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 09, 2005

Le Gout d'Orval

Was suddenly thinking of Orval and realized I had one stashed in the basement, which I am now sipping. So, this is a bit proleptic since I don't intend to take on such a project for a while at least, but brewing an Orval-ish beer really appeals to me and I think that it might not be that unduly difficult. I guess what I love about Orval is that it combines the wonderful yeast complexity that is the hallmark of Belgian beers with an English-style dry hopping rare on the continent. What's not to like? Plus it has that little lambic-y twang. In fact it's more like lambic than the only lambic I can get in this area . . . Damned Lindemann's. Excepting Cuvee Renee of course.

The O.G. is 1040 at the all-malt stage and then ramped up to 1052 with candi sugar. The malts are all pale with a small amount of some kind of caramel to get that orange glow. The hops are apparently Hallertau and Styrian Goldings--though I've heard Kents elsewhere. Yeast-wise, the main Orval yeast is available--White Labs 510. Then, once it got down to perhaps 1008 or 1010, one could pitch a small quantity of Brettanomyces to get that little hit of tartness, dry hopping at the same time. I used to think of hops as the key to Orval, but now that I've been brewing for a while I'm thinking it's all about the yeast. Yes, a thorough bittering with low-alpha-acid hops would be a must, plus the requisite flavor additions and the very distinctive and, I suspect, rather liberal dry hopping, but clearly the trademark dryness, the slight puckeriness, and the lambic-y bouquet have a ton to do with the yeast. So, within one year of today, February 9, I will cook up a batch. Why not? In the meantime, I will just think of monks and smile despite plunking down five bucks for a bottle every couple months. I'm thinking one could brew 5 or 6 gallons for, oh, 30 bucks, counting pricey yeasts.

Note that when returning to this post and brewing Orval, the monastery's website has valuable brewing information: For instance, Hallertau's may be a bigger part of the flavor than I might've guessed.


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