Kwak, kwak, kwak.

If you’re thinking “Mighty Ducks!!” right now, you are on the wrong track, my friend.  Pauwel Kwak is a beer from Belgium that goes under the style Belgian Strong Ale.  It’s a smooth, sweet, very flavorful beer that became one of my favorites after trying it for the first time two summers ago while in Brussels. Delicious, and sneaky – at 8.4% ABV, it’ll getcha. Best of all, it’s served in a goofy glass with a round bottom, which needs a stand to hold itself up. Seriously, could it BE any more awesome??

Silly Kwak.

I did some Google-ing for “Kwak” clone recipes, and this seemed like the general consensus among a few sites.

  • 9 lb light DME
  • 1 lb Belgian beet candi sugar (clear)
  • 0.5 lb Munich Dark
  • 0.3 lb Special B
  • 1 oz UK Kent goldings hops (60 min)
  • 1 oz Styrian goldings (15 min)
  • 0.5 oz Czech Saaz (3 min)
  • 0.25 Czech Saaz (0 min)
  • 0.25 Styrian goldings (0 min)
  • WYeast 1214 Belgian Abbey

Standard procedure for steeping and boiling using the hop additions above, but stir in the candi sugar at the beginning of the boil with the DME.  Cooled to 70F, pitched, aerated, sealed.  This beer is going to be a monster – weighing in at 1.09 OG.

Original gravity reading

Primary:  this beer was off the races just a few hours after pitching the yeast, which was great to see. After about 24 hours this thing was fermenting like superman. After 3 to 4 days at 65F, there was no activity in the airlock so I racked it over the secondary and anxiously awaited tasting. The gravity measured 1.02, which was a good number to see; here’s why:

Check out the info-sheet or statistic sheet for the yeast you plan to use.  There are couple useful numbers on there; namely Attenuation, Temperature range, and alcohol tolerance. Temperature range and alcohol tolerance are pretty self-explanatory.  Attenuation will tell you what percentage of the fermentable sugars it will consume before the yeast has maxed out its potential, and goes to sleep.   Here are the numbers from WYeast’s website for the Abbey.

Attenuation: 74-78%
Temperature Range: 68-78° F (20-24° C)
Alcohol Tolerance: approximately 12% ABV

Alright. For my beer, my OG was 1.09, and FG is 1.02. That means the percentage of sugars consumed is: ATTEN = 100 * (OG –

Final gravity

FG) / (FG), 100 * (1.09 – 0.02) / (1.09) = 77%.  Party!  According to the datasheet, we did about just as much as we could with the yeast and sugars available (yielding about 9% ABV).  Another way to do it is go backwards – calculate what your FG should be based on the attenuation % before fermentation using the OG.  I started doing this simple calculation a few batches ago and it’s really a good data point to know that everything’s going “normal”.

Screw the numbers, how does it taste?  Well, not great. It still tastes very “young” and will get better no doubt, but right now it’s not delightful. Very boozy, but not the good kind of boozy, like Kwak. It has that hot, ripe, alcohol sensation, like when you take a sip of a strong drink and makes your nose flare up and your body quiver a little.  It’s also pretty yeast-y, lots of banana and fruit esters coming from the Belgian yeast.  The beer is still extremely opaque, so most of the remaining yeast has not settled out of the beer yet.  The color and general flavor isn’t nearly as dark or roasty as Kwak, so that may be something to note for next time.

I plan on giving this beer a pretty long secondary time (4 to 5 weeks) to let it mature and clean itself up.  It’s got potential.  I’ve brewed a bunch of beers that were “interesting”-tasting coming out of the primary (hell, it’s only been 4 days since I brewed it), but turned out fantastic with just a few weeks. Fingers crossed on this one!

Junk settling out

(Update 1/21):  Gave it 3 1/2 weeks in the secondary and this beer cleared up really nicely. I took a picture about a week in to show how it looked in the secondary: totally wild. You can see the yeast and other junk falling out, creating this awesome gradient of color from top to bottom. Never saw this in action like this before!  Final gravity was 1.02

The taste of this beer is freakin’ awesome. Very fruity and bubblegum-y esters, no doubt from the abbey yeast. The sweetness from the malts really came through and got rid of that nasty, boozy alcohol taste from before (but it’s still rocking around 9%!!). Going back to the original Kwak.. the only difference I can tell so far is the malt profile – not quite as roasty or dark, but damn good in its own right. It honestly tastes more like Resurrection with a kicker of booze. Next time I might ramp up the Special B a little, or throw in some other dark malts.


The finished product



Filed under Belgian, Extract

4 responses to “Kwak, kwak, kwak.

  1. Hey Alex. I’m giving this recipe a try with a couple tweaks. I’m using 7.5lbs light DME. You mentioned a lack of dark/roastiness, so I am using 1.5 lbs of German Munich and 1.5 lbs of Belgian Munich to try to bring that in. My brew shop doesn’t carry WYeast, so I’m using White Labs Trappist yeast (the alleged equivalent) instead. I’ll report back and let you know how it turns out. T

  2. Hey Jan, thanks for the comment! I think those grain additions will definitely make a difference for the better. I havent had a Kwak in a while but intuitively it seems right. White labs Trappist is great as well. The only other thing I might suggest is fermenting it a little cooler than normal to keep the fruity/banana-y flavors to a minimum. Mine was on the fruitier end of the spectrum (fermented at 70ish) and Kwak (if I remember correctly) is more crisp and clean tasting. Either way, it’ll make a great beer! Good luck!

  3. Richard

    Hi Alex,
    Brewed this recipe for Kwak four months ago using Maris Otter and all grain, just tried it and oooh absolutely lovely! Just started following the blog, you may well inspire me to start one too! Big thanks old chap!
    Richard, a little merrier than a pint ago…

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