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Belgian Golden Strong Ale: A Comprehensive Guide to the Flavorful Brew

Belgian Golden Strong Ale is a unique beer style that has gained popularity among beer enthusiasts and homebrewers alike. This pale, fruity, and complex ale boasts a deceivingly high alcohol content, often making it a delightful and surprising choice for those who enjoy Belgian beers. Origins of this ale can be traced back to Belgian brewing traditions, where innovative techniques and quality ingredients are used to create flavors that continue to captivate drinkers today.

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The brewing process of Belgian Golden Strong Ale involves using specific strains of yeast that produce distinctive fruity esters and spicy, peppery phenols. The addition of certain types of hops contributes to the beer’s characteristic floral aroma, while other ingredients, such as sugars, help to create a dry and highly attenuated finish. This combination of ingredients and techniques results in a beer that incorporates the best of Belgian brewing tradition while setting itself apart as a distinct style.

Key Takeaways

  • Belgian Golden Strong Ale is a pale, fruity, and complex beer style with high alcohol content.
  • Unique yeast strains and specific hops contribute to its characteristic flavors and aromas.
  • This beer style embodies the innovative techniques and high-quality ingredients used in Belgian brewing traditions.


The Moortgat Brewery, founded in 1871, has played a pivotal role in the development of Belgian Golden Strong Ale. Originally, the brewery focused on producing dark ales, a common practice among Belgian countryside and farmhouse brewers at the time. However, in 1918, to celebrate the end of World War I, Moortgat brewed a beer called “Victory Ale,” which was a hefty and dark concoction.

In their quest for perfection, Moortgat’s Albert Moortgat traveled to the UK to obtain a yeast source that would bring the brewery closer to its ambition of creating an ideal English ale. The result of this search was a new creation: a devil in disguise, known as the Belgian Strong Golden Ale.

Not long after, an esteemed brewing scientist, Jean De Clerck, contributed to the evolution of the Belgian Golden Strong Ale in two separate ventures spanning decades. His work led to the development of Duvel, a beer that became a style-defining example and introduced the world to the wonders of Belgian ale.

Belgian Golden Strong Ales are characterized by their complex aromas and flavors. They often exhibit fruity esters reminiscent of pears, oranges, or apples, along with moderate spiciness and low to moderate alcohol and hop aromas. Some versions may also have a distinctive, perfumy, floral hop character.

Over time, Belgian Golden Strong Ales have become a popular and respected style, celebrated for their deceptively simple and refreshing taste, while packing a powerful, stealthy punch. Led by the efforts of the Moortgat Brewery and visionaries such as Jean De Clerck and Jan-Leonard Moortgat, this style has carved out its place in the world of beers and continues to captivate drinkers worldwide.

Key Ingredients


The primary malt used in Belgian Golden Strong Ales is Pilsner malt. This malt serves as the backbone of the beer, providing a clean and neutral base for the rich and complex flavors of this beer style. Pilsner malt is known for its light color and delicate, bready flavor.

Belgian Golden Strong Ales often contain around 12 pounds of Pilsner malt, which helps achieve the desired alcohol strength and body without adding too much malt character. The malt is usually standard Pilsner malt, not the floor-malted variety, which is richer and more complex. The choice of standard Pilsner malt helps to maintain the clean and crisp flavor profile typical of this beer style.

These beers usually have a high attenuation, which means the yeast ferments a large percentage of the sugar, resulting in a dryer, less malty beer. The high attenuation of Belgian Golden Strong Ales ensures a lighter body and a smooth, easily drinkable style.

Yeast and Fermentation

Belgian Yeast Strains

Belgian Golden Strong Ales are known for their unique yeast character, which contributes to their complex flavor profile, characterized by fruity esters and peppery phenols. A variety of yeast strains can be used to achieve the desired characteristics in this style. Some popular options include:

  • Safbrew: A dry yeast option that provides a balanced profile of fruity esters and peppery phenols.
  • Wyeast: Belgian High Gravity (3787), Belgian Abbey Style Ale II (1762), Belgian Ardennes (3522), and Belgian Strong Ale (1388) are some Wyeast strains suitable for brewing Belgian Golden Strong Ales. These strains are known for their high attenuation, phenolic character, and ability to handle high alcohol concentrations.
  • White Labs: This brand offers various Belgian yeast strains, with options like WLP570 (Belgian Golden Ale Yeast) and WLP500 (Trappist Ale Yeast) being popular choices for brewing this style.

There are many factors that affect fermentation performance and the resulting flavor profile of Belgian Golden Strong Ales. These factors include wort oxygenation, yeast pitch rate, fermentation temperature, original gravity, nutrient level, and simple sugar content. It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for each yeast strain and adjust these factors as needed.

A typical recommendation for fermentation temperature is to start the fermentation process at a relatively low temperature (around 60-63°F or 15-17°C) and allow it to rise naturally as the fermentation progresses. This temperature range helps to promote the production of fruity esters and suppress the creation of undesirable off-flavors. After the primary fermentation is completed, it’s crucial to allow sufficient time for conditioning and maturation, typically at a lower temperature, to ensure the beer develops a clean, smooth character.

Hops and Bitterness

Belgian Golden Strong Ales are known for their complex flavor, and one of the essential elements contributing to this complexity is the hops used. Hops not only provide aroma but also bitterness, which is crucial for balancing the fruity and spicy flavors in these beers. In this section, we will focus on one particular hop variety commonly found in Belgian Golden Strong Ales: Saaz Hops.

Saaz Hops

Saaz Hops are a traditional hop variety originating from the Czech Republic, well-known for their unique and slightly spicy aroma. These hops are typically used in Belgian Golden Strong Ales due to their ability to contribute a delicate hop bitterness without overpowering the fruity and spicy characteristics of the beer. Their low alpha acid content (usually between 2% to 5%) helps to maintain a balanced bitterness in the final product.

When evaluating the bitterness level of a Belgian Golden Strong Ale, it’s essential to consider the role of International Bitterness Units (IBUs). The IBU scale measures the bitterness in a beer caused by hops and other bitter compounds. For this style, bitterness generally ranges from 22 to 35 IBUs, providing enough balance to the beer without being overly bitter.

In practice, Belgian Golden Strong Ales tend to have a hop bitterness level between 20 and 38 IBUs. This range ensures a harmonious marriage of fruity, spicy, and alcohol flavors, supported by a soft malt character. The use of Saaz Hops not only contributes to the balanced bitterness but also enhances the beer’s ester profile, adding notes of pears, oranges, or apples.

Other Ingredients


In a Belgian Golden Strong Ale, the addition of sugar plays a significant role in achieving the desired flavor profile and light body. The sugar not only increases the alcohol content but also helps to create a dry finish and enhance the fruity esters that are characteristic of this beer style.

One common sugar used in Belgian Golden Strong Ales is Belgian Candi Sugar. This sugar is made from sugar beet juice and comes in various colors, depending on its level of caramelization. In this style, the lightest variety is often used. Belgian Candi Sugar can contribute a distinct taste and help to boost the fermentation process in the beer, giving it the desired high alcohol level without adding body or residual sweetness.

Another option is Dextrose sugar, also known as corn sugar. This sugar is a simple, easily fermentable sugar that is less likely to add any noticeable flavor to the beer. It helps to lighten the body and create the desired dry finish.

Cane Sugar is another alternative that can be used in brewing Belgian Golden Strong Ale. It is similar to dextrose, but it’s derived from sugarcane rather than corn. Like dextrose, it’s highly fermentable and contributes to a lighter body and drier finish.

Some brewers choose to use Honey as a sugar source in their Belgian Golden Strong Ales. Honey adds a subtle complexity and flavor to the beer while still providing the desired fermentable sugars. The type of honey used can further vary the flavor nuances.

Brewing Process


The mashing process for Belgian Golden Strong Ale involves using a combination of Belgian Pilsner Malt, Belgian Cara 8 Pils Malt, Biscuit, and Belgian Candi Sugar. This malt mixture is important to achieve the desired color, flavor, and aroma of this strong, pale Belgian style beer.

For an all-grain mash, start by heating water to a temperature of around 150°F – 152°F (65°C – 67°C). Add your crushed grains and maintain this temperature for about 60 minutes to allow the enzymes to convert the starches into fermentable sugars. Make sure to stir the mash occasionally to ensure proper conversion. After the mashing time has elapsed, drain the wort from the grains, sparge with additional hot water to extract any remaining sugars, and collect the wort in your brew kettle.


Now that you’ve collected the wort, it is time to start the boiling process. Bring the wort to a rolling boil and add the hop additions, typically using Saaz hops or a similar variety. The boil should last for approximately 60 to 90 minutes; this allows for bittering, flavor, and aroma hop additions at different intervals during the boil. Keep an eye on your boil to prevent any boil-overs and to ensure a consistent heat.

Hopping schedule example:

TimeHop VarietyWeight
60 minutesSaaz1 oz
15 minutesSaaz0.5 oz
5 minutesSaaz0.5 oz

Pay attention to the level of bitterness desired for your Belgian Golden Strong Ale, measured in IBUs (International Bittering Units). The hop variety and weight can be adjusted to achieve the desired level of bitterness, typically ranging from 20 to 40 IBUs for this style.

Don’t forget to add Irish Moss or another fining agent during the last 15 minutes of the boil. This helps improve the clarity of your finished beer.


The aroma of a Belgian Golden Strong Ale should have a complex blend of fruit, herbs, and flowers. This is achieved by using a specific yeast strain, suitable for Belgian beers, that contributes esters and phenols to the aroma profile. You can either use a liquid yeast culture or a dry yeast.

Once the boil is complete, it’s essential to rapidly cool the wort down to the appropriate fermentation temperature, ideally between 64°F and 72°F (18°C – 22°C), before pitching your yeast. This helps prevent the formation of off-flavors and ensures proper yeast activity during fermentation. Ferment for approximately 2 weeks, or until the desired attenuation and alcohol levels are reached, usually ranging from 7.5% to 10.5% ABV.

Remember to always maintain proper sanitization practices and temperature control throughout the brewing process to ensure the highest quality Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

Characteristics of Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Flavor and Aroma

Belgian Golden Strong Ales are known for their complex flavors and aromas. They often exhibit fruity esters reminiscent of lighter fruits such as pears, oranges, or apples, combined with a moderate spiciness from Belgian yeast and peppery phenols. This results in a highly-attenuated and dry finish, with low to moderate hop bitterness.


A Belgian Golden Strong Ale typically has a yellow to medium-gold color, showcasing good clarity and effervescent carbonation. This style has a white, long-lasting, and rocky head that distinguishes it from other beer styles.


The mouthfeel of Belgian Golden Strong Ale is generally characterized by a medium to light body with high levels of carbonation. This effervescence contributes to the overall perception of the beer, despite its higher ABV, which often hovers around the 8.5% to 10% range. The carbonation enhances the sensation of a dry finish and slightly warms the mouth, owing to the alcohol content, without overpowering the overall taste and experience.

Recipe Development

Developing a recipe for a Belgian Golden Strong Ale requires an understanding of its basic characteristics. This ale is typically pale in color, boasting appealing aromas, high carbonation levels, and a drinkability that keeps you coming back for more.

To create a flavorful Belgian Golden Strong Ale, the foundation lies in selecting the right ingredients. Start by choosing 12 pounds of Pilsner malt as your base and avoid floor-malted variations. The goal is to acquire minimal malt character in the final product.

For the mashing process, a single step infusion is preferred. Begin by heating 18 quarts of water at 149°F (65°C) for a 60-minute duration followed by a 169°F (76°C) temperature for an additional 10 minutes. This temperature-controlled process helps achieve the desired profile of the golden strong ale.

The boiling stage consists of a 90-minute boil, during which hops are added at specified intervals. Use 2 ounces of Styrian Golding hops with 60 minutes left on the timer. This particular hop variety aids in achieving the desired bitterness level, estimated around 35 IBUs.

Additionally, include 2.5 pounds of Simplicity (clear) Belgian Candi Syrup during the last 15 minutes of the boil. This sugar addition contributes to the ale’s light and drinkable nature while raising the ABV to approximately 8.4%.

Upon completing the boil, cool and aerate the wort before adding yeast. Opt for a suitable yeast strain capable of fermenting at a higher temperature, around 79°F (26°C). Allow fermentation to take place for seven days.

When it comes to recipe development for a Belgian Golden Strong Ale, following these steps and ingredient choices sets you up for success in crafting a delicious, authentic, and balanced rendition of this classic style.

Special Considerations

Fermentation Temperature

When brewing a Belgian Golden Strong Ale, it is important to carefully consider the fermentation temperature. This is because the yeast will produce various flavor compounds, such as esters and phenolics, that can significantly contribute to the overall character of the beer. Start fermentation at a temperature between 64-68°F (18-20°C), and then gradually increase it to around 72-75°F (22-24°C) to ensure complete attenuation and prevent off-flavors. This temperature range will promote the production of fruity esters while maintaining a balance of spicy phenolics.

BJCP Style Guide

According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guide for Belgian-Style Golden Strong Ale, the following characteristics are expected:

  • Color Range: This style’s appearance should fall within a pale to deep gold color range, with a typically clear and bright look. The SRM (Standard Reference Method) value should be between 3 and 6.

  • IBU Range: The International Bittering Units (IBU) for a Belgian Golden Strong Ale should range from 22 to 35 IBUs. This bitterness level helps balance the sweetness from the malt and sugar while providing a soft and rounded finish.

  • ABV Range: The alcohol by volume (ABV) for this category should be relatively high, typically falling between 7.5% and 10.5%. Despite its strength, these beers are meant to be deceptively smooth and approachable, without any harsh alcoholic flavors.

Commercial Examples and Food Pairings

Commercial Examples

A few notable commercial examples of Belgian Golden Strong Ales include Duvel, which is one of the most famous and widely recognized examples of this beer style. Other noteworthy examples are Victory Ale, Mangrove Jack, and McEwan’s Scotch Ale. In addition, North Coast Brewing Co. offers their Pranqster Belgian-style ale, while Brooklyn Brewery presents their Brooklyn Local 1. Another great example is Treachery by 12Degree Brewing, which also showcases the style’s unique characteristics.

Food Pairings

Belgian Golden Strong Ales are versatile when it comes to food pairings, thanks to their fruity and complex nature. The following are some recommended pairings for these delightful brews:

  • Seafood: Beer battered fried shrimp makes for an excellent pairing, as the Belgian Ale’s biscuity notes and hints of noble hops complement the flavors of the fried seafood.
  • Cheeses: Pair these ales with triple creme cheeses, which will enhance the beer’s fruity and complex profile while contrasting with its higher ABV.
  • Desserts: Baklava is another ideal pairing for Belgian Golden Strong Ales, as the beer’s fruity esters and mild hop bitterness are a perfect match for the sweet and nutty flavors of this Mediterranean dessert.

Keep in mind that the above pairings are merely suggestions, and you are encouraged to experiment with different combinations to find the best match for your palate. The complex flavors and aromas of Belgian Golden Strong Ales make them a versatile choice for a wide variety of dishes, so don’t be shy to try new pairings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key ingredients in a Belgian Golden Strong Ale?

A Belgian Golden Strong Ale typically contains a base of pale malts, sugar to enhance alcohol content and lighten the body, and Belgian yeast strains that produce fruity esters and spicy phenols. Hops may be used for moderate bitterness, and Belgian candi sugar is often added for sweetness and color adjustment.

How does the flavor profile of this ale differ from other Belgian ales?

Belgian Golden Strong Ales are known for their complex and layered flavors. They often have significant fruity ester character, with notes of pears, oranges, or apples. Additionally, a moderate spiciness, such as peppery phenols, can be present. A low to moderate perfumy, floral hop character may also be found. This sets them apart from other Belgian ales, which may focus more on maltiness, sourness, or funkiness.

What is the typical alcohol by volume (ABV) range for a Golden Strong Ale?

The ABV of a Belgian Golden Strong Ale typically ranges from 7.5% to 10.5%. This high alcohol content can be attributed to the use of sugars during fermentation, which increase the strength without adding body to the beer.

Which Belgian breweries are known for their Golden Strong Ales?

Some well-known Belgian breweries that produce excellent Golden Strong Ales include Duvel, which makes the iconic Duvel beer, Brouwerij Huyghe, known for its Delirium Tremens, and Brouwerij Van Steenberge, which produces Piraat. These beers serve as excellent examples of the style.

How do brewing techniques affect the taste of a Belgian Golden Strong Ale?

The mashing and fermentation schedules of Belgian Golden Strong Ales can be more intricate than most beers. The precise temperatures, yeast strains, and timing all have an impact on developing the ideal flavors and ensuring attenuation and dryness. However, slight variations in the process can also lead to unique characteristics that distinguish one brew from another.

What food pairings work well with a Belgian Golden Strong Ale?

Belgian Golden Strong Ales often pair nicely with rich, savory foods that can stand up to the bold flavors of the beer. Some options include sharp cheeses like blue cheese or aged gouda, rich meats like roast pork or steak, and spicy fare such as Thai or Indian cuisine. The beer’s fruity and spicy notes can complement and enhance these dishes.

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