THE EDITOR’S DESK :: The Beer Doc Hits a Home Brew Out of the Park

by Harvey Gold on August 24, 2012

I returned from a, reasonably paced for an old guy, 13 mile bike ride on a fabulous towpath where we live. My riding partner, a highly competitive mountain biker, showing some kindness to me by taking such a fraternal cruise, as we were re-racking our bikes for the ride home said, “ Hey! You ever have a beer right after a ride? It’s awesome!”

Ya think? So upon returning home about 10 minutes later, perusing a relatively thin moment in the YBN beer fridge, he being a maltier guy, certainly not an IPA lover, and the occasion not suited for a gigantic bourbon barrel stout, I pulled out a 22 gifted to me quite a while ago by our very own Beer Doctor, Carol Westbrook. She had brewed this at her then home, thus the name, Bluff Drive Brewery.

All the info on this is on the label, It’s a Karmeliet Tripel at 8.6% and was bottled on 10/23/10. This was a journey that could certainly go either way. In this instance it went the right way, in spades. It poured with a huge white, very light head that dissipated rapidly. The nose was sweet and malty. The brew was very round and brown and sweet. There was a spice element but very subtle in that you immediately knew it was a Belgian, but no allspice or clove pungency. This was a lovely, well balanced, nicely weighted brew with that Abbey Ale brown round caramel that both warmed, as it should at this ABV, and yet totally refreshed us after the longish, sweat inducing bike ride.

Dr. Carol was thrilled to hear it held up so well after almost 2 years of bottle conditioning. Here are her notes:

“After my first successful homebrewing experience, it was time for a challenge.  I decided to try brewing a clone (copy) of Tripel Karmeliet.  The recipe was a challenge because of its grain mix,  subtle seasoning, specialty yeast, and high alcohol content–everything had to come together perfectly or it would be a big flop.

Tripel Karmeliet is one of my favorite Belgian ales.  It is brewed by Bosteels Brewery, in the small Flemish village of Buggenhout, using a beer recipe originating in a Carmelite monastery in 1679.  The name refers to the use of three grains (barley, oats, and wheat), giving credit to the monastery that originated the beer. Strictly speaking this is not a Belgian “Abbey Ale” since it is commercially brewed, but it is true to its roots as it has a classical Belgian Abbey taste due to the strain of yeast and the subtle seasoning (coriander and sweet orange peel).  And, like an abbey ale, it is of higher alcohol content, 8.6% ABV.

The cooled wort came out perfectly, to the correct gravity, with good color and flavor.  The hops were mild, typical for European strong ales (Styrian Goldings and Czech Saaz hops).  The wort went into fermentation with the added orange peel and coriander, the yeast behaved properly, and it went into secondary fermentation with added yeast.  When fermentation was complete, the yeast fell to the bottom, and it was ready to bottle.  The Tripel was then bottle-conditioned, which meant that I added sugar for additional fermentation, allowing for more carbonation and flavor development.  This was the third, or “Tripel” fermentation step. The sugar added to the bottle was unique; instead of the usual dextrin, I added wheat malt and candi sugar; the result was an amazing head, and additional flavor which, apparently, continued to develop after two years in the bottle.

My batch went into glass on Sept 17, 2010.  I am pleased and delighted that the flavor continued to develop after 2 years in the bottle”.

As were we, Doc.

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