I was recently considering trying to brew something outside my comfort zone. I’m still limited to ales as I don’t have any way to maintain a 45-50° lager ferment temp. But, then I had a Pretty Things farmhouse (Field Mouse’s Farewell) on tap at the Ale House, and I got to thinking, maybe something Belgian. I’m not big on overly vegital farmhouse brews: I had one of Smuttynose’s big beer series farmhouse ales a year ago and it really was too funky for me, whereas the Pretty Things version was lighter, refreshing, with just the right flavors to make it interesting without tasting like an experiment.
And then, this morning, a friend raved to me about Allagash Brewing’s Curieux, a Belgian Tripel that is aged in Jack Daniels barrels. I have to be honest, I’m late to the game as far as barrel aged beer. I know it’s been a big thing for a while now, but I honestly think the Stone Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard I had a couple months ago was the first barrel aged brew I’ve had, and I wasn’t impressed. Arrogant Bastard is not a fave of mine anyways. It’s fine, but I prefer their standard IPA over most of their offerings (I do love the IPA, and the smoked porter isn’t far behind). I didn’t get any great “aha!” moment from the barrel aged Bastard though.
So now I think I need to finally drop the cash on a bottle of the Curieux, just to see if this is something I’d like to try to replicate. From all I’ve read, a Tripel isn’t all that complicated as far as ingredients. Pils malt, some carapils, and sugar (in the boil, to boost the alcohol content). The signature flavors will come from the yeast and fermentation. Thankfully, it appears the Belgians weren’t big on temp control, as many of the Belgian yeasts can handle pretty high fermentation temps (most ales are fermented in the mid to upper 60s, where as these Beglian yeasts can run up into the mid to upper 70s). Warmer ferment temps are definitely easier to deal with than cooler. I can always wrap my makeshift fermwrap around the carboy and rasi the temps as needed. (my fermwrap is literally flex wrap heat tape typically used on the bottom of a reptile tank) The expensive part was the $75 for a Johnson temp controller, which has certainly come in handy keeping ferment temps consistent.
So, before a decision is made, I need to try myself this Allagash Curieux… at $18 a bottle, it’s steep, but if it’s all that, and I can come remotely close on the homebrew scale, I could likely make 5 gallons (2 cases of 12 oz bottles) for maybe $40. And it’s all about the challenge anyways!
To be continued…