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, September 14, 2014

End of an Era: Last Mass Tasting

Several years ago, I had a great idea.  The Hamilton College Oratorio society had me thinking about settings of the mass.  Whatever your religiosity or irreligiosity, it's a beautiful text, and composers have taken it as an inspiration for tone painting of the highest order.  As long as there was this sacred music tradition and this sacred beer tradition, I said: Why not combine them?  Brew a series of beers in Belgian styles corresponding to the movements of the mass. It took forever to brew them all and opportunities to drink the six-pack in sequence have been few and far between.

Yesterday was the last one, and the tasting was appropriately punctuated by weeping.

Kyrie: A five-year-old house Saison, this was wonderfully creamy.  The yeast (Wyeast French) contributes, at this age, a richness and depth that is extraordinary.  A beer that is soft, but weirdly austere, it was designed to accompany the often medieval simplicity and sparseness of Kyrie settings. Not a lot of text, not a lot of ingredients...

Gloria: Settings of the Gloria are light, bright, and clear: Glory to God, in the highest, so I went light here, with a monastic table beer, or single.  Despite the conceptual clarity there, at this age, the beer is all cellar character, with a wonderful earthiness and depth.  The cork, incidentally, almost killed someone.  The effervescence was genuinely glorious. This beer has been my favorite overall, through the years, and has thankfully been re-brewed already.  Footnote, I just chilled "Gloria Redux."  The youthful sample is more like what I originally envisioned. You can imagine it's cellar-y, earthy future, something 3787 excels with, but the beer is also exceptionally bright, clear, quaffable. People should remember that Belgian beers are not all nine percent...

Credo: This is a tripel.  It had to be, as it was inspired by the massive Credo of Anton Bruckner's Mass in F minor.  It's always been a stunning beer, remarkable in particular for its crazy final gravity, 1.002.  At a relatively old age, and with over ten percent alcohol, it is meady, very, very meady. It used to be brighter, but the combination of honeyed aromatics, earthiness, and serious attenuation is remarkable.

Sanctus, I am sad to say, had to be made twice.  Sanctus I was infected, but it did become a helpful blending beer for fruited lambic-ish beers.  Sanctus II has a little hint of San Francisco sourdough in the nose, which I love. Toast and caramel character are perfect--it's a sort of Belgian amber.  And I must return to both this nice, Vienna-centered grain bill, as well as the wonderful yeast, Wyeast Leuven. It aspires to the lyrical tenor line in Gounod's mass.

Settings of the Benedictus, in my limited experience, are usual sort of warm and dark, if that makes any sense.  So I brewed a beer thinking of a Bruckner bass line, which turned out to be a huge Quad. It smells of rum-raisin, cognac, grapes, wine.  For all that it is a massively rich beer, it's pretty drinkable as Quads go and I'm very proud of the recipe. The only question is how I get a hold of the yeast again, which is the now unavailable Flanders Golden, purportedly the Piraat strain.

Finally, an Agnus Dei beer must be strong enough to round out the tasting and follow the Quad, but soft enough to vaguely evoke lambs.  The solution is a wheaty tripel, sweetened up a bit with Belgian Aromatic.  It is creamy, fruity, rich, soft, just a tiny bit off dry.



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