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, August 16, 2009

Largely Commercial Sunday Beer Tasting

High and Mighty Beer Co. "Beer of the Gods": My guess was that this was a fairly hoppy pilsner-ish beer. The website suggests it's really a sort of hoppy Kolsch, which makes sense to me. Good noble-type hop aroma (I don't actually know what kind they are), bracingly hoppy palate. Pretty refreshing. There's something about the malt character that, to me right now, is a trifle thin or over-attenuated. Might be that this sample is just over a year old. Perhaps it's a little long in the tooth? Decent beer though.

Fantome Pissenlit Printemps 2003: Oh, Fantome, how you torture us. . . Your best beers are glories to remember; your worst actively suck. The "Pissenlit" is a dandelion Saison. I had one about 5 years ago in L.A. and was beside myself: It was glorious, offbeat, dry, bitter, quirky, green-tasting, herbal, earthy (dirty?), wildly complex. So I bought an old bottle at Borough Market in London last summer for six pounds, the only time I had seen it since. Then I let it sit in my basement for an extra year--why, I am not sure... A lot of their beers sour as they age. Is a mixed culture responsible? At this point, this one is effectively a Flanders Red. The color resembles the prettiest Oktoberfest you've ever seen, darker than the one I originally had (I believe). And it is pretty damn sour, bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the beer I loved. So, a la recherche du temps perdu, je came up empty. It is an interesting antique though: fruity, a little sherry-ish, tart, complex . . . A similar phenomenon happened recently. A reader of this blog had glowed mightily about Fantome Chocolat. I finally found one (in Baltimore a couple months ago) and it was more or less just an "eh" or a "meh" kind of beer. They change their recipes wildly from year to year and the character of the house yeast is fluid, to put it mildly, so those kinds of occasional disappointments are endemic to the Fantome experience. (Where the hell is my circumflex?) The standard Saison Printemps, for instance, ranges from transcendental to a piece of crap, from year to year. . . But, hey, when they're good, they're often extraordinary and I'll keep trying their beers, in search of the ones that got away. . .

I am, by the way, blogging throughout the day and sharing these beers with the wife. This fall's pumpkin ale, "Sweaty Pumpkin!", should be fermenting shortly, and I'm about to bottle a Belgian Dubbel, to be dubbed "Sanctus," if it proves worthy. It is hot. Hot. Hot. Here.

What's next?

De Ranke Noire de Dottignies. I was curious what others thought of this beer, as I began sampling it. Someone on associates it with blood and "corroding girders." I love that last descriptor, though I can't agree, per se, having never tasted a corroding girder. Not sure about the blood either. It's a pretty dark beer by Belgian standards though "noir" doesn't really fit. Like, say, Westmalle Dubbel, it looks deep brown but then flashes a brilliant ruby when held to the light. It's a flamboyantly hoppy beer, honestly--malt depth and dark color notwithstanding. The bitterness is bracing, lingering (big time), and somehow minerally--like iron. Does that explain the blood note? The blood guy also says it has a cola note--that, I totally agree with. A really, really, really good watermelon smells and tastes kind of like cola and this has that watermelon cola quality, with an extra, burnt anisey twinge to it. Cool... I'd love to know the malt bill. It apparently uses six different malts (not that big a deal for a lot of homebrewers, but a massive number for those normally restrained Belgians who tend to use 1-3 malts and a sugar...) and I'm guessing a really long boil or some extra kettle caramelization helps account for the wonderfully complex, earthy, palate of this fascinating beer. Nino and Guido, the brewers, are two talented fuckers, let me tell you.


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