If I'm going to brew this weekend I need a plan. I kinda wanted to brew a barley wine, but a) the beers whose yeast cakes are appropriate all should dry hop a few days longer and b) I'm out of 2 or 3 critical specialty malts. I toyed with the idea of an imperial stout, but I'm missing a thing or two for that as well. So much for those ideas.
This leaves a cake of 1388, Belgian Strong, to work with. I made a nice, light Saxo-style strong pale before, so I would logically move to a darker, richer beer. I could do a double, but I'm feeling conceptually challenged there. I have just enough specialty malts to pull it off, but, durn-it, I feel the need to really find inspiration when it comes to these Belgian things. I refuse to just fling in 4 different Belgian specialty malts on a Pilsner base, hop it lightly, and call it a day. That's how I made my first dubbel, and it's good--quite good actually--but not amazing somehow.
So while I taste, read about, and cogitate upon dubbels over the next couple of weeks, I'm leaning toward this instead: A strong-ish, earthy, moderately hoppy, Belgian amber. Two beers jump into my head on this note: The French classic St. Sylvestre Flanders Pale (musty, earthy, creamy, spicy) and Brasserie des Rocs' Montagnarde (honeyed, woodsy, oaky, bitter).
Here's an incoherent first draft recipe. How 'bout we head toward a beer just a shade darker than a pale ale? We dose it fairly heavily with mid-range specialty malts (not too dark, not too light). We give it a little hit of Belgian Special "B" malt to tweak it toward a slightly red color. We use sugar and mash pretty cool to get a very dry beer of maybe 7.5% alcohol with a starting gravity in the neighborhood of 1068-9. This results in the following:
8 lbs Franco-Belges Pilsner
2 lbs Table Sugar
1.5 lbs Best-Malz Munich
1 lb Dingemann's Biscuit
1 lb Weyermann Vienna
1/2 lb Thomas Fawcett Amber
1/4 lb Special "B"
We then hop it pretty aggresively, as if we were working for De Ranke or Kerkom, allowing for the use of one great American hop late in the game:
3.25 oz Hallertau Herrsbrucker (60)
.5 oz Czech Saaz (60)
1 oz Styrian Goldings (15)
1 oz Mt. Hood (15)
1 oz Styrian Goldings (0)
1.5 oz Mt Hood (0)
That's a generous 57 IBU.
I'll mull this over and may or may not brew it Saturday or Sunday.