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, August 29, 2009

Seriously old beer tasting I

Did some basement cleaning that involved beer reorganization and thought I'd clean out some, in all likelihood, overly aged samples from early batches. Sharing little glasses with Lisa.

My first Belgian-style single, Saint Carlile, brewed 3/13/05: Rocky head with great lace-work. Somewhat over-carbonated. Orange gold (1 lb Biscuit malt? I was specialty-malt crazy early on) with even a slightly oxidized tinge to the color, like sherry. This style is hardly meant to age for 4.5 years, but I tend to leave at least a six-pack of most any Belgian for experimental, super-extended aging and this is the last one. It has an old malt aroma and flavor that older pale beers tend to get. It's an interesting aroma but begins to wear on you after a few sips. Finish still has a bit of hop to it, but is also over-attenuated. R.I.P.

Forbidden Grisette, brewed 7/2/06: Who makes Grisette?? It's a weird style, in so far as definitions are variable and hard to come by. I got interested in them from reading Farmhouse Ales and cooked one up with a Pils/Vienna/Wheat grist, Mt. Hood hops, and the Forbidden Fruit yeast. I've always had a soft spot for this beer. It's quirky, low-alcohol, wildly refreshing. It's aged surprisingly well and there are another four or five bottles kicking around. I think a little bit of lactobacillus got in here at some point and it's one of those rare times when your beer is a trifle infected and you don't mind. You shrug cheerfully and say,"Well, it is an old-timey style that would've been brewed with a mixed culture." It's an immaculately clear bright gold with a lightly fruity, delicately toasty aroma. The nose also hints at a slightly wild tartness and the palate follows through with a crisp, bright, appley acidity. Am I crazy or, back in the late 90's when Hennepin came out, did Ommegang market it as a Grisette? I could swear it said Grisette on the label somewhere, but later somebody wised up and decided Saison was the ascendent style for American cognoscenti. . . These should be drunk with people who like tart-dry beers on some hot day soon, in the unlikely event one should somehow materialize.

Summer Saison, brewed 5/15/05: This was a break-through Saison, one where I started slowly figured out that spicing was largely unnecessary and that specialty malts should be seriously subdued if present at all, a philosophy that subsequent reading of the aforementioned Farmhouse Ales helped crystallize. This one has a little wheat and biscuit, but is otherwise just pilsner malt and simple, subtle, English and Styrian hops, built along the basic parameters of Saison Dupont (in terms of gravity and IBU). White Labs 565 did its job, something I later learned it would not always do, producing an aromatically vivid beer that is also bone-dry (1.003). Visually stunning and beautifully preserved, with some earthy complexity and a surprisingly full palate, this one gets a classy send-off into the great beerafter.

Then there's "Recalitrant" Saison, brewed 6/30/06: So called because 565 decided to mail it in and quit fermenting at 1011. This was just never a good Saison because it was not dry enough. It hit a sweet spot at one point where it was alright, but it was never anywhere great. As a fitting send-off I think the last bottle was contaminated. Mildly tart. So-so aromatics. Good riddance. All hail French Saison, the strain that has rescued us from such attenuative vagaries.

Finally, Take Two Tripel, brewed 4/11/06: At one point, this was a virtual dead-ringer for Westmalle Tripel. It's beginning to be over the hill and I should probably look for excuses to share the last 5 bottles or so in the near future. 18 to 24 months ago it was dry but full-bodied, estery, complex. Now, it's very interesting but fading: Winey, slender bodied, drifting toward cidery.

Note to self: Locate any corked bottles of the above (there's one or two somewhere) and drink 'em up.


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