Doctor Duvel

I'm like a sommelier, but for beer.

My Photo
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.

Monday, February 27, 2006

La Fin du Monde

Just a random tasting. Had this several times but thought I'd think it over a little more. I'm a big fan of the Unibroue beers. It's remarkable that they make so many Franco-Belgian styles so well. I'm not wild about the fruit-flavored Ephemere beers, but everything else they do I basically dig. Trois Pistoles is a brilliant dark Belgian strong; the annual special is always good; this one is good; Eau-Benite, Terrible--they're all good.

This one is very pale golden with a moderate head. Clean, airy nose with a little whiff of cork--which I always like. Saaz hops maybe? Very light palate for a beer of this size (9%)--I'm wondering if there's a fair proportion of wheat in here, in addition to the requisite sugar. This is light enough, by the way, that in some ways it reminds me more of a Saison than a tripel, which is what people usually call it. This is a tremendously subtle beer. It's always interesting to think about how the occasional great commerical brewer gets something like this into form without warehousing it for 8-12 months, which they generally don't. . . By the way, the website says this is spiced. Coriander I could definitely see, but overall they've used a pretty light hand, as I see it. Nothing too dramatic. Very suave stuff--and perfidiously drinkable.

And, what's more, I get another corkable 750 ml bottle. Whoo-hoo!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

80-Schilling + Star Chamber

Checking up on a couple beers:

Younger's 1872 80-Schilling (Old British Beers)

Brewed 12/27/05. Bottle was a little foamy and kicked up sediment. I swear this is the last time I'll EVER dry hop with pellets. That makes the clarity much worse. Some EKG spiciness in the nose. It's a little bitter still. This was such a weird recipe and I think I may have to be really patient with it. I do think the Golden Promise malt did some nice subtle things here, but the hopping is drowning it out to some degree. The OBB beers I've made that are dark have been almost unilaterally excellent. This pale one I'm not sure about. I think that not all of these recipes have rational hopping rates. You can get away with a lot in an imperial stout, but not so much here. So, for now, it's frustrating. Damned good thing I didn't keg this.

Annoyed with a beer that was too hoppy, I thought I'd have a beer that's deliberately too hoppy. Hence, "Star Chamber" Double IPA. Brewed 11/20/05. This started at 1086 and made it down to 1017, for an ABV of 9.18%. IBU around 120. Bittered with Chinook, FWH and flavor addition with Columbus. 10.3 oz of hops in overall recipe. Finished with an oz each of Columbus, Amarillo, Warrior, and Simcoe at shut-off. Dry-hopped with a 1/2 oz each of Columbus, Warrior, Simcoe, and Chinook.

This has deliberately modest carbonation (I think double IPA's should never be fizzy), but the head is still pretty nice, leaving clinging lace. It's a pale, translucent amber color. The nose is dead gorgeous: brilliant, puckery citrus melded with a foresty resinous quality. I think these hops melded together really well. Seems to me there's two main approaches to the double IPA style. One balances hops with malt; the other balances hops with alcohol. Mine leans more toward the latter end, given its relatively modest final gravity. The palate is screamingly hoppy and just barely given a semblance of balance by a little maltiness and a belt of alcoholic warmth. Wow.

This is a style I could really get into--to me a really good double or triple IPA is totally comparable with a great barley wine. They may be even harder to balance though. I think my next crack at this should incorporate a little more maltiness. This could be done either by increasing the mash temp (only 149 here) and/or by incorporating another pound or two of Munich to deepen the malt profile. The wheat could go. This one was 8 lbs lager, 7 lbs Maris Otter, 1 lb Munich, 2 lbs Wheat, and 1/2 lb Carastan. I'm thinking I'll replace the lager malt with straight Maris Otter, drop the wheat or cut it to a pound, raise the Munich to 2 or even 3 pounds, and leave the Carastan as is?? Maybe mash at 151-2 instead?? The hops are a no- brainer: Just use lots of the best you can buy (these were all from And it's impossible to over dry-hop.

In the meantime, this is a fun beer to drink and should age decently.

P.S. The Brett Brux beer, now named "Reconciliation," is at a merry high-Brett-krausen. Can be a pretty vigorous yeast all by its lonesome. To correct for my atypically crappy efficiency (Damn beer, my friends, and Chinese food) I spiked it with a little boiled table sugar. Corrected OG should be about 1052 which is good enough to suit the parameters of my original recipe.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Brett Ugh

Ugh. The brett beer is done but I'm exhausted from Amalgamated Brewers' Guild drinking. Jesus Christ. The gravity is a little low--I may have to play with it a little, but otherwise all went O.K.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Kolsch done, Brett to follow

Made the Kolsch today--went pretty smoothly. Brett Brux Beer is tomorrow. Finalized recipe is as follows:

6 gallons
OG: 1056
IBU: 24

8 lbs. Pils
3.5 lbs. Wheat malt
.5 lbs. Acidulated malt

1.8 oz. Mt Hood for 60
.5 oz. Mt Hood for 2

Mash at 148.
Ferment with Brett Brux in approx. 1.5 pint starter.
Don't over-aerate (see Wild Brews, page 183)

My theory (and I want to emphasize that I don't really know what the fuck I'm doing) is that this will produce a very, very fluffy, quaffable, dry, half-sour beer that will be very refreshing and dominated by peculiar, fruity, horsey, leathery, yeast aromatics. Time will tell. Sounds good in my head though, doesn't it?

A quick note on my young "Batch 51" Barley Wine. It's young, but it's good. Nice ruddy amber color; light carbonation; decent head. Lovely hop nose (Warrior dry hop); kinda citrusy with a delicate layer of pininess. Candied malt aroma peering through that. Warm, enveloping, very soft palate. Doesn't really feel like it'll take all that long to mature, strangely enough. Definitely more malt balanced than my first barley wine. It's more about sweetness and nice (Belgian) specialty malt character, rather than screaming C-hops and so on. Yum. I like it overall. Will it be able to compete with the Bigfoot-esque glory of my maiden barley wine voyage, "Old Crowbar"??? I don't know. Probably not. But I did succeed in making a totally different barley wine.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Dogfish Head Immort Ale

Pretty good-sized beer, this. It's a deep copper color with a so-so head (it is 11% alcohol though). I smelled peat-smoked malt and their website confirms that, as well as mentioning maple syrup, vanilla, juniper berries, oak, and a combination of Belgian and American yeasts. . . That's a lot of stuff to put in a beer, and what's remarkable is that it all holds together pretty well. It's got a big, rich, very syrupy palate. I guess, to my mind, it's almost a little too sweet, or needs a touch more balancing hops, but there's more than one way to make a barley wine--I ain't dogmatic. . . Sort of a pun there?

The nose is pretty damned nice, what with the oaky-mapley combo going on. It also has an intense creamy characteristic. But, honestly, the palate is too sweet. If it were me and I were screwing around with the maple syrup and so forth, I'd hop it at least 50% more. But I do love the little whiff of peat. Nice idea there.

Kolsch Recipe for tomorrow:

Old Spice Kolsch
26.6 IBU

10 lbs Bestmalz Pilsner
1 lb Bestmalz Wheat

1 oz pellet Perle (60)
.4 oz whole Tettnang (10)

Mash around 146; 90-minute boil; ferment with Wyeast Kolsch around 60 degrees.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sax-a-ma-phone + Blue Hood

I'm trying to check up on several of my beers so I can keep track of what the hell I'm doing, learn from mistakes, etc. Here's the first of some assorted home-brew tasting updates.

"Sax-a-ma-phone," my second attempt at the strong Belgian pale style, has some good stuff going on, especially for such a young beer. . .

Appearance: Big, moussey, white head. Delicate pilsner color with tremendous clarity.

Aromatics: Estery--peaches, pears, some banana but not too much. Good, grassy/spicey Saaz character.

Palate: Clean and full. Very restrained bitterness. My only complaint is that the first half of the beer was better than the second--It started at like 55 degrees and I think it probably ought to be served at 48-50. It warms up too quick in a big Duvel glass and starts to feel less focused. I'll have to restrain myself. I suspect in a couple months the malt will get tighter, temp will be less of an issue, and this will be better from start to finish. At the moment it tails off a little bit in the late palate.

Next, "Blue Hood" pale ale, which is an exercise in counter-intuitive recipe construction. The idea was to make something in the vein of an APA only without using any normal ingredients for the style. Hence, 1053-ish, 38 IBU's, all-Vienna grist, all-Mt. Hood hop schedule. The gravity and IBU's are about in line with Sierra Nevada pale ale, but, well, this doesn't taste anything like that at all.

It's very pale with nice clarity and a remarkably dense, meringue-y head. Is there something about single-infusing Vienna that might do this?? Despite fairly liberal use, the Mt. Hood presence is relatively subtle. They've got a lovely spice character and remind me very much of one or another noble hops--they are bred from Hallertau, I think. Just underneath the spicy hopping is a layer of wonderful malt aroma, a kind of sweet-smelling breadiness. The palate balances subtle hop bitterness (doesn't feel nearly as bitter as SNPA--but then Cascades are a lot rougher) and a very clean maltiness. I love Vienna--it does really neat shit for your beer. This beer is a nice experiment. If I try it again, I could see dropping in one specialty malt (CaraRed?) or upping the hopping a little for a crisper, snappier beer. As a subtle session beer, this is pretty solid. All hail US-56.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Rogue Seahorse Pale Ale

Found this at Marcy Discount Beverage, which seems to be picking up more west coast beers lately. Very light pale ale, in color and in flavor. It's hopped with Amarillo and Styrians, which I don't notice very much aromatically--the nose is more malty, showing some definite Munich character. Expansive palate with more low-color malt character and a delicately bracing hop bitterness. This is exceptionally subtle (the only overtly Rogue-ish aspect is the fairly noticeable 45 IBU) and I rather like it. I've been trying to get around to making an APA soon, but it's so hard to find the time. I'm leaning toward making one that's a little darker than this, with maybe slightly more agressive aroma hopping. So much beer so little time.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

2 Recipes for Belgian Strong Pale

I've been thinking a lot about Belgian Strong Pale lately. What I love about the style is how you get some of the hoppiness and lots of the refreshing quality associated with pilsner, plus more alcohol, more versatility (can be served chilled or at 55 or so), and an easier process.

My first one went like so:

Dr. Doom
OG: 1072 FG: 1009
IBU: unknown (Damnit!!)
11 lbs Belgian pils
1.8 lbs corn sugar added 15 minutes from end of boil
Step mash with sach at 144-5
90 minute boil
1.3 oz pellet N. Brewer (75 min)
1 oz whole Saaz (30)
1 oz whole Styrian (30)
1.5 oz whole Saaz (0)

Ferment with Wyeast 1388
This took some serious patience, as high gravity pale Belgians usually do. It was perfectly drinkable at a month old, but a too heavy. The malt profile became suave and elegant, a la Duvel, at about 7 or 8 months. IBU's unknown cuz I didn't know what I was doing. Probably around 40-45??

Interested in a slightly lower gravity, quicker maturing version, I tried this one, modelled on Brasserie Caracole's Saxo:

OG: 1065 FG: 1006
IBU: 21.5
10.5 lbs Belgian Pils
2.1 lbs Table sugar
1.5 lbs Wheat
Single infusion (Screw protein rests!) at 145
1 oz pellet Hallertau (60)
1 oz pellet Hallertau (20)
1.5 oz pellet Saaz (0)
.7 oz Coriander, crushed (0)
Used 1388 again, pitched pretty warm.

This one's really yummy at only 2.5 months old. Much more drinkable, much slicker, than the other one. Primed it at 6 oz to 5 gallons which is critical.

Maybe I'll do a side-by-side tasting in a few days. Been thinking about making one more batch in the near future.

Note to self

I've gotta get a turkey fryer while they're still kicking around stores. The more I think about it, the more I want to brew outside spring through fall. Weather around here is, in its way, quite beautiful, and clean-up would be sooo nice. I'd also like to have semi-parties where, say, members of the Amalgamated Brewers Guild would relax in camp chairs, bullshit, and drink while I boil a batch. What's not to like? I'm inspired in this endeavor by Jeremiah and his kick-ass brew sculpture (which, were I more technically clever, I would somehow link to a picture of), and also by Brendan's brew blog, which has some outdoor brewing scenes (, as well as various other people's sites. Perhaps I'll shop around this weekend. I'm pretty sure it can be done really cheap.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter

My friend and colleague Steve hooked me up with this bitchin' beer. It's a tribute to the late Hunter S. Thompson in the form of a big ass beer. According to the Flying Dog site, it's brewed with "black, chocolate and crystal malts," hopped with Millennium and Cascades, for an ABV of 9.5%.

It's totally opaque black and the head is dark enough that one would be inclined to assume the presence of roast barley. The nose has got some serious roasty, burnt notes as well. The palate is huge, rounded, and silky (despite some definite sharpness from all the black and chocolate malt). I suppose the distinction between imperial porter and imperial stout is hazy at best. You could definitely serve this alongside a conventional imperial stout and no one would ever pick it out as the porter, unless I'm just missing something.

A week or so ago I lined up a Victory Storm King and an Old Rasputin. O.R. won pretty handily. What I like about that beer is that, despite the pretty intense roast, it has these dense, rich, winey layers. Gonzo has that as well, with an elegant winey quality and prominent burnt fruitiness, which I'm inclined to chalk up to fairly liberal use of Crystal 120. Very heady nose overall--lots of deep, deep chocolate as well. Terrific beer--really big, but also genuinely elegant. If you can find some, buy it. Imperializing my Smuttynose-derived Porter might get me in the ball-park, if I ever get around to it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What to brew next...

Crap. I have too many options. This weekend may be a good weekend to brew a little extra as I'll have returned a batch of papers and don't have anything major to prep--just gotta re-read Titus Andronicus...

Possibilities include a US pale ale, another IPA, a Kolsch, a Steam Beer, something British, and a crazy all-Brettanomyces beer. A nice simple pale ale would be awfully nice to go in the next empty keg (never far off). But I'm thinking I better make the Kolsch as it will need to lager for summer consumption. The Brett thing seems too fun. Maybe I'll do two batches. The Kolsch recipe is already written, using the very good Eric Warner book on the subject as a reference. Will be pils malt, a little wheat, bitter with Perle, aroma with Hallertau Mittelfruh. It's all jotted down somewhere. Here's a stab at the Brett beer:

OG: Around 1056
IBU: 26-ish

8 lbs Pilsner
3.5 lbs Wheat
.5 lbs Acidulated Malt

Bitter with Mt. Hood. No flavor or aroma additions (which will be hard for me).
Yeast: Brett Brux.

Big question is where to mash it. Have to think about that. If in doubt, 152 can't be too far wrong, but I don't know whether to shoot for dryness and go low, or treat it like a lambic and leave unfermentables for the brett.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Varietal Hop Project

I need to be prepping for my night class, but I'm pausing briefly to have an IPA. This is an anti-suicidal measure. Pretty effective too. I forget if I mentioned this but I'm working on a special brewing project. I make pretty damned good IPA's--I think they stand up to, or surpass, the best commercial examples. There, I said it.

So, it behooves me to investigate hops, hence the Varietal Hop Project (VHP). First I made a primarily Chinook IPA, then a better IPA that used a melange of hops. Then I started VHP by making an all-Centennial IPA. That was also known as "Un-Sanitized IPA" as I forgot to add iodophor when cleaning the keg. It was gone so quick that I have no notes on it, which is a shame. It was a terrific IPA. I think Centennial has marvellous grape-fruity-ness but also a strange, slightly spicy elegance to it--and just a little bit of that piney quality (way more restrained than Columbus or Chinook). Right now I'm drinking my all-Cascade IPA. It has a name, but I can't remember it....

Cascade is ubiquitous. For non-beer drinkers (what are you DOING here??) Cascade is THE signature hop of the American microbrewery/brewpub revolution. If you've ever had a pale ale at a brewpub, or if you've tired Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, you know what Cascade smells like. It's nice, however, to let it be the dominant harmony in a beer, rather than just the predictable grace note it often is. This has a nice nose--grapefruit, plus a surprisingly English-feeling floral quality. The palate is pretty jazzy--very lively, sharp citrus flavors with a definite little raspiness. Cascade has a reputation for being a rough bittering hop and this beer more or less bears that out, but it's a great roughness that comes out particularly characteristically in the finish, which is sharp, pungent, and lingering. I want the nose to jump a little more so I think I'll throw another 1/2 ounce of hops into the keg. Why the fuck not?

Obviously the goal is to experience each hop as its own entity. Chinook is next--I've got a lot of them and my first Chinook IPA had a lot of supporting players. Columbus is already in production. Next up will be Simcoe, or Amarillo, or something, once I make another hop order.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Tiring Brew Day

I'm beat. I brewed Raskolnikov Russian Imperial Stout today. Modelled it on Old Rasputin, taking my lead from a "clone" recipe that came highly recommended. Also kegged a regular gravity stout and bottled a smoke beer ("Log-Jammin' II"). No energy. Must plan classes. Shit. Damn. Shit.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

1850 London Porter

I'm depressed and cold and irritable and so I'm having a beer. This is one of the several beers I've done based on information from _Old British Beers_. This is based on Whitbread's London Porter from 1850. It's been in keg for around 3 weeks.

It's pretty much jet black with a generous, retentive head. The nose is all about coffee and roast character. The mouthfeel is sublime--very oily and dense. This is more highly hopped than the last two historical dark beers I've made (an oatmeal stout and another porter). It probably needs a little more time to round out, but I like the slight raspiness of the finish as it currently stands. While it has plenty of roast grain character (in the form of black patent), this has a strong foundation of brown malt which provides much of its depth of character. It's quite nice now but needs time--I'll try to be patient.