 – 17 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.062 – 1.075 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.018 FG
  • IBU Range: 15 – 25
  • ABV Range: 6.0 – 7.6% 

Martin Keen’s Belgian Dubbel Recipe

Grain

  • 67%           9 lbs     2-Row Belgian Pale Malt
  •   7%           1 lb       Carapils
  •   7%           1 lb       Caranienne Malt
  •   7%           1 lb       Red Wheat Malt
  •   4%           8 oz      Aromatic Malt
  •   8%           1 lb       Candi Sugar, D-90 (Boil)

Hops

  • 1 oz         Hallertauer Hersbrucker – Boil – 60 min
  • 1 oz         Stryian Goldings – Boil – 10 min

Yeast

  • 1.0 pkg   Belgian Ale Yeast Wyeast #1214

Directions

  • Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins
  • Boil for 60 mins 

Transcript: My friends at claw hammer supply have sent me something new for my brew kettle. That gives me the opportunity to try an experiment with an overnight mash. As I brew a Belgian Dubbel.

My name is Martin Keen taking the Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. And I am revisiting the idea of an overnight mash. I really like this because it splits the brew day up into two manageable chunks.

On day one, you have the initial mash, which really doesn’t take very long at all. You just set it and forget it.

And then the next day you’ve got your already mashed wort ready for the boil. But the way that I’m going to address this today is with a bit of a different method.

The way I usually do this is with my trusty temperature controller. I set the temperature I want the mash to stay at, and then the heating element is cycled on and off by this controller to keep the mash at that temperature.

And let me tell you, it works really well. I’ve tried it overnight. Next morning, I was exactly the mash temperature I wanted to be. And I’ve even tried it over the course of, I think was it three days when I was kettle souring a beer. Worked like a charm.

But today I’m not going to use the temperature controller to maintain my temperature overnight. I’m going unplugged.

So let’s talk about the style of Belgian Dubbel because it’s such a wonderfully complex Abbey ale. It potentially can have all sorts of malt flavors. You might have burnt sugar, citrus, dark fruit, clove, all sorts of stuff that can be in there.

And the beer that I’m brewing today has an original gravity of hopefully 1.069. And it will be around about a 7% beer.

Now this is a somewhat complex tasting beer. It comes with a somewhat complex grist. The basemalt for this making up 67% of my mash is to row Belgium pale malt. And to that I am adding 7% of Cara Pils, 7% of Caravienna and 7% of wheat malt.

In addition, I have 4% of aromatic malt and then the remaining fermentable sugars, well, they are coming from dark Belgium, candy syrup, D-90, that makes up 8%.

Now, if I just left my kettle here in the basement overnight, while the ambient temperature in here is not warm and it’s going to cool fairly rapidly, I think.

So that is where this insulation jacket comes in. So this is a neoprene jacket is designed for the 10 gallon kettle from Clawhammer supply. And it’s nice and easy to put on. It’s just a little bit of velcro. Let’s get it on now.

So I’ve just got this Velcro seal here. Close it up. There we go. Jacket installed.

Now it does come with a bottom as well, which is just loose. So you’ve put this on the table and make sure that we’re not going to lose any heat through transference into this table here. Okay. This is a ready to make beer.

Now I’ve preheated my strike water to 158 Fahrenheit. So about 70 Celsius. I’m actually mashing at 152. That’s my main mash temperature or 67 Celsius, but I’m adding these not hot grains into the water should cool it down somewhat. So let’s get these in.

Now this idea of overnight mashing. Well, it’s not really the primary intended purpose for this jacket. What this is really is intended for is 120 volt systems. Mine is 240 volt, um, but just being able to more easily get to a mash temperature and then maintain a rigorous boil.

Having this insulation around it should help speed up those times.

Now claw hammer tells me that this neoprene material is really easy to keep clean the way he’s been doing it. Just tossing it into the washing machine. He says, he’s put his in the washing machine 10 times and it’s come out looking great. So nice and easy to maintain.

I’ve taken over the temperature now it has dropped to 152. I’ve given it a really good stir. So now I’m going to put the lid on. Now, the lid itself doesn’t have any installation with it. It also has this big gaping hole here. I’m just going to plug in my hose to the pump, even though I’m not the pump, just to block that off and stop air getting in.

And that is the other point. This is a recirculating brew in the bag system, and I’m going to be doing no recirculating for this mash. I’m literally just going to leave this in here and tomorrow I’m going to come back, take a gravity reading and a temperature reading, and see where we are.

Good morning. So while I’ve been sleeping, my mash tun has been mashing. So how did it do?

Well for the first hour, I took temperature readings every 10 minutes. So we started out at 152 Fahrenheit and 10 minutes later, the temperature had dropped to 151 Fahrenheit, 20 minutes in, well, now we were at 149 Fahrenheit and 30 minutes at 148 Fahrenheit.

So we’ve lost four degrees in 30 minutes. Now most of the mash conversion does happen in that first 20 or 30 minutes. So during that period, I was mashing between 152 and 148. Pretty good. I came down this morning to see that I’m down to just under 86 degrees.

But how did I do with conversion? Well, I have taken a gravity reading and Beersmith tells me that I should be at 10 56 as my expected pre boil gravity based on my use of efficiency with the system. I’m at 10 54. That’s close enough for me. So now I’m going to pull out the grains and go straight into the boil this morning.

While I heat up to boil temperature, let me talk about the hop schedule for this. Going to be using two hops. So for my bittering hop, I’m going to be using Hallertaue hersbrucker. This is relatively low alpha acid, actually pretty low alpha for us. We’re not really looking for a lot of hop bite in this beer. So this will go in at the start.

Then with 10 minutes to go. That is when I am going to my old favorite Styrian Golding. I’ve been using that in so many Belgian beers.That will go in with 10 minutes to go, and that’s also the time that I’ll be adding in my candy b syrup.

Well transferred in to my fermentor. And I took a gravity sample. I’m at 10 70. It’s really where I want it to be. I was looking at 10 69. So this has worked out pretty well.

I think what will be interesting is to check on the final gravity of this beer, because sometimes when you mash up lower temperatures, you end up with a dryer beer. So a lower final gravity we shall see. But we’re not going to have any gravity at all until we add one more thing. That is the yeast.

So I am using here Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey style ale. And I’m going to let this one get as warm as about 70 Fahrenheit or 21 Celsius.

You know, there’s a lot to be said for the fact that it’s 8:00am right now and I’m done with my brew day…. (minus the cleaning!)

What would you say your most favorite descriptor has been on the recent beer tastings? Oh, um, malty-biscotti. I feel like a complex is coming. Complex yet. The last couple of ones we’ve had probably last like seven to 10 have all been quite complex. So yeah. I gotta say we probably using that a lot. Yeah.

I think this is, this is possibly going to hit the, that as well. I can see what we think about the color of this. Ooh. Yeah. Look at that. Well, that is definitely different to the single, because I feel like that was more golden yellow.

I’m not good with color names, but is this Ruby? Yeah, kinda. I was gonna say it looked like cranberry juice, cranberries is a color? I don’t know. Dark red, yellow, orange, complex colors. Oh the colors are complex, were in for a treat today.

Okay. I’m getting a little bit of Belgian sweetness, I think. All right, let’s try it.

Ooh, Ooh. Ooh. What does that mean? Ooh. Um, Ooh. It tastes quite nice strong, but it tastes very, very smooth. Yeah. Smooth it’s um, definitely got that malt sort of character to it. Yeah. Smooth, smooth character to very smooth.

And I do taste a bit of the sweetness, um, but also dry as well. I may saying sweet and dry, uh, to the opposite ends of the spectrum, but I think I’m getting sweetness from the maltiness, but yeah, it is a dry finish. Tastes a bit like fruity, but not like a crazy is more like an apricot kind of tastes.

That makes any sense? Yeah. I think the style is supposed to support sort of dried fruit kind of. So I think with the last week’s beer, the single we thought it was maybe a bit of sort of citrusy flavors to it. This is not that right?

This is, this is a yeah. More of a dried fruit things like, Hey, you said apricot. I can see that. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with this one. I think for the style has come out, right the money. Yep. I agree. This is definitely one that I would probably have another one of these later.

And on that note, if you’d like to have a go at brewing this yourself, this description has the recipe and, uh, yeah, it was staying with the Belgian Trappist style ales for next week. But, uh, uh, next week is a special one for me until then, cheers!

Steve Thanos: Former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.