Doctor Duvel

I'm like a sommelier, but for beer.

My Photo
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


I'm feeling that my life is unduly packed right now. This semester is a bitch and it's all I can do to stay on top of it. Then I have these high-maintenance hobbies, like my circa ten-hour-a-week brewing job. Then there's cleaning the damned house, entertaining friends and colleagues where possible. Shit. I've got a kingdom to run, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. God forbid I should ever have time to, say, go to the dentist, or watch a movie.

So I'm taking a break from Henry V, which I'm not that wild about, and having a beer. Having made two Belgian beers in the past few weeks, and having planned a Pilsner for this weekend, I need to do two drinkable, simple beers for a party I'm planning. The idea is to throw a sizable, bring-your-own-appetizer party for a variety of deserving colleagues as the semester starts to wind down. And if I want to squeeze in a barley wine to age for the rest of winter I need one of these party beers to be capable of providing a yeast starter for a barley wine to be made shortly thereafter. This is skipping over the whole issue of Pilsner production, which is no small challenge--need to squeeze in some research on that. I'm leaning toward double decoction.

So as for the party beers: I figure I need a Pilsner or a Pale Ale or a Wheat beer, plus an approachable dark beer. The last beckons for an oatmeal stout. The one I made from More Beer is my most popular beer to date so why re-invent the wheel? In principle I'd like to write a recipe, but I'm leaning toward just getting an all-grain version of that kit and letting it rip. Should require little thought and should produce a very nice beer that people will dig. As for the triumvirate of pale beers, I don't feel like wheat beer; one batch of pilsner (I'm splitting the yield on that one with a friend) is enough trouble and I'll need time to trouble shoot--that may well be my one and only lager until next winter unless it comes out perfectly and I decide I can squeeze in one more before it warms up. That leaves the pale ale, which, conveniently enough, can provide a perfect barley wine starter too.

The barley wine will be my Bigfoot-inspired, all-malt, heavy-on-the-Chinooks monstrosity and I anticipate using White Labs WLP001, the sturdy Sierra Nevada yeast. Why not? Even more conveniently, this is the yeast for at least some of the Smuttynose beers. So, I'm sipping a Shoals Pale Ale, which I don't wish to slavishly copy, but I adore its clean, robust malt base and I know the grain bill. I think it's worth trying and if the resulting beer is comparably good, that grain bill could prove the basis for years of delicate tweaking and hop profile adjusting--all in search of my perfect house pale ale. Here's the rough plan:

Shoot for an OG of 1050.
IBU's in the low to mid 30's.
Bitter carefully with Chinooks for some depth.
Flavor with Cascade.
Late addition of both Chinook and Cascade.
Don't get too carried away with the hops.
Grain bill is 80-82 percent pale malt with 8 percent each medium Carastan and very dark Crystal, plus a dash of wheat for head quality.

I'll see how that sounds in day or two and then order some grain. Could order seven pounds of pale, plus a pound of each of the specialty malts, plus oatmeal stout supplies. The only problem is that part of me would rather be making Belgians. I'm going to try to wait for early returns on the last two and wait six weeks or so before launching a series of Trappist-style beers.

"Dr. Doom," my nascent Belgian strong, is fermenting happily. "La Chemise" is bottle-conditioning and beckoning to me prematurely. Patience . . . patience . . .


Post a Comment

<< Home