How to Brew Belgian Strong Golden Ale | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Last Updated: May 27, 2021

Belgian Strong Golden Ale on the surface looks innocent and rather unassuming. Pale in color, appealing aromas, well carbonated, and drinkable until its last sip.

Nevertheless, the Belgian Strong Golden Ale can sneak up on you and make you re-think what you have thought about Belgian beers all along. 

Jan-Leonard Moortgat

Moortgat Brewery in Breendonk was founded by Jan-Leonard Moortgat in 1871. Among 4,000 other breweries open for business at this time, this brewery did not stand out much.

It was very much like the other farmhouse breweries brewing mostly dark ales. Overtime, Jan-Leonard changed that and gained a following. 

Keeping the It in the Family

Moortgat handed over the brewery to his sons, Albert and Victor. At first the sons tried to make their mark by serving English style ales since they were the popular beer style at the time.

Albert’s dream was to create his own beer based on English ales.

In 1918, Moortgat Brewery released Victory ale to help celebrate the end of World War I. 

Making Their Mark

Albert Moortgat travled around the UK during 1918 searching for a yeast source that would help him create his own English inspired ale. His search did not go over very well with Belgian brewers or UK brewers for that matter.

The UK brewers claimed he was snooping around. In Scotland, Moortgat finally received a break and was able to procure a bottle of McEwan’s Scotch ale. 

Beer Stories (History)

Stories floated around about how Moortgat received that bottle of McEwan’s. Some have said that the bottle was taken without the brewer’s knowledge.

Some, such as beer writer Michael Jackson, claim that McEwan’s was being imported to Belgium at the time and that was how Albert gained his bottle. Jackson’s story tends to contradict what is written on Duvel website

Isolation

Jean de Clerck, a famous Belgian brewing scientist help Moortgat to analyze his 

Yeast. It was then that both men realized there were between ten to twenty different strains that were being used in this beer. The strain was isolated and a single strain was chosen. This strain was still being used by Duvel today.

The Devil

In 1923, a tasting session of the beer took place. A local shoemaker, Van De Wouwer, was so excited about this beer that he shouted, “Dit is een echte duivel” which translates to “This is the real devil.”

Obviously referring to the beers 8.5% alcohol kick.  

Style Profile for Belgian Strong Golden Ale 

Appearance

This beer should appear yellow to medium range gold. Good clarity and carbonation. A long lasting, tall, rocky clean white head is what is expected. The head will leave a noticeable lacing on the glass. 

Aroma

There is subtle malt character, fruity esters, spice phenols, and floral hop notes that make up this beer’s aroma. The fruity esters are flavors of orange, apple, and pear.

The spicy and peppery phenols will range from low-medium to medium. The malt character ranged from subtly sweet grain character to almost unnoticeable. The beer should not be perceived as hot. 

Flavor

Much like the aroma, the malt takes a back seat to the spicy phenols, fruity esters and the warming alcohol presence. Peppery phenols are low to medium with a somewhat higher level of fruity esters.

The fruit esters come across as orange, apple, and pear. Hop bitterness is moderate to high. The high level of carbonation in this style also contributes to the high perceived bitterness.

The beer will have low to moderate perceived alcohol. Beer is dry to very dry, with a slight bitterness in the aftertaste. 

Mouthfeel

Mouthfeel is light to medium. High carbonation. There should be some slight warming from the alcohol, but should not be perceived as hot. 

Food Pairings

When it comes to pairing a Belgian Stong Golden ale with food, think spicy foods. Salads made with spicer greens such as arugula, mustard greens, or dandelion.

Cajun, Indian, and Thai foods work well alongside this style as well. Fish and seafood work well also. Desserts that are made with pears, apples, and even peaches work well with this style. 

Tips for Brewing your own Belgian Strong Golden Ale 

Grain

A good quality pilsner malt is used for the grain bill for this style. Sometimes only pilsner malt and dextrose sugar is used; Duvel is known for doing just that.

Sometimes brewers have used pilsner malt along with wheat, pale malt, Vienna, Aromatic, or Munich malt. Adding these malts will make the beer heavier. 

Hops

The hop profile for this style is rather assertive. German noble varieties such as Tettenag, Saaz, Hallertauer, and Spalt. All of these choices give off a nice floral, spicy notes that work well with the soft lager-character of this beer style.

Also you can consider Styrian Golding, Mount Hood, Liberty, Brewer’s Gold, Fuggles, Santiam, and East Kent Goldings. 

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 Strong Golden Ale By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 3 – 6 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.070 – 1.095 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.005 – 1.016 FG
  • IBU Range: 22 – 35
  • ABV Range: 7.5 – 10.5% 

Martin Keen’s Belgian Strong Golden Ale Recipe

Grain

  • 85%         12 lbs     Pilsner Belgian
  • 15%          2 lb        Corn Sugar (Dextrose) 

Hops

  • 1 oz         Stryian Goldings – Boil – 60 min
  • 1 oz         Saaz- Boil – 15 min

Yeast

  • 1.0 pkg   Wyeast Belgian Strong Ale #1388

Directions:

  1. Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins
  2. Boil for 60 mins 

Transcript: Today I’m brewing the golden devil, the beer to fear. A beer that looks innocent on first appearances, but hides a devilish kick. Let’s brew, a Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

Hello, I’m Martin Keen taking The Homebrew challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. This is beer of the day, Belgian golden strong. Now, yeah, this is a beer that just from appearances alone looked very unassuming. It’s light golden in color. It’s got a very fizzy appearance, a dry mouth feel.

It’s not until you take a sip that you realize what’s hidden inside, which is a tremendous amount of alcohol. So to get that, I have a pretty large grainbill, but a very simple one. I will come on to talk about what’s in here in a moment, but for now I’m going to be mashing this at 152 Fahrenheit that is 67 Celsius.

Um, I’ve really ground this up. So because I’m using a brew in the bag system, I’m able to have quite a fine crush, and I’m really wanting to make sure that I get full conversion out of this. So it will be mashing for at least an hour. I’ll just keep an eye on it, maybe even a little bit longer. All right. Let’s recirculate.

Recipe design. This is a beer with quite a high ABV around 9%. So going to have quite a high original gravity of 1.078. Now often before recording their segments to camera I’m on my phone, trying to memorize the recipe and the percentages, not too much of a challenge today, because the only thing that went into the mash was a single grain Belgian pilsner.

But that’s not the only fermentable ingredient. Now, some of the most well-known Belgian golden strong styles like Duval, they use pilsner malt and they combine it with sugar dextrose in particular.

And in this style, you’re always going to want to introduce sugar, to add a little bit more alcohol without adding any body to the beer.

So what I’m actually doing here is I’m using 85% of Belgium Pilsner and the remaining 15% is coming in the form of dextrose, which I’ll be adding into the boil.

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Now for all of my beer taps, I’m using Nuka taps, these a forward sealing similar to Perlick. Um, but they have a lot of advantages. I love the fact for example, that I can switch out a regular tap force it for one that supports nitro, despite unscrewing something on it. Um, and key from kegland has sent me a new, Nukatap, this one with flow control.

So I’ll quite often bring a keg with me when we have these outdoor neighborhood gatherings. And really, I just want to bring the keg. I don’t want have to bring my CO2 as well.

So I just typically bring this with a good amount of pressure in it. And then over the course of time, as, as it keeps getting poored out and the pressure gets lower and lower, so it starts off really foamy and then sort of calms down a little bit.

Um, but now I can actually control that. So what I’ve got here is a keg that is charged to 10 PSI. That’s my normal serving pressure out of my beer taps. Now, if I try to run beer at 10 PSI through just this little attachment here regularly, I’m going to end up with a lot of foam because I don’t have any beer lines that’s reducing that pressure before it ends up getting glass.

However, now hopefully with this flow contorl, I can handle that situation. Exactly. So let’s, let’s give it a try. So what I’m going to do is first of all, open the tap and I have this flow control set to basically closed. So when I open this tap just a dribble, almost nothing coming out here.

And then as I adjust the flow control, I can control how much beer comes out. So the dribble, if I want it faster, or if I fully open it, well, then I’m going to get a glass of foam, but this gives me much more control.

And basically as the keg drains over time, and the pressure is reduced over time, I can just open this more and more in order to get the perfect pour.

This most definitely is not, but it still tastes good.

Low alpha acid Noble hops are really what we want to aim for when it comes to adding hops to this beer. Duval uses styrian golding and saaz hops. That’s what I’m going to use as well. So I’m going to be adding in at the start of the boil, Styrian Golding and then adding saaz in with 15 minutes to go. And I am just boiling now.

So I’m going to put these in this will get me an IBU of around 22. And then as the boil is just about to finish, that is when I’m going to be adding in my corn sugar. So this will go in with just a couple of minutes to go and help bump up the gravity.

Transferred my three gallons into my spike fermentor flex plus, um, I hit my original gravity number, so that’s good. And now I’m going to add in my yeast.

Well, I’m going to be using here is wyeast 1388 to this is Belgium Strong Ale.

And I’ll be fermenting this at about 70 Fahrenheit or 21 Celsius.

This has got to stop. Yeah, I know. Like we don’t have a lot of clothes in common, but apparently this shirt is like the go-to shirt color.

It’s the tasting shirt. So speaking of tastings, we are in just a golden age of tasting for me right now. Pun very much intended. Last week was the Saison, which was glorious. Right? Phenomenal. Just fantastic. I love that style and that one was great.

Um, I also really love this style of Belgian golden strong too can’t wait to try this one as well. Okay. Now, is it living up to its name of golden?

I think it is. It’s looking pretty golden to me. It’s got that yellow hue to it. I smell, well was going to be awful to say, I don’t know how to put it, but I smell the Belgiany in it.

Belgiumy? Okay. Smells Belgium. No, I know exactly what you mean. All right. Let’s, let’s get into this. This has been sitting in the keg conditioning for five weeks and I have been tempted so many times to just run over and have a quick taste. That was genuinely my first taste of this, which most of them are, they mostly are.

We’re not cheating. Right. We sit here and this is our first go at it. So, so what do you make of this one? Um, is it a, uh, a Belgium-y taste as well? Yeah.

Like I get very slight taste of little bit of fruit. It’s like a little bit of orange.

Sort of citrusy orange. Yeah. I think that, or para Apple is sort of typical for the style. Um, this isn’t like orange juice orange. No, but it is, uh, just sort of subtle, subtle tones of fresh fruit. Yeah.

Now you, uh, often asked me in these shoots, what’s the alcohol percentage? Yeah. Always, always. Then I always cut that bit out because I never remember it. No. Um, I do know what the alcohol percentage is this time. I want you to tell me what you think the alcohol percentage is.

I want to say that this is a 6.2

6.275? 6.275. 6.275 is incorrect.

So what is it? 8.5 Holy. It is. Can you believe this is 8.5%?

Oh, well thank you for watching. Uh, the recipe is down in the description. Everything you want to purchase for this kit is at Atlantic brew supply.

And next week what we got?

Yeah, next week we’re moving into, well, I said, this is a golden age. My goodness. Now we’re moving into Trappist ales next week. So bring it on. You told them I didn’t say which style. Oh, wow.

On that note. Cheers. Cheers.

I am the 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.