Chop & Brew – Episode 12: Belgian Dark Strong Ales


Chop & Brew is joined once again by Wyeast brand manager Michael Dawson for a backyard brew session. The goal: a high-gravity Belgian Dark Strong Ale. We discuss what it takes to create a successful “big beer” while sampling a high-octane brew from Dawson’s homebrew cellar. Brewers, we’d love to hear your tips and techniques to high-gravity brewing. Leave a comment below this video. [Original postdate: September 4, 2013]


Dawson’s Belgian Dark Strong Ale 2013 [What we’re brewing in this episode.]

Dawson’s Belgian Dark Strong Ale 2011 [What we’re drinking in this episode.]

Wyeast Private Collection (changes quarterly)

Can’t find Wyeast 3822 Belgian Dark Strong Ale? Consider fermenting with Wyeast 3787 Trappist High-Gravity or Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes

Contribute to Chop & Brew: If you’d like to donate to the Chop & Brew efforts, you can now do so at this link.

C&B 12 on Vimeo (downloadable version)



  1. Let us know how the different versions come out! I did a small-batch Belgian quad this winter (very similar to Dawson’s 2011 recipe you link here) that I added tart cherry juice concentrate to during secondary. It came out with a little too much emphasis on the cherry juice (so far – we’ll see how it ages), but I blended half of it 50/50 with a smoked tripel that I did and aged the blend on cherry wood and it came out great. Half the fun with big Belgians like that is playing around with different additions, treatments, and blends! Another great episode, Chip!

      • I love me some cherry wood smoked malt 🙂 most of my fermentations aren’t the crazy but I do like doing split batches periodically and doing different secondary conditions. Blends are a good way to get a little extra variety too.

  2. Matt C

    Got a question Chip. When Dawson is mashing-in in this episode, is he not heating it up after he adds the grains to maintain temp, or is he just letting it ride out for the mash time. I’m moving from a cooler-style setup to a 15.5 gallon stainless kettle for my mash tun, and normally I just overshoot my strike water by 14 deg F over my mash temp, but am wondering if this method will still work with an uninsulated kettle. Thanks Chip/Dawson

    • I believe in this case he overshot temp for the bit he’d lose to grain and was able to let it ride pretty much. There is so much thermal mass that it holds temp pretty well as long as its not crazy cold outside. He may have goosed it a bit if needed and then of course he ramos up for mash-out. Uninsulated kettles are pretty good for mashing as long as it is not freezing outside or the mash is not real thin.

  3. Richard

    Loved this slightly tipsy episode, keep up the good work mate. From the British contingent of the Chop & Brew fan club.

  4. Gkhodge

    I liked it and I want more of it! Definitely hitting stride Mr. Walton – can’t wait on tasting notes down the road – but this beer will be a while gettin’ done. Keep up the excellently unscripted episodes.

  5. Bryan B.

    In Stan H.’s book “brew like a monk” when he refers to the brewers talking about “digestibility” I thought they were talking about making the wort more digestible to yeast, not the beer being more digestible to people.

    • Chris M.

      Just shooting from the hip here without doing much research, and going off my current knowledge base (Food Science and Technology major at Ohio State University with a semester before graduating that also studied pharmacy for a couple years before decided the beer industry is way cooler) but they may coincide with each other. Starch, whether in the human body or in the mash, needs to first be broken down into maltose, and other various short chain sugars since they are large carbon chains, or branched chains, that are indigestible without being broken down due to their size and conformation. Once a class of enzymes know as amylases (amylases can be found all throughout the human digestive system, and in the skins of grains used for brewing, but are not found in yeasts) hydrolyze (break apart) these starches into more manageable short chain sugars. Other enzymes, inherent to yeasts and humans, can come and turn these short carbons into storable energy for later use, such as fat and protein, or directly use them in metabolic systems for energy such as glycolysis or anaerobic fermentation. While this initial conversion done by amylases (starch->short sugars) makes the wort much more digestible (short sugars->CO2, ethanol, ect. depending on organism and conditions) to yeast since they don’t have any amylase to convert the starches into short chain sugars, it also makes digestion easier for humans due to the lack of a need to change the large starches into short sugar chains before making them utilizable. I guess in total it makes the wort “more” digestible to yeast but “more easily” digestible by humans. This doesn’t make a higher concentration of digestible metabolites in humans (aka “more” digestible), but it does skip a necessary step of converting the starch into short chain sugars, which is why I’m saying its “more easily” digestible since a previously necessary catabolic step is excluded. On the other hand it definitely makes the wort more digestible to yeast in a sense of higher concentration of viable metabolites since yeast dont contain amylases and in turn can turn unconverted starches into usable metabolites if the starch hasnt already been converted by the mash. OR maybe I’m completely wrong and didn’t do enough research on what was being asked, as I’ve never read Stan H’s explanation of the topic, nor did I do any additional research as to why this would be, other than using my perviously acquired knowledge.

  6. Peter W.

    Good show. Fun music. Looking forward to the “results” show

  7. Patrick

    Just curious how the Wyeast 3822 Belgian Dark Strong Ale performed on this beer? I brewed a 1.090 OG recipe last week. I oxygenated and pitched a healthy starter at 64F and it’s been raised slowly to the low 70s. After 7 days it was at 1.045. Is this similar to your experience with this yeast?

  8. eric

    Just rewatched this and I’d forgotten you guys were going to split this batch up after primary fermentation. Any update on how the separated 2.5 gallon versions turned out?

    • Dawson and I shot an update recently and I hope to release it as one of the next three of four episodes. Complete with a STEAK BREAK! Ah yeah.

      • eric

        Music to my ears, Chip Walton. Thanks for all the effort you put in on these and thanks for the response!

  9. Ryan O

    Loved the brew session! That’s what it’s all about; good food, good beer, good company!
    I decided this is going to be my Christmas beer, except instead of First Goldings I’m going to try my first year, home grown Centennials! Hope it turns out alright!

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