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, November 27, 2007

X-Mas Beers 5

I'm struck by these Ridgeway beers. Wow. Just when you thought all British ales were basically subtle, along comes these whalloping huge holiday specialties. I had a Very Bad Elf a few weeks ago and loved it--forgot to take notes. It's essentially a strong pale ale brewed according to a historical recipe, I think with pale amber malt (a real oddity).

Now I'm having Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout. Given the name, it could be a touch darker. But then I've been drinking crazy homebrewed stouts that all have absurd amounts of roast barley. Lump of Coal is definitely black, but also quite translucent when light hits it. The malt character is tremendous though; I'd say it has more malt character than a keg of Guinness....

The malt aroma and heady flavor derive, I suspect from really liberal use of all those yummy intermediate malts: Brown? Amber? Various dark crystals? Anyway, you get a whiff of this intense rum-soaked fruitcake thing and it's basically everything lovely about the holidays with none of the senseless horror. I like it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

X-Mas Beers IV

OK, why I'm suddenly blogging daily I have no idea...

De Proef Kerstmutske: This is another of those Belgian malt-bombs, and the last member of my late, lamented Shelton Bros. X-Mas beer box (a source of genuine pleasure). The palate is pretty darn malty, with a delicate teasing acidity to help out with the balance, hops being scarce in this one. A darker beer, this resembles last night's offering but with a smaller black malt quotient. I find the nose quite enchanting but am annoyed that I cannot describe it. What is that odd little combination of aromas? Oak and rhubarb? Can't do it justice...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Belgian X-Mas Beers III with an update from the brewery

Tonight brings Brouwerij Kerkom's WinterKoninkske. From the brewery's website:

"The ‘Winterkoninkske’ is the ideal beer to make a cold and chilly winter evening pleasant.
The ingredients are: seven types of malt (among which rolled oats), two belgian types of hop, brewing liqour and yeast.
Our winter beer is a dark and heartwarming beer with a pure, sugary flavour and a long, bitter aftertaste.
The alcohol content of this heavy beer is 8,3 % vol.alc."

And the bottle says it's brewed with juniper berries. It's a gorgeous looking beer, quite dark, sort of a burnt ruby topaz, definitely using some black malts. The juniper berries definitely leave a mark, both in the nose and on the palate--quite peppery. Big and velvety; really pretty sweet. There's just enough hops to balance and keep some structure to the finish. Very enveloping and heady. I like it.

By way of a brewery update, the last few kegged beers have been really good. Even the bizarre sour beer blend with raspberries is delicious. Really delicious. Today I bottled Fence-Post Porter, racked Red-Headed Stepmother IPA onto dry hops, and kegged Oatis McOatmeal's Oat-tastic Stout. All were promising, especially the IPA which I am seriously excited about; it's wildly bitter and dripping with hop aroma already. Shortly, I'll be bottling the IPA, plus the other pale ale, and dry hopping the Belgian IPA Tripel that is glugging away in my office.

Probable upcoming beers: Vienna bock. Another kegged IPA (can't keep it on draft...) designed to use up stray year-old hops. Maybe another brown ale? Something subtle and British. A weird sour oaky 18-month project beer. An old British beer for Christmas would be a must. RyePA. A Pliny the Elder clone. A barley wine for the love of crumb cake. That's a lot of priorities. . . I need to keep getting bottled beers made to straighten out the basement stock. I'd also like to have a big wintery dark beer and a serious IPA on draft for winter guests (maybe a honey one like last year?).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Belgian X-Mas Beers II

Brouwerij Achilles is apparently a garage microwbrewery, sort of like Blaugies used to be. Their "Serafijn Christmas Angel" is sort of like a lighter, perkier, drier Scaldis Noel. O.K., that's a lot of exceptions/qualifiers. The aroma has a very Scaldis-esque, candy-candy-candy maltiness. Then it gets drier, cleaner, and brighter: brilliant, effervescent palate; appley nose; surprisingly dry, given the deep, malty nose. A rather lovely beer, all around.

Oh, home-brewers, do NOT forget that Belgian beers are NOT all complex with a capital "C." Au contraire, many of them are surprisingly direct and uncomplicated. Here, in the grand scheme of things, some bright, fruity esters overlay a rich malt palate lightened by sharp carbonation. That's about it. And yet it's awesome. Go figure.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Belgian X-Mas Beers

Working my way through a Shelton Bros. X-mas box.

First up: Brassere de la Senne X-Mas Zinnebier

Sounds like one of the brewers is Yvan de Baets and it's a very new, very small brewery, apparently him and another guy brewing under contract, actually, at someone else's brewery...

This is a lovely beer, vaguely reminiscent of Rochefort 6 to me?? At any rate, it has some of the chocolatiness of that beer, more chocolate than the medium amber color would tend to suggest. Emphatic, wildly spicy nose. Full, elegantly nutty malt character. Apple fruit. Awesome beer.

Second up: De Ranke Pere Noel. This is the only thing in the box I've had before. I had it, however, under suspect conditions (old magnum languishing on a shelf). Wasn't all that impressed. This time I am. It's really, really hoppy, particularly on the palate, where the hop character reminds me of some of Randy's beers (that is, arguably over-hopped, but in a good way). It's kind of copper colored. Piney/herbal hop-dominated nose, even drifting toward pleasantly medicinal; toasty malt character overbalanced by the strident hop flavor. Faced with a wide range of highly malty holiday beers, why not throw something like this into the mix? It's basically Belgium's answer to Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. What the hell are they hopping this with?

Cheers y'all.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Brown Ale Evaluation

It's another Smuttynose-inspired beer and I'm doing like I did in the last post, however dull that may be... It helps me think about what I am and am not doing well as a brewer.

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog v. Fall Down Brown (thanks to Trina for the name)

Fall Down is a touch deeper in color, more red and less copper. The Dog is a classic brown ale in my view: very clean, elegant lines; toasty, direct malt character; hops just to balance. Not surprisingly, my beer loses. It's good, but the Dog has a chocolatier, denser nose, and a slightly fuller mouthfeel that I prefer. Nevertheless, Fall Down is pretty solid. I may, next time I brew a brown ale of this type, pop up the chocolate malt just a touch to try and get a little more depth in the aromatics, perhaps mash another degree or two warmer to flesh out the body. Shouldn't be hard to do.

By the way, I've gone on a little spree. Last weekend, I kegged a pumpkin ale (can't wait...), brewed a big, super bitter red IPA, and an oatmeal stout (first in a long time). I also created this crazy experiment where I dumped a bunch of crappy, sour Belgian dubbels and sour Kolschs (blech) into a keg and added raspberries and some lambic dregs. It's intended to produce a kind of faux Goudenband type thing with the berry element. We'll see.