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.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

De Dolle Brouwers

Here's something interesting. I had a Stille Nacht earlier and didn't like it as much as I remembered. I swear, and I may be crazy, but I swear that beer used to be -far- drier. It's somehow morphed over the past 3 or 4 years into this huge, malty, sweet thing. It's kind of interesting--very complex malt, rich carameliness, fruitiness, 27 degrees Plato, etc, but it used to be way tighter. Sort of like a sharper, trippel version of the Oerbier, unless I'm crazy.

So I looked into it and it turns out that they, like De Ranke, used to use the Rodenbach yeast, courtesy of Rodenbach, who would just give them big ol' things of it. Then Rodenbach got bought out and is run by Palm a much bigger more commercial brewer who cut off the yeast supply. And I think they also cut down on the varieties of Rodenbach available too, the fuckers. At any rate, I haven't seen much Rodenbach around lately. So Rodenbach yeast has brettanomyces and lactobacillus in it, which would explain the trademark sourness of the De Dolle beers, and for that matter De Ranke XX or Guldenberg. Because Oerbier was always strikingly sour, and certainly the appeal of Arabier (my favorite De Dolle beer) was derived from the blending of nutty hop levels with a sour, ultra-dry, faintly Orval-ish malt base. So it's this brewery acquisition that explains the angst a lot of beer types had about De Ranke switching yeast. I didn't know it was De Dolle Brouwers too. Apparently the head brewer there has been relatively chill about it and just says, hey, we're trying new yeast--it's not the same. But many Belgian devotees were rather crushed. They've been experimenting over the last year or two with lactic fermentations and fooling around trying to restore the house character--here's hoping they do. I'm wondering, now that I think about it, if this explains the catastrophic decline in the quality of Saison de Pipaix's Cochonette--a beer that used to be dry and a little tart and somehow turned into this inconsistent, flat, malty, blob of a beer. I used to adore that beer. . . And I think Pipaix is in the same area, so that might've been the source??

In the meantime, Wyeast has put together a new smack pack, the Roeslare blend, which is purportedly the Rodenbach yeast and allows homebrewers to make sour red and brown Flanders beers. It's a tricky yeast to use, from what I've read, but I'm going to try it as soon as I can, as I think it could be the key to making some super complex Belgian beers.

On an unrelated note, I've got to start thinking about supplies for my Westmalle-esque Tripel. Based on the Michael Jackson data, it wants to go from 1080 to 1012. I think coriander is probably in order, and maybe orange peel, but in tiny quantities. Hop options would be Saaz, Tettnang, Styrian Goldings, Hallertau, anything else German, really, and possibly English Fuggles. Something beyond just Pilsner malt seems in order, but anything darker than Munich is probably out of line. Maybe a tiny bit of Biscuit or Victory. Mosher recommends jaggery, but I'm inclined to do a more neutral sugar here: Belgian candi, or table sugar, or beet sugar if I can determine that it's about the same as candi sugar, which I think it is. Mosher seems to confirm that info and beet sugar is way cheaper at the local hippie market. I might be able to do it with hops in the freezer, plus like one supplementary variety, a big bag of pils malt and a character malt or two. Doesn't seem too hard, but I question what the results will be. . . More research pending.


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