Piety and scholarship under Lupulos.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Comin' back at ya!

This blog is not dead ... it was merely going through a prolonged conditioning phase. I've had a few things happening over the last several months: graduating, starting a new job, and moving to Belgium. Of these, only the last may have a nontrivial influence on my brewing. Case in point, my next project:

I've got a few ideas bouncing around. We have both technical and recipe matters at hand. Regarding the former: as I have moved temporarily (2 years) to Belgium, I'm trying to maintain my brewing without necessarily spending a lot on equipment, as equipment is generally impractical to move to the US. I'm trying to use my experience with brewing to identify areas where corners can be cut.

First of all, wort chilling seems to be a stinker within the cost/benefit curve. On homebrewtalk.com, there has been an emergence of activity and interest on the subject of "no chill" brewing, where hot wort is not artificially cooled. The fears of DMS seem to be insignificant on a homebrewer's scale. Basically if you can keep the vessel that contains the wort sanitized enough for an evening with cooling wort, you're fine.

I thought about buying a cheap food-grade container for fermenting, but I'm now leaning toward a Better Bottle, which is more expensive, but available in Europe and will suffice for both fermenting and bottling.

Next, we're drinking some Hopus beers which have the benefits of a swivel top and cheap price at the local "wal mart". Hopefully will accumulate 3 gallons worth in the next 2 months or so, though it may require a party.

Recipe-wise, I must admit a deep affinity for Duvel, a truly sublime beer. Among its beauties include the dryness, light body/color, alcoholic sweetness, subtle hop flavor, and clarity. I'd like to merge this with the "Sonoma IPA", a yet-unofficial style, describing Pliny the Elder (PtE) by Russian River. PtE is actually unlike a lot of IPAs in its light body, color, and dryness, all of which accentuate the hop aroma and flavor. Interestingly, Duvel is so unique that Michael Jackson invented a style to describe it. Now, all "golden strong ales" are compared against Duvel.

Duvel, to me, creates its effect through unconventional means. It seems bitter, but not from the hops, as traditional beers would, but from a combination of the heavy carbonation, dry finish, and perhaps effects from the Scotch Ale yeast (Wyeast 1388). It seems sweet, but isn't (i.e., it's dry), due to the well-masked alcohol. It is truly a beer about recreating expectations from roundabout means.

So, how to get the dryness of Duvel? Dryness is a consequence of lots of the fermentables from the wort getting fermented. Hence, you should lean away from non-fermentable sugars such as maltose. Two ways to achieve this: low malt-temperatures, and a lot of raw sugar in the overall grain bill.

I'm taking this approach with Belgian Pale Ale malt, a lot of sugar, and the Duvel yeast. I'm going to throw an American spin with some Pliny-friendly hops.