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.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

State of the Brewery

I think I'm in the process of restabilizing the brewery. After a couple nasty infections, a sanitizer change, and a month of being too busy, I've just gone on a brief brewing binge (3 beers in 6 days).

The resulting carboy census is as follows:

In the basement: "Impeachment Pilsner," an all-Saaz pilsner, broadly in the Czech style with a little tweak toward the bolder Victory/Dead Brain Brewery style--in primary.

In the kitchen: "What the Fuck Stout," my crazed, mish-mash, asinine, second-runnings, caffeine-riddled affair, is in primary as well.

Upstairs: "Really Sticky Right Foot Mead" is in secondary, shows no signs of problems (other than being a mead... It won't be ready for a good year). Carboy covered in gunk, "1856 Imperial Stout II" appears to be fermenting nicely. "Moreval," a dry-hopped, Roeslare beer, conceived as a loose riff on the Orval genre, is playing host to over 2 ounces of Crystal, Mt. Hood, and Sterling hops. Two older beers (my lambic and Ned Flanders Red) continue to chill out. I may bottle the latter soon.

Keg conditioning are an Old British Beers Porter (Flowers Brewery 1872 Christmas Porter, to be precise) and Denny Conn's immortal RyePA recipe with Columbus in the keg.

There are no genuinely awful beers in the basement, just a couple so-so batches. One good party, and a couple more brew days and I'm back in business.

Next up is probably a smoked Marzen, a bottled Weizen for late-spring consumption and a simple APA or IPA to go on draft and act as a barley wine starter. Then there's summer-time Belgian brewing to conceptualize and plan out. That's still a lot to do...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Second Runnings Stout

So last night I did cobble together a stout from the second runnings of the imperial.

The choice was simple: Having made a wort with the finest Fawcett malts, create an elegant, subtle, low-gravity, English stout, hopping judiciously and borrowing a packet of Nottingham or something delicate to ferment it. Or, clean out the specialty malt bins, throw in anything, whatever, U.S. 56, and any stray spices or inappropriate hops.

The result? "What the Fuck Stout."

It wound up being around 1064 with probably 64 IBU's so it should be decently balanced. Beyond that, who knows?

I brought the leftover wort up to 170, steeping the following asinine assortment of stuff on the way:

8.7 oz Chocolate Rye (What else was I gonna do with it?)
1 lb Dingemann's Caramunich (Old)
10.2 oz Franco-Belges Carawheat (Never really knew what to do with that malt anyway)
1.8 oz F.B. Cara-Vienne (Why not?)
1.7 oz F.B. Carmunich 60 (See above)
7.3 oz Simpson's Dark Crystal (Had that around forever)
9 oz Simpson's Medium (Same deal)
10 oz Roast (Can this beer get any blacker?)
1 lb Weyermann Carmunich (When and where did I buy that??)

I pulled all of that random grain (Yay! It's gone! Now I can find stuff!) and brought the wort to a boil, adding 7 oz of molasses. Why 7 oz? I have no idea.

I bittered it with a combination of First Gold (Some project that never came together) and Fuggle (Highly particulate, long-in-the-tooth pellets),

At shut-off, after briefly contemplating grinding up some Ancho Chilies, I restrained myself and added 1 oz of Newman's Own "Nell's Breakfast Blend," 1 oz of Sweet Maria's "Brazil: Screen-Dried Moreninha Formosa" (I am also a coffee geek), 1.5 oz of French Chicory, and 1.5 oz of the afore-mentioned Fuggle.

What is this going to come out like??

Part of me hopes it isn't that great. Because the idea of recreating this particular process, not to mention shopping for ingredients, is a little intimidating. We shall see.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Thank god.

After a 2 hour and 50 minute boil, the imperial reached the desired gravity--spot on, in fact.

I am pitching on a cake of 1028 London in a few moments. The baby beer, another O.B.B. affair, tasted O.K. going into keg. As I am now officially paranoid about sanitation and bugs, I was afraid I detected the tiniest, tiniest sour tinge, but there's not a lot I could do about. No guts, no glory. Pitch on the cake of the requisite English yeast, probably attaining beer nirvana, or puss out and pitch five packs of U.S. 56 to create a pallid simulacrum of the original beer? A simple decision. So hopefully the culture is still pure enough. I think that what I was picking up in the other beer is simply the little bit of acidity that goes with dark malts--in this case, lots of brown and a good shot of patent.

No worries.

I hope.

Having a tripel (very nice) to unwind, but better go sanitize the aeration equipment.

The leftover wort is about 6 gallons at 1034 or so. This should produce about 5 gallons at 1041 or so. Perhaps 1.5 pounds of assorted crystal malts, some supplemental black malts, and a cup o' sugar'll do 'er? Just looking to make a simple session stout. I may try to borrow a pack of some dry English yeast, or I could really chunk it up with every scrap of odd lot malt I've got, add some molasses and chicory, go ape-shit, and produce some kind of half-assed Dogfish-Head-ish experimental monstrosity. Hop the hell out of it? Who knows?

An Imperial Evening

How's this for ill-advised?

I'm brewing the second incarnation of my 1856 Imperial Double Brown Stout, a classic Barclay Perkins recipe from Old British Beers.

On a week night.

This was one of the 5 or 6 defining beers of my "career" and only a couple of bottles remain (It was a tiny 3.5 gal. batch on the first try due to various fuck-ups). The process involves 28 lbs of grain for a 5-6 gallon batch. Oh, and 16 oz. of East Kent Goldings.

We're an hour and ten minutes into the boil with at least another 90 to go, I suspect. Target original gravity is 1.007.

I ran off an additional 6 gallons of second wort which, given the energy, I will pasteurize later tonight. Hopefully tomorrow I'll toss in a bag of crystal malt and a little roast barley and make a small session stout with quite little work. But today is rather labor intensive, given the necessity of side-by-side double sparging.

The end is not really insight, but at least the sucker is in the kettle now and an initial floor washing restored a semblance of order to the place.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


I continue to lack brewing energy. I've got two beers ready to go in kegs but I've actually only got about two glasses of porter on draft. Better get it together.

A few notes before I forget:

Last week Randy and I shared the last bottle of 533 P.R., the private reserve stock of my first Belgian pale ale. This was really old for that kind of beer--would have to check on how old exactly, but it somehow developed this lovely perfumey nose. Quite a fascinating beer, and one that encourages me to buy some Ardennes yeast and do some more with it. The other beer I made with that yeast sucked, but the 533 is enough of an endorsement to suggest that I would do well to employ that yeast for something or other soon, building up to a yeast cake for an "Houblon" triple-IPA type project.

Right now I'm sipping a Smuttynose barley wine which is a strong reminder that I should get off my ass and brew another barley wine. This is lovely, subtle, balanced stuff--an elegant dance of malt and hops. The beer I brewed with this grain bill is similarly subtle--as barley wines go--and worth recapitulating with one or another creative hop bills. Dave Yarrington shared the grain bill with me, which I really appreciated. I've done this a couple of times: steal a pro grain bill and then wing the hops. It works.

On another note, I enjoyed a beer so much the other night that I called myself, lacking a note pad... Here's a transcript of the messages.

Message 1: "Oh, Christ. Dude. Notes on 1992 Courage Russian Imperial Stout: (Other drunk people in background throughout) The nose is a huge huge belt that combines burnt, burnt dried fruit, and some almond extract, and other nut liquers. And a kind of, bourbon whiskey, burnt-wood-like quality. In the mouth it's ab-sol-ute silk and velvet. There's not an edge anywhere in the beer. It reminds me of the 1856 Imperial stout that you/I brewed. The finish keeps going for, like, a couple minutes. Mmmm. So this is 15 years old. Oh my god! Put that in your blog That's gorgeous. How do I shut this off?"

Message 2: "Add extraordinarily sherry-ish. Lisa said that and it's incredibly correct. It's like an oxidized old wine."

Message 3: "Dude, you gotta brew the old Courage recipe in Old British Beers. It may in fact reflect the beer you just called yourself about."

And it really was that good.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Smuttynose Farmhouse Ale

Random beer review:

The Smuttynose Farmhouse Ale is not without interest. Nice spicy, fruity nose--I know they used White Labs 565 so that's no surprise. Pleasant malt character (aromatic) but, as Dave's Brewer's Notes attest, they were going for a drier finish. The relatively rich, full body is out of style. Nonetheless, it reminds me of some of Randy's early saisons when he was slinging around the specialty malts and chunking them up: a little out of style, but also damn tasty.