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.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Well, it's Autumn, so I opened a bottle of Autumn, a Saison I made for, you guessed it, Autumn. Saison, as you may or may not know, is a Belgian farmhouse ale style. They were originally brewed in the end of winter to be a hoppy, refreshing, moderately high-alcohol style that would keep well and then be refreshing for you and your farmhands in the summer when you were working your ass off. One Belgian brewer (Fantome) has extended this notion to other seasonal beers, brewing Saisons Printemps, Ete, Automne, et L'Hiver. I'm doing something similar.

The idea with mine was to keep it refreshing and dry (final gravity is 1.004 or 1.005), but also Autumn-y, which is to say malty tasting and spicy. Hence there's a big dose of Munich and assorted richer Belgian specialty malts, plus a delicate dose of spices at the end of the boil.

It's good. Color is a deep amber. Head is off-white and pretty generous. The nose hits you with toffee, nuts, port, raisins, a Hallertau-esque spiciness, and a little deep, spicy green-ness. I put in a little bit of rosemary. It's nowhere near over-done and I think one would be hard pressed to name it, but I suspect the rosemary has put a little woodsy stamp on it. I like the mingling of higher hop aromatics and the deeper character from the specialty malts and spicing. On the palate, it's quite dry, moderately bitter by Belgian standards, and thus very poised and light. I like this beer and I should try not to drink too much of it. Probably in 3 or 4 months it will really harmonize and hit its stride in a big way.

One thought: the appeal of spices in this style is seductive. They're cool and fun to play with. That said, the Saison yeast strain is so complex and expressive that it's important to eschew them sometimes. This beer might be just as good or even better with 4 less ingredients (Orange peel, grains of paradise, coriander, and rosemary). The spice additions are in the right parameters for the style, and are not overwhelming all, but it would be interesting to compare the same beer sans spicing.


Anonymous J. Dryden said...

Your posts are beginning to frighten me a bit. Not in a bad, unsettling way, but the kind of fear that provokes a bemused smile. I would almost--*almost*--think that you're deliberately satirizing the agonizingly frou-frou language of oenophiles, but there's such a specificity to your analysis of your own concoctions that I'm forced to conclude that you're serious. Which... actually kind of cool. I mean, if you're gonna get good at something--might as well get *really* good at it. Though I think you *could* vary your topics a bit more--your ability to produce both poetic Jeremiads and cynical rants ("What the hell is a rant?") is impressive, and I feel you're denying us...

2:14 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Yeah, I'm kind of not in blog mode, hence the denial... I do feel a Jeremiad coming on though, so, you never know.

And, yes, I am serious about the beer thing. Wine is interesting, and many descriptions of beverages run quickly into deep, ridiculously metaphorical waters, but beer is substantially -more- complex than wine (this has been scientifically established), and I need to keep track of what I perceive in it somehow, hence the attempts at description. You should get some nice Belgian ale, drink it at the proper temperature from the proper glass, and indulge yourself... Tell me that a nice glass of Orval, from a goblet at about 50-55 degrees, doesn't smell of sage and old leather, for instance.

Cheers, J

7:05 PM  

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