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, May 05, 2005

Tasting my English Bitter

Gotta say, I really made a fan-fucking-tabulous bitter. Five gallons of it are in a keg with a little priming sugar, waiting for a party in a week and a half. Three liters have been carbonated separately with a soda siphon and I'm having the last pint therefrom right now. It's got a lovely, delicate, orange-amber color and a splendid head (Shooting CO2 into it will do that I guess). I'm drinking it pretty warm, as it should be, and there are just tons of things going on. It's simple and session-able in the sense that you can drink several of these in very short order--it's not a beer that demands your attention. But it does reward it.

The nose blends delicate, controlled Fuggle and Golding additions--it's spicy with hops, but in a very unassuming, not in-your-face way. There's an appley component to the yeasty fruitiness. On the palate, the malt character is lush and complex. It's got a nice, direct, uncomplicated biscuity thing, but also hints of tea leaf and a toastiness from the amber malt. It's just a really, really suave grain bill. I could see just upping the quantities across the board to make a special bitter with a little heavier hopping. But I could also see making the exact same damned beer and not touching a thing. The bitter backbone the hops give to the finish is really smooth and dry and appetizing as well. This is just the best.

This is a simple thing to make, but I haven't made a beer I've enjoyed more. Perhaps the key is the Burton Water Salts, which I tried for the first time--they're supposed to produce a crisper beer, and this is definitely crisp. I think future pale ales and English style IPA's will really benefit from that experiment. I didn't want to throw off my delicate mash chemistry and have to acidify, so I mashed as normal and upped the water hardness sharply in the kettle. Here's the recipe:

"Cake or Death" Bitter:

9 lbs Maris Otter (Crisp)
1 lb Victory (Briess)
1/4 lb Crystal 55L (Simpsons)
1/4 lb Amber (Crisp)

Infusion mash at 152 with 1 tsp gypsum.

Add 3 T. Burton salts in kettle.

1 oz Northern Brewer, pellet (90)
1 oz EKG, pellet (30)
.6 oz EKG, whole (2)
.6 oz Fuggle, whole (2)

OG 1047
FG 1017? (It might be a point or two lower--I lost my final reading, but it was 1017 at the ten- day mark, so that's close)

Makes about 6.5 gallons.


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