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.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

End of an Era: Last Mass Tasting

Several years ago, I had a great idea.  The Hamilton College Oratorio society had me thinking about settings of the mass.  Whatever your religiosity or irreligiosity, it's a beautiful text, and composers have taken it as an inspiration for tone painting of the highest order.  As long as there was this sacred music tradition and this sacred beer tradition, I said: Why not combine them?  Brew a series of beers in Belgian styles corresponding to the movements of the mass. It took forever to brew them all and opportunities to drink the six-pack in sequence have been few and far between.


Yesterday was the last one, and the tasting was appropriately punctuated by weeping.


Kyrie: A five-year-old house Saison, this was wonderfully creamy.  The yeast (Wyeast French) contributes, at this age, a richness and depth that is extraordinary.  A beer that is soft, but weirdly austere, it was designed to accompany the often medieval simplicity and sparseness of Kyrie settings. Not a lot of text, not a lot of ingredients...


Gloria: Settings of the Gloria are light, bright, and clear: Glory to God, in the highest, so I went light here, with a monastic table beer, or single.  Despite the conceptual clarity there, at this age, the beer is all cellar character, with a wonderful earthiness and depth.  The cork, incidentally, almost killed someone.  The effervescence was genuinely glorious. This beer has been my favorite overall, through the years, and has thankfully been re-brewed already.  Footnote, I just chilled "Gloria Redux."  The youthful sample is more like what I originally envisioned. You can imagine it's cellar-y, earthy future, something 3787 excels with, but the beer is also exceptionally bright, clear, quaffable. People should remember that Belgian beers are not all nine percent...


Credo: This is a tripel.  It had to be, as it was inspired by the massive Credo of Anton Bruckner's Mass in F minor.  It's always been a stunning beer, remarkable in particular for its crazy final gravity, 1.002.  At a relatively old age, and with over ten percent alcohol, it is meady, very, very meady. It used to be brighter, but the combination of honeyed aromatics, earthiness, and serious attenuation is remarkable.


Sanctus, I am sad to say, had to be made twice.  Sanctus I was infected, but it did become a helpful blending beer for fruited lambic-ish beers.  Sanctus II has a little hint of San Francisco sourdough in the nose, which I love. Toast and caramel character are perfect--it's a sort of Belgian amber.  And I must return to both this nice, Vienna-centered grain bill, as well as the wonderful yeast, Wyeast Leuven. It aspires to the lyrical tenor line in Gounod's mass.


Settings of the Benedictus, in my limited experience, are usual sort of warm and dark, if that makes any sense.  So I brewed a beer thinking of a Bruckner bass line, which turned out to be a huge Quad. It smells of rum-raisin, cognac, grapes, wine.  For all that it is a massively rich beer, it's pretty drinkable as Quads go and I'm very proud of the recipe. The only question is how I get a hold of the yeast again, which is the now unavailable Flanders Golden, purportedly the Piraat strain.


Finally, an Agnus Dei beer must be strong enough to round out the tasting and follow the Quad, but soft enough to vaguely evoke lambs.  The solution is a wheaty tripel, sweetened up a bit with Belgian Aromatic.  It is creamy, fruity, rich, soft, just a tiny bit off dry.


Amen.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

End of an Era: Wilds and Sours

I obviously forgot about this blog for a good three years.  Two of those years saw me in brewerly survival mode:  I chucked together a string of basic pale ales and IPA's, punctuated with the occasional Belgian, just enough to keep the kegerator up and running maybe half the time, with Belgians stashed in the basement to keep stocks from vanishing.


About six months ago, I kicked up the activity level, making a bunch of new Belgians and a string of hoppy beers, converting to pellets and incorporating some new procedures in search of bigger aromas and flavors (inspired by things like Knee Deep Simtra and Stone Enjoy By).


Today we bid adieu, or nearly adieu, to a series of antiques.  Tasting with me are Lisa, Andrew Rudd, and Benjamin Rudd.


1.  Flanders Red, last bottle, brewed 11/13/05.  Batch 44.  Over the hill, but still special.  Little touch of vinegariness.  Both aromatics and palate a trifle thin, particularly the palate.  Earthy brett, ultra dry.  Again, thin...  But this recipe could be reproduced with no need for tweaking as far as I'm concerned.  Probably peaked in year six?


2.  Vinification, Chardonnay Ale, brewed 2/9/08.  Batch 139.  This was pitched with lambic blend AND Roeslare.  Interesting.  This is the penultimate bottle.  Brett brux character reminds me of my all-Brett beer, half sour leatheriness and so on...  The winey quality is uncanny.  The vanilla-ish oak character is key, but I think the yeast has more to do with it than the Chardonny oak-soak.  Delicately tannic quality.  This is a really distinctive beer.


3.  Frambozen.  Is this batch 145F?  From 2008?  I'm not sure.  But once upon a time I combined infected bock, infected kolsch, and infected dubbel, and added raspberries, one time adding extra Weizen wort that wouldn't fit in a carboy that spontaneously fermented in a spare bucket.  Who knows?  Holy shit, it's pushing balsamic vinegar.  The nose is a little stinky, cheesy; the palate is full of tart pie elements.  134F and 138F are other candidates.  Whatever it is, it's around six years old, and, if you like sour sours, it's pretty amazing.  Long ago, I had a string of infections due to being an idiot and mis-diluting BTF iodophor.   The saving grace was these weird blends, which were often delicious.


4.  Amalgam, N.Y. Lambic.  Batch 39, brewed 10/2/05.  Ultra skanky.  Always been too much.  Should really be a blending beer.  It blends very well with a younger, draft raspberry beer.  This unblended lambic, which still exits in some quantity, could be an astonishing accent for a younger, less remarkable beer.  Make this 25% of some blend, soon-ish...


Interlude:  Barbequed country ribs, smoked meatloaf, and salt potatoes find a mediocre old pilsner for accompaniment...


5.  Moreval, Batch 109, 1/15/07 brewdate.  This is one of multiple beers inspired by Orval.  This one is seven years old or so, and the brett has taken over completely.  Pineapple.  Horseblanket.  Roeslare blend is an interesting choice with these.  You never know what you'll get, and the beer can go through really awkward phases, but when the balance is right, it's right.  This balance, brett-centric with hops in the extreme background, is surprisingly pleasant.


6.  "Orval-ish thing," batch 200, 5/2/10.  A younger version of the above.  Roughly the same recipe formulation, though totally different hop varieties.  Rather than Roeslare, this used Wyeast 3789.  Barnyard character is slower to emerge, under a little fruit, but it's there.  Little bit more winey somehow.


7.  New version, "XX-inspired," (needs a name), brewed 7/1/14.  Like the two above, but with no crystal malt and better hop choices, and super fresh, just a scant month in the bottle.  French Saison dries it out, and brett makes an appearance later, with liberal dry hopping (Santiam and German Brewer's Gold).  Lighter and brighter than the above, but I imagine it should age just as well.

8.  Oaky Saison:  Red-wine soaked oak chips and brett accent a super strong saison.  Mead aromas, hints of leathery brett.  Good stuff.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gnomegang

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.

Yay...

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.