You could say that a Duvel is a Pilsener Scotch ale done in the Belgian style, meaning especially high gravity and especially expressive yeast, and the beer that results is actually individual enough to deliver on that crazy description.
This is the most individual tasting beer in the world. Even after almost 100 years, there is nothing quite like Orval. Tasting notes include leather and pineapple, attic and papaya, austerity, Manzanilla, bitter notes, acetic notes, umami elements and religious devotion, earth and apples.
It is true that he educated Father Theodore in modern practices, and guided him through the development of the recipes for these world famous beers, but I cannot think of a single element of the taste of this beer that is not determined by a pre-exisitng Belgian cultural force, whether it be a temperance movement, the domestication of microzoa, or the historical influence of Belgian farmers’ sugar making practices. It seems to me that De Clerck used the tools of modern zymurgy to bring Belgian cultural tendencies to a very high expression.
The central question of War and Peace is: Did Napoleon cause history, or did history cause Napoleon? The central question of Belgian brewing is: Did Jean De Clerck create the landscape of modern Belgian beer or was he simply a particularly active and efficacious function of pre-existing social patterns, namely folk brewing practices and modern science in the wake of Pasteur?
We come closest to the dead by experiencing their subjective experiences. For Patrick McGovern that has meant drinking their booze as accurately as he can.
First you gather your materials: the stones you will burn, the juniper branches and berries, the barley and rye, the wood for the fire, and some food and drink as you know this will take all day in the sauna.
Don’t let your uncle tell you how he misses old fashioned beers like Bud Light. A pilsener is newfangled nonsense. These sour, dark, smokey, high alcohol, spicy, herbally bitter, witchy, healthful brews were the original beers. They were called gruits.
Scratch Brewing uses fermented acorns to impart a flavor of, as they say, oak, leather, madeira, prunes, and bourbon; it doesn’t all have to be hazy IPA’s with Citra, Mosaic, and (fill in the blank with some Australian variety).
The answer was obvious because it had been close at hand all along: beet syrups.
We get the essence of the taste of the tree without the tannins of the wood itself, and the bigness of the beer without the oiliness of a huge grain bill. We’re back to a syrup koan: the essence of the birch is kept, but the tricky business of the body is excluded.