We made a ludicrously strong pale Belgian-style beer last summer.
Perhaps because we used too much sugar, or maybe because the yeast (Wyeast 1388) was too inyerface, it didn’t really live up to expectations. It tasted of alcohol and little else, with a very harsh finish. It was “only” 8.3% but tasted much stronger, and not in a good way.
We left it alone for a few months (some in bottles, some in a carboy) to see if time would heal it. It tempered the alcohol flavour a little bit, but there still wasn’t much else to it. We stashed a few bottles away in case it does magically develop some complexity, but we used most of it to experiment, in the hope of discovering what it was missing.
We spiced up five litres (in a polypin) to make a Christmas beer, using 3 cloves, a piece of star anise, and the zest of a satsuma. I tried it on my family at Christmas. My brother went back for seconds, but he still has a bit of a skint student attitude to free booze. The rest of the family made polite noises. I reckon it was a definite improvement on the “raw” beer, and the spices worked well and were not overpowering, adding a touch of complexity. I’ve paid for worse beers in my time, and we’ll use that spice mix again on a better beer. But it was still short of about seven layers of flavour, and I didn’t have the appetite to finish the cask.
We added about half an ounce of Cascade hops to another five litres. This was interesting, as we were expecting it to make it taste weird and “un-Belgian”, but the Cascade flavour didn’t really come through. It added a nice balancing bitterness, reinforcing the conventional wisdom — the bigger the beer, the more hops you need, just for balance. The raw beer had definitely lacked hops, so the dry hopping helped. It still wasn’t enough to make it a beer we particularly wanted to drink (especially not over the bottles of Westmalle Tripel we have in).
So, not a wasted batch, as we learnt a number of things from it, but it would be nice next time to produce something that actually tastes nice!