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, February 23, 2005

Distant horizons

I picked up the malt for my pale ale this evening and I still haven't decided exactly how I want to manage the hop additions for it. . . But, while stowing supplies in the basement, I got distracted by a Westmalle Tripel. Which seems a good excuse to start at least provisionally thinking about my Quasi-Trappist series. I'm obviously addicted to planning beers.

This is not a bottle in totally perfect shape. Good head, nice color (though I accidentally poured a little sediment). It is pale, but a lot deeper color than, say, Duvel, or my own Saison (the most recent things on my mind). I forgot how rich this beer is. It's odd because their double is pretty restrained. But I think this bottle of tripel is a little less tight than usual--maybe it took on a little heat somewhere along the line. I think I'd like to make my first tripel a little more along the Chimay white lines. That is, a little lighter and a little hoppier. But that could change.

What I get here is a very flowery nose. Quite clovey. Moderately high esters. Moderate hops. I'd say Saaz and Styrians? Silky and pretty rich on the palate. Maltier than I remembered. I think, given the advantage of not having to have my beer travel from Belgium to Washington state and then back to New York, that I could compete with this if I designed a really solid recipe. I think we're talking, really, about the best Belgian Pilsner malt, a fair quantity of candi sugar, a quotient of really good Munich for a little malty depth. Bitter with a delicate application of Northern Brewer perhaps, or just bitter with something really low alpha, like Styrian Goldings. Get enough bitterness that it has a good solid spine to it. Tripel shouldn't be all that bitter, but I don't like flabby strong beers and it needs to cut through cleanly in the finish. Delicate flavor hops, but fairly substantial aroma addtions, based, I think, around Saaz, Styrians, Hallertau, maybe Chinook. Just kidding, no Chinook. Saaz and Hallertau sounds good somehow.

One big question to mull over: Seems to me there's three ways to do an abbey/trappist series.

1) Chimay-esque. Three fruity beers: Modest-sized, fruity double, modest-sized, very dry, hoppy tripel, and finally a big, gallumphing grand reserve type thing, with some dark malts.
2) Westmalle-esque. Three totally different beers: A delicate, monkish singel, a dry, elegant, restrained (but malty and earthy) dubbel, and a large, dramatic tripel.
3) Westvleteren/Rochefort-esque. Here we'd be talking about designing a funky, earthy malt base and fortifying with sugar to three different degrees: fairly subtle, pretty big, and downright outlandish.

I think the last one is the hardest to pull off so we'll wait on that. Somehow in the next couple weeks I should decide amongst the other options and that will sort of help determine my yeast choice, among other things. Back to the salt mines.


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