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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Back in New York

I've got a whole mess of beer notes from LA and No. Cal. that I've got to transcribe at some point, since this blog is now keeping-track-of-beer central. New York is hot and I'm counter-intuitively sipping a Brother Shamus. It's gonna need some bottle age, but it's interesting now--all chocolate and prunes and spicy yeast with a silky body. I've also had pleasant encounters with my Singel (tight when cold, but lovely sourdough thing at the right temp.), the Chinook IPA, and the smoke beer. We had smoke beers with Thai food the other night and even Lisa liked it. Makes a pretty good combo.

Anyway, in a day or two I'll post a mega-huge pile of notes. In the meantime, I'm off to Syracuse tomorrow to buy malt and sushi supplies. It'll be a winter Saison and a wheat beer over the next week or so.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Drinkin' wit' Kier and de' Trina

Marathon Beer Tasting on College Ave. Oooh... Yeah...

Beer 1--Russian River Sanctification:

This is an all-Brettanomyces beer. Cool concept. Pale gold. 6.5%. Nice lambicy, flowery nose. Kier likened to salad with bitter green aromas and slight vinegary-ness. Wet straw. Palate is a little uneventful, but it's dry and delicately funky in the finish. We enjoyed this. Bring on the brett. Russian River can brew Belgian styles; also try "Damnation" if you haven't.

Beer 2--Hanssens Oude Kriek. This is one of our favorite lambics. Beautiful color--not all that red for a kriek--certainly devoid of pink. Kind of a cedary amber color. Aromatics: Sour pie cherries; old wood; very, very slight fecal thing when severely agitated; acetic acid; dirt and arugula; slight dairy thing; wet redwood/old deck;

Staggering palate: Quiveringly sour; big cherry thing in the finish; grabs the back of your tongue; papaya-esque, enzymatic face-eating deal; definite passion-fruit; other tropical fruits, like kumquats or loquats (we can't agree on that). It's a puckery, complex joy to drink.

With his first big sip, Kier choked momentarily and said, "yeah, that's the stuff." Note that it mellows in a way as it warms. We've concurred that this virtually supercedes all other Krieks. Cantillon Kriek is great, but less complex. Oud Beersel is awfully good, but not as complex or as funky; the current Boon is a joke by comparison. Parenthetically, at $8.49 a bottle this seems irrationally cheap--it's cellared three years at the brewery before release. How -do- they do it??

Beer 3--Hanssens Oude Geuze:

Can it get better? Maybe. Pretty golden color. Nose opens up with a barn-yardy/paddocky thing. Tiny bit of uric acid; freshly cut green apples; pineapple; mealy chestnuts (?); kiwi; tangerine; a little of the wood/deck thing too; little stinky cheese component.

Palate: Little tannic twinge in the very end of the finish; scrunchy dryness; really quite acidic overall; pretty grapefruity in its tartness; Kier notes a sorrel sharpness; Michael Jackson, in absentia, mentions that it's rhubarby--we agree.

Kier says it has legs--it is a little more viscous and palate-coating than the Kriek. I've had these together before. Last time I thought the Geuze was slightly more engrossing overall; this time, it went the other way. I thought the Kriek was a little more perfectly balanced. (Trina liked it better than the Kriek.)

Beer 4--Fantome, La Gourmande: This is a part-spelt Saison beer. We're mixing in a little Humboldt Fog goat cheese, just to see what happens. Herby note to the nose: oregano? thyme? mint? grass? At any rate, a very complex greenery thing. Herbes de Provence? Dried herbs, not fresh; also some pepper. Light, ultra crisp palate. This is just spectacular with the Humboldt Fog, which is now one of my favorite cheeses. It's a rich, funky goat cheese, with a layer of ash, interesting rind, and a melty layer by the rind. Quite decadent.

Beer 5--Brasserie Dupont, Biere de Miel: Wonderful, fat, honeyed nose, with an herbal component. The palate has a first strike of honeyed richness, then dries into a snappier, Saison-esque thing. The finish is rich, honeyed, and earthy. This is a wonderful beer and, in a slightly more corpulent way, goes well with the Humboldt Fog too.

Beer 6--Poperings Hommel Ale: Just as a supplement, Kier and I shared this. No, Trina too. Main point is the bright crispness, and the minty hop aroma. Yummy stuff. Smaller bottle, thank god.

Note on cheese: At this point, we're breaking and having bread, Prosciutto di Parma, little teeny Santa tomatoes, soft Tuscan pecorino fresco, Le Berger de Rodastin (a soft, really runny sheep's cheese), and Goat Monte Enebro ( a firmer, but still very moist cheese, surrounded by some sort of ashy mold). This is fun.

Beer 7--An interlude: This is just Kier and I drinking an Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Ur-Marzen. This is the supremely smoky Bamberg smoked beer to end all smoked beers. Kier hated this before, but he's come around, admiring its "little smokies" aroma. The nose is a mix of old wet campfire, walnutty tannins, Munich maltiness, and smoked Gouda. Very meaty nose followed by a nice, tightly articulated malty center.

Beer 8--N'Ice Chouffe: Deep amber--tending toward sepia. Spiced with curacao and thyme. 10% a.b.v. Limited edition, 2003. Been in bottle a while, obviously--18 months? Heavy, herby, spicy nose. Fairly perceptible alcohol. Crab-apples; mace; nutmeg; citrus. Big, malty, nutty body. As it warms up, it gets really creamy and rich; there's a mixture of bright orange and some deeper, red-winey fruity-tannic elements in the palate. Some roast malts in the nose too. Big, spicy, earthy finish, with a mixture of malt and lingering, citrusy brightness. This is a really fabulous beer. I need to make something kinda similar and age it a good long time.

Beer 9--Gouden Carolus Noel: Year unknown. 10% a.b.v. More toward deep amber than sepia. Licorice; mace (?); cinnamon glaze; almondy nuttines; macaroons; house-extracty character (Jeremiah and I were obsessed with the almond extract quality of the Gouden Carolus Grand Cru of the Emperor a year or so ago); tiny mintiness in the nose. Huge, creamy palate; distinct sweetness barely balanced by some underlying hops; lingering, coconutty finish. This is a pretty yummy beer, slightly more balanced than the grand cru I had had before.

This was a kick-ass beer tasting. I thought we managed to maintain a remarkable focus, considering the number of beers and their strength. Kier says, "fuckin' A, let's go bowling."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Last day at the Clark

It's a post with no beer in it. . . Go figure. I'm getting ready to leave the Clark. Packed up last night, loaded the car this morning, finishing up with a last couple books. It's been a fairly important month from a career standpoint. I guess my feelings about LA are ambivalent, but that's hardly surprising. Seeing friends has been really nice. Countdown to driving north: T - 90 minutes.

Wait, I refuse for this to become a "what-I-did-today blog." So I had a Moinette last night, Saison Dupont's stronger quasi-abbey beer. It's just a little richer blonde-gold color than Saison Dupont, but has the same huge snow-white head. The nose is markedly spicy, with coriander, pepper, passion fruit, ctirus, lemongrass, and delicately resiny hops. The palate is full; it's maltier and not as tart as the Vieille Provision, but not really sweet at all--it's more of an earthy, hearthy maltiness. The finish has a kind of roughness to it I like--the hops really kick in, leaving you with a deeply earthy, slightly funky, lingering bitterness. This is a great beer, brewable, probably, by just jacking up a relatively conventional Saison recipe. OK, back to work.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

De Ranke Kriek

So I just have to mention that I went way out of my way yesterday to make sure I had one more really stunning beer in So. Cal. Lucky Baldwins had De Ranke Kriek and I drove out just to have a bottle yesterday, as it's a very rare beer and I've seen it nowhere else. Even at the bar price it was a pretty good deal too. So the De Ranke guys used to use Rodenbach yeast and they were hired at one point early on to do a basic Belgian pale for a nearby restaurant or something. Without the severe hopping regimen that their other beers get, the wild yeasts in the Rodenbach went ape-shit and they wound up with a big tank of ultra-sour beer that no-one wanted. As the importer's website (the spectacular Shelton Bros.) details, they spent a couple years fiddling around blending it with this and that and throwing cherries in it and eventually struck a really great balance. They keep a tank of ultra sour base beer that they blend with younger beer and Kriek-ify annually. It's basically a lambic because they also blend in about 30% Girardin lambic. An odd way to make a beer, but hey, it works. 1500 bottles a year is the full production.

The result is a 7% a.b.v. sour cherry beer that is for initiates only. When I ordered it, this European girl came out from behind the bar with the bottle, to make sure I knew what I was getting before she opened it--a query along the lines of: "you know this is really sour, right?" As a brewer, I found this cute and slightly touching--God forbid they would open it for some dip-shit expecting Lindemann's Kriek and have it sent back. So, I assured her that I -wanted- a really sour beer and they cracked it open. The bottle said to drink by 11/08, which would mean it was bottled 11/03, so it had a little additional bottle age. I like the De Ranke labelling and dating by the way--very transparent system, assuming you can read French (more or less) or Flemish (nope).

It's on the brown side of red, moderately opaque, with a durable pinkish head. Basically, it's a stunning beer. The nose is quite earthy, with deep, deep cherry elements woven in. It has a great big barnyardy thing going on with hints of soil and damp wool, along with whiffs of almond and vanilla. A later, warmer glass was even more intense: a huge, fat, sour, winey, earthy, dirty assault--but in a good way. On the palate it is shatteringly crisp, with a vivid tartness and rich cherried, nutty flavors; it is vigorously sparkling and scours the palate in a fun way. Very lambicy overall, it has a lingering, sour, parching finish. This would make an unbelievable starter to a long Belgian meal. And, my god, would I prefer this to any bottle of champagne. . . Ultimately, this beer produced what my dissertation advisor would call an artificial blitheness--one of the best things I've ever drunk. So where can I find some sour Flemish cherries?? Anyone??

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Brewing plans

I spent a little of yesterday evening doing beer research. I think when I get back, other than trying to reuse my Saison yeast for something Belgian, that I'll try out a style I haven't made yet. It sounds like it's been a hot summer so far, so I'll knock out, asap, a Bavarian Wheat Beer. This will be something nice and crisp and bright tasting that I think I'll be able to push on people who are lukewarm on beer. And I think it'll go with summery cooking, as I'm intent on reviving my culinary side.

Yesterday I spent a couple minutes researching sushi recipes. So the plan will be to spend a little time learning to make great maki sushi and then having people over to wash them down with a crisp wheat beer, or for the hoppier minded, a Saison or Belgian pale. I may ramble about Weizen parameters when I get the recipe going in my head. The best German wheat beer, to my mind, is made by Schneider. I may have to go to a bookstore and look at Michael Jackson's main beer book to see if he reveals anything about the grist for that beer (my copy is in Utica). It's a touch darker and fruitier than most. But I could just do a basic, really pale one, which is more par for the course. The key is the yeast either way. Wyeast 3638 sounds really yummy, but I think Randy told me to use Weihenstephan. His recommendations have been solid and Weihenstephan is the classic choice, supposedly used by everyone from Ayinger to Schneider. And it comes in one of those lovely near-pitchable big smack packs which always get me better starts than White Labs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


So you can go here for Cynthia's narrative and excellent photos:

She gave a few more inappropriate details, like me running into the ocean--this was actually a very brief, and relatively tasteful escapade I thought. But actually I think she left out the part where she spilled beer (was it Imperial Stout??? Noooo!!!) on our trusty Stone representative. . . We really were sort of an embarassment. I thought Brian came through in the best shape, but then I heard he puked. Probably if we had tape recordings of our interactions with others we would be somewhat mollified. Oh well. You only live once--so far as I know. Fuck it dude. Anyway, considering my horridly unphotogenic nature (this was discussed at length) the photos aren't bad at all. This afternoon I must somehow work off that dinner though. I'm still feeling full.

The beauty of beer dinners

So, last night, Cynthia and Brian and I all went to a beer dinner at Belmont Brewing in Long Beach, a lovely, high-class brew-pub right on the beach. This is not one of those pub-grub places, but more of a "we have a chef and aren't afraid to admit it" type of place. The dinner revolved around the Stone beers, which I've always enjoyed and now like even more. Anyone visiting (or living in) the area should look into these dinners, as they are a fabulous deal. For fifty bucks a head, tip and tax included, you get a five-course, seriously good dinner, with five different beers freely poured, plus a little chit-chat from a brewer or importer and good service. What's not to like?

Here's the menu and the beer matches:

As an appetizer, we had crab-stuffed shrimp in hollandaise. The accompanying Stone Levitation Ale is a crisp, fairly low alcohol beer in more or less the California amber ale vein. It had a brisk, dry, malt character and fairly high hopping for a beer of its weight. It was a terrific match, the Levitation slicing deftly through the decadent hollandaise and cleansing the palate snappily.

Our salad, paired with Stone Pale Ale, was decked out with roasted vegetables and toasty walnuts. Here, the key points of food-beer harmony were built around complementary flavors: the bitterness of both the beer and the walnuts, the caramelization of the vegetables and the underlying malt, the bright hop aromatics and the base of mixed greens.

Next came a roasted corn chowder and bottles of the new Vertical Epic (released 05/05/05). This was a pretty stunning beer. Mixing American malt and hop varieties with a Belgian yeast, they've created a big, lush beer loosely in the vein of an over-grown Belgian Dubbel. It had fairly massive, malt-based aromatics, with chocolate, raisins, and fruity esters more or less leaping out of the glass. Rich, caramelized, unctuous flavors drifted across our palates and lingered for some time. It matched surprisingly well with the chowder.

The main course was Kurobota pork roast with lovely garlicky vegetables and mashed potatoes. We agreed that the pork was marvelously cooked, definitely toward the medium end of medium-well. It was moist and full-flavored. Arrogant Bastard was a good match, battling the richness of the pork with sharp, abrasive hopping, complementing it with its alcoholic weight and full malt character.

We were fairly slain at this point, but regrouped for a dessert of dried-cherry bread pudding and Stone Imperial Stout. I think our table thought this the best beer of all. I've had their Imperial Stout before, but forgot how good it was. We're talking about layers and layers of huge roasty flavors; at a burly 10.8% a.b.v. it functioned almost like a fortified wine (only much, much better), bringing the whole evening to a conclusion while cleansing the palate of sweetness with its deeply bitter core.

So we all left thanking our host, the great chef at Belmont, and Greg Koch from Stone, who brought the beers. The three of us also fell immediately in love with our waitress. That she kept bringing us extra beer (Cynthia prompted her deftly) may have contributed to the infatuation. . . After some coffee, we wandered home-ward saying inappropriate things about beer, food, our server, and one another. We were, collectively, in a slightly pitiful state, but this is the kind of self-abuse that pays dividends. Hopefully, I'll link you to Cynthia's photos.

Monday, June 13, 2005

More hanging out

That was quite an eventful weekend. . .

Friday involved hanging out with various lovely people. I hung out with some combination or other of Nichole, Kelly, and Catherine (probably no one you know) from around 4:45 till close to three in the morning. We geeked out and talked about poetry and shit. On the beer end of things, Steelhead’s beers still struck me as quite good and Anderson Valley’s Hop Ottin’ IPA is even better than I remembered—indeed, one of the best IPA’s I’ve had. The hop bouquet is just lovely and it’s bitter and racy without being overblown or heavy. Nice malt character too.

Saturday, Brian (whom you also probably don’t know) and I had wicked fabulous Cuban food (a first for me). I had this magically yummy chicken bathed in garlic-lime sauce with fried plantains and beans and rice and so forth. Negra Modelo was a more or less ideal match.

Last night Peter and I went to Lucky Baldwins, which was cool. More Triple White Sage, a glass of Avec les Bons Voeux de las Brasserie Dupont (is there a better, more awkwardly named beer?), and a Brasserie des Geants Saison. Didn’t see the bottle for this. Was it Saison Voisin? Should’ve been more thorough. I was chatting so there are no notes, but it was a very good Saison, with a nice, solid bitter core and nice aromatic complexity. Oh, and Marston’s Pedigree is a good, clean, appley, minerally, very smooth bitter. I think all the hanging out and drinking is starting to wear me down a little, but, damnit, I’m a trooper, and tonight me and Cyn and Brian are going to a Stone Brewing Co. beer dinner in Long Beach.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Lucky Baldwins

So I took myself to this widely-regarded pub in Pasadena. I was going to take Peter but he's unwell, so I'll take him out there in another couple days. They have this incredible beer selection. My high-minded goal was to go out and carefully, critically, thoughtfully review the Craftsman beer line-up--the little-known, Pasadena, micro-micro-brewery treasure. I figured there'd be three or four of their beers and I'd geek out and drink and learn from them. But there is this problem with beer tasting. Wine tasters spit, you know. . . So the evening degenerated, as other tasting events I've been involved with have been wont to do. Anyway, here's what I had. . .

Craftsman Orange Grove Ale: I suppressed my aversion to non-lambic fruit beers and thought this'd be an interesting starter. Its aesthetics are pretty pitiful: cloudy, dirty, pale brown, gnarly, dishwater looking. One of the most unattractive beers I've ever seen. Neat taste though. Aromatically, it's like a juicy, delicate, fresh-cut orange--there must be juice and zest in the secondary ferment. The palate is a blend of crisp orange and malt. The finish swings back toward earthy malt, with a balancing hint of acidity. So that was interesting. I didn't love it, but it was interesting.

Craftsman Poppy Fields: This is a pale ale. By the way, they had two wheat beers from Craftsman, but I never got to them. Craftsman's profoundly unhelpful website, doesn't clarify anything about their beers. I'm guessing this has got poppy seeds in it or something offbeat? Couldn't tell. I was underwhelmed by this beer. Nice, moderate, Englishy hopping, clean even body, but nothing exciting.

Around this time, I had some spectacular chips, in the English sense, with malt vinegar on some and HP sauce on others. What is HP sauce? It's awesome.

Craftsman Triple White Sage: This was about what I remembered it to be. They served it in a nice tulipy glass, thank god. It had lovely lacework, was fairly pale, with nice clarity. There's massive sage in the nose, to the extent that the beer smells faintly like roast chicken by association. Lovely melony fruit; rich, complex, sagey palate; viscous, lingering finish. A totally distinctive beer.

Guldenberg: Because they had a wicked Belgian selection (I'm going back for some De Ranke Kriek), I got a Guldenberg, but this was a disappointment overall. Has this beer suffered from the yeast switchover?? It was pretty pale with a nice head. The nose struck me as really compelling for a while, with some sour elements popping in for brief appearances, but as it warmed up I got less interesting stuff out of it. The palate seemed slightly listless and cidery, and the overall impression of the beer swung toward molassesy malt. I still jotted down that it was complex, but I didn't really dig it. I'm annoyed because I don't know how much of this was the beer and how much of it was palate burnout. I'm also struck by how distracting pubs are. It's hard to focus on your beer sometimes. There were cool, snappy LA people everywhere and the pub had just awesome, unpredictable, offbeat music. So the Guldenberg suffered, but I also think it was only an OK beer.

And, in an ill-advised move, I topped things off with a Craftsman IPA. Again, was I just distracted? My first tasting note is: "Great fucking music." Underlined. Anyway I thought the IPA was good, noting nice, piney hops and exceptional dryness. It was not amazing, but quite well done.

So at this point, I went for a long stroll to sober up and stopped and had a snack. I thought I was about good to go after a while and went to the car where I had an extra 35 to 40 minutes to sober up (which was doubtless a good thing) since the garage was a total disaster. I wanted to pass the time and Katrina and Kier kindly obliged by listening to me bitch about the garage. I finally escaped and then proceeded to get horribly, horribly, horribly lost. How hard can it be to find a freeway, any goddamn freeway, in LA??? Well, I couldn't do it. I'm not a master of LA by any means, but if I can find a freeway, I get basically where they're going, by and large, and can usually cope.

So I spent some 45 minutes hopelessly noodling around, cruising through both sketchy neighborhoods and crazy-rich, people-with-servants-named-Brandt-inhabited Pasadena. Eventually, I gave up and called Kier, who Google-mapped me home. Thanks, Dude. Sometimes, there's a man--I don't wanna say a hero, cuz what's a hero? But sometimes there's a man . . . Anyway, Kier was the man for this particular time and place, otherwise I'd still be sleeping in the parking lot of the Encino Jack-in-the-Box.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Human Frailty and a Beer Tasting

Rather than continue this ridiculous pen-and-paper stuff, here’s my thoughts on an evening’s beers, typed up in somewhat angst-ridden solitude. It’s been a rough day and I think something I read in the library today is really true. One Benjamin Buckler, author of the incredibly learned, OINOΣ KPIΘNOΣ A Dissertation concerning the Origin and Antiquity of Barley Wine (1750), believed that humans are unique among creatures for our inability to exist without alcohol. We are naturally “hypochondriacal” and want, “as it were Physick in a state of Health.” “Work or not work,” he says, “their spirits will now and then be flagging; they cannot hold out without some spirituous refreshment, some liquor to chear them, that is stronger than simple water.”

That being the case, I had a Petrus Aged Pale from Bavik. This is a 7.3 % a.b.v. sour beer. It’s pale, just slightly orange, but tastes not at all unlike a Rodenbach. The nose involves a complex of gooseberry, winey, and tart tropical fruit aromatics, peculiarly melded with a mixture of almonds and toasted coconut in the backdrop somewhere. The palate is super bright with fairly stabbing acidity and wonderful astringency grabbing the sides of the tongue. Very remarkable beer this. It’s always nice to see a puckery Belgian beer whose makers haven’t sold out.

Then there’s Kwak, which I haven’t had in a while (8%). It’s a little paler than I remembered, but very much on the dark side of amber. Aromatically, I pick up some cherry and other darker fruits, along with that trademark, malty-sweet, creamy scent that I’m inclined to associate with aromatic malt. It’s a hugely expressive nose overall—pepper, honey, and a little anise come out after a while too. The palate is rich and sultry with a nice mouthfeel. A creamy malt attack carries through to a rich, fleshy, nutty malt center and a lingering, somewhat sweet finish. It’d be hard to make a beer like this without culturing the yeast (should I learn to do that?), but you’d have a shot if you used a powerful, fruit-forward, not-too-attenuative Belgian yeast. The wort would probably have a gravity around 1072-1075 and would involve Belgian pale malt and substantial doses of munich, aromatic, and carmunich malts. Hops would be just enough to balance, maybe 35 IBU. Kwak is very satiating; it’s just a tiny bit too sweet for me to really go ape-shit about it, but it’s a really distinctive beer.

Abbaye des Rocs Grand Cru, at 9.5%, tries to climb out of the bottle like my home-brewed Saison. In doing so, it kicks up most of its sediment, but rewards you with a gargantuan head with huge, billowy air pockets. The sediment makes it look slightly darker than it is, I think, but it comes off as a kind of dusky, burnt umber. This brewery’s beers have always struck me for their rustic, woodsy, earthiness; the nose here is exceptionally spicy and earthy. It just smells like the woods: sage, undergrowth, mushrooms, pine needles, maybe rosemary, and so forth. Alcohol comes through in the nose too, in a way I don’t mind at all. It’s not exactly a hoppy beer, but there is some sort of resiny thing in the nose. I wonder if it’s bittered with something relatively intense, like Brewer’s Gold. The palate is a mixture of relatively sweet malt and a kind of rustic, drier graininess. The finish manages to maintain both elements, coating the mouth with a kind of sweetness, while also toying with rougher flavors. Hops are restrained overall. I think I prefer this to Chimay Blue. The nose might be explained by a combination of yeast characteristics and a small application of some of the earthier spices. Why not throw in a little sache of sage, and maybe a dried Shitake?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Belgian Yeast

So, I'm really excited about the prospect of brewing with the new Roeslare yeast strain. I gave my friend Brian a half glass of my Dubbel the other night, and he praised it for having a certain horsiness. This was brewed with Wyeast 3787 (Trappist High Gravity), so unless my sanitation is way off, it's not literally got Brettanomyces in it. I think it's a single strain and it's derived from Westmalle. It's a yeast, by the way, for which my admiration continues to grow as the beers I've made with it age. I can't wait to see how my Tripel comes out--It's bottle conditioning in NY but one bottle is at Jerm's in Oakland so we can give it a taste at the five-week point. Anyway, I think the good Belgian yeasts just create an earthiness that, with a characterful malt profile, can seem wilder in character than it is. For that matter my use of Styrian Goldings for a bittering hop probably helped--they're pretty earthy really. The recipe I used as the base for my substantially altered version had N. Brewer and I'm glad I headed for something more Belgian.

But at any rate, when I get back to NY, I'm going to make a pretty straightforward Belgian pale to keg and have with food, but before long at all, I must explore Roeslare, the Wyeast version of the Rodenbach yeast with its Brett and Lactobacillus. I was just fantasizing about De Ranke's Guldenberg, which is, or rather was, inflected by that yeast and has a simply stunning complexity. Why can't those beers be easier to find? Well, probably because they'd be less good if they were--stupid question. So there's no reason I can't just take off, build a complex malt profile, hop it carefully and let it go with that weird yeast and see what happens. The De Ranke brewers keep the wild character of the yeast marginally controlled by their high hopping--the lighter I hop probably the funkier the beer might ultimately be. Commerical models for me to work off would be Rodenbach itself (would require serious patience and really ought to be made in wood...), the ultra hoppy, Orval-on-crack XX Bitter, and Guldenberg, a hoppy tripel basically, but my notes seem to associate wininess and red fruits with it. That's gotta be the yeast.

So, sans ProMash, maybe a Guldenberg-ish beer would have a gravity of 1073 or so, IBU's higher than for style, like 50-55. So maybe something like:

Belgian Pilsner malt + Munich (or just use Dingemans Pale Ale??)
Some candy sugar
Some wheat for head
Some delicate character malt application: Biscuit, tiny bit of Caravienne?
Bitter with Brewer's Gold (trademark De Ranke hop) if I can find it (Chinook as sub???)
Flavor/Aroma with more of the same and substantial additions of whole-flower Hallertau.
Ferment with Roeslare.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Drinking with Cyn and Brian

Because of my indifference to my lack of evening internet access, my blog has become a white note-pad. At some point I'll do a monster posting detailing my LA beer tasting. For now, I'll mention that I had a magnificent beer over the weekend: Craftsman Brewing Co.'s 1903. I didn't know what it was--tasted sort of like a dry, smooth, special bitter to me. This proved to be way off--subsequent research revealed that this remarkable beer is a pre-prohibition lager. Go figure. At any rate, there are beers that just know what they're doing and this is one. It leaps out of the glass and articulates itself. Very crisp and wonderful hopping. The crispness, I now can guess, would come from intelligent use of corn, in the pre-prohibition style. I'd really like to know what they hop with because it had a fantastic hop character. Wow.

Also had a fun beer evening with Cyn and Brian--we tasted through four of my beers (Saison, Belgian strong pale, Dubbel, and a CIPA). They liked them and I learned a few cool brewing tricks from Brian and got some suggestions. Chinook dry hopping tends to arrest people and the aroma of the CIPA hence went over well with Cynthia, who has good taste. The Dubbel also showed beautifully and smelled exceptionally Belgian. I bet my basement stock is aging really well right now--it's probably good that I'm not there to raid it. We also had Russian River's Damnation (very good), a bottle of Le Terrible (always nice), and a flamboyantly aromatic Dupont Biere du Miel, a saison brewed with, I'm guessing, massive amounts of honey. It's always particularly nice drinking with Brian as he is one of the relatively few people I know directly who know more about brewing than me--he's also really good at things like intuiting what hops are in a beer and such and I like learning stuff. I'm thinking of trying a beer he described for me that he brews, called 666. It's six lbs each of Munich, dark Vienna, and Gambrinus honey malt hopped with 4 oz of Tettnanger. Gotta ask him what yeast is best for that and maybe make that a fall beer if ale or SF lager yeast will work. Sounds like it'd hit the spot in October somehow. Could that be treated as an Altbier I wonder?

Here's a follow-up just so I don't lose the 666 info. Brian agreed with my seasonal thinking. He brewed it in early September for Halloween. Duh. . . He said this in a tone that just slightly suggested I was a little thick not to have realized it was a Halloween beer. Which is true. I think he said you do half the Tettnanger at 60 minutes and the other half at 30. Oh, and SF lager yeast works. I'm guessing my basement will be a nice 65 or so at the appropriate time--then I could keg it for a Halloween party?? Assuming I get kegging set up? Might be a good plan. . . All hail Satan and malty quasi-lagers.