DeKoninck & Lange Wapper

January 31, 2009

Constantly daydreaming about  Belgium and her fabulous bounty takes its toll. Your beard grows unabated, your family becomes increasingly concerned of the ragged gleam in your eyes, and like Cheever’s ill-fated swimmer, you might just leave the waspy cocktail party on a drunken mission, jump into the neighbor after neighbor’s pool, never to return. The Flemish people of Antwerp are steeped in folklore, and as I’m wondering if my obsession might destroy my life like Bluegrass destroyed John Fahey’s, I’m reminded of Lange Whapper, the giant fairy of the river Shelde, who would appear out of the fog to the late-night drunks along the cobblestone streets and punish them for their multitude of sins against the fairy-people.

Lange Wapper, appearing menacingly to a couple of hapless souls, notice the jug in the hand of the guy on the left.Lung Wapper, Appearing Menacingly to a couple of hapless souls

My good friend Nick Falivenra keeps asking me for a good Saison extract and steeping grains recipe for, but I can’t recommend that anyone use those Saison yeasts in the winter because of their tendency to underattenuate and take forever to get the job done when nurtured with sub-80 degree temps. My friend Andy just fermented out his Saison with a hot plate underneath, and even them he hard time getting it to get below 1.020, which is the same experience I had with the Wyeast Saison yeast, even with a gallon starter and hundred degree Sacramento summer heat.

Instead, I will post a Belgian Pale Ale, that like the best Saisons, is a study in balance, with a skronky malt backbone that gives way to delightfully fruity yet dry finish. This recipe is based on Jamil Zainasheff’s clone of De Koninck, the daily beer of the people of Antwerp.  The Mt. Hood hops in the recipe aren’t to style, but they’ve been resonating in all my thirst quenchers lately, like autumn leaves floating in a pool, wavering among the reflections of the stormclouds up above. Plus, the Kent Goldings he suggests are all but extinct in these parts these days.

Lange Wapper

(Antwerp Pale Ale)

5 gallons (extract plus grains)

OG = 1.053

FG = 1.013

IBU = 29

SRM = 8

ABV = 5.3%

Ingredients

7lb Pilsner Liquid Malt

10 oz Caramunich Malt (60 Lovibond)

4 oz Biscuit Malt (25 Lovibond)

1.5 oz Mount Hood 5% a.a. pellet hops (60 min)

.5 oz Mount Hood 5% a.a (0 min)

Wyeast 3655 (Belgian Schelde) Yeast

Drinking out of a Bolleke, the flemish word for bowl and official glass of De Koninck
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Cheers. Across the street from De Halfe Maan Brewery.

The fabulous bottle-conditioned bounty of Belgium.

The fabulous bottle-conditioned bounty of Belgium.

Like Darwin stepping off the HMS Beagle to behold the Iguana and Komodo, a beer lover in Belgium is confronted the widest array of concentrated beer bio-diversity in the world. And I, like a schoolboy reading battered science-fiction novels under the covers with a flashlight and eager imagination, devoured Michael Jackson’s romantic tales of the arcane brewers and brasseries of Belgium. His tireless chronicles of the Belgian beer mages and their unconventional approach to beer-making, sense-of-humour, and blatant disregard for the so-called rules of brewing tradition, turned these ordinary men into the bandit folk-heroes of my amateur home-brewer dreams. If there were trading cards I would have collected them. R. Crumb, are you listening?
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Brewer Puppet with Apron and Mash Paddle, Pipaix

Brewer Puppet with Apron and Mash Paddle, Pipaix

Trappist monasteries like Orval, Westmalle, and Westvleteren, pouring candied sugar syrup into Singles, Dubbels, and Trippels, weaving prayers, incantations,  into their arcane design. Bearded Lambic Blenders of  Lambeek and Beersel and their ancient art of collecting wild yeast and bacteria from the heavens, weaving their concoctions into alchemical realities called Geuzes, hitherto only known by the mad and delusional. Farmhands of Hainaut, churning cheese and mashing grain, until Sunday, when their wives go to chapel and they go to the brasserie to shoot bumper pool and drink gallons of sundappled and peppery Saison  — the list went on and on, like a league of Superheroes, each with their own super power, uniform and ethos.
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Mrs. Beaglethorpe Enjoying her Frites

Mrs. Beaglethorpe Enjoying her Frites in Antwerpen

Recently, my wife and I had the great fortune to tour Belgium for a couple of weeks. After years of drinking improperly handled bottle-conditioned beers that survived their trek in questionable condition, to make their way across the Atlantic ocean. We decided to make the jump. We booked a flight, rented a car, grabbed our tattered copies Jackson’s “Great Beer Guide to Belgium,” and Tim Webb’s “Good Beer Guide to Belgium”, and with a determined and well-conditioned livers, had the time of our lives, one amazing beer at time.  And yet still, like some obsessed collector of old blues acetates, I yearned to meet the heroes behind the music. R. Crumb, I’ll say it again, are you listening?

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First Sip

January 20, 2009

D. Beaglethorpe in Brugge with Zot

D. Beaglethorpe in Brugge with Zot

Welcome to Cock Ale, a compendium of ongoing beer journalism and lore.  I am D. Beaglethorpe, captain of this crystal malt ship,  wit rabbit down this bottomless burrow, cantankerous regular at this here watering hole.  Come and share a cold and frothy with me.