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.

Monday, February 07, 2005

120 Minute and a meditation on giant beers

So, as long as the day's activities are subsiding, I thought the perfect way to ease me into fixing up my grade book would be a Dogfish Head 120-minute IPA that's been in the basement for about four months. There's one more down there, which I'll try to give a year, but I'm not promising anything.

This beer is simply madness. After popping the cap and inhaling, my first impression is actually of white wine, specifically a really wicked Chardonnay--this is how big and toasty and fruity a beer we're talking about. You wouldn't want to have this more than a couple times a year because it's really too much . . .

Pretty pale, with an amber tinge. White head is not particular big or lacey, but remarkably stable for a beer of this size.

Nose: Oak, pineapple, butter, tropical fruit meets toasty, delicate woodiness. A little twang of citrus, but not as Cascade-ish as I remember. In fact it really doesn't have a conventional hop aroma in a sense. There's too much going on to name a hop, or even a hop family. There are some resin-y things going on but I think those white wine aromatics are really in the foreground. This reminds you just how extraordinarily broad a range of flavors can be squeezed into the category of beverages we crudely dub "beer."

Palate: This is simply the biggest beer I've ever had and hence leaves one groping for adjectives. Their Worldwide Stout is amazing, and, in fact, most days I'd rather drink that if I had nine bucks to plunk down, but this, despite its undoubtedly simpler grain bill, is a more expansive beer in some ways, with waves of crushing malt. Surely this has got to have some of its 21% alcohol derived from some form of chaptalization, but you wouldn't know it considering how fat the damned thing is. And, for all that your taste buds are rather assaulted, I can think of beers with six or ten percent less alcohol that are ultimately more cloying. Go figure.

The finish, by the way, lingers and lingers, a mixture of pure alcoholic heat, lingering malty sweetness, and just enough resiny hoppiness to kind of, sort of, balance it all out somehow. So this is as close as beer can get to some form of Sauternes or sherry.

Now, for the sake of argument, brewing something like this would be pretty intriguing. Obviously the fermentation would be a bitch, involving much ungainly yeast coddling, but given the availability of things like the White Labs high-gravity yeast, one could fool around and experiment. Perhaps a plan is in order.

Proposal: Once (1 times) per annum, I shall brew, in the quantity of 2.5 gallons or less (who the hell needs five?) a beer of 15% or more alcohol, just for the sake of learning. Most obvious candidates: An imperial, imperial stout, an imperial IPA, a double barley wine, an eisbock, and perhaps some sort of Belgian monstrosity, like a La Chouffe on growth hormones? And, really, though there may be some trial and error, I ought to be able to make something on roughly this scale and, seriously, it has to cost a little less than $8.99 for a twelve-ounce bottle, yes?


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