Doctor Duvel

I'm like a sommelier, but for beer.

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Location: Upstate New York, United States

Favorite Beers: Orval, Samuel Smith, Duvel, Hennepin, Oude Gueze, Chimay, Dogfish Head, Anchor Steam, and anything made by Trappist monks.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Ommegang Gnomegang. The name pretty much had to have come up with itself. Courtesy of a kind soul at the brewery, a bottle found its way to me: Thanks Scott! This is a collaborative beer between Ommegang and, naturally, La Chouffe. I might've imagined that they'd go after the IPA Tripel style, with that particular collaboration, but the label calls it a blond ale. It's a big one, at 9.5%. Apparently it's made with both house yeasts. I'd love to think that I have the palate to determine how they interact or cooperate, but I'm thinking that's a stretch. Here's what I get: Pretty golden color. Full head, but not quite as voluminous as some of their others; I think the carbonation is a trifle subtler, which happens to go with the fuller palate, which we'll get to. The key note in the aroma is something I never find quite the right descriptor for. Several stronger, pale Belgians have a version of it, the quintessential example for me being Piraat. It's a rich, alcoholically hot, creamy, whiskey-ish aroma. It normally signals a big, voluptuous sort of beer, like Piraat, and this follows through in that vein. There's some spiciness going on too, aromatically and on the palate. Like I said, the carbonation seems just a bit softer, perhaps less than Hennepin? That goes nicely with the rich, velvety body here. Sometimes when people say a beer is "hot" they don't mean it as a good thing, but I do here. Belgians over 9% almost always have a pleasant little mini-burn to them and this is no exception. The palate comes across as mildly sweet, though not cloying. I know enough about beer to know that it might be bone dry statistically. You can never tell with Belgian yeasts. But it feels full on the palate--rich, creamy, and so on, but also balanced by a subtle, earthy hoppiness, and some brighter, fruitier acids. I think this is a pretty delicious beer... Tomorrow, assuming I can get out of school at an approrpriate hour, it's Pilsner-brewin' time. All Hallertau. Wyeast Bo-Pils. Simple grist. Bring it on.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Drastically less grumpy

Worked a hard, focused half day. Came home, kegged Petit Houblon Edition Trois, a.k.a. (Belgian) Plague Pale. Tasted good. Dry hopped with Sterling. Stashed three corked botttles out of what wouldn't fit in the keg. Confirming a previous good ferment and having a happy looking yeast cake (Leuven), I threw together a Belgian Amber Ale, loosely inspired by one I made some years ago. Loosely inspired by M.C. I went for a brisk (in temperature not pace) run to the Utica Zoo and back. Beer is now aerated and getting ready to do its thing. Drinking, courtesy of Katrina and Kier, a Russian River Consecration. Thanks guys! A hauntingly beautiful beer by the way.

Next up, a pizza inspired by Russian River's sometimes wacky line-up. Maybe Pesto-Artichoke-Bacon for starters.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Grumpy as hell

Just me venting. I don't like brewing. It's not fun anymore.

Just kegged a beer and bottled a beer. They both look good and are interesting high gravity experiments: a 1080 oaky-bretty saison and a 1090 faux scotch whiskey barrel DIPA. They'll certainly pack a punch...

But it's not fun. Packaging two beers equals a whole fucking afternoon down the drain. Why the hell do I do this shit? My beer is good, but seriously, I'm not sure it's worth it. Grumble, grumble, grumble, fucking goddamn grumble.

I have four more interesting beers in carboys (Steam, Belgian pale, Old British Bitter, and a Roeslare) and I anticipate procrastinating packaging them as long as possible. as it my m.o. these days. Filling those carboys again will be slightly less annoying, since I dislike the brew day a lot less, but it's not fun either. Just another household chore.

There, I said it. When this fridge dies I may shrink the kegerator. This is bullshit.

Thanks for listening to me bitch. anyone who reads this... I'm going to go stomp around and mop the motherfucking kitchen.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dream Bitter and updates

I did make that Steam Beer. No name yet, but if I had to name it right now I'd call it "Shut the fuck up, Will Shortz" Steam Beer.

I also made a new Belgian in my special house style, the over-hopped Belgian pale I've been making for spring for a couple years now. This one has the Leuven yeast, which I may re-pitch to make a tripel. Tentatively named "Plague Pale" for the flu that set its production back three or four days.

Kegerator has three beers: "Mostly Wet" IPA (excellent); "No Internet Jerkstore" Winter Pale (class balance...); Random-Ass Hoppy Brown Porter (a new, sleeker twist on my leftover-based Porter/Stout tradition). "Fuck it: Smoky Oaky Rye Brown" is next up, after a few more days conditioning.

Right now, it's "Dream Bitter" I'm mashing, the Old British Beers Recipe #7 I've meant to make for years. The name makes me nervous: I'd hate to screw up and have it become "Nightmare Bitter." Naturally, I've already discovered that the mash temps are totally uneven...

Anyway, from the Simonds Brewery in Reading, from 1880, it's a "Dream bitter with a lovely flavour. A Durden Park favourite." Here's the recipe, corrected for my system and stripped of the charm of Imperial Gallons:

6.5 U.S. Gallons.

Mash 186 oz Maris Otter and 35.5 oz home-oven-toasted "Pale Amber" malt at 150 or so. Tsp of gypsum in the mash; will hit the wort with a Tbsp of Burton salts.

Boil 90 minutes with 3.65 oz Fuggles. Shut-off hop is .8 oz of Golding and a 1/2 oz Golding dry hop down the road. This results in about 50 IBU on a 1062 beer. Not exactly the proportions of a modern bitter, are they?

I'm fermenting mine with 1469 West Yorkshire. After brewing, for batch after batch, tried-and-true house specialties or laid-back spontaneous creations, it was weird, annoying, even stressful, to crunch all the numbers and try to do this sucker by the book.

After an initial yo-yo fuck-up, the mash has stabilized at the proper temperature. Here's to the Durden Park Beer Circle and the late Dr. John Harrison, though I'm sure they'd object to my toasting them with coffee...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Playing catch-up

I seem to have become a binge brewer. Didn't touch a kettle from 9/20 until 12/16 and am not even sure why/how that happened. Work priorities plus general indolence, I guess.

The kegerator is almost empty, with a Chicory stout running out fast. It was running strong six weeks or so ago but then some no-named, chucked-together beers starting running out, basic IPA's and pale's. Oh, and the delicious Leroy Brown, best brown ale I've ever made. Gotta re-brew that one.

Anyway, 3 or 4 weeks ago I went through and did a catch-up bottling binge of beers made in late summer. Conditioning and tasting decent-to-excellent are a house saison, wet-hop ale, and a brett-y 3789 contraption. Bottled stocks in the basement are touch-and-go. Lots of some good beers, but some weird gaps and the glaring problem of a soured batch of smoked marzen. Damnit. But plenty of pilsner, lots of good Belgians, bits of this and that. It could be a lot worse. About to go on draft are two older efforts, a partly-wet-hopped IPA and the first new brew MAC and I brewed: "No Internet Jerk Store Ale." The name is a long story but it's a malty winter pale ale.

Was running out of specialty malts and hops and decided to make a clean-out effort before restocking, for the sake of order, freshness, etc. With what I had on hand I've thrown together the next generation of draft beers, inspired by what was on hand. I love brewing that way actually. Accordingly, in fermenters are:

"Fuck it! Smokey-Oaky Ale (with Rye!)": Give me random crystal malts, some peated, and surplus oak chips and I'll give you a random concoction like this. Time will tell.

"Random-Ass Hoppy Porter": Surplus brown malt and a really random range of hops conspire to produce, hopefully, a delicious over-hopped porter slightly reminiscent of, and definitely inspired by, the Mikkeler Holiday Porter I had around the corner at The Green Onion.

Today's brew is a faux-barrel DIPA. Mega IPA crushed with tons of old hops and some fresh ones, tweaked with oak chips soaked in Sheep Dip. Why not? "Sheep Dip DIPA," I guess.

Still kicking around in fermentors are a Roeslare Ale, still not ready, and a big huge wine-barrel Saison, which got Brett and Cab/Merlot-soaked chips added a bit ago. That should be a classic.

So that's the brewery update. Many plans in the hopper for when the new shit arrives, starting with a back-logged batch of steam beer in the next few days.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wilco Tango Foxtrot

Lagunitas has a way with names and labels. The malty jobless recovery ale W.T.F. is certainly a case in point. It's good stuff and I'm thinking it's possible the beer I'm brewing (quite unintentionally) will resemble it slightly: Chunky, with a burnt edge or two reminiscent of amber malt, or a dark crystal. About the color of a strong-ass cup o' tea. Full-throated hops, particularly on the palate, help hold it together. Lingering raspiness, but from darker malts more than hops. It's a good, characterful brew in keeping with the house style over there. There are exceptions (like a really good pilsner, as I recall) but most of the line-up leans toward perilously maintained balances--chewy hops and gobs of malt duke it out on the liquid gridiron.

back to school brewing

That Saison is fermenting nicely as are a basic draft IPA and a fall brown. Right now, in the midst of the single ugliest day of the summer (non-stop dreary ass rain since 6 am) I'm brewing something new. I don't know what it is. I just sorta threw it together. Maris Otter base with a half pound each of five specialty malts: Simpson's Caramalt, Crystal 60 and 120, Amber, and Victory. Why not? It'll be the antidote to the ultra clean, lean other IPA which is a pale-malt-only exercise in minimalism.

Pause: Sipping a Goose Island "Sofie." Good stuff. Middle strength pale Belgian with partial barrel aging that lends a delicate winey quality.

So, yeah, for my beer... Chunky malt. Kinda in the Marzen color range. Toasty. I'll hop it somewhere between pale ale and IPA, maybe a little more toward IPA, but probably taste it before dry hopping lest I obscure something interesting. Assorted C-hops should do the job. Is it an amber? A strongish fall pale ale? A bent IPA? Who cares?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back at it

June was a month of serious work, sprinkled with a good deal of pleasure. July was the month of chaos. August is the month of general scatteredness. So it goes.

But I'm brewing right now in a miserably hot kitchen and, temps notwithstanding, it kinda had to happen.

On draft is a mediocre Denny's RyePA (I don't like Denny's special yeast frankly--back to US 05 on that one) and a delicious fake pilsner cream ale thingy. Nothing ready to tap up next which is NOT good.

Recently rounding out in the bottle are this year's pilsner and edition four of my smoked marzen. Both taste very promising but will need another month or two minimum to come into full form. In the basement awaiting bottling are a roeslare pale and the batch 200 Orval-ish thing, neither of which I'm interested in rushing.

Boiling a ce moment is my classic, stripped-down, elegant, no-nonsense, house Saison with the vital French Saison strain from Wyeast (all hail the aforementioned). Should be good if I don't do anything dumb.

As much as I don't feel entirely like brewing (laziness, heat, other commitments) I'm psyching myself up to go on a spree before school starts.


Another Saison, possibly with experimental faux wine barrel treatment and/or brett dosing.
Steam beer (wait for it to cool down a bit...).
Draft IPA, two batches.
Draft Brown.
Draft Porter.
Other random quickie draft beer that occurs to me on the fly.
Vague clone of the Brewer's Art's Clamper's Ale (light pale ale with lemon peel).
Leuven pale ale yeast using thing of vague Belgian nature.
Ardennes hoppy IPA tripel thing (Prolly wait for new hops).
Benediction: A big-ass 3787 thing with dark sugars out the wazoo.

Do I have that many carboys? Not quite...