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.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Darker Belgians

Hideous hot weather notwithstanding, I'm feeling like dark belgians are really compelling, and I'm trying to store some up for winter consumption and entertaining. One will be brewed tomorrow.

For inspiration, I'm re-trying my Dubbel, which I'm starting to think may be my best beer to date. It looks dusky and impenetrable for a bit, but then you hold it up to the light and it goes all deep, clear russet. No haze, not that it matters. Pretty good head. The nose is really layered: cherry fruit, hints of chocolate, a little coconut, spices, a suggestion of amaretto, raisins, etc. The palate is earthy but also very soft and beguiling--no excessive maltiness, no rough edges. Very subtle really.

So the next darker Belgian is going to be a Saison, inspired very vaguely by Fantome Black Ghost (which I had once two years ago) and Pizza Port's SPF 8 (which I've never had but have read about). That's about it for dark Saisons--it's a pretty large stylistic departure. . .

Mine's going to use the Saison Dupont yeast, from the cake under my Summer Saison. I'll bitter with Northern Brewer and flavor and aroma with Hallertauer. I'll then spice it, in a burst of exuberance and misplaced confidence with orange peel, grains of paradise, coriander, and fresh rosemary. Amount probably to be determined on the fly.

The grain bill is a little like the Dubbel I'm drinking, but with dark candi sugar, and a little more aromatic. I may, fearing excessive maltiness, take the aromatic down a little and throw in some biscuit for a complementary nuttiness. Eh, shit. I've been noodling with the recipe for several minutes and I'm not sure I know what I'm doing. I read the grain bill to Brian the other night and he thought it sounded pretty good, so perhaps I'm being over-wrought. It's a screwy beer to make, because I don't know what I want. It should be dark and malty and spicy, but also have a certain characteristic, spritely, je-ne-sais-quoi Saison thing. Maybe I should just trust the yeast and the higher hopping to do that. Fuck it. It's a bit of a rag-tag plan and I have a feeling a more experienced, confident brewer could do more with fewer ingredients, but . . . well . . . whatever. Will rattle on about how it goes tomorrow. Haven't brewed in six weeks so I'm sure I'll make a couple of large mistakes.


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