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.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


As an addendum to the IPA tasting, here's Stone's Ruination IPA. I'm never sure about the Stone beers as they tend to be out of whack... Or, to be more generous, maybe they need more bottle aging than I'm inclined to give them. At any rate Ruination IPA is nuts. At 7.7% abv it's not that strong--I've got a home-brew bottle conditioning right now that should check in at close to 7. So malt is not going to carry the day here. Strictly speaking, at over 100 IBU, it's not balanced. But I really like it anyway. Except that it's so hoppy it's giving me a headache. It has a screaming nose--there are some Cascades, but also at least a couple other hops I think (Willamette? Amarillo?). It's very earthy and floral and pretty much shoots out of the glass at you. It has a pretty full palate, with perceptable alcohol and more hops. In fact, the hops -are- the body. It's so bitter that the hop flavors just ride out into the sunset, in a finish lasting a good few minutes. So, as usual with the Stone people, subtlety is not a virtue, but, in this case, I like it anyway. But it's no Smuttynose.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

More beers

OK, just killing a minute here. For the record, Lisa and I wound up sampling a Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale last night, because I liked that IPA so much. Wonderful beer actually. The concept of Pumpkin Ale frightens me, because I generally hate fruit beers (with the notable exception of anything resembling a real lambic--sorry, Sam Adams, you don't count). But is a pumpkin a fruit? Will perhaps post some more thorough notes. For the moment, I'd call it delicately pumpkiny, with some nice subtle complimentary spices--none of the usual barrage of old-spice-cabinet-tasting, poorly integrated, mung flavors. On the contrary, it was fresh-tasting, bright, and uncluttered in its overall profile.

Tasting Victory Brewing's Prima Pils right now because I ran into a thing on Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter site where he referred to it as more or less the second best Pilsner in America and I thought, hey, didn't I see that on the shelf at Marcy Discount Beverage? Can't say I've had a better domestic Pilsner myself. My other favorites are Hubsch Pilsner from Sudwerk (though only on site really), Scrimshaw Pilsner from Northcoast, and, though it's a little over the top, Lagunitas Pils--decidedly West Coast beers those. This is brewed in Pennsylvania, which I'm discovering is an embarassment of brewing riches--see, for instance, Iron Horse, whose staggeringly accurate, refreshing, sour Kriek I sampled at that festival at Ommegang. Anyway, on to the Pilsner:

Really, really pale--Wonderful nose, with spicy hops. Presumably these are Saaz, but they come through pretty strong, almost semeing a little citrusy--are they supplementing them with something from the New World? Or is my impression of, say, Pilsner Urquell's bouquet just hopelessly thrown off by trans-Atlantic travel? Anyway, it's a bright, spicy, lemony aroma regardless. It's absolutely crisp, clean, and focused on the palate. My usual gripe about Pilsner's is they can be a little fluffy, or just have negligible substance in this regard. Here, not so: It's quite dry but the palate has a delicate nutty malt, with a firm, relatively lingering, almondy finish. Not too damn bad.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Lisa's making me do beer notes here

Doing a random Wednesday night IPA tasting--had three in the fridge: Saranac, Smuttynose (love that word), and Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA. Had a 90-minute last night, which was fabulous. Also have a 120-minute queued up for whenever I'm foolish enough to ingest a 21% abv beer.

Saranac: One of their better beers really. Pale straw color, fairly light bodied. Don't know the alcohol content. Probably 4.5-5. Nose is dominated by pleasantly grape-fruity Cascade hops--not super complex but pleasant, with good lingering bitterness.

Smuttynose: Pretty much orders of magnitude more complex. It is just full of crud--this brewery seems, if this is any indication, to favor a homebrewish texture, very heavily sedimented. The nose is ultra-floral, with strong grapefruit--they've clearly cascaded the hell out of it--but it's not piercing or shrill, to my way of thinking. Partly because it's not just grapefruit--I think I get a little mandarin orange, for instance. Wonderful mouthfeel--not thick bodied exactly, but has a certain pleasant chewiness. Citric palate with just enough malt coming in to keep it balanced out. The finish is a little puckery in a way I rather like--strong hop bitterness mixed with a certain amount, I think, of tannin that makes it really clingy.

Dogfish Head 60-Minute: Bigger, overall. Rocky head, little deeper color. Hoppiness is less dominated by Cascades. You know, the Smuttynose is so shatteringly fragrant that the DH seems a little subdued, but it's working in a different, darker aromatic range. The hops are interesting to be sure, but not as explosive or floral. Layers of interesting citrus flavors, with some definite bitter rindiness. Acidic, expceptionally bright tasting palate, despite the darker nose. There's something really earthy in the bouquet--is it faintly possible this has some Kents, or some kind of less bright English hop, in there somewhere? I'm not sure.

The winner? Smuttynose. Saranac is solid, the DH is rich, and bold, and I like it a lot, but the Smutty seems the most distinctive, the most characterful. And thus concludes my first proper blog posting. Stay tuned for another in 6-8 weeks. I'm off to buy more beer.