What is Belgian candi syrup?

Belgian candi syrup is a key ingredient used in brewing Belgian beers. It is made from sugar, typically beet sugar, that has been cooked and caramelized to create a dark, sticky, sweet syrup. Candi syrup contributes unique flavors and aromas to Belgian beer styles like dubbels, tripels, and quadrupels.

What are the origins of Belgian candi syrup?

The origins of Belgian candi syrup can be traced back to the Trappist monks in Belgium. In the 19th century, the monks began experimenting with using sugary syrups during the beer brewing process as a way to increase the strength and flavor of their beers. They found that by cooking down sugar into a concentrated, caramelized syrup, they could create beers with unique complexities. This early version of candi syrup laid the foundations for the candi syrup used today.

How is Belgian candi syrup made?

Authentic Belgian candi syrup is made by cooking down beet sugar until it caramelizes. The process requires precision and care to create a syrup with the right consistency, color, and flavor. Here are the key steps to making Belgian candi syrup:

  • Start by dissolving beet sugar in water and cooking it down to reduce the water content. The mixture is cooked until it reaches a temperature of at least 113°C (235°F).
  • As the syrup continues to cook, it darkens in color and the sugar molecules break down. This caramelization process is key for developing the flavors.
  • Once the desired color and thickness is reached, the syrup is cooled and stirred constantly to prevent crystallization. Careful stirring ensures a smooth, glossy syrup.
  • The finished Belgian candi syrup has a very thick, viscous texture. It can range in color from golden to dark amber depending on cooking time.

There are two main varieties of Belgian candi syrup: clear and amber. Clear candi has a light golden color while amber candi is cooked longer to achieve a darker color and more pronounced toffee, caramel flavors.

What flavors and aromas does candi syrup contribute to beer?

The characteristic flavors and aromas of Belgian beers can be attributed in part to candi syrup. As the sugary syrup caramelizes, many complex chemical reactions occur leading to the formation of a wide range of unique flavors and compounds.

Some of the distinctive flavors and aromas contributed by Belgian candi syrup include:

  • Fruitiness – Notes of raisins, plums, figs, cherries due to ester compounds formed during caramelization.
  • Spiciness – Flavors reminiscent of cloves, nutmeg, ginger.
  • Caramel – Sweet, toffee-like, butterscotch caramel flavors.
  • Roasted – Malty, biscuit, coffee, dark chocolate notes.
  • Alcohol – The syrup contributes fermentable sugars which boosts the ABV of beers.

The extent to which these flavors develop depends on the variety of candi syrup used and length of cooking. Amber and dark candi syrups offer more robust caramel, toffee, and burnt sugar flavors.

Why do brewers use candi syrup in Belgian beers?

Brewers choose to use Belgian candi syrup in their beers for several important reasons:

  • It increases the alcohol content – The addition of fermentable sugars from the syrup boosts ABV levels.
  • Adds unique flavors – The complex flavors of caramelized sugar cannot be replicated any other way.
  • Enhances mouthfeel – Candi imparts viscosity and body to beers.
  • Aids head retention – The sugars help stabilize the head.
  • Serves as colorant – Dark candi syrups contribute deep gold to amber hues.
  • Tradition – Belgian brewers uphold the time-honored tradition of using candi syrup.

Using candi syrup allows brewers to create beers that would be nearly impossible to produce using malt alone. The syrup gives the beers a distinct Belgian quality that sets them apart.

What beer styles use Belgian candi syrup?

Belgian candi syrup is used to brew a diverse range of beer styles. Some of the most common Belgian beer styles featuring candi syrup include:

  • Dubbel – A Trappist ale with rich malty flavors and aromas of dark fruit.
  • Tripel – A pale, strong Belgian golden ale with spicy, fruity notes.
  • Quadrupel – A dark, intense Belgian ale with a high ABV.
  • Belgian Strong Dark Ale – A malty, dark Belgian beer with dried fruit flavors.
  • Belgian Golden Strong Ale – A pale, fruity, highly attenuated Belgian ale.

The type of candi syrup chosen by brewers depends on the characteristics they want to achieve in the final beer. Lighter clear candi works well in tripels and golden strong ales, while darker amber or brown candi suits dubbels and quadrupels.

How much candi syrup do brewers use?

There are no set guidelines for how much candi syrup brewers should use in their recipes. The quantity added will depend on several factors:

  • Desired ABV – More syrup means higher alcohol levels.
  • Intensity of flavors – Syrup dosage impacts flavor intensity.
  • Color depth – Darker beers require more dark candi.
  • Beer style – Tripels need less than Quadrupels, for example.
  • Personal preference – Brewers tailor recipes to their own tastes.

As a general guideline, candi syrup may comprise between 5-20% of the fermentables used to brew Belgian ales. Most brewers recommend dosing in moderation to prevent candi flavors from becoming overpowering or cloying.

What are the key brands of Belgian candi syrup?

Several Belgian companies have specialized in producing high-quality candi syrups for brewing applications. Some of the most popular Belgian candi syrup brands include:

  • D2 Syrups – Offers a wide range including clear, amber, and dark varieties.
  • Belgocande – Known for their dark cassonade brown sugar syrup.
  • Brewer’s Syrups – Produces clear and amber syrups made from beet sugar.
  • Candisyrup – Supplier of artisanal amber and dark candi syrup.
  • Belgian Candi – Specializes in clear, amber, and dark varieties.
  • Candico – Known for their unfiltered, raw sugar-based syrups.

These traditional Belgian producers focus on traditional techniques and high-quality ingredients to produce authentic candi syrups that brewers can rely on. Many also offer a range of retail and bulk sizes.

Can brewers make their own candi syrup?

While it takes skill and practice, many homebrewers and craft brewers choose to make their own candi syrup rather than buying pre-made syrup. Here is an overview of the process of making homemade candi syrup:

  1. Select a sugar source – Cane sugar, beet sugar, brown sugar or Belgian brewer’s sugar work best.
  2. Create a sugar solution – Dissolve 2 parts sugar in 1 part water and cook over low heat.
  3. Simmer until thickened – Slowly evaporate water until syrup is very thick and reaches 235°F (113°C).
  4. Cool and beat – Cool syrup slightly and beat with spoon to initiate crystallization.
  5. Reheat – Reheat syrup to dissolve sugar crystals then cool and beat again.
  6. Repeat crystallization process – Repeat heating, cooling and beating 2-3 more times.
  7. Cool and store – Finally, cool finished syrup completely and store.

Brewers can customize their homemade candi syrup by using different sugar types, cooking times, temperatures, and number of crystallization steps. This allows fine-tuning the syrup’s viscosity, color and caramel flavors.

What is the difference between candi syrup and other brewing sugars?

While candi syrup is sometimes lumped together with brewing sugars like corn sugar or invert sugar, there are a few key differences that set candi syrup apart:

Sugar Type Description Flavor Impact
Belgian Candi Syrup Inverted cane or beet sugar cooked to caramelize and darken. Significant flavor and aroma contribution from caramelization.
Corn Sugar Dextrose powder made from corn starch. Clean fermentation with no flavor impact.
Invert Sugar Cane or beet sugar hydrolyzed into glucose and fructose. Slight honey-like flavor contribution.

The main differentiator is that Belgian candi syrup undergoes prolonged heating which causes the sugar molecules to break down and take on new flavors. The other sugar types undergo less processing so make little to no flavor impact.

Should homebrewers use candi syrup in Belgian beers?

Many homebrewers ask whether they should go through the trouble of using candi syrup in their homebrew Belgian recipes. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Flavor – If authenticity is key, candi syrup provides distinctive flavor.
  • Convenience – Candi syrup can be purchased ready-made for easy use.
  • Control – Making your own allows you to customize the syrup.
  • Fermentability – Adds sugars to boost ABV levels.
  • Body – Syrup increases viscosity and mouthfeel.
  • Color – Dark candi syrups help create deep gold to amber hues.
  • Head retention – The sugars help stabilize foam.

While candi syrup is not absolutely necessary to make a great homebrewed Belgian beer, it can certainly take it to the next level in terms of authenticity. Many homebrewers think the effort is worth it!

What is the shelf life of candi syrup?

Unopened Belgian candi syrup has a long shelf life of 1-2 years when properly stored. Once opened, candi syrup should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 6 months for best quality. The high sugar content allows candi syrup to remain stable but over time, flavors can start to fade.

Signs that candi syrup has expired and should be discarded include:

  • Crystallization – Sugar has recrystallized into clumps.
  • Mold growth – Presence of fuzzy mold.
  • Off flavors – Loss of sweetness and caramel notes.
  • Darkening – Unopened candi syrup significantly darkens.

To extend shelf life, store candi syrup in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate after opening and check for signs of mold or off flavors before use.

Can Belgian candi syrup be substituted?

It is challenging to replicate the exact flavor profile of Belgian candi syrup. However, brewers do have some possible substitution options:

  • Lyle’s Golden Syrup – The closest readily available replacement, offers some caramel notes.
  • Brown sugar – Use dark brown sugar dissolved in water to approximate color and flavor.
  • Molasses – Very thick and intense but contributes similar sugars.
  • Honey – Milder flavor but helps boost ABV like candi syrup.
  • Maple syrup – Has caramel-like flavors but too dominant on its own.
  • Malt extract – Use dark malt extract to replace candi’s sugars and deep color.

While not perfect substitutes, combinations of these ingredients can potentially create candi-like effects. Or brewers can leave the candi syrup out entirely to simplify recipes.


Belgian candi syrup is an integral ingredient in many Belgian beer styles like dubbels and quadrupels. The caramelized beet sugar syrup lends unique flavors of caramel, fruit, and spice alongside boosting alcohol content. Authentic candi syrup requires careful cooking to achieve the perfect viscosity, color and flavor. While specialty Belgian producers make excellent traditional candi syrups, many brewers enjoy the creativity of producing their own homemade batches. With its delicious flavors and aromas, candi syrup is a treasured brewing ingredient that adds a touch of Belgian artistry to beers.

Leave a Comment