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.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Civilized Beer Tasting

How civilized? Pretty civilized.

Randy kindly invited me to Holland Patent to sip some lambics that his brother Rick brought from Belgium. Moderation was the watchword and I tracked the ounces of beer consumed as I proceeded, trying to rectify the heinous excesses of Belgium Comes to Cooperstown.

We warmed up with some samplings of Randy's beers. A Forbidden Fruit Singel was highly promising; an old Spring Saison was a knock-out (on the hoppy end of the style, but balanced and intriguing with a stunning orange-copper color). A 3787 Dubbel was tragically spoiled, but we sampled a few other assorted Roeslare beers to cheer ourselves up.

The lambics were as follows: Mort Subite Oude Geuze was kind of a revelation. It upsets me terribly to know that the vast majority--like, basically, all--of their output gets sweetened and ruined to produce those sticky, unpleasant fruit beers. This was a seductive lemon-custard of a beer with prickly sourness and a mouth-grabbing, very full palate. Boon Kriek Marriage Parfait (several years old) was lovely with an oxidized color and much deeper flavors (less overtly acidic and more earthy). But it also had a little delicate acetic prickle. Oud Beersel was a pinker, perkier Kriek, but no less complex. Bright and musty at the same time, it was a teasinly tart beer that provided a perfect contrast to the moodier Boon.

Randy and I then compared Brett beers--this was less illuminating. We'll have to line them up next to each other next time. They're very similar beers. And very good ones, with subtle, soft, wheaty palates and nice fruity, delicately horsey aromatics.

We also had the others compare our pilsners, brewed a week or so apart some months ago. Two out of three tasters preferred Randy's, which was a trifle brighter and a little more emphatically hoppy. But mine had a fuller malt character and was, to me, just a little more balanced. It was really a coin flip and I had no real preference between the two myself. I'm just pleased I figured out how to brew Pilsner. My first try sucked. I plan on making two batches next year: One I'll make just the same and the other I'll head for non-Saaz hops just to mix it up.

Anyway it was a successful exercise in relative moderation and self control. Who knew it was possible?


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