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, May 10, 2005

Saison Tasting, part 1

So I just frantically called Northern Brewer and ordered stuff to brew one more time before I leave. I kept talking to Jeremiah and Brad about their brewing and I shut things down three weeks ago and I couldn't take it. The end of school is dragging on and cutting into my general jeu d'esprit and this, clearly, is the solution. The house is all nice and clean, grading's close to done, party preparations for Saturday will only take a few hours and this means that Sunday, amidst the wreckage, I should brew once more before my California sojourn, ideally getting the beer I produce into secondary just before I leave for a nice lengthy conditioning and perhaps dry hopping. Maybe I should even brew it Friday--not sure. At any rate, it's done--so be it.

To help me think about fine tuning my recipe, I turn to La Chemise Enflamme, my first Saison.

The color of this, from Munich and a touch of Special Roast, is dead gorgeous. Absolute clarity, rich orange-copper. This beer is so pretty, in fact, that I'm going to post a photo of it later. Head is voluminous. Could be a touch more durable--maybe I'll up the wheat percentage. Aromatically, we're talking about a blend of a floweriness from the Golding dry-hop, pepperiness, more generalized spice (some probably from coriander, some from the 1388 working its magic), yeasty esters, a little citrus, a little whiff of sourdough. The palate is dry and slightly tart (a quality I love) with the Munich and Special Roast contributing a minimal, but neatly articulated malty depth. There's a hint of a tea leaf dryness in the finish.

So as much as I love that beer, I'm brewing a completely different Saison now. This is, perhaps, my favorite beer style of all. It has very few rules and allows for tremendous creativity, but the underlying norms mix hoppiness (good), a refreshing dryness (good), a high enough gravity that they cheer you up but not high enough that they take forever to mature (good), and complex yeast aromatics (good). What's not to love? The first Saison I made was on the richer, spicier end (coriander, orange and grapefruit peel, grains of paradise). I'm planning on making at least two more this summer and the first will be a tighter, leaner, non-spiced, paler one--more of a minimalist beer. I'm ordering the authentic Saison Dupont yeast which is supposed to ferment really hot and produce tons of spice and pungency. We'll let that do its thing on a leaner malt foundation: Pilsner, Wheat, Beet Sugar, and maybe a dash of Biscuit. I'll hop it with a combination of Saaz, EKG, and perhaps Fuggle. Could bitter with Styrians as I have some of them around I think. Haven't decided whether a dry hopping is in order--we'll see. More later when I sample a commercial Saison for further information. Wait, "commercial" is the wrong word. It's brewed by Fantome, which makes it artisanal really. . .


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