Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tasting notes: Moinette Brune

Saisons. Anyone who has read more than two posts on this blog knows I have a soft spot for saisons. Dark beers. Ditto. Put them together and it's exponential love. Moinette Brune is such a beer that generates such a love. Beer love.
Recently, a friend asked me, "What makes a beer dark?", which I thought was a very good question. A good question, since it's one that falls in the "might be a stupid question so I'm afraid to ask it" category. Fact is, there are three ways that brewers affect the color of their beers. The most common way is by adding malts that have been specifically kilned to impart color, from the wide range of crystal malts, to the chocolate, black patent and roasted barley that generate the pitch black you would see in a stout, black ale, or some porters. Another method, not really used much anymore due to the sheer time and energy required, is the use of immensely long boils. What can now be generally replicated by tossing in a dash of crystal malts was once achieved by boiling the wort for up to 18 hours, a process that would slowly darken the color through caramelization. Truth is, when these folks of yore needed to cook their wort, they couldn't really achieve a true rolling boil like any of us modern day ramen cooks know. Instead, it was like a long, painfully inactive simmer which gave rise to the popular "red" beers of Flanders. Lastly, and most importantly to anyone studying the fine art of Belgian artisinal brewing, is the use of darkened sugars, or candi sugars, in the wort to both ramp up the alcohol content and lower the body of your beer. Forget it, let's talk Moinette.

Delicious, glowing, dark and mildly funky. Simply put, it's essentially a wild dubbel. It's light enough in body and sweet enough that I'm inclined to believe its color derives from the use of dark candi sugar and maybe just a smidge of a cara- malt, like CaraMunich or carastan. It's got enough of the aromatic qualities you would expect from something a little wild, but then it settles into the dark fruit and warming joy that you would also want from a darker abbey style.
As early as it seems, we're already waking to the tinges of dawn's indigo scrapes across the horizon. The breeze hints at a cold run of salmon already on their way back north. The fog lingers just a little longer inland than at the coast. Is the wild/dubbel style the perfect choice for this coming of autumn feel? It depends on how many crickets are out, and whether you debate closing all your windows before going to bed. Have you bought your firewood for the winter yet? Are you thinking about it?



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