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, October 19, 2007

Wheat Wine Evaluation

I brewed a wheat wine a while ago (I think it's about 9 months old now?) using a grain bill from Smuttynose. I couldn't get a hold of a bottle of theirs and it was winning awards right and left, so I asked for the recipe. I'm lining mine up with the real deal just for fun, keenly conscious of the fact that mine didn't come out that well.

Mine has less carbonation. In a beer this big (around 11%) a little more prickle actually helps. But I hate spritzy, over-carbed barley wines so I played it safe and really underprimed mine. No biggy.

Smutty's is definitely a shade darker. Not sure why that is, except that I used all or nearly all Golden Promise for the non-wheat base malt and that's a really pale malt. Plenty of other explanations--boil time, malt suppliers, etc.

Mine smells tasty. The dry and late hopping swings pretty fruity. I hopped it with Amarillo and Crystal and I think the Crystal particularly can get almost bubble-gum fruity sometimes. I didn't copy Smuttynose's hopping because that seemed silly and slavish. I just made something up that I thought would be appropriate for a wheat wine, looking more toward fruity/floral hops than piney ones I guess.

The nose on the Smutty has a little more pine going on, but is still relatively elegant and subtle.

Mine's a decent beer, but it really doesn't hold up. The key flaw is the kind of overly fruity, somewhat tangy palate. I suppose that could be an overly hot fermentation, or a very mild infection or off-yeast (it's hardly sour, but something's just a little funky).

In contrast, the Smutty is velvet from start to finish. I guess the wheat adds a paradoxical lightness to what is really a giant beer, a little bit of a fluffy je ne sais quoi . . . It's a weird style in that sense. Oak chips leave a nice, subtle mark on this particular example too, adding an extra dimension beyond pure hops and alcohol. I might also note that, while David Yarrington says the hops are designed primarily to just barely balance the beer, this is still a pretty damned hoppy beer. There's a really firm, almost steely intensity to the initial bitterness. Anyway, I'm impressed by it overall.

I don't know if I'll brew a wheat wine again. Given the limited amount of time for big beers and the shortage of bottle space and whatnot, I'd rather brew a more traditional barley wine probably 9 out of 10 times. We'll see. But if it's something I return to, I suspect I'll be hard pressed to find a better model.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

More Fall Brewing

As part of Project Have Actual Normal (i.e. Non-Belgian, Non-Sour, Non-High-Gravity) Beers in Bottle in the Basement (Project HANNBNSNHGBBB) I am brewing a Smuttynose style porter today (Fence-Post Porter). Tomorrow a.m. will be a medium sized U.S. pale ale (not IPA), basically a clone of my very first, surprisingly good kit beer. It'll be a pale ale punched up with honey malt and sweet, low-color crystal malts with Willamette and Cascade, which are very nice together. The original inspiration would be More Beer's American Pale Ale II. \

Today, I'm kegging a Fall Brown Ale (name???) and Water Hazard Wet Hop Ale.