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, April 30, 2005

Belgians -are- easy

I love Wyeast 3787, even if it does stink up whole floors of your house and occasionally likes to escape from its carboy. It bottle conditions -so- quickly, and that redeems all. Plus the beers are great. I couldn't resist sampling my Belgian Dubbel at the one-week point, and it's already basically ready. Not that age won't help. But it was wonderful. Complex plummy, yeasty aromatics, little whiffs of chocolate and dark fruits. Nice body, plus deep, fruity, malty, toffee-ish flavors. Nice, drying finish. It's not that far off the Westmalle goal. Fuck yeah.

So this made me try Brother Shamus while I was at it, which I will report on as I sip it. Dead black--almost completely opaque. It's pretty seductive. The nose is a little like an imperial stout, but with less roastiness, more chocolate, and a lot of fruit and caramelly richness. On the palate it's got a lot of different shit going on: some fruity acidity, some fat, unctuous dark chocolate, a nice, firm bitterness holding it all together. I don't really remember Hercule Stout (the semi-model for this beer) that well, but this has got to be sort of comparable--it's too rich and interesting to be without its own merits. By the way, this proves that Crystal malts are critical for good stouts, particularly bigger stouts: this has 2 lbs 10 oz assorted Crystal malts, counting Special B, but not counting Carapils or Caramel Pils. That's a lot. There's also a full pound of roast malts, between roast barley, carafa, and chocolate. Which bears out my theory that it's almost impossible to overuse roast malts, pace many major authorities. As long as the mash'll convert, fuck it. So this beer is a success and I look forward to watching it evolve over the next year or so.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Me vs. Smuttynose (IPA)

Yup, it's another IPA tasting. Why not wash away the cares of a lengthy Monday in such fashion? So my IPA is called "Eastern Thing," this being a somewhat labored "Big Lebowski" reference. On the bottle cap it just says CIPA for Chinook IPA, its signature hop; though Columbus and Cascade also made appearances, when you first-wort, bitter, and dry-hop with Chinook, it will kind of take over.


Smutty: Pale gold, even yellowish, with quite a bit of particulate matter. Thin head, but leaves lace.

CIPA: Deeper color--not actually a particularly pretty color really. Kind of basic amber, tending more toward brown than red or gold. Pale enough for style. Head is slightly more substantial.


Smutty: Flowers and perfume, floating on a resiny, grapefruity undercurrent. I think I get tiny hints of yeasty fruitiness peeping in somewhere too. Setting aside nuclear-strength IPA's, the volume of the nose is turned up to eight or nine of ten.

CIPA: This one goes to eleven. That doesn't make it better, but it really does -leap- out of the glass at you. The piney, resiny quality of Chinook that is so instantly recognizable dominates, but Chinook is more complicated than people think, plus I mixed in Cascade and Columbus. I get a melange of pine trees, woodsy undergrowth, grapefruit rind, and so forth.

Flavor and finish:

Smutty: Malt might be perceptible. Mostly, I get citrusy flavors, some clean, balanced bitterness, and a finish that swings back toward some sharp resiny components.

CIPA: Great mouthfeel. Massive, well, actually, excessive, hop flavor. The first-wort hopping (I guess) has imbued this with a gigantic hoppy vehemence. Finish is quite lingering and puckery.

So that's IPA. They're both really fuckin' hoppy, mine even more so. Realistically, I got a little carried away. Probably skipping the first wort step, or knocking down a couple of additions would've produced a subtler beer. But if you want to die surrounded by Chinook hops--as I sometimes do--it's really pretty yummy. So, yeah, Smutty is subtler and more complex, but mine is not an empty beer by any means. Let's give it a month or two.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Exhausting Brew Day

Well, I think I've finally got everything under wraps, as far as working that crazy glut of spring break beers through the system. Today, with some help from Wayne and Brad, I bottled Brother Shamus and my Belgian Dubbel. The stout looks good--not as high alcohol as I wanted since it hung up at 1024. I think I mashed it too warm. But so be it. It should be big and velvety. The Dubbel didn't really amaze me or anything, but it's pretty much hitting the right (Westmalle-ish) specs, if the numbers in Michael Jackson's book are right, but I've run into different alcohol percentages on that beer, ranging from 6-7. If it's really six I'm right on, but I have a feeling that that's wrong. Eh, what can you do? I also racked my Old Crowbar Barley Wine out of a two-week primary. It was at about 1023, which is -exactly- what I wanted. I gave it the first of its two dry-hopping doses. The hydrometer sample tasted teee-riffic--very excited about that beer. Am hoping I can actually just pop it in bottles before I split for CA. I don't think it's really the kind of barley wine that needs to sit in a carboy forever. Two weeks of primary, plus maybe three of secondary, kind of ought to do it.

And, somehow, I brewed a beer too. Made the Belgian tripel and dumped it on the dubbel's yeast cake. Considering I was doing way too much at once, it went pretty smoothly. Re-designed a Mosher recipe, giving it some extra wheat malt and a bit more sugar, plus a small extra hit of aroma hops at the end. Nothing crazy, just about .6 oz to make sure it's got a little of that herbal thing going on. My impression is that Westmalle tripel, while hardly a highly hopped beer, does have a little whiff of Styrians that I was trying to replicate. On a whim I also gave it a tiny spice addition--small enough that I think I'll never know it's there, but maybe it'll add a teeny little je ne sais quoi to it. Aerated well, lag time was minimal. Glugging healthily away as I type.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Folie notes take two

Lost proper notes due to kicking computer plug, but. . .

Nose: peachy, vanilla, cherry, lactic sharpness.
Body: tart, sharp, smooth, bone dry.
Finish: lingering, shivery, beautiful, strange denseness.

A _Fabulous_ goddamn old-style, lambicy, saison beer 8 1/2 years in bottle. I loved it.

Irritation and IPA

I am officially irritated with the world. I can't keep up with all the shit I have to do. Everytime I try to clean the house something breaks or goes wrong that was OK before I started. Clean the kitchen--break a glass. Do a load of laundry--flood the basement. That kinda shit.

On the plus side, how good is my new IPA? It's only been in bottles for a week and a half. I'm going to have to violently restrain myself to let it age a little more. Fortunately, I've got nine six-packs of it. Huge, sweeping Chinook aroma in the nose--the dry hopping is very potent and probably subdues some other interesting elements. But it's not really one dimensional because Chinook is such a great dry hop, with those huge, resiny, flowery, herbal components. It's hard to perceive the malt much--maybe the Maris Otter wasn't needed. We'll see how it develops. The first wort hopping has produced a hugely resiny, rich-tasting palate. And considering all those hops, it's really a pretty smooth beer. The finish is lingering and, you guessed it, hoppy. I could easily imagine designing a subtler IPA but, for the moment, this is just the kind of thing I wanted. A barely balanced, screamingly American, robust IPA. Assuming ProMash's hop calculations are fully trustworthy this was to have 80 IBU's on a 1064 frame. We'll fool around with maltier British ones, or subtler, more delicate American versions, or double IPA's later. For now, fuck it. Yes. Fuck it, dude. I'll do a parallel tasting with a couple of commercial examples in a week or two, see how it holds up, and sketch out a few potential alterations. I figure I'll always brew at least two batches of IPA a year, it being one of my favorite conventional styles, when push comes to shove. This is a nice one to have in the tool-kit.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I've about had it

In bad news, I fucked up my spare refrigerator. It's dead. I don't wanna talk about it. It was probably only a relatively short term solution anyway, but I screwed myself. Fuck.

In other bad news, my pilsner still sucks. How long do I have to lager this shit for??

In good news, my new Chinook-dominated India Pale Ale is tasting just beautiful in the early going. Massively hoppy, but surprisingly smooth considering. More analyses forthcoming.

In other good news, the bottles of Dr. Doom Strong Belgian Pale that have been lagering in the fridge are starting to really come into their own. Oh, and Brad and I test drove my fruity, yeasty, delicate Belgian singel--it's looking nice too.

Bottled an oatmeal stout and my smoke beer Sunday. The oatmeal is looking wonderful, the smoke beer, considering it's a tempermental lager, didn't look bad either. I also brewed a British bitter, or maybe it borders on a special bitter. This will be kegged for a party, courtesy of a friend's equipment.

Drank with Jerm the other night and co-wrote some rye beer recipes. Oughta post mine when I get a chance. Won't be able to brew it till July probably. He made a German-inspired beer we dubbed RoggenDunkelWeizenMarzenBock. It's rye, it's wheat, it moderately dark, but in a kind of Marzen range, it's a little higher in gravity, it's a RoggenDunkelWeizenMarzenBock. Only problem is it's also an ale, so we should probably jam an "alt" in there somewhere too. My beer was less teutonic, kind of an all-over-the-place vaguely English, malty ale, made with rye, chocolate rye, a little hit of smoked malt, some nice British crystal, and an all-Fuggle hop regimen. Sort of a Nut Brown Roggen Rauch. I thought it looked really intriguing by the time I was done with it. More on that later. These could both be disastrous beers, I suppose, but I thought honestly that they both looked wonderful and innovative. Was fun to design a beer without really giving a rat's ass about style. We'll see how they come out over the next few months.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Dulle Teve, meet Rochefort 6

It's been a while since I had a mad bitch, so I snapped this up when I was in Boston, despite the price tag. It's an absolutely gorgeous beer. The palate is clean and dry, and the color's real pale, so we can't be talking about much more than Pilsner malt and candi sugar. I'd like to get an idea of what the yeast involved here is, because it's an amazing producer of herbal aromatics, unless they're spicing this in some really funky ways. I get mint and cilantro and basil and stuff like that just busting out of this beer. I'm thinking coriander is definitely used, as there's a little nutty, spicy thing somewhere too. It's the mint that really kills me--it's such a high, clear, sexy scent. The palate is very subtle and complex. The alcohol, which is probably substantial, is not very perceptible at all. I would fuckin' flip if I could brew a tripel that resembled this. Run of the mill tripels are often simplistically reliant on spicing, or have somewhat coarse malt profiles. This works like a Swiss watch. So there's something to work on: figure out how to brew a beer that has that herbal greenery thing going on. Nice hop bitterness in the finish. Probably the idea would be to brew an extra dry tripel, with a little extra hopping, and then unleash just the right yeast.

And, in a burst of feckless beerlust, I decided to crack open another beer brought back from Boston. I get, thrill of thrills, to try a Trappist beer I have not had before: Rochefort 6. I love the 10, one of the great classics amongst the bigger Belgians. And I had the 8 in the bay area recently, which I found really captivating. One might expect the 6, the lowest in gravity, to be less interesting, but of course, that would be wrong. It's drop dead gorgeous. Kind of dusky, russet color, red under light. Every time I smell it, it's different. One minute I get this kind of delicately lactic thing--which reminds me of the effect the 3787 yeast is producing in my beers (Westmalle and Rochefort appear to use the same yeast). The next minute, I get a rich whiff of plummy, raisiny Special B and Caramunich (the latter being a signature malt at Rochefort). The idea of brewing anything comparable is rather daunting, but I think you'd be talking about pilsner malt, plus relatively heavy handed applications of Caramunich (primarily) and Special B (secondarily), plus dark candi sugar. Hopping would be like Styrian Goldings and Hallertau or something, limited almost entirely to bittering. Wow. This is so soft and yet mouth-filling at the same time. Now that was a beer tasting.

Trappist Singel

This is a different beer. I'm trying my Belgian Singel which has just finished warm conditioning. As usual, a month in the basement'll probably do it good. I used Wyeast 3787 which is really a yeast for strong ales and it does rather dominate this beer a little. The nose is really yeasty and phenolic. The palate is quite dry and has this neat toasty effect from the Belgian Biscuit malt. Dry, slightly parching finish. Lingering combination of hop bitterness and toasty malt. I guess the question is whether the yeast aromatics will die down a little and meld with the hopping more. Considering the substantial late additions of Hallertau and Spalt, there's not as much hop in the nose as I'd like. This definitely would be a kind of aperetif beer, in the vein of Orval actually.

Terrible Ale

Unibroue's Terrible:

Just a shade or so darker than Westmalle Dubbel. Huge, spritzy, perky, appley nose. Kind of like Affligem Dubbel but a little darker and faintly roasty. Gotta have a little carafa, lots of special B. Some Caramunich, something toasty like Biscuit?

Here's an arbitrary grain bill just for fun:

11 lbs Belgian Pale Ale Malt
1 lb Biscuit
1 lb Caramunich
.5 lbs Special B
2 oz Carafa II
2 lbs Beet Sugar

Key to this beer would be a really, really fruity yeast--Chimay-ish? Or the Wyeast Franco-Canadian yeast? Bitterness for this is mild. Probably only like 40 IBU's and practically no aroma hops.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Smoky Wheat

My, my. I forgot how funky smoke beers are. In Boston, at the all-important Kappy's liquors next to the hotel, I found Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier. I've got the classic Marzen in the basement, but I'm currently drinking the Weizen. I was honestly expecting a kind of delicate, just slightly smoky beer. The Daniels/Larson smoke beer book makes it sound like the weizens generally just get a touch of smoke. This is really smoky though. And I like it.

As I was pouring it, I just sort of smiled when the smell hit me, reassured that maybe the smoke beer in my basement is just fine. It smelled so bad for a while, and still smells a little funky, but smoke beers really just do, you know? The nose on this is big, exceptionally smoky, and rich. And unlike your standard light wheat beer, this has a nice little belt of malt in the palate too--it's relatively dark, by the way. Sort of a Rauchdunkelweizen, if you will.

Encouraged about my rauchbier, I wine-thiefed a sample out of the basement. When I bought the Schlenkerla's I thought it'd be a great opportunity to a) test mine and make sure it wasn't too gnarly to bottle and b) compare mine when it's mature. I'll save the Marzen for the latter purpose I think. So, the really odd thing is that despite my beer's mispent youth, it's pretty well behaved now. I mean the aromatics will naturally pick up with carbonation, but I think it's pretty tame.

Pause to reflect on my sample: Lovely, crystal clear, russet-amber. Delicate smokiness--very slight perceptible hop. Ultra smooth, delicate, nutty, caramelly malt on the palate, with a little smokiness kicking in in the bitter-nutty finish. Wow. It's hard to believe this won't be pretty good when primed and lagered for a month. I have very high hopes. I don't understand how it got so mild-mannered. Next time, 100% percent Weyermann smoked malt. Boy, the palate on this is great though. Just goes to show what stupidity and decoction can conspire to produce.

Anyway, back to the Schlenkerla. Key point: This is damned good stuff and is smoky as all hell. I'd like to say I can find something else in it: typical wheat beer esters, nutty maltiness, Tettnang hops, something. But I can't. That was a beer worth trying.


For the record these Rapscallion beers by Concord Brewing were kind of a find. I was really impressed by the layered maltiness of Creation. I'm now sipping Blessing, an artisanal hoppy beer. It's pretty damned good. Pale, rich, moderately strong, supper complex, interesting hop bouquet that's unlike anything else I can think of offhand. They don't say what hops they use, but they're from the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and the Pacific Northwest. Sounds to me like Saaz, Styrian Goldings, and I think I smell Chinook, maybe Centennial. What a beautiful beer. It's a nice reminder not to get too wedded to arbitrary geographical beer determinants. Someday I'll have to do some experimental beers in the sort of IPA meets extra-bitter Saison vein that this is in. Could mix like Halltertau, Fuggles, and Cascade, just because I could. Or Saaz and Chinook and Goldings, or whatever. Would like to bring some more of these beers back next time I'm in Boston--this was just a shot in the dark.

Random brewing ideas

Before I forget, what about making an India Ale spiced with Indian spices, in delicate and judicious quantities. A beer that really capture the allure of the far East would be kinda cool, no? Oh, and when I went to John Harvard's in Cambridge MA they had just run out of their Double Pale Ale, damnit. It was a good brewpub, so I'd have been curious to try that. The waiter dude said it was their pale ale recipe, but with the water cut in half. How easy a recipe is that to write? And since I planned a bitter earlier, it's high time I was thinking of an ESB, something along the lines of Young's Special London Ale.

On previous Cake or Death Bitter recipe, I could go to .3 lbs on the last two dark malts. Should be a good beer--the SRM number could go up one or two without stylistic problems. I like the looks of that recipe. Maybe .6 oz. on the last two hop additions too. Not sure.

Just ordered supplies for the bitter and the tripel from Northern Brewer. Hate paying shipping, but it's reasonable and their service is quick and their products of exceptional quality. So be it. Sourcing brewing supplies is a problem around here. More Beer is good, but the lag time requires advance planning I can't always manage, and they don't carry some things. Northern Brewer has better hops too, and some superior malts. And the local places can't get some of the English specialty malts, for instance. And I have to drive to Oneida or Syracuse. 10 or 15 bucks shipping here or there is worth it. I just knocked back a wee dram of Laphroaig and the idea of a peat-smoked beer is really appealing right about now. So is sleep.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Accidental Barley Wines

A month or two ago I ran through a couple of early botched IPA's and discussed what was wrong with 'em. Basically, they were both British-style IPA's that hadn't attenuated quite properly due to my early ignorance about starters. They're beers that started around 1075-1077, then stalled at 1022-1023 and thus weren't so good. So I took those batches and re-warm-conditioned them for an extra two or three weeks and then stuck them back in the basement. I figured that if they were to ferment even a tiny bit, it would help and that I'd rather they were over-carbonated than under-attenuated. I don't know that they actually did much, but they are better. I've had one yesterday and the other today and I think they're just mellowing. The result is that they taste rather like modest-gravity barley wines. The hops are rich and mellow, the body is big and just a little sweet, and with time these elements seem to have combined. So maybe I won't just doggedly chug down the last few bottles to use 'em up. These are pretty good if you don't think of them as sloppy IPA's.

P.S. Grading sucks.

Pale Tasting

Thought I'd check on Cat's Paw Pale and see how it's rounding out. The color is a little dark, and a little red for the style, but I don't care. It's a lovely, lovely color. The nose has a nice little hit of flowery hops--smells a little gerannial. It's not your usual Cascade-only nose--I threw in some Chinook at the end too. The result is a fairly dark, earthy hopping, rather than just a grapefruity high note--though there is a little of that too. The palate is fairly rich for a well-attenuated beer (1054 down to 1012). That dark crystal malt contributes a little raisiny sharpness and a lingering tea leaf character. The second effect I was definitely going for. The first one is maybe a little too pronounced. All in all, this beer probably needs a little lightening. I could imagine making just the same thing, but lowering the 120 a little, and perhaps replacing the Simpsons Caramalt with the slightly dryer effect I think Carastan would provide. Basically this beer just seems a tiny bit too much. I'd like to take the exact same concept and do a slightly more chilled out version, lightening the grain bill a tad, maybe omitting or reducing the late Chinooks, trying to go for something a little more session-y. But for what it is, it's balanced. And rather yummy too. Actually it's growing on me as I drink it. I also like the degree to which the nose integrates, rather than just layering, malt and hop elements. This is probably luck.

Gotta design an easy beer to keg and use for a party. I'm starting with Randy Mosher's English bitter recipe and tweaking it at will, so much so that it no longer resembles it actually. . .

"Cake or Death?" Bitter:

6.5 gallons
OG 1045
IBU 38

9 lbs Maris Otter
1 lb Victory
.25 lbs Crystal 55
.25 lbs Amber

Bitter with 1 oz Northern Brewer for 90 minutes.
One ounce EKG's at 30 minutes for bittering and flavor
.5 ounces Fuggle with five minutes remaining
.5 ounces EKG's at shut-off

Will be tempted to make those last additions bigger. Would that make it a special bitter? Leaving as is is probably about right though. Later I'll do a Young's Special London-esque thing and really fling the Goldings into it. .6 ounces each tops for this one.

Ooooh. That pale ale tastes much better a tad warmer. Drink only at English cellar temp. I love it. Take the above quibbling with a grain of salt. That's a lovely beer.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Post Boston Brewing

Finally made that barley wine today. It's thinking about actually fermenting. OG was 1093, which was a little off the intended 1097, despite my flinging in a little DME at the last minute. I think my efficiency suffered as a result of totally over-straining my lautering system. May calculate a small sugar addition into the secondary to bump to 1097--honey or molasses or something. That beer was a lot of work. Next time I'm doing a big beer, must calculate max grain amount. The Belgian Stout barely stayed in the bucket--if I didn't flood the bed too much. 18 lbs is too much, so if I get into really high gravity brewing, a second Zapap lauter tun is in order. If I want to do some of those giant old British beers, or any Dogfish Head World Wide Stout clones, my current bucket will never do.

Last night drank a Concorde Brewing Co. beer: Rapscallion: Creation Dark Reserve Beer. Brought back from Boston. Had a really distinctive maltiness--I need to research this brewery a little. Have one other beer of theirs in the basement.

Eastern Thing is in bottles.

Here's a Tripel recipe so I can buy grain:

For a gravity of 1081:

10 lbs Belgian Pilsner
2 lbs German Munich
10 oz German Wheat
2 lbs Sugar of some kind

For 46 IBU:

2.25 oz Styrian Goldings (60)
1.5 oz Czech Saaz (15)
.5 oz Styrian Goldings (5)