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.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

XX Tasting

So in Syracuse I found a bottle of De Ranke's XX and the question is: Is it what I remembered and can I construct something similar?

It is, mostly, as I remembered. The big question is whether this bottle is old enough to have the Rodenbach yeast. My guess is that it doesn't, but it's hard to tell without knowing how long the beer's been in bottle. It doesn't really have much tartness--DRY, yes, attenuated as hell even. But not at all lambicy. It does match well with my old tasting notes and it's safe to say this bottle was stored pretty decently. It's an extremely pale beer. Hard to imagine there's anything in there but Pilsner malt and probably some sugar, even at the relatively low ABV. This beer is corked, which is a significant part of the aromatics, not that it's overly corky, but it does have that little, rustic, Saison-style twang. Big head, teeny little bubbles, and about the carbonation level of my Saison beer. The hoppiness really is completely beyond any other Belgian beer. Orval is hoppy, to be sure, and that hoppiness really shows over that bone dry palate. But this beer is considerably more aggressively hopped.

Brewer's Gold and Hallertau are the varieties (and I wouldn't be suprised if there were a little coriander in here too). Hallertau presumably contributes the massive spiciness in the nose. Brewer's Gold is a pretty heavy duty hop--one website I saw suggested Chinook as a reasonable substitute. So I'm assuming it plays a big role in the lemon, piney routine. Really does feel a little Chinook/Cascade-ish. The finish makes me shiver, very bitter and a little acidic. Step one in brewing this would basically be to buy a pound each of whole flower Brewer's Gold and whatever version of Hallertauer could be tracked down in that form. I don't think pellets would do. It's hard to say whether it's huge late additions or dry-hopping, but my instinct would be to dry hop it with an ounce and a half of Hallertau and a half ounce of the Brewer's Gold. Gravity would be easy to determine. This is 6.2 percent alcohol. It's so dry it probably finishes at 1006-1008. OG is probably about 1055. IBU's are through the roof, probably in the vicinity of 70? All Belgian Pilsner malt, really cool mash, probably a little clear candi sugar to keep it almost without malt flavor. It's possible there's some estery yeast flavors in there somewhere, but they're hard to find. I'd lean toward doing the research on it and then using the admittedly difficult Wyeast Roeslare strain, trying to keep it clean and tight in the main fermentation and then hoping it slowly picked up little lambic-y notes, in bottle as much as anything else. Would have to plan on aging for a while to appreciate the yeast action. Could also ferment with a standard Belgian yeast and I bet it'd still be kick-ass.

So there's a rough plan for XX--don't see why I shouldn't be able to get close to this. I like the idea, basically, of hopping the holy hell out of a Belgian, because that's the one thing missing from a lot of Belgian ales. The insane yeast aromatics and malt profiles make up for it ninety percent of the time, but sometimes you just have to have one of the hoppier Saisons, an Orval, or an XX, the big exceptions to the rule. Now if I can just find a bottle of Guldenberg I'll be in business.

Just polished off the last sip. That was a sublime beer.


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