Thought I'd take a relaxing moment out of the tail end of my birthday to ramble about beer.
Yesterday I hung out at Clark's Alehouse with Buck for, like, a long time, man. We chatted about hedonism, travel, children, exotic places, our fathers and grandfathers, you name it. We also had some nice beers. A Celis Grand Cru was a bit of a let-down, but I had a beautifully stored and served Young's Special London, a gorgeous Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout, this yummy black beer (brewed by Dark Horse Brewing Co. I believe...), and a big gallumphing Middle Ages 11th Anniversary beer (sort of a double wheat type thing). We also had transcendental roast beef sandwiches slathered with horseradish. We hit the Blue Tusk with our ladies afterwards for a postscript, but the Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA there was extremely forgettable. Badly stored?? It was just kind of pallid with not nearly enough hop aroma. I remember liking that beer the first time I had it, but the last 2-3 or attempts have me about ready to write it off.
And now, to wallow in a big commercial Belgian beer, which I don't do so often anymore. Enter Brasserie d'Achouffe's Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel. Pretty unwieldy name. Staggering lacework with big, gravity-defying crags and peaks. Lovely pale yellow. Wow. The nose on this is profoundly layered. The first thing you notice is an arresting hop pungency, an almost medicinal, eucalyptus thing. The hoppiness is wildly outside the Belgian mainstream, to the extent that there is a Belgian mainstream. The brewers have taken a Belgian tripel and hit it pretty hard with American hops. They use some Saaz too, but they bill it as using Amarillo and Tomahawk liberally. I'm thinking that there is probably a little bit of undeclared spicing going on too and that that very severe eucalyptus/pine note may be from some spice or other... Maybe the big northwest hops interact with something like coriander in unpredictable ways.
Shit. I could get hooked on this sucker. To "clone" this would be nearly impossible and in some way beside the point; to brew a beer inspired
by it would be a snap. I'd just take my Belgian tripel recipe, maybe add one nice character malt (a touch of Biscuit?), go to town with hops like Columbus, Amarillo, or Simcoe, and ferment with Belgian Ardennes or a Saison yeast--anything that favors spicy phenols over, say, isoamyl acetate. The palate, by the way, is really lush. Pure hoppiness creates a memorable body, supported by what I can only assume is good Belgian pilsner malt. The importer's web page says that this has 59 IBU's but it feels like a little more, probably because the beer is beautifully attenuated and doesn't clunk things up with excessive crystal malts or any of the other odd-ball things that find their way into many of the more weakly conceived U.S. IPA's. The finish is hoppy, herbal, lingering. This is a fascinating beer I would drink anywhere, anytime. Go forth, dear reader, and buy yourself a bottle.