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.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

House, Reconciliation, Redbach

Lately my life has revolved around the house... No brewing for several days. Turns out my downstairs toilet had been slowly leaking for years, effectively demolishing the floor of the bathroom. It's now about 2/3 of the way fixed. I have nevertheless tapped two new kegs, a very promising, but slightly green, Belgian pale (roughly in the manner of De Koninck) and a lovely, balanced India Brown. Must keg an IPA tomorrow, get back to brewing (Belgians, a summer ale, a porter?), bottle a saison or two, a Belgian pale, and an altbier... I'm swamped. As a side-note, my Wit blows. I may never bother with that style again. What a pain in the ass it was to produce a crummy beer... Complicated adjunct mash, long brew day, long fermentation and the damned thing smells a little like an electrical fire. Shit.

Anyway, I'm sipping Reconciliation, my brett beer. This is a great summer refresher. The wheat-heavy grist has a little twang of sauermalt. The hopping is almost non-existent, just enough to give a teensy background bitterness. The nose is rather like a fruity white wine. It's not as horsey and sharp as it was before--this'll probably change a lot from month to month. I'm serious about the wine thing--this has practically everything I like about a nice dry white. I can see why the Russian River crew would've thought to do a long-term, chardonnay-barrel-aged brett beer (which they did--it's amazing). My only gripe about this beer is the lousy head retention--not sure why that should be... Otherwise, I love it. I could brew this every year as a fluffy summer beer, trying out different brett strains (this was Brux), or I could adapt it to be a stronger, longer-aged beer and work in some oak or other flashier elements.

So, on a related note, Rodenbach was unavailable in this country for quite a while. About a year or so ago, the beers reappeared with a new importer and different labelling. I had the basic blended Rodenbach on draft at Clark's with Randy and Andrew--it was lovely; I also had it from a corked bottle purchased at Party Source. It's a great kind of session sour beer--not too prickly, but still tart and a great aperitif. The grand cru is the best--bordering on vinegar-y, it's about as sour as beer gets and mind-blowingly complex. They used to make a beer called Alexander Rodenbach which incorporated cherries--I don't remember it all that well. This seems to have been reinvented as "Redbach: Rodenbach kissed by cherries." It comes wrapped in a suspiciously soda-pop looking label and then, lo and behold, it's a twist-off bottle... This is not a good sign. The color is drop-dead gorgeous but it's downhill from there. There are some definite hints of the trademark Rodenbach complexity in the nose, but the palate ruins it completely. It's just too sweet. "Wickedly sour" my ass. I'm dumping the rest of the glass and I will not be buying this again... Fucking cherry soda.

Just to get that rather substantial disappointment out of my head, here's something totally different: D.Y. Porter, my tribute to Smuttynose Robust Porter. David Yarrington, their very friendly and seriously gifted brewer, shared the grain bill with me. I followed it almost exactly and came up with my own hop schedule--it still has the same IBU's though, more or less. The flaw with this batch was uneven carbonation--some bottles had an overly spritzy carbonation that really didn't fit with the rest of the beer. Otherwise, it was a great success. It's dead opaque, with a massive chocolate-y fullness. It's loaded with chocolate and carafa--so much so that it could easily be mistaken for a stout. Underneath the chocolate is deep, dark fruit, which has to come from the large quotient of Special-B. The palate is bracingly bitter, full, delicately sweet, yet totally uncloying. I see no reason to fiddle with this recipe and will be brewing it again more or less a.s.a.p. Whenever my home-repair / academic research schedule allows...


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