Last December during what was (at the time) the biggest storm since I moved to DC I brewed a beer inspired by De Struise's Pannepot. Pannepot is a big, dark, spiced beer that shows exactly what Belgian beer can be at its best (complex, drinkable, surprising, and ponderous). With hopes of getting something similar I went with a similarly complex mix of grains, spices, and herbs for my version.
Despite mashing at 155 the Westmalle strain (Wyeast 3787) chewed the beer all the way down to 1.010 from 1.096 giving me a beer considerably stronger (11.5% ABV) and drier than the original (1.100 to 1.025, 10% ABV). With that high alcohol the beer needs more than the three months I've given it in the bottle, but I always try to get my impressions of a big beer early on.
You can read my tasting notes below, but for another take on how this batch turned out read the impressions of Tom and Jeff over at Lug Wrench Brewing. They're brewing their version of the recipe is fermenting now, looking forward to getting a chance to try their take on it eventually.
The other half of my batch is still sitting on cherries and slowly getting funkier as a variety of bugs continue to work. I probably won't get around to bottling the Cuvee de Pannepot for another few months still.
Appearance – Clear chestnut brown. Nice two finger off-white head when I first pour, but before I take my first sip it's sank to ~1/4 inch. A thin head sticks around until the end of the glass, still better head retention than the last bottle of Pannepot I had anyway.
Smell – Toasty, boozy, fruity, spicy, caramely, certainly complex. The fruit character is especially nice, plum, fig, and cherry (gotta love that Dark Candi Syrup). I think I got the spices at about the right level, I can't pick any of them out individually, but they are there.
Taste – Toasted malt, orange, clove, brown sugar, and bourbon (vanilla and hooch?). Note quite the sweetness to the original Pannepot, but the other flavors are more aggressive. The finish has a spicy alcohol character that might need a few more months to mellow, it has already improved from the last bottle I had in June. I wonder if the temperature got higher than I thought since this was fermented sitting on top of a radiator pushing that alcohol character.
Mouthfeel – Perky carbonation with more body than most big Belgian beers, but it isn't as thick as most other 10%+ beers.
Drinkability & Notes – A beer that throws everything that a beer can (16 ingredients will do that), and as a result loses a bit of drinkability on a hot summer night. Should be perfect for wintertime drinking, a “Christmas” beer that doesn't slam you with spices or sweetness. I'd back down on the sugar and the corn next time to try to get it to finish a bit sweeter, I'd also try to keep the fermentation cooler longer.