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.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Westmalle tasting

So, in the next few weeks, I will at some point smack a pack of Wyeast 3787. This is the yeast used, supposedly, at three trappist abbeys: Westmalle, Westvleteren, and Achel. I made a Dubbel with said yeast last March 30. Let's see how it stacks up against Westmalle Dubbel, bottle age unknown, but probably greater than ten months realistically. These things do have to be imported and they tend to sit on shelves.

Color/Appearance: Both beers pour a lovely, dense, retentive head. I think the foam on mine is maybe a tenth of a shade darker. Held up to a sheet of white paper under soft light, mine is visibly darker and more opaque. Held up to a soft white light bulb, they're both gorgeous. Mine is a deeper hue, a little more toward a deep purple-y red. The Westmalle swings toward almost a pinkish red, like a deeply colored blush wine. Clarity is excellent for mine, jaw-dropping for the Westmalle.

Aromatics: Mine shows nice fruit (some banana, a little cherry) with a definite dark chocolate presence. The Westmalle is a little more tropical (kind of a coconutty, pina colada routine--but in a good way) with little to none of the chocolate routine. As they warm up, the Westmalle is swinging a little more toward hints of rum/prune with maybe a whiff of chocolate. Mine really is in the ball-park--some of those explosive tropical fruity things are present--it's just a little darker toned overall.

Flavor/Mouthfeel/Finish: Both beers have soft palates--no rough edges. The Westmalle palate is just a little bit more even from start to finish. Despite the fact that my beer has a higher final gravity, it is not cloying at all--nevertheless the Westmalle is a little crisper and more brightly articulated. As they warm up they actually feel more and more similar; something about the cooler temps twenty minutes ago accentuated the slightly heavier palate of my beer.

Huh. That was really interesting. I'm very pleased that my beer was not crushed by adjacency to one of the quintessential Belgian dubbels. Is Westmalle better? Yes. But not by some disgustingly large margin.

I have a feeling that the best way to brighten my Dubbel up is to swing away from heavier specialty malts and rely more on caramelized sugars. According to Stan Hieronymus, Westmalle Dubbel is brewed with pilsner malt, caramel malt, "a dark malt valued for its aroma," and dark candi sugar syrup. If the goal were to "clone" Westmalle (which I'm not sure it exactly is), I would drop the Munich and aromatic malts I used and restrict myself to pils malt, maybe one layer of caramunich, some special B, and plenty of invert, caramelized sugar syrup (which I just learned how to make). I could also drop the little bit of Carafa I used and let the beer be just a tad lighter. I could also mash cooler just to help the beer dance on the palate a little more.

So there. I blogged.

2 Comments:

Blogger dingus said...

Good blogging!

I have some 3787-tripels about ready to bottle, if i don't keg and drink the crap out of them before I can get to bottle them.

My tripels have been good, fruity. Sometime SUPER alcoholic, which should age away. When it was young there were lots of tropical fruits, and some mango. In the keg, and carb'd - the fruit is less appearent. I have been disappointed with my aroma, all too often. No fruit/malt.. very little. - I guess I will have to bottle and try it in march, or july.. or both!

1:21 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

I find kegging just doesn't work with Belgians. Friend of mine made a saison and has bottles and kegs. Bottles are top notch--the kegged one is totally uninspired and aromatically repressed.

1:58 PM  

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