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, March 31, 2005

Smuttynose Barley Wine

Yum. I like this. There's something Old Foghorn about it--I think it's the citrusy element. Smells like tangerines and hops. I looked into the grain bill for this on-line. It's very distinctive; they use exclusively Belgian character malts: Aromatic, Special B, CaraMunich. In fact the grain bill looks a little like the Dubbel I just brewed. The nose has a very big, Pacific-Northwest hop character. I pick up pine, spicy resins, and noticable (though not over-bearing) alcohol. It's lovely how integrated the hop and malt components of the nose are. Brooding, deep malt flavors comingle with the bright, zesty, citrusy hop aromas--the result is quite seemless. Rich, malty palate blends a carameliness and a rich raisiny, delicately roasted element, which I'd have to attribute to the Special B. The finish is long and hoppy, but also paradoxically soft--totally without harshness or rough edges.

Gotta say, this could become my favorite barley wine. It has all the crazy hoppiness of Bigfoot plus a richer malt profile. It's got the sexy, citrus thing of Old Foghorn, but with more hops and overall size. It's like 12 % alcohol. Damn. It's really beautiful. I'm going to finally make my barley wine in a week, hoping it ages decently in the summer--the basement shouldn't be too bad for it, especially if I seal a few cracks. Probably I'll leave it in carboy, possibly on dry hops, while I'm in So. Cal. Next time, I'm planning a barley wine, perhaps I'll consider the Belgian malt routine--one could always make a grain bill with Carastan and different Crystal malts, but why not draw on those lush, fat, totally distinctive Belgian specialty malts? Might be good practice for making a Scaldis type beer. . .

Dubbel Done

The Dubbel, horrid weekday brewing conditions notwithstanding, went fine. It should start bubbling presently. The singel is happily bottled--it didn't taste particularly amazing when I racked it into the bottling bucket, but there are some interesting esters going on and a nice, tightly attenuated beer. May wind up being a little low on character, but it was, after all, supposed to be an austere, day-to-day, monkish beer. We'll see how it comes out.

The Dubbel wound up hitting 1064 instead of 1063--close fucking enough. I'm getting good at spontaneous dilution. It came out rich, caramelly, malty, and rather seductive tasting, as wort goes. Star anise (my one spice addition) is powerful stuff and I wound up chickening out and pulling it halfway through the cool-down period. Its scent was wafting powerfully out of the brew pot and I didn't want to over do it.

The bad news is that I broke two of my remaining two Duvel glasses. Yes, that's right, I went from having two Duvel glasses to having zero Duvel glasses in less than five hours. Goddamnit. As I said to Lisa in attempting to explain my rage, "This was a valued glass." I'm going to have to track more of those down pronto.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


I'm trying to analyze Jeremiah's T.B.S. It's a pretty good beer. The head retention is superb. Is that the wheat or the flaked barley? I'm guessing the latter, mostly. The nose has a little English ale fruitiness and some earthy, fuggle hoppiness. The palate is roasty, pretty well-balanced, and fairly dry, especially considering Jerm's supposed F.G. Believe it or not, I think TBS needs a little more body, a little more thickness and roundness. I think the weakness in our recipe formulation was shying away from crystal malts, which were a negligible part of the grain bill. I think the Special B left its mark on the nose, because I pick up some raisiny, dried fruit type stuff. The roast character is rich and omnipresent. I'm revising what I said about it needing more body. It's not body, it's roundness, whatever one means by that. I think taking an 1/8th of a pound off every specialty grain and adding a commensurate amount of, say, Crystal 75 would've done it. But, from this beer and the Porter I designed right before, I've learned not to be afraid of breaking rules about specialty malts. Strictly speaking, this has too much roast barley, but it tastes awfully good anyway. It just needed a touch more balance. Not a bad beer at all--I really enjoyed it. Moral of story: Stouts need crystal for roundness, but roasted malts are still not something to be a pansy about. Oh, and hoppy stouts work. The fuggles character really did something for this. It could've actually used a touch more bittering hops, but the late additions of fuggles were great.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Just a quick thought: Allagash, a Belgian-style brewery in Maine, isn't bad. Am drinking Allagash 4. It's quite rich and complex. Delicate, rustic corkiness. Copper-colored. Nose has a rich hit of what I think is aromatic malt. Not much hop aroma. It's not necessarily stunningly complex, but there's some nice stuff going on in this beer. I guess I wish it had more yeast complexity. No scratch that. The glass I just poured that's a little colder has more going on in the nose. I don't know. It's OK. I liked it, but was not moved. I have another one of their beers in the cellar. Will contemplate.

Tomorrow evening will be a chaotic evening of Singel bottling and Dubbel brewing. Recipe finalized about like the other night. Decided to add a tiny, tiny, late addition of Styrians plus one pod of star anise at shut-off. It's a good looking grain bill--I'm optimistic.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Harvey's Elizabethan Ale

Wow. This was a random purchase at Galeville or Party Source. 8.1%. More or less an old ale? Or a stock. Not sure what the difference really is. Bottled in 1998. This stuff is just fucking gorgeous and I wish I had discovered it sooner. Huge brandyish nose rife with dried fruits and chocolate. Very much like chocolate and dark, dark sour cherries. Rich, viscous palate that is sweet, but not at all cloying--very well balanced by a sizeable amount of hops, but quite without roughness. The fact that it's been in bottle for SEVEN YEARS can't hurt. I was still taking graduate seminars when they bottled this thing. Wonderfully lingering brandy/sherry finish. Very sherry-ish actually. Nosed around a little on line but there's not a lot on this beer. It's brewed with Maris Otter, Pipkin, and Crystal malts, hopped with Golding, Progress, and Fuggle, with a dry-hopping of the latter. DAMN, I like this. Bottle # 4892, you rock. This should encourage me to do some Old British Beers.

Blue Velvet and Rochefort 10

My father-in-law, his new wife, and Lisa just say down to watch "Blue Velvet". . . not knowing anything about it as far as I can tell. I thought to myself: "Smokey, you are entering a world of pain." I said I had to work on my class for tomorrow--which I do and will--but first I need a Rochefort 10. This is sort of an experiment--I'm trying to drink similar trappist ales in close succession. Yesterday was Westmalle Tripel and Chimay White. Today is Rochefort 10 and Westmalle Dubbel. Thank god I ought to be able to brew similar beers for, oh, a sixth to a fourteenth of the retail cost.

Rochefort 10: Not a ton darker than the Westmalle, but significantly so. Certainly its a dirtier, duskier, more sepia-type brown. It's awkward to compare this to Westmalle really, because the 10 is incommensurably larger, but I thought it might help illuminate the house malt characters for future brewing projects. How's that for intellectualizing a bad habit? As against Westmalle's 1063 and 7%, this is 11.3%. What's the OG?

Enormous chocolatey nose--like really bitter, high-cacao-percentage chocolate. Profoundly spicy nose too.

Collecting a little info from:

Wheat starch is used??

MJ says Pilsner and CaraMunich malts are the main ones plus dark candy sugar and, despite the heavily malt-balanced styles they brew, nice hops from Germany and Slovenia.

The Rochefort 10 experience is really something. I suspect it's about liberal use of Special B, not too many lighter crystals, a little black malt, just barely enough low-alpha hops to balance (no flavor or aroma addition whatsoever). And a very, very spicy, vigorous yeast. Oh and the dark candy sugar goes without saying. This beer gives me chills.

And the Dubbel

My, my. Pours with a beautiful head--lush ruby-tinged brown--sort of a deep, deep translucent amber when held up to the light, but looks like a duskier, opaque brown in a dimmer setting. It's pretty deep colored really. The nose is caramelly malt, delicate chocolate, and a range of wonderful fruits: passion fruit, apples, banana, and raisins or dates. The finish is a real key to this beer. I love that it's fairly rich on the palate, and moderately sweet, but then the finish dries out, leaving a lingering hoppiness and some roasty dryness from the malt. I think this suggests that a very small dose of Carafa II would be a productive move. I was going to hop with Styrian Goldings, keeping them almost all for bittering. Maybe a half ounce with 8 or 10 minutes left. If that. This is all about the malt and I've got to restrain myself when I have the urge to throw hops into that damned thing.

Should go from 1063 down to 1010, for about 7% abv. I think I should stay within hailing distance of the Mosher recipe. Maybe I'll do the same IBU's, but with Styrians instead of his Northern Brewers. My impulse is to get a couple more dark malts in there. So maybe I'll boost the batch size up with just a little bit of wheat malt for head and a little more caramel and dark malts. I'll do 2 or 3 ounces of Carafa, perhaps, plus a little Caramel Pils and a liberal use of Special B. Mosher has "one pound of Belgian medium-dark crystal." I'll make that half CaraMunich and half Special B I guess.

Here's a draft recipe I'll touch up later:

6 lbs Belgian Pale
3 lbs Munich
1 lb jaggery
.5 lbs Wheat
.5 lbs CaraMunich
.5 lbs Special B
.5 lbs Aromatic
.5 lbs Caramel Pils
2 oz. Carafa II

Bitter with 1.5 ozs of Styrians but check the IBU's on the pouch.
Mash around 150? Not sure. I mean, it should have complex residual sugars, but I need it to get down to about 1010 too. With all those rich malts, it ought to have body anyway.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

And the Westmalle

Thoughts on Westmalle Tripel and recipe formulation for tripels:

I'm tasting this in pretty close succession to the Chimay White for the sake of crystallizing my sense of the differences. Can't compare the color well because the Westmalle poured pretty clear and the Chimay was ultra cloudy--which is odd since the Chimay had been sitting in the basement for a month while the Westmalle was just bought and got knocked around a little. Go figure. Westmalle is pale, but not ultra pale--definitely golden. Not as orange as my Saison, but not as pale as Duvel. This bottle has a very egg-whitey, brilliant head that leaves major lace.

The aroma is pretty low on the hops, especially compared to the Chimay. Maybe a little Saaz--reminds me a little of Duvel in the hopping level and aromatics. I could see a modest late addition of Saaz or Styrian Goldings. Even Fuggle perhaps. But not a lot of them. Little bitterness in the finish too. For this style of tripel, you'd be talking about a BU:GU ratio of like .5:1 I think, maybe .6:1. The nose is marked more by warm, whiskey-ish notes. Creaminess. Oddly enough I'm getting a real blast of cherry, which I don't think I've ever registered with this beer before. That only happened for 60-90 seconds and then the temperature change obliterated that facet of the beer. That's presumably a yeast-derived ester effect. With many Belgians that'd be more of a high, flowery, even citrusy, thing; here it's a little darker range of fruits, though that may have something to do with the warm serving temp. I'm drinking this at like 55 degrees, when 48-50 might change it. I get a little sage note too--darker herbs. Clove too. It's fascinating to watch a beer like this evolve in the glass.

The palate is silky smooth--malty but not even slightly cloying. This is the hard thing to replicate in brewing, I would think. My Duvel clone is still beltingly malty and it was heavily chaptalized with dextrose. Aging is the key, in part, but I wonder what the sugar percentage is here. Wow--such a perfumey nose. I love this beer. It does smell like coriander, so I'd be inclined to give it a little dose at the end of the boil. Could make a case for a little orange peel too, but I hate the idea of covering up the natural yeast complexity. Not sure how to approach that with this or the Dubbel. That 3787 yeast is pretty crazy and it may be best to savor whatever it produces of its own accord.

Starting gravity, by the way, is 1080. Alcohol is 9 or 9.5 depending on who you talk to. If it's 9.5, it would have to get from 1080 to 1008, which is pretty hard-core. This would mandate an extremely cool mash--no dextrins need apply. What a fucking balancing act. . . I forgot how suave this beer managed to be. With that kind of gravity, that's an extraordinary brewing accomplishment. Grist should be pilsner malt of the highest order, a modest amount of Munich, and totally clear candi-sugar, or beet sugar. Have read that Ommegang uses cane sugar; maybe just C&H is fine, if that's the case. I kinda trust those guys in Cooperstown. Pace Mosher, I'll steer clear of unrefined sugars for this one--seems dangerous given the refinement I'm ultimately trying to produce. Bittering will be tricky. It must be balanced. I hate flabby tripels. But overhopping is a real danger. I think maybe I'll hop for about 45 IBU's (tops) but exclusively with low-alpha, prefereably noble, hops. Hallertau, Styrians, Saaz, maybe Fuggle. Nothing else. And I'll keep the late additions really modest. Carbonation is also part of the balance. It should be well-carbonated, but not too spritzy. Westmalle is definitely a little less prickly in that respect than Chimay.

So, looking over my sources, I think the recipe in Mosher is actually very close. I might hops it a teeny, teeny bit more--maybe a half ounce of Saaz or Fuggle at five minutes. I might contemplate a touch of coriander, even a teensy whiff of orange peel. I'd definitely switch out the unrefined sugar. Other than that he and I are about on the same page. So I'll work off that recipe and tweak it very delicately. Sound like a plan?

Trappist planning (Chimay)

Over the next week, I'll put together my recipes for a Dubbel and a Tripel. To help, I've got bottles of Chimay White and Westmalle Tripel, as well as Westmalle Dubbel and Rochefort 10. If I were smarter I would've grabbed a Chimay Red too, which I just saw. Also available for consultation is Victory Golden Monkey and some fairly relevant Unibroue beers if needed. I'm sipping the Chimay White now.

Cloudy pale peachy color. Gravity is 1071 with 8% abv. This suggests an FG of 1010 or 1011, so a pretty dry beer. They use German and American hops, which is interesting. I haven't any real idea of which ones. Putative clones I just checked out on line involve a wide range: Cascade, Hallertau, Kents, Tettnang, Saaz, and Fuggle. It's a pretty earthy hoppiness so I think Fuggle would be really good, plus the spicy Hallertau, and a very delicate application of Cascade. No idea what the IBU's are, but it's got a pretty bitter, lingering finish. That fairly modest OG would make this a lot easier to brew and mature than a Westmalle strength tripel and I like it almost as much, so this is something I should tackle before too long. This website has lots of info, some of it disheartening: I think maybe a mixed dry hop with Fuggle and a little Cascade might produce something very nice. That site says Cluster hops are involved, but as extract. Malt extract is used in tiny quantities as a color corrector. Wheat flour for head. Caramalt gives the color for the Red. Weird.

Is my French functional enough to read this? (Jef Van Den Steen's Les Trappistes: Les Abbayes et Leur Bieres. Sounds like a great book. Wonder if it's being translated. Available on Amazon, but it's 75 bucks.

White Beer Travels is an amazing set of beer pages. Refer also to the following on Orval:


Probably the grain bill for something like this should be mostly Belgian Pilsner, with a decent amount of wheat, 10% or so sugar, and a some Munich. Wouldn't be too hard to do. Will drink a Westmalle in a day or two and see what I come up with. It's harder to peg, as I recall. And it's got an OG of about 1080 which I think makes a big difference in brewing difficulty and aging and patience issues.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Too hoppy?

And one more teeny thought. I've been tasting my way through the Smuttynose big beer series, now that I've found a source. That would include a Doppelbock (B+/A-), a Maibock (A), a Scotch Ale (A), and, now, (or, rather, two days ago) Big A IPA. This is an award-winning IPA by the way. I'm intrigued to report that I might finally have found a beer that's too hoppy for me. I mean, I love hops, and it was a good beer, and I'd drink it again. If you wanted to give me a case, believe me, I'd take it. But it is SCREAMINGLY bitter. I think it's hoppier than Stone Ruination. My tasting notes (on a post-it) are a little skeletal:

Huge, HUGE, _HUGE_.

Thin head. Massive hoppiness w/a kind of creamy component. Medium bodied. _VERY_ bitter finish. More bitter than Ruination? Almost too bitter. . .

I'll have to have another. It's a fascinating beer with a wealth of hop richness. So maybe it wasn't too hoppy.

Pale Ale early returns

Trying out Cat's Paw Pale, which is just officially bottle conditioned. Reasonably pale, but with a lovely russet tinge to it from the Crystal 120 and/or the Caramalt. The nose isn't as hoppy as I might've expected. Nice little grapefruity, flowery hit of Cascade. Amazing how much a light-handed application of Cascade can produce a delicate, restrained, British type of effect. Rich malty palate overall. Tastes more like the last ESB I had than the last pale I had, which is to be expected with this grain bill. It has some nice nutty, delicately caramelly notes in the palate. It's a little unfocused in the finish and would certainly benefit from 2-4 weeks in the basement. I'm finding, in my experimental home-brew drinking, that the finish is usually the last part of a beer to come around. A lot of beers smell and taste good before the finish well. The hopping is very controlled--if I didn't know this was bittered with Chinook, I would never guess. This is a very balanced beer that just needs a few weeks to come together. I may have under-hopped it. I wouldn't mind a little more Cascade in the nose, but this is certainly going to come off as a very British kind of beer, which, American hops notwithstanding, I very much wanted it to. So, yeah, it's good but needs maturing. I have high hopes for it.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Just deciphered the XX label more carefully. This one was bottled November, 2000. How that resolves the yeast question, I don't know.

Victory Golden Monkey -is- pretty good when drunk on the east coast. Though I still think it's not nearly as good as the other Belgian styles Victory makes, or, for that matter, Hop Devil or Prima Pils. But a very respectable Tripel all the same.

Tested my smoke beer: I think it's coming around. Considerably less medicinal and solventy. More smokey. Lovely malty palate shows promise. Moved it into a colder area for a pre-bottling lagering period.

Racked the oatmeal stout: Tasted great. Very big. Should I dilute this one slightly??

Racked the Belgian stout: Tasted a little odd, but that goes with the territory. Plenty of interesting malt flavors plus some erratic, slightly sulphury phenols. It'll chill out.

Tested the IPA: Very promising.

Tested the Singel--A little thin and weird. Where's the hops? May need to monitor this one. Should I throw some Goldings in there or trust that it'll come around?

Tested the Pilsner--Tastes good. Smells a little odd--vaguely cheesy. Moved it to a colder spot. I'm sure it'll lager itself back into shape--it was just actively bottle conditioning at 55 or so.

Too many beers to monitor. . .

XX Tasting

So in Syracuse I found a bottle of De Ranke's XX and the question is: Is it what I remembered and can I construct something similar?

It is, mostly, as I remembered. The big question is whether this bottle is old enough to have the Rodenbach yeast. My guess is that it doesn't, but it's hard to tell without knowing how long the beer's been in bottle. It doesn't really have much tartness--DRY, yes, attenuated as hell even. But not at all lambicy. It does match well with my old tasting notes and it's safe to say this bottle was stored pretty decently. It's an extremely pale beer. Hard to imagine there's anything in there but Pilsner malt and probably some sugar, even at the relatively low ABV. This beer is corked, which is a significant part of the aromatics, not that it's overly corky, but it does have that little, rustic, Saison-style twang. Big head, teeny little bubbles, and about the carbonation level of my Saison beer. The hoppiness really is completely beyond any other Belgian beer. Orval is hoppy, to be sure, and that hoppiness really shows over that bone dry palate. But this beer is considerably more aggressively hopped.

Brewer's Gold and Hallertau are the varieties (and I wouldn't be suprised if there were a little coriander in here too). Hallertau presumably contributes the massive spiciness in the nose. Brewer's Gold is a pretty heavy duty hop--one website I saw suggested Chinook as a reasonable substitute. So I'm assuming it plays a big role in the lemon, piney routine. Really does feel a little Chinook/Cascade-ish. The finish makes me shiver, very bitter and a little acidic. Step one in brewing this would basically be to buy a pound each of whole flower Brewer's Gold and whatever version of Hallertauer could be tracked down in that form. I don't think pellets would do. It's hard to say whether it's huge late additions or dry-hopping, but my instinct would be to dry hop it with an ounce and a half of Hallertau and a half ounce of the Brewer's Gold. Gravity would be easy to determine. This is 6.2 percent alcohol. It's so dry it probably finishes at 1006-1008. OG is probably about 1055. IBU's are through the roof, probably in the vicinity of 70? All Belgian Pilsner malt, really cool mash, probably a little clear candi sugar to keep it almost without malt flavor. It's possible there's some estery yeast flavors in there somewhere, but they're hard to find. I'd lean toward doing the research on it and then using the admittedly difficult Wyeast Roeslare strain, trying to keep it clean and tight in the main fermentation and then hoping it slowly picked up little lambic-y notes, in bottle as much as anything else. Would have to plan on aging for a while to appreciate the yeast action. Could also ferment with a standard Belgian yeast and I bet it'd still be kick-ass.

So there's a rough plan for XX--don't see why I shouldn't be able to get close to this. I like the idea, basically, of hopping the holy hell out of a Belgian, because that's the one thing missing from a lot of Belgian ales. The insane yeast aromatics and malt profiles make up for it ninety percent of the time, but sometimes you just have to have one of the hoppier Saisons, an Orval, or an XX, the big exceptions to the rule. Now if I can just find a bottle of Guldenberg I'll be in business.

Just polished off the last sip. That was a sublime beer.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

OK, finally there are photos

Below are the photos I was trying to post before. They're not really that exciting but I tried. The random house ones mixed in are because Kier was bitching that we never shared home improvement images. Those are the new floors.

Not an amazing photo, but I finally caught a bubble in motion. That tupperware had to be dumped three times due to overflowing goo.

That's pretty messy in there. . . It's a good thing I put a gigantic goddamn blow-off tube on there.


The next morning. Note scary brown blow-off tubes, scary brown blow-off vessels, and sodden towels. This was after I wiped away a couple cups of krausen and put the smaller tube back on.

More antiques.

It's not actually made up right now, but that's our swanky guest bed room antique stuff. Don't you want to visit us?

A fucked-up wall we need to re-do. Previously was a yicky cabinet.

Attempted close-up of bubbling . . .

Another view. They were bubbling furiously at this point.

Spring break beers. From left: Oatmeal Stout, Belgian Stout, IPA, Belgian Singel

Dining room.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

De Dolle Brouwers

Here's something interesting. I had a Stille Nacht earlier and didn't like it as much as I remembered. I swear, and I may be crazy, but I swear that beer used to be -far- drier. It's somehow morphed over the past 3 or 4 years into this huge, malty, sweet thing. It's kind of interesting--very complex malt, rich carameliness, fruitiness, 27 degrees Plato, etc, but it used to be way tighter. Sort of like a sharper, trippel version of the Oerbier, unless I'm crazy.

So I looked into it and it turns out that they, like De Ranke, used to use the Rodenbach yeast, courtesy of Rodenbach, who would just give them big ol' things of it. Then Rodenbach got bought out and is run by Palm a much bigger more commercial brewer who cut off the yeast supply. And I think they also cut down on the varieties of Rodenbach available too, the fuckers. At any rate, I haven't seen much Rodenbach around lately. So Rodenbach yeast has brettanomyces and lactobacillus in it, which would explain the trademark sourness of the De Dolle beers, and for that matter De Ranke XX or Guldenberg. Because Oerbier was always strikingly sour, and certainly the appeal of Arabier (my favorite De Dolle beer) was derived from the blending of nutty hop levels with a sour, ultra-dry, faintly Orval-ish malt base. So it's this brewery acquisition that explains the angst a lot of beer types had about De Ranke switching yeast. I didn't know it was De Dolle Brouwers too. Apparently the head brewer there has been relatively chill about it and just says, hey, we're trying new yeast--it's not the same. But many Belgian devotees were rather crushed. They've been experimenting over the last year or two with lactic fermentations and fooling around trying to restore the house character--here's hoping they do. I'm wondering, now that I think about it, if this explains the catastrophic decline in the quality of Saison de Pipaix's Cochonette--a beer that used to be dry and a little tart and somehow turned into this inconsistent, flat, malty, blob of a beer. I used to adore that beer. . . And I think Pipaix is in the same area, so that might've been the source??

In the meantime, Wyeast has put together a new smack pack, the Roeslare blend, which is purportedly the Rodenbach yeast and allows homebrewers to make sour red and brown Flanders beers. It's a tricky yeast to use, from what I've read, but I'm going to try it as soon as I can, as I think it could be the key to making some super complex Belgian beers.

On an unrelated note, I've got to start thinking about supplies for my Westmalle-esque Tripel. Based on the Michael Jackson data, it wants to go from 1080 to 1012. I think coriander is probably in order, and maybe orange peel, but in tiny quantities. Hop options would be Saaz, Tettnang, Styrian Goldings, Hallertau, anything else German, really, and possibly English Fuggles. Something beyond just Pilsner malt seems in order, but anything darker than Munich is probably out of line. Maybe a tiny bit of Biscuit or Victory. Mosher recommends jaggery, but I'm inclined to do a more neutral sugar here: Belgian candi, or table sugar, or beet sugar if I can determine that it's about the same as candi sugar, which I think it is. Mosher seems to confirm that info and beet sugar is way cheaper at the local hippie market. I might be able to do it with hops in the freezer, plus like one supplementary variety, a big bag of pils malt and a character malt or two. Doesn't seem too hard, but I question what the results will be. . . More research pending.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Running out of brew time

Curse this summer fellowship in LA. It's good for my career and will be a fun change of scene. But I'm going to miss Lisa, I'm going to miss comfy laying around the house, and it's going to fuck my brewing schedule. There's not a lot of time left. This weekend is needed for social time and the weekend after that is in Boston. I may need to do a crafy, very neat, weeknight brew otherwise I'll lose one of my yeast strains. I think (and I need to check this with my accountant) that I'll squeeze in a barley wine and bottle my IPA mid-week. The IPA is on hops and if I leave it too long it'll get out of hand. Then I can just forget about the barley wine as it will take a while to ferment and then can age in carboy forever. After I get back from Boston I think I'll brew three weekends in a row to finish out those yeast usage patterns. First a Dubbel immediately after bottling the Singel (4/9). Then a beer for my party on the lees of the oatmeal stout, which I'll also bottle for the party (4/16). Then a Tripel on the the Dubbel lees on 4/23. A party on 4/30 or 5/7, probably the latter. The party will have a simple Old British Beer from keg, plus supplies of Cat's Paw Pale, Oatmeal Stout, maybe some early Belgian Stout, remnants of Saison, and some fully matured Doctor Duvel and Twiggy Pilsner.

So that leaves me with three recipes to write over the next few weeks, plus a little fine-tuning of my barley wine hopping if needed. 1) I already have grain for the Dubbel. Design a beautiful, subtle, relatively deep-colored, Westmalle-esque grain bill. Hop very delicately. 2) Design a big but tightly articulated trippel. Will probably go a little hoppy for the style as I dislike overly fat trippels. That'll be Belgian Pils malt, sugar, some delicately controlled specialty malt, and moderate quantities of Saaz, Styrians, maybe Hallertau or, as Michael Jackson implies, Tettnang. 3) Design something that'll mature quickly in a keg, be easily approachable for others, allow me to play with Old British Beers, and, cheapo that I am, use the English ale yeast from my Oatmeal Stout.

Pause: George Gale Christmas Ale. Interesting. Cork finished, which shows in the aroma. Very highly spiced--cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg. Relatively light for the alcohol content (8.5 abv). Pretty acidic in the finish. Interesting. Not my thing entirely. But interesting.

OK, so back to number 3 above. Browsing through Old British Beers. OK, crap. I forgot almost all the beers I wanted to make from that are gigantic. And almost all require weird malts that I have to home toast. This is cool, of course, but requires a little research to work out plans or the requisite substitutions if necessary. And, shit, I'm also learning that kegging is slightly complicated. . . Maybe it's best to make this a simple, low-personal-investment beer.

Flipping through Mosher: Simple Belgian Pale Ale? Old Nut Case Brown Ale or own spin thereon? Rye Pale Ale? Tire-Biter Bitter?

Rye is a pain in the ass, though I do want to do it eventually. The nut brown ale type thing appeals to me a lot, but I'm leaning toward a simple, moderate Belgian pale. Never mind that that fucks up my yeast usage plan. Well, it's five bucks. I'll think about it. Must make up mind in a couple of days. Either a simple, warming, malty brown, or a malty, just barely hop-balanced, delicately spiced De Koninck type thing. The extra cost being a vial of White Labs basic Belgian Ale if I'm combining it with a keg order from MoreBeer. Must consider for another 24 hours.

Two trivial beer notes

Two new beers I've had: Dogfish Head Aprihop is quite luscious--an IPA brewed with apricots. The last apricot beer I had was Pyramid, which I hated. Although maybe I need to try that again because people keep telling me they like that beer. . . Any rate, the Aprihop is beautiful: vigorously hoppy nose; wamer temperatures reveal a definite apricotiness in the nose, but it blends in really well with the citrus-y hops; nothing obtrusive or overly fruity. Fairly rich, malty palate for an IPA. I like this a lot. Maybe blending fruit with IPA cuts down on some of the cheesy lightness of your standard banana hefe-weizens and raspberry wheats and crap like that. I'm not saying those beers can't be good, just that I haven't had any that were.

In other news, I had another of the Smuttynose Big Beers, the same series that contains the Doppelbock from last week. The Mai Bock is even better. This is a -flawlessly- balanced beer. There's a little whiff of hops in the nose, a rich, but controlled malty presence, and an whiff of apricoty fruit (that's not the power of suggestion--I had this beer two days before the Aprihop). The palate is perfectly poised--profoundly malty but suave and precisely articulated. Their brewer does not screw around.

All four new beers are fermenting apace. The Singel is chilling; the IPA is dry hopping quietly; the Oatmeal no longer bubbleth over. The Belgian Stout slowed down awfully quickly which makes me nervous. But it started really fast and fermented with great vigor. It may have blasted through most of the sugars already. Hopefully it will continue steadily, if quietly, for a few more days. Can't imagine a yeast that vigorous would really stall. Doctor Duvel Strong Pale is lagering in the colder recesses of the basement where it will shortly be joined by my Pilsner and that damned smoke beer. Pale ale looks good in a premature tasting as well. No worries.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Blow-offs and depression

Yeah, scratch that whole photo thing. I hate fucking computers--none of the photo stuff will connect right or work. Anyway, the smaller blow-off exploded in the night and left a not insubstantial mess. Other than that I'm just grading papers, not wanting to go back to school, and in a very early tasting my pilsner isn't bad.

Too much brewing

Spring break brewing was exhausting. In the past ten days, I have made:

1. A very, very promising, powerfully hoppy IPA (now in secondary on 1.5 oz. dry Chinooks)

2. A dry, slightly tart, fruity Trappist-style Singel (now in secondary), emphasizing Belgian Biscuit malt and Hallertauer and Spalt hops.

3. A big, rich Oatmeal Stout which blew hop mung all over my dining room last night.

4. An enormous Belgian-style stout currently fermenting violently courtesy of Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity.

They're all fermenting together and I have photos of the carnage but the photo-posting software sucks and I can't get it to work. Stay tuned. The oatmeal shot off its blow-off tube in the night, leading to a moderately nasty mess. The Belgian stout is fitted with an enormous blow-off tube which is, I believe, uncloggable. Though it looks pretty gross. Together they present an almost symphonic cacophony of bubbling audible throughout the basement and first floor.

Friday, March 18, 2005

That Belgian Stout

First of all, I have the perfect name: Brother Shamus.

I'm trying to prune the incredibly undisciplined recipe I proposed the other day.

I'm hoping for an O.G. of 1084-5, and a final of 1014-15. The mash will be a simple stepped infusion, with maybe forty minutes at 150 or so and then a ramp up for some dextrins. The goal is about 9% a.b.v. Will have a two week secondary on a big handful of oak chips. The 1:1 BU:GU ratio typical for dry and foreign stouts would seem a little strident. I'll adopt a milder imperial type ratio of about .8:1. How about 65 I.B.U.? I think that should balance it without becoming harsh or detracting too much from the malt and ester action. Because I recall some greenish hop aroma, I'll give it a halfway decent little aroma addition at the end. I have on hand Kent Goldings, Willamettes, Saaz, and Styrian Goldings. I was leaning toward the Kents and, since I have quite a lot of them, that would make sense. I'll save the more Belgian Saaz and Styrians for a tripel where they'll show, and I'll figure the Willamettes would be too much. I also have some stray Fuggle pellets which could be interesting. The bittering hop is Northern Brewer. Just makes sense. The yeast is Wyeast 3787.

aromatic and flavor components I'm going for: roasty, toasty, coffee, chocolate, leather, sage, spruce, mint.

The Recipe:

OG: 1085
SRM: 40+
IBU: 64

10 lbs Pale
.5 lbs Pils
1 lb Crystal 60
.8 lbs Oats
.63 lbs Crystal 120
.5 lbs Carapils
.5 lbs Special B
.5 lbs Crystal 75
.5 lbs Wheat
.44 lbs Munich
.4 lbs Roasted Barley
.35 lbs Carafa II
.15 lbs Chocolate
.25 lbs Jaggery

2 oz Northern Brewer (60)
.5 oz Fuggle (25)
.5 oz Fuggle (15)
1 oz Kents (5)

Seriously considering a little dose of licorice root as well. Must research quantities. Or could save the licorice root for a 18th or 19th century British porter.

On an incidental note, I've been fiddling with this post and the recipe off and on for two days. At some point I had a Harvey's Christmas Ale, which I'd recommend. It's got an OG of 1090 and an alcohol content of 8.1, which would suggest it finishes at 1029. In other words, this has a huge, sweet, malty palate. Big nose of malt and candied/dried fruit (prunes); full, dextrinous palate with just enough acidity and hopping to balance; lingering fruity finish with just a little hit of Fuggles-y bitterness. Fairly vinous. This might be what some of those recipes in Old British Beers and How to Make Them would come out tasting like. Those nutty onces that are just huge quantities of Maris Otter and a judicious dose of Fuggles or Goldings. . .

And one more beer. Courtesy of Kraig's Kegs, a just discovered beer selection gem, Brasserie Caracole's Saxo. Caracole is a teeny little artisanal outfit working with 19th century equipment. Which I think is cool. The cork on the bottle of Saxo is dated 3/2001. I'm wondering if that means this was on a shelf in rural NY for four years. If so, it took it well. The nose has that lovably rustic corky thing going on, with a really unusual, and lovely, cherry aroma. I also catch tangerine, hints of pineapple, and vanilla, plus some cloves as it warms up. The palate is quite spicy, very dry, and a little tart too. Quite a beautiful beer really.

So I've at last nailed down the Belgian stout. Tomorrow, a conventional Oatmeal Stout. Saturday, we'll try the Belian stout. Here's hoping the highest gravity beer I've ever made doesn't give me too much trouble. . . Anticipating disaster, I bought a special blow-off tube.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Sometime I gotta brew me a doppelbock. I'm sitting here sipping S'muttonator, the admirable doppel bock from Smuttynose, which I was excited to see on a shelf in Syracuse, where I also found a bottle of De Ranke XX (Fuck, yeah!!). That will entail some very serious drinking and note taking since I'd like to brew a tribute to XX sometime in the next few months.

Anyway the S'muttonator doesn't screw around. Layers and layers of malt here... There seem to be different schools of thought on doppelbock color. Normally I lean toward the darker ones that have a little more roastiness from Carafa or whatever else. As I see it, there's two kinds of doppelbock. The roasty dark kind (Celebrator, Sudwerk) and the caramelly, deep amber kind (Optimator, Salvator). This one is of the latter sort, but I find it pretty compelling. It's a deep, brown-tinged amber, with a relatively thin head. It has a little more yeasty fruitiness in the nose than you'd ordinarily expect, but I kind of think that adds nuance to the typical, malt-only bock nose. It is massively malty, with layer after layer of caramelly, chewy dextrins. This comes in twenty-two ounce bottles and it actually starts to get fatiguing near the end--might be better to split one. It's really quite sweet. There's no a.b.v. listed but the consensus after nosing around on-line seems to be that it's 9.6-9.8, which shocks me. It does taste alcoholic, to be sure, but it hides it pretty well if that's an accurate figure. This could really grow on me.

My beer woke me up

So, yeah, my Trappist Singel woke me up at 2:30 in the morning. When I came up the stairs to go to bed, I could already smell it fermenting on the landing: the beer was blasting out these slightly pungent estery aromas I can't put my finger on. I think I smell a mixture of odd tropical fruits and donuts frying. Or green tea mochi or something. They're funky-ass aromatics, so I got worried (my first mistake) and figured that it was fermenting too hot. Not wanting to drag it downstairs (which would be kind of a temperature shock anyway) I picked it up and plunked it down in the closet, which is 5-7 degrees cooler than the room. No problems--off to sleep, right?

No. I dozed off but started hearing these kinda funky wheezing, whistley sounds. I thought they were coming from outside, but eventually had to investigate. Now this was not an over-filled carboy. It's a 6.5 gallon carboy plus headspace and it only had 5.5 gallons in it. And the krausen, when I moved it into the closet, was only a couple inches high. Apparently moving it freaked it out because the krausen quadupled in size and was invading the airlock and filling it with pulsating, wheezing, escaping foam.

I went downstairs to get a little sanitizing solution so I could clean and rebuild but on the way up the stairs I heard a snap and then a rattle--this was the airlock lid and little floaty thing shooting off. I crawled around the closet locating parts and started trying to sanitize the airlock. But seeing as how the krausen was merrily blorping out the top of the carboy an emergency blow-off tube was the only option. My only blow-off tube is on my suspicious smoke beer and I was afraid to switch it for fear of contamination--I would have had to scrub it and soak it for quite a while to be happy. So I took a chunk of siphoning hose and tried to wedge it over the airlock stem, which required slitting the hose since it wasn't really big enough. This was forming an inadequate seal too. But it was the only option and I finally managed to make it basically work after a few tries. Once I had a seal, the beer started bubbling into a tupperware pitcher in a "blorp, blorp, blorp, BFOUFH, gurggle-blorp" kind of way and moving foam through the tube with some vigor. In case it decided to explode I loosened the bung just a little and then tried to go to sleep despite the bizarre, febrile rumbling coming from the closet. Is this what having a baby is like?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Siphoning blows

Siphoning blows and I need a new racking cane and siphon starter, but the damned Pilsner finally made it into bottles. The siphon kept crapping out and this means a beer that spent forever clarifying in the basement got the yeast kicked up again, which annoys me. But what are you going to do? It's homebrew. Anyway, it should be in good shape in about a month and maybe really rounding into form in about six weeks?

The Singel is fermenting with great vigor and the IPA is already beginning to calm down. Now, to fine tune the barley wine plan and that goofy leftover-based Belgian stout. And need to write a recipe for a Dubbel.

Brewing fatigue / Saison check

I'm trying to steel myself to go downstairs and bottle the 'ol pilsner, but first I have to clean up my trappist mess from yesterday. Sheesh. So instead I'll report on my Saison which I think is now more or less fully mature. I mean, another month in the basement and it may even be a little better, but it's awesome now. It's a beautiful, deep, honeyed gold color, with a voluminous, pretty durable, snow white head. The nose is great because it's hard now to distinguish the different aromatic components, which felt separately constituted a few weeks ago. I get a pretty amalgamated melange of hop, yeast, and spice character. I get a sublime estery fruitiness, mingled with a little bitter orange peel undercurrent just peeping through, earth, spicy hops, some toasty spiciness that I think is the coriander or the grains of paradise. The palate is simply fabulous with a firm, but unharsh, hoppiness presiding over the finish, ushered in by bright, pertly acidic fruitiness. Some definite nuttines (Munich?) kicks into the finish too. I might be content to reproduce this recipe exactly at some point, though there are dozens of other appealing directions to take the Saison style. I could imagine doing one sans spicing with the famous Dupont yeast, which I would like to try--this one had Wyeast 1388. I could also imagine getting into the funkier herbs and more lambic-y tartness of Pipaix, or the totally unfettered creativity of Fantome. I also have a hankering to make an all-Fuggles Saison, going for a really earthy hop profile. I'm thrilled at how approachable Belgian styles are to brew. I may not feel that way once I try a lambic or a Flanders red, but, for now, they're easy. Cheers.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Maybe there's hope

So the trappist-esque singel went well. Hit about the target gravity, pitched the 3787, should start bubbling any minute now. Scratch that--it is fermenting. I'm kinda neurotic about the whole lag time thing. Which is why I love aeration and large starters. Anyway, the singel has a nice simple malt profile--I think the Belgian Biscuit will do nice things. It got a very vigorous boil and should have picked up some caramelization to add a little richness to what was really a pretty lean, crystal-less malt profile. The Hallertau and Spalt should provide a hop profile totally unlike anything else I've made.

And, what's more, there's hope for the smoke beer. I'm not saying it smells great, but it's coming around I think. The last few days, you'd sniff the end of the blow-off tube and positively recoil. Seeing that the fermentation was dying down, I was curious and took a little sample. As long as I had a wine thief, a bucket of iodophor, and a beer in dodgy shape, I figured there was little harm in checking on it. I think maybe it'll be O.K. A little wine glass of it does give off some sulfur, but not too much rotting egg type shit. It tastes fine. Malty. Some clean, delicate hoppiness. It just smells dodgy--a mixture of smoke, some yicky band-aid-y stuff, well, maybe it is bad. I don't know. At any rate, it smells somewhat less disturbing than a couple days ago and I call that progress. I'll rack it to secondary within a week and will give it time. It might just lager itself into some semblance of decency. But keeping it cold will be interesting. Next year I'll brew my lagers in January. I'll leave it alone and let it finish fermenting, but I may pack it in ice in secondary, or put it in the garage or something. Just had another sip. I actually think it may taste decent in a month. Let's hope I'm right.

Glorious Left-Overs

So I have odd amounts of way too many goofy malts around and most of them are cracked and need to be used. Plugging all of them into ProMash and twiddling around produced what I think will be a playfully random attempt at a playfully random style: Belgian Stout. My vague, vague goal is to produce something vaguely resembling Brasserie Ellezelloise Hercule Stout, a beer I described as follows a couple of years ago:

"Hercule Stout is a marvellous, dead black, brilliantly dark headed, imperial stout-esque Belgian ale. It is warmingly alcoholic with roasted, toasty, coffee chocolate flavors, and some teasing leathery, sort of sagebrushy notes. As it warms up I get something rather paradoxical, which is an herbaceous minty note, something cool and strident riding across the deeper aromas. Deep but lively finish. Exceptional."

I discovered on-line that this has 9% alcohol; I'm imagining a starting gravity of 1084 and a final gravity of 1016 or so? I could easily use this grain for a conventional stout, but where's the adventure in that? Plus I have an appropriate Belgian strain making the rounds through my trappist-style beers: Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity.

Using ten pounds of pale malt as a starting point, incorporating the entire kitchen sink of random quantities of roast, crystal, and other specialty malts, I produced the following rough recipe:

Assuming 80% efficiency:
5.5 gallons.
OG 1086
SRM 46

10 lbs Pale
1 lb Crystal 60
.8 lbs Oats
.5 lbs Crystal 75
.5 lbs Crystal 120
.5 lbs Roast Barley
.47 lbs Special B
.44 lbs Munich
.25 lbs Carafa II
.25 lbs CaraMunich
.25 lbs Aromatic
.2 lbs Black Patent
.15 lbs Chocolate
1 lb Brown Sugar (or some sort of sugar)

Hopping is an interesting one. This is obviously a malt-balanced stout but it needs enough bitterness not to be a caramelly, chocolatey goo-fest. I'm leaning toward my default bittering hop, Northern Brewer. An ounce and a half would produce 50 IBU's. That might be close.
Since my tasting notes emphasize a high, greenish element somewhere, I'm leaning toward a judicious little hit of Kent Goldings, or Saaz, or Fuggles, or whatever I have handy, maybe an ounce of whole flowers at 5 or 10 minutes. Ferment with 3787 and age on oak chips. Recipe might also benefit from a little bit of wheat too. That sounds pretty good I think. All I need to do is track down the base malt.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

IPA post-op

The IPA went well. At the last minute I decided to add an ounce of Cascades at the five-minute mark, boosting the IBU's to 80 and upping the ante aromatically. Why not? The result, instead of 5.5 gallons at 1065, was about 6 at 1064, for an efficiency of 80-81%, which is nice, especially for an erratic temperature infusion mash. I do need to work out the strike water math a little better. Should be a beautiful beer though. Cat's Paw Pale is in bottles and it's a very pretty beer, with a wonderful malt profile in the very early going, plus a lively Cascade-y nose. I have high hops for it. I mean high hopes for it.

A yeast starter for Saint Carlile Singel is under way.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

IPA: Final strategies

I'm sipping from two IPA's for inspiration and trying to come up with a truly sound hopping strategy for my first real IPA, given that my other ones were from kits and not all that successful. I've got a recipe I wrote here a couple weeks ago and a version I touched up while drinking with Jeremiah, which is always a dangerous way to write a recipe. The two IPA's are Dogfish Head 60-Minute and Smuttynose, the former a dark-hued (in aroma and flavor, not color) brooding, fuller bodied IPA, the latter an explosively floral, bright, perfumey, flirtatious, highly attenuated IPA. Ideally I'd like to have some of the best of both worlds but really don't know how to manage the hop additions.

Balance is really sort of a pisser, since it's hard to evaluate what kind of IBU's you're really going to get. Beers planned on ProMash have come out pretty well so far, so I'm going to assume their estimates are close. My beer is currently at 1065 with 75 IBU's which I think is probably cool. I want to have huge aroma, which should be largley handled just by my aggressive Chinook dry-hop. I like the idea of first wort hopping, and as long as I have a massive amount of whole flower Chinooks I think I should do a first wort hop with an ounce of them, removing them before the boil. I think that will not add much bitterness, plus I anticipate yielding more beer than I planned and if I have to dilute at the end, I'd rather over-shoot the hops.

So the core bitterness derives entirely from Chinook. The flavor takes a swing in the direction of relatively moderate additions of Columbus, supplemented by a punch from the first wort hopping with Chinook. A healthy late addition of Columbus and a very large hit of Chinook finishes things off. The dry hop will, I think, be 1.5 ounces of Chinook, which is a lot. Could even go for 2, but that might obliterate everything else in the nose of the beer.

Here's what I hope is the final recipe:

This is called "Eastern Thing" India Pale Ale, in tribute to the Dude:

Sam Elliot: Sometimes you eat the bar, and, sometimes, well, he eat you.
Jeff Bridges: Is that some kinda Eastern thing??
Sam Elliot: Far from it. . .

For 5.5 gallons:

Grain bill (1065):

10.45 lbs Maris Otter
1.1 lbs Munich
.52 lbs Wheat
.28 lbs Cara-pils
.21 lbs Crystal 60L

Hopping (77 IBU):

1 oz Chinook (first wort hop)
1.2 oz Chinook (60)
.5 oz Columbus (20)
.5 oz Columbus (10)
.5 oz Columbus (5)
.5 oz Columbus (0)
1.5 oz Chinook (0)
1.5 oz Chinook (dry hop)

The Chinooks are all flowers, the Columbus all pellets. The mash will be a single infusion at 150-152. Irish moss near the end, teaspoon of gypsum in the mash. Piece 'o cake.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Dubbel Trubbel

Already changed it while ordering grain. Lest I lose track:

Proportion of pale malt to Munich, went to 6 and 3 lbs respectively. All the shit should arrive plus a damned new sanitary filter to replace the one with shit growing in it that I absent-mindedly aerated my damned Rauchbier with. Argh. That better not fuck it up.

Dubbel Trubbel would be a cute beer name, but surely that's been done. Will have to come up with something saintly for a beer of this potential auspiciousness. Bishop Carlile?

And then if I wanna cram in the Dubbel

In case I can piece this together in time to save on shipping. . .

Westmalle Dubbel has an OG of 1063--not that big.

Pale and dark malts, plus candi sugar--I was going to use jaggery.

Malty, chocolatey, raisins, banannas, passionfruit. A lot of that is the yeast.

Special B is a must. I have that. I don't have time to work out the particulars but here's the half-assed plan. Order Styrian Goldings to bitter and very delicately flavor the Dubbel. Order Pale malt, Caravienne, supplemental Special B, Munich, and Aromatic.

Wrote the following half-assed recipe which I'll fine tune later. Could make a little burnt syrup with some of the jaggery. Could also add a touch of Carafa to get a tiny bump of chocolate, which is very Westmalle.

For a gravity of 1063

8 lbs pale
.5 lbs each, caramunich, special B, and aromatic
1 lb Munich
1 lb jaggery.

Shoot for about 30 IBU's worth of Styrians.

Fuck it. Just saved eight bucks shipping and will nail down the particulars later. I've got other shit to draw on if needed, including a pretty excessive supply of hops and minor quantities of malt that need using. And the yeast will be recycled. Woo-hoo.

Sunday, March 06, 2005


As a side note, my nose being a little stopped up, I decided to save the good beer and drank one of Lisa's Saranac Lagers. Hadn't had one in a while. I've decided it's really not a good beer--too corny, not enough hop aroma. It tastes like it's got adjuncts. . . Must train her to like better lagers by buying a few nice, clean, not-too-hoppy things for her and working up into some of the more refined ales. . .

Now for some wild Belgian brainstorming. I've decided to brew about 3 times over spring break. Basically, it'll be an IPA and an Oatmeal Stout, for which I've already got the stuff, plus the beginning of a Belgian series. The question is what kind of abbey/trappist beers I want to produce. . .

The tool-box:

Possible spices to play with: Star anise, coriander, orange peel, grains of paradise. Be careful with all. Could play with spices but would rather my aromatics came from yeast.

Hops: Hallertau, Golding, Saaz, Tettnang, Northern Brewer, Spalt, Liberty.

Malts: Belgian Pils/Pale, Special B, Caramunich, Caravienne, Aromatic, German Munich, Dingemans Biscuit, Debittered Black or Carafa. Might always be worth adding a touch of wheat for head.

Yeast: Hold that thought.

OK, after much fucking around online, I've decided to use the Westmalle Trappist range as my inspiration. These will hardly be clones, as there are way too many thing I don't know, but I'll use the Westmalle yeast, and shoot for their gravities. I think these will be slightly easier to do than the rather eccentric Rochefort or Westvleteren ranges, not that I won't get to those sooner or later, and I'm just more into Westmalle than Chimay.

Starting with Westmalle Extra, their Singel, a profoundly unavailable beer, rarely available even in Belgium. I've never had it. . .

One reviewer on line says: "Hazy blonde with rich, firm head. Fruity appley aroma with some malt and hay-like hops. Light bodied, but quite hoppy. Dryish and restrained with notes of grass and mashed apples. Despite it's light body, it is firm and it's striking dryness along with the resiny hoppiness and relatively low alcohol contents makes this a highly interesting session ale. And most certainly this is much superior than the low alcohol "monk only" versions of Chimay and Orval."

Someone else writes: "Huge, creamy yellowish head, slowly collapsing; pale yellow beer with fading orange and green shades, quite carbonated. Cream, malt, breaddough, fruity, nutty and somewhere mouldy aroma’s. Iron & hopbitterness in the head; flavours of fresh whitebread, aromahops and dried apples (but not sweet). Quite bitter, mixture of hops and walnut peel. Light bodied, first creamy, then mineral water MF. Bit adstringent in the finish. Extreme long bitter aftertaste; refreshing à souhait" (sic, sic, and sic...)

Michael Jackson refers to this beer as "golden, delicate, aromatic, salty." 5% percent a.b.v.
The brewery favors Tettnang, Saaz, and Goldings. And, meeting with the brewer at Achel, who came from Westmalle, MJ reports the following:

[Quote] The first beer, identified as Achelse Blond 4 (the number referring to abv), is lower in alcohol than any other regularly-available Trappist beer. It is a golden ale: with a clean, very smooth, light maltiness and a crisp finish. This brew has a beautifully delicate hop character, from its spicy aroma, through gently emerging, flowery, flavours, to a lingering but clean dryness.
It is brewed wholly from Pilsener malt, and the hops are Kent Golding, Hallertau-Hersbrucker and Saaz, but in five additions, to a respectable 33-37 units of bitterness. Westmalle yeast is used. Primary fermentation is at 18-20°C, followed by a month of warm-conditioning at 10°C. The beer is filtered, but not pasteurised, and served with natural carbonation.
This is clearly inspired by the oddly-named Extra, of a similar strength, served to the monks of Westmalle at mealtimes. It is less complex, though it lacks the bottle-conditioning of the Westmalle. Brother Thomas said he was looking for "purity and subtletly", and added: "This is for drinkers, not tasters." [Close quote]

That's helpful stuff. If Westmalle is the inspiration, Wyeast 3787 seems to be the way to go, as that is apparently their yeast.

Possible ingredients. Presumably Belgian Pilsner malt is a must, or pale. I think Pilsner, given the apparent delicacy of this beer. The hay/grassy thing sounds to me like Spalt, which I've been wanting to try, but a combination of Saaz and Hallertau would also be nice. Must use only noble hops, but in largish quantities as this is a fairly dry, bitter, session beer. All malt or use a touch of candi-sugar?? Little bit of gypsum seems in order. 5.5 gallon batch. I'm sick of Goldings and Saaz, so I think I'll use a combination of Spalt, going for the grassy thing, and Hallertau Hersbrucker since they're in the Achel spin-off. The Achel version ferments at 64-68, but I think I'll let it get a little warmer than that. OK, so we've got the hops and yeast and base malt. I think a starting gravity of 1048-9, finishing up around 1009-1010, ought to produce the 5% a.b.v. The character malts are tricky. A little wheat for head. The Achel is all pilsner malt. That could work. What about a little Munich, or a tiny bit of Caravienne? Carbonate relatively high. Hopping over to ProMash. . .

Out of all that chaos emerges the following:

For a gravity of 1049:

7.5 lbs Belgian Pilsner
1 lb Belgian Biscuit
.5 lbs German Wheat
.5 lbs pale candi sugar (don't let caramelize)

For about 39 IBU according to ProMash:

Hallertau Hersbrucker, 1 oz (60)
Spalt, .5 oz (60)
Spalt, 1 oz (20)
H.H., 1 oz (10)
Spalt, 1 oz at shut-off

That's a little high on the overall IBU count--would prefer it were closer to 35, but will fine tune based on what the packages of hops actually say they contain. ProMash's numbers for Tettnang, for instance, were quite a bit high. But the idea is to get both hops in with flavor/early-aroma appearances, finishing with the Spalt alone for nice, grassy, crisp clarity. I think this sounds like a wonderful beer actually. Will mash pretty cool, single infusion, 148-151. Call it Saint Carlile?

Lager update

Brewed my Bamberger Rauchbier yesterday--went really well. Highly efficient mash--did a sort of double decoction plus a lauter decoction. Very smoky and interesting. Weyermann smoked malt smells just unreal when it hits the strike water. Yum. Wound up overshooting both gravity and overall beer yield again. I think a calcium chloride addition made it a way more efficient decoction mash than my low-yielding Pilsner.

Speaking of which, the Pilsner is looking interesting, and maybe not in an entirely good way. Tasted from carboy--plan to bottle in a week. Very, very pretty, delicate gold. Nice bitterness, clean and pretty clearly articulated in the mouth. Smells a little weird though. I think it's acetaldehyde which I'm cautiously optimistic will clear up with aging. This makes me nervous. It's possible bottle conditioning and/or lagering will reduce this dramatically. Or it's possible it's contaminated, or that it's a oxidation or fermentation by-product that ain't going anywhere. I sure as hell hope it dissipates..

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Jeremiah's B.I.P.A.

Here's another beer recipe, just for fun. Might even try myself. This is Jeremiah's attempt, with some chaotic input from me, to design a Belgian-inspired IPA.

For a gravity of 1068

Belgian Pale Ale Malt 10 lbs
Corn Sugar 1 lb
Munich Malt 1.5 lbs
Aromatic Malt .75 lbs
Wheat Malt .5 lbs
Carapils .25 lbs

For 68.9 IBU's

1 oz Chinook (70 min)
1.5 oz Cascade (20)
1.5 oz Cascade (0)
.5 oz Chinook (0 or 20?)
1 oz Cascade (dry hop)

Ferment with an estery Belgian yeast--I think Jerm has a White Labs Trappist yeast cake.

Sounds funky but perhaps really good. Sort of like a Steelhead Bombay Bomber ran smack into some sort of amalgam of DeKoninck and a strong version of De Ranke XX.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Some random notes

I'm feeling depressed. Oh, and here's an oatmeal stout recipe to save me the trouble of recording this by hand.

For six gallons:

12 lbs Pale
.6 lbs Crystal 120L
.6 lbs Roast Barley
.6 lbs Chocolate
.3 lbs Patent
.3 lbs Wheat
.3 lbs Carapils
1.2 lbs Oats

Bitter with Northern Brewer. Modest late addition of Kent Goldings.

The quantities for my smoke beer, given scaling it up to 5.5 gallons, go something like this:

6.05 lbs Munich
5.5 lbs Smoked malt
.28 lbs Carapils
.14 lbs Carafa II

Bitter with 1.65 oz. Tettnang
.28 ounces in final two minutes.

I hope it's smoky enough. . .

Adjustment to previous IPA recipe. Do an oz. of each (Columbus and Chinook) for aroma, an oz. of each for flavor, and all Chinooks for the dry hop.

Lager yeasts Randy recommends: 2206 Bavarian, also for Bocks

Also try 2124, 2007

Sometime, by the way, if this Rauchbier works at all, go to the Schlenkerla website, where they have decent stats and info on several other beers, like the Ur-bock and a smoked wheat beer.

IPA--don't forget to go to 5.5

Buy a damned screw clamp to hold the damned transfer tubing from my kettle.

Plan a Roggenbier? Maybe a bock?