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, April 05, 2006

Bad Beer Tasting

Since that Fantome put me in a good mood, I thought I'd bring myself down by doing a bad beer tasting. Plus I need to free up some bottles--and I am in a bloggin' mood. So let's try the six worst beers I've ever made as of right now. This excludes two or three early extract efforts which are mercifully gone. Just a few sips of each should suffice:

Lisa's first beer (but I supervised) is called "Brunette Strong Pale." It's intended to be a Belgian Strong Pale. Two things went horribly wrong. She used (as did I on 3 or 4 other occasions) a defective sack of Franco-Belges Pilsner malt. It was wildly uneven in kilning if you really inspected it, but it took me a while to realize. The other thing that went wrong is that the otherwise-trustworthy 1388 yeast mutated and started spitting out major isoamyl acetate. It smells too banana-y. It's way too dark. The palate has an offensive, cloying sweetness, and yet it's also slightly sour somehow. It blows. The malt is mostly to blame.

"Franco-Belges Dubbel" was lovingly designed to exploit the range of nice F.B. character malts--caramunich and the like--ordered from North Country. Unfortunately, it was sabotaged by the same base malt as above, plus an inexplicably arrested fermentation that had to be restarted via hot-water baths--hardly ideal practice. It smells much better than the above, so I have hope. Nevertheless, the palate is slightly tainted by the sweet-sour, uneven quality of that malt. It's just kinda tangy, in a way I don't like at all. All I can do is hope some of this ages out and that it matures into a moderately good Dubbel, as opposed to a decidedly mediocre one. Could be worse though.

"Accidental Oud Bruin" was made in the following way. I tried to do a clone of Rochefort 8, loosely following guidelines from a renowned Dutch homebrewer. It was made with this bad pilsner malt though. The dextrins (I hypothesize) from the unevenly kilned malt made the beer quit fermenting WAY too soon. I was anticipating an FG of something like 1.007 and got 1.021 instead. I swore and screamed and ran around pointing heaters at it and shaking it and taking wine-thief samples. The result? It got fucking infected. The nose mingles a genuinely Rochefort-ish caramelly quality (from homemade candi sugar and Wyeast 1762 yeast) with a definite vinous sourness. The palate is sweet and sour, in a strangely balanced way. Doesn't bother me nearly as much as in beer 1 above. Call me crazy, but I have hope for this. It might actually age into a semblance of a free-style sour Belgian-style ale. I'm sort of hoping. But I do wish I had less of it sitting around. . .

My first year brewing I made my second lager, a smoked marzen derived substantially from the Bamberger Rauchbier recipe in Smoked Beers. The result was a first-class lager with subtle smoke character and a lovely Munich-y richness. My second year, I tweaked that recipe substantially to try to get more smokiness and tried it again. I'm very concerned something went wrong. The smoke smell is there, but raw, as this is relatively young. What concerns me is another kind of tangy palate. I cut the Munich and upped the smoke, working in a little melanoidin to compensate for the lost Munich. It may or may not have worked. It might be good in 2 or 3 months. Right now, it sucks--the malt character is way off and I'm pissed. I should've done the same thing again.

This one stings. "Amalgamator Doppelbock" was pitched on a yeast cake from a very solidly made amber ale (sort of a pseudo-Oktoberfest beer). Something's up. The nose has a seriously out-of-place fruitiness. It's a lager yeast! It fermented cool! It's aged for quite a while! What the fuck happened? It might actually be a pleasant nose in a Belgian ale, but it's dead wrong here. I'm at a loss. The palate is O.K., but it's not going to come around aromatically at this late a stage.

This last beer was intended, sometime last spring, to be a loosely conceived clone of N'Ice Chouffe. Didn't work. I designed a big, brooding strong dark ale kind of grain bill, hopped it lightly, employed the Chouffe yeast, and I spiced it with the N'Ice Chouffe spices. As I recall, they are coriander, vanilla, thyme, and something else. I had some lovely fresh lemon thyme from a friend down the street. I was drinking and brewing. I threw in way too much. Fuck me. Plus, I've learned a lot more since then and I'd now mash this way cooler. The result? "Over-Spiced Belgian Barley Wine." It makes a great Ny-Quil substitute if taken with cold medicine. Otherwise, it's WAY too thyme-y and is probably only good for stewing chicken. I suck.

So there you go--I have now created six bottles to put something better in. To the sink to dispose of the remains!


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