The first was a shot at a nice, malty, tasty Belgian Dubbel. No problem, right? My brewing partner, Andrew, got ambitious. Who was I to argue? He cooked up some Belgian candi sugar, using a process like this. What he got was pretty gorgeous:
|Three pounds of invert sugar, cooked for three hours.|
Well, with colour like that, we figured we should build the beer around it without too much malt to help. Then, two things happened. One, we overshot our gravity with unexpectedly high efficiency from our mash-- resulting in a wort that would reach 9% alcohol after fermentation, instead of the targeted 7%. Two, we got much less flavour and colour contribution than we expected.
What we got, actually, was a beer with a ton of clove notes and a pretty clean profile. What we got was a Tripel.
They have a term for this in baseball, when you accidentally turn a double into a triple. They call it an Unforced Error.
"Ra Ra" (working name)
Next on deck (ooh, another baseball reference) was an attempt to clone, or at least get close to, a wonderfully rich, flavourful, no-roast imperial stout by De Molen brewery in the Netherlands, called Rasputin.
|Much better beers than the facial expression would express.|
The exported Rasputin has an interesting history in the US, being referred to as "Disputin" for a while due to a trademark dispute. What it is, though, is a fantastic, potent imperial stout that bears a very winey, rummy flavour instead of being full of roastiness. And lately I've found roasty beers to be about as appealing as licking a campfire.
And I didn't even realize what I wanted to brew until I tasted a (somewhat past its prime) stout by Russ of Biergotter, and I was reminded of how a stout doesn't have to be all Black Patent and Roasted Barley.
This recipe is an attempt to get close to my memory of Rasputin, which I've had at the brewery in the Netherlands, in the wonderful Gollem's Proeflokaal in Amsterdam, and at Volo in Toronto who sometimes import De Molen. Rasputin is one of my very favourite beers and if I can get close to it, it will be a huge victory.
|Gollem's, with a tram casually rolling on by because Europe.|
All I know about Rasputin is that it is "pale malt, chocolate and crystal malts" and "premiant and saaz hops". That's not much to go on, but I constructed a recipe designed to load the beer up on rich dark-fruit and malt flavour. The Saaz hops I could do, Premiant I couldn't, but I don't think that matters so much. The yeast is an Abbaye belgian yeast, brought up in a starter to give it a fighting chance in a 1.095 gravity wort.
Brew day wasn't perfect, we undershot our gravity quite badly, but drawing off extra volume and then boiling aggressively ended up giving 4.8 gallons at 1.095, instead of 5.5 at 1.097. Close enough, trading a few bottles of end product for a higher gravity. It occurs to me I had the same problem with Bombe, but after 2 years, I didn't remember the lessons of my last imperial stout. Oh well.
The name for this one is, well, probably temporary. Like Unforced Error, its identity will be revealed in time.