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Home Brewer Newb Help Needed for Recipe

So now with my second batch, Black IPA, in the primary and about to go into secondary I am trying to think of my next brew.  This time I want to make the recipe instead of just go on a premade recipe.  I want to try to stick to extract with specialty grains for now since I don’t know the first thing about all grain.  I am hoping to go by Funky Buddha some time to see an all grain brew done so I can grasp it in my head.

So here is what I need help on.  I’m not really sure what types of grains and hops to really pick out and how much of them for the idea I have.  I would like to make a chocolaty Belgian strong dark that is similar to The Bruery’s Two Turtle Doves and Terrapin’s The Dark Side.  I am looking at you my home brewing friends for some assistance on what I should look at.  Like if there is a really good and easy ingredient calculator out there to use please let me know.  Or if you think I should use some specific items please let me know.  The only thing I am pretty sure of doing is adding cocoa nibs to it probably in the secondary.

So here I am asking for help from my friends as the home brew newb.  I appreciate everything in advance.

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  • Reply TinCoyote

    I suggest you use to formulate the recipe.

    From Terrapin’s web site: ““The Dark Side.” This Belgian Style Imperial Stout is loaded with subtle nuances of dark Belgian chocolate, roasted dark grains and just a hint of smokiness in the finish.

    Fermented with real Trappist ale yeast, the Dark Side’s complexity and depth will entice the most sophisticated stout drinker. I kept the hop bitterness to a minimum to enhance the flavor of the yeast and malt profile. Malts: 2-Row, Crystal 120 L, Crystal 86 L, Chocolate, Black, Roasted Barley Hops: Pilgrim, Goldings” Sadly, it doesn’t list IBU or SRM. But Two Turtle Doves does: IBU: 25, SRM: 30 I get the impression that The Dark Side is much darker than Two Turtle Doves.

    Here’s a couple of things I would do:

    1. Don’t try and add “smokiness” to the beer. Let the specialty grains do that. For God’s sake, don’t add a smoked malt. You will regret it.
    2. Make the lower ABV The Dark Side. It might be ready in as little as four months aging. The 12% Two Turtle Doves will need 8-12 months to age out properly, IMHO. Lots of folk disagree with me, but for me the larger the ABV, the longer the aging to mellow out.
    3. In a malty dark beer like this, keep the IBUs low, like the 25 in the Two Turtle Doves. Enough to balance, but that’s it.
    4. I would use a light base DME like Briess Pilsen or Briess Golden Light. Let the adjunct grains do the darkening.
    5. Oxygenation and nice big starter to ensure proper attenuation.

    This tells us a few things, first you will need a yeast like Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale. You will need a chocolate malt like Briess Organic Chocolate, or Simpson’s Chocolate. Probably some Crystal 120. Perhaps some Biscuit malt or Victory to change up the flavor over the burnt you are getting from the other grains. Go with hops you like. TDS used Pilgrim and Goldings, if you like them go with it. Just keep your IBUs balanced.

    That’s all I can think of off hand. I’ll comment again if I can think of more.

    April 20, 2010 at 11:53 am
  • Reply nate

    Hey Mike,
    As far as free software goes, check this out:
    It is fairly accurate for what you are looking for as far as calculation OG, FG, IBU, SRM, etc.

    As far as building your recipe without prior experience, the best way to start is reading what others have done, checking their tasting notes, and then figuring what you should add or not add to get the flavor you are looking for.

    I am brewing two saisons soon, one of which will utilize cocoa nibs.

    April 20, 2010 at 11:54 am
  • Reply erykmynn

    I’d start with a Pale Extract, and add enough chocolate malt to get close to my color target. Black Patent may be too strong for what you’re going for. balance it out with some medium or light crystal if its supposed to be kinda sweet.

    I think that would do it, but not sure what you want for hops, etc. Not familar with those particular beers.

    April 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm
  • Reply erykmynn

    oh, also,
    for quick working of recipe Ideas…

    I like to use

    April 20, 2010 at 12:28 pm
  • Reply cwylie0

    ProMash is a good recipe software. It can calculate IBU and starting gravity for ya. As far as ingredients for a Belgian Dark Strong, use dark candi syrup instead of the rock candy stuff. I’d go with European style hops. In my opinion, US hops clash with Belgian yeast flavors. DM me if you want a more detailed recipe, I can email one later.

    April 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm
  • Reply Trevor

    Whenever I go to make a beer, I have a similar problem with recipe formulation. I never have a good feel for how much of which ingredient to use. My suggestion is to download some of the podcasts from the brewing network on whatever style you will be brewing. The Jamil Show is a good start. I also read a lot of recipes from my homebrewing books (you do have Charlie Papazian’s book, right?). Once I have a bunch of recipes in front of me, I can see trends of what is being used in each. Other than that, I ask the guy at the homebrew shop for help.

    Hope this helps.

    April 20, 2010 at 2:22 pm
  • Reply JSKC

    Definitely get some Carafa II or III for at least half of your roasted malts. It’s husk-less, debittered, and doesn’t contain all the sharp acrid notes you might get from using black patent or roasted barley. Definitely appropriate for a Belgian stout or porter, IMHO. I agree with others that you should use a light DME. Essentially, it will provide 44 gravity points for every lb, meaning, if you have a pound in a gallon of water, you should get an OG of 1.044. If you have 5 gallons, your OG will be approximately 1.009.

    The calculation is as follows: (Gravity points)*(# of lbs)/(gallons of water). With this you can figure out how many lbs of DME to get the OG you’re looking for. For specialty malts, never use any base malts. Stuff you could and should use for a Belgian style stout include biscuit malt, carafa I, II, or III, maybe some chocolate malt, crystal or caramel malts. You might also want to get some belgian liquid candy sugar to help dry the beer out. Keep the amounts low. Usually anything above a lb of each is too much.

    As for hops, I suggest you get some ultra high-alpha hops and use them just for bittering. There’s no need for hop flavor in this beer. Additionally, if you’re doing a partial boil, you’ll just end up using a lot of hops for reasons I don’t want to get in to. So keep the hops simple.

    There are many sites online that can help you come up with a recipe. Just do a web search. I can also send you my excel spreadsheet if you want. Just shoot me an email (I’m assuming you have it with this reply). Oh yeah, I did a Belgian Imperial Porter a la Vertical Epic ’09 that turned out pretty good. Stone posts all of their Epic recipes online, and you may be able to work off that.

    April 20, 2010 at 4:15 pm
  • Reply Michael Reinhardt


    Take it or leave it but I’d be happy to draft up a recipe for you. First off, you are going to want a robust yeast strain. I think the first commenter was right to say a robust Belgian Strain. Those Trappists can hit 14-15%…but I’d make a starter for anything over 1.070. I like the Trappist yeasts but they tend to be earthier and vegetative sometimes. I’d go more for an Abbey Strain from White Labs. They have info on tolerance levels on their site. I guess the real question is how strong you are going to want it.

    April 20, 2010 at 4:20 pm
  • Reply Mike

    Wow I am absolutely blown away but the amount of feedback so far. Thank you so much everyone. I’m going to read over all this a little later and come back with any questions.

    April 20, 2010 at 4:32 pm
  • Reply Big Tex

    I concur with the Belgian yeast strain. It’s robust and offers some great esters at warmer fermentation temperatures.

    If this were me, I’d use light extract… 7 or 8 lbs. DME; some Belgians incorporate wheat, so I might substitute 2 lbs. of wheat DME in. (The wheat DME I’ve used is 55/45 or 60/40 wheat to barley malt, and this seems to be typical with extracts.)

    For specialty grains, I’d add some medium (60L) and dark (120L) Crystal Malt… 4 to 8 oz. each. I’d also use some Caravienne up to 8 oz. (It’s another type of crystal malt.) Chocolate malt of some kind is a must, and I like the previously mentioned idea of using a huskless variety. I’d use 8 oz. myself. In the past, I’ve used baker’s chocolate rather than nibs with great results (in a stout).

    Hops… only for bittering. Personally, I like noble hops (German ones in particular) for something like this, but you would probably use more of those than a high-alpha hop.

    April 20, 2010 at 5:21 pm
  • Reply JSKC

    I just want to reiterate what other commenters have mentioned about yeast. If you want to do a big beer, you need to have a lot of yeast and you need to aerate or oxygenate the yeast a lot. Otherwise, you will not have enough yeast, or your yeast will not be able to grow enough for the beer. This stresses the yeast out too much; they will kick out a lot of esters, phenols and fusel alcohols; and they may not even finish fermentation. For a Belgian style beer, you want it nice and dry, not sweet, so it’s definitely necessary to use the right amount of it. You can either do a starter and propagate your own yeast or you can just buy multiple packets of yeast. Go to and find yeast propagation rate calculator. You can type in how many gallons and of what gravity, and it will tell you how many packets of yeast or the amount of a starter you need to make.

    Regardless, don’t stress out about the recipe or the yeast. Focus on keeping everything sanitary and on fermentation temperatures if possible. You will always get a chance to tweak the recipe.

    April 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm
  • Reply Phil (Ferm)

    Mike, check out there is some great info on there, or the Brewing Network

    I used Homebrewtalk for my custom recipe and it turned out exactly how I wanted it to.

    April 21, 2010 at 9:44 am
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