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.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Making RyePA

Thanks for the comments on the last post everybody. The new sanitation measures seem to be going pretty well--more will be clear in a few weeks, but the Star-San switchover has been smooth and certainly makes me feel better. And I'm being more careful with those blasted carboys...

Today, too apathetic to tackle either a Pilsner (decoctions...) or a second version of my Old British Beers super-huge Imperial Stout (ridiculously unwieldy mash amounts), I just threw together a batch of Denny Conn's RyePA. I resisted making this beer for a long time, just because everyone else was doing it and I write my own recipes 85-90% of the time. But Jeremiah brewed a batch that was so damned yummy I couldn't resist the temptation and ordered a few pounds of rye and the right crystal malt to make it happen. Boil is underway.

Some amount of brewing apathy is setting in lately. I didn't really feel like it today, but am trying not to let my kegs go dry. Sometimes this feels like a chore. I need to either slow down and brew ten batches a year less (not such a big deal) or take six weeks off sometime in the spring and focus on other things.

As a post-script, the Belgian-style ale in the Saranac winter box is pretty good. Needs a little more carbonation. Most places that don't specialize in Belgians are, I think, loath to screw with their process and give these beers the extra little bit of priming they need. But they sprung for a good yeast, crafted a nice, nutty malt foundation, kept the hops in the background--all the right general priorities.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Near-Death Experience

It had to happen sooner or later. If you make beer, you inevitably handle large glass vessels with wet hands. So I was rinsing the bleach out of a carboy and the sucker slipped out of my hands. It shattered fairly violently. I was, conveniently enough, wearing shorts and a t-shirt. No shoes. No socks. I feel supremely lucky to have escaped with one nasty cut on my shin and several minor nicks. I could very easily still be in the emergency room. I could have serious lacerations anywhere, severed tendons or ligaments in forearms, feet, wrists, hands... These are big hunks of glass and they could really fuck you up.

I was brewing a hoppy Belgian-style beer inspired (at the last minute) by Orval. I couldn't get a concept in my head and consulted with other brewers (Jeremiah and Randy), but somehow nothing clicked with me. I just knew I was using Roeslare yeast (as one was accidentally smacked) and that I wanted a relatively hoppy pale ale. Roeslare is probably more interesting than the combination of Bastogne and Brett. I'm leaning away from stale, Euro hops and more toward fresher, more vivacious, cheaper U.S. hops. So I took the stats for Orval (1055; around 38 IBU) plus the orange color (Carvienna?) and then I hammered it with Crystal, Mt. Hood, and Sterling. It kind of has to be good. At any rate, I'm hopeful. My next-door neighbor, Andrew, rescued me by providing a clean carboy when I went and wrecked things by exploding mine.

I'm drinkin' a Smuttynose Wheat Wine. Pretty interesting beer. Lovely, fat malt character, but peculiarly light somehow (the wheat I guess...). Not all that hoppy really. Given the psychotically hoppy Smuttynose Imperial Stout I tasted recently, I expected a little more hop aroma. Very slightly tart (the wheat again). Luminous orangey color. Honey, nuts, butter, and apricots. Once you orient yourself toward the aromatic profile, the subtler hop aroma feels highly appropriate. Heady, but not overbearing alcohol character. Yummy. Very yummy.

I think I will handle carboys differently now. There's no reason (there's no FUCKING REASON!!) why I couldn't just lay out a rag towel and rinse the carboy by rolling rather than shaking. Just right there I cut the likelihood of serious injury by a lot, so to speak...

We'll see how the new generation of brews turn out. I discovered recently that I have been diluting my iodophor solutions too much for my entire brewing career. This explains a small rash of spoiled batches recently. The microbes have caught up to me, but I am attempting to defeat them by switching to Star-San and scrubbing more thoroughly. An Old British Porter and this hoppy Belgian are in carboy in the Post-Overly-Diluted-Iodophor era. We'll see if I can recoup and also post to this stupid blog a little more.