Showing posts in category: Belgium

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Style Belgian IPA · ABV 6.0% · 750 ml bottle
Brewed by Brouwerij De Ranke · Wevelgem · Belgium
Read more www.deranke.be

Normally everything Brouwerij De Ranke touches turns to gold. It’s almost been a year since I got to try their Tripel Guldenberg, so once I got the notion of Hop Harvest I just had to lay my greedy fat hands on a sample. Technically it is their perennial Belgian IPA, the XX Bitter, on steroids. It’s jam-packed with even more Brewers Gold hops for a sharper bitterness and a generous addition of Hallertau hops for a greater and fuller aroma.

Appearance 2/3

A pale golden straw colored beer enters my glass producing a creamy milk white three finger tall head. It slides down to half a finger retaining its rich creamy texture. Judging by the way the bubbles move around in the drink it looks heavily carbed.

The more we drink the yeastier the pour gets, from being a clear to cloudy brewski.

Aroma 8/12

Belgian yeast and fresh wheat bread. Then fruity esters that of freshly cut apples, grapes and pears. Lots of floral notes too. Then there’s an acidity somewhere between white wine and citrus fruits. Wrapped around all this is a soft hops aroma and the tinest pinch of ground ginger. It does reminds me a tad of Mikkeller’s Wet Hop Kellerbier.

Flavor 16/20

Originally malty, sweet and yeasty, consequently lots of esters coming through with generous amounts of fresh green fruits like apple, pear but also a honeydew melon flavor and sweetness. Midway there’s a distinct medium hop bitterness which lingers…

Mouthfeel 4/5

Medium bodied with a liquid that’s smooth as well as big and filling. A carbonation in disguise comes to life when washed through the mouth holding medium soft bubbles.

Overall impression 7/10

For some reason I keep Belgian IPAs closer to heart than many other styles. I like the idea of merging two styles in one beautiful marriage. Belgian yeast and American hops do make a great couple and Hop Harvest do them justice. A refreshing and quaffable drink with my only concern being that the bitterness maybe coming through too harshly here and there.

If fortune you’ll find a left over bottle from this year’s production, otherwise you’ll just have to wait for 2012′s version of it.

Total Score 37/50

Very Good – Generally within style parameters, some minor flaws.

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Style Quadrupel · ABV 10.5% · 330 ml bottle
Brewed by Brouwerij St Bernadus · Watou · Belgium
Read more www.sintbernardus.be

So finally the time has come to get with one those talked about, critically acclaimed and standard setting brews. It’s been compared by some as the little brother of trappist brewed Westvleteren 12. Some even claiming the St Bernadus Abt 12 stays closer to the original recipe than Westvleteren 12 does. Belgian beer and Travel has written an article that might shed some further light on the topic.

The battle has been raging for ever as to which one of these ales is the top quad of them all. Anyway it’s an epic and legendary brew sitting in front of me this evening at Belgobaren. I’ve had it at least once before, let’s see what kind of effect it has on me this time.

Appearance 3/3

The waitress pours a dark sienna color into a Sint Bernardus-branded chalice, producing half a finger of off-white head. The head settles leaving a thin lid of creamy and fizzy foam. Some yeast lees remaining at the base of the bottle, though only appropriate a bottle conditioned ale.

Whenever I see this bottle I’m always fascinated with the merry looking monk character on the label, it’s like he’s thinking “Aha, I know the recipe to this and you don’t” pointing a gentle finger my way. I read somewhere that he lately lost his head cap. Where did that go?

Aroma 10/12

A nose dominated by maltiness, mainly caramel. A tart dark fruity sweetness. Aromas include bigarreau cherries and unripe plums. Jolly friend Johan wants to define the aroma as Grandma’s good old apple pie but I would stretch it as far as saying apples.There’s a musty sort of stale cellar/barrel quality to it, get’s me thinking of port wine.

Flavor 18/20

A fruit and berry cocktail, but has more of a mature and ripe character this time, including bigarreau cherries, plums, apples and pears. In the sweetness there’s bitter almonds and marzipan. I pick up some faint chocolate in the sugar as well. Some alcohol coming through but in that warming and pleasant Belgian way.

Mouthfeel 5/5

Incredibly everlasting effervescing but moderate carbonation creating a flavor explosion. The flavors just keep coming on and on again with the help of the carbonation. It’s a medium body with a creamy and smooth liquid. Very mild bitterness remain in aftertaste together with a yeasty and smelly cheese profile.

Overall impression 9/10

This is all you dream and hope for in a Quad really. An extremely complex yet surprisingly clean and crisp abbey ale. The flavors are just perfectly balanced, not overtaking each other but a gently transitioning from one flavor to another. The body and mouthfeel not at all cloying or sticky like you might expect with such a sugary sweet brew. Actions speak louder than words, so my advice to you is, drink it!

Next time I go for Belgian I got try Westvleteren 12 and see what the monks bring to the table.

Availability around my part of the world means any bar serving Belgian ales i.e. Belgobaren, Monks Cafe and Duvel cafe/Pressklubben.

Total Score 45/50

Outstanding – World-class example of style.

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Simultaneous pouring capacity on display.

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Style Belgian IPA · ABV 8.0% · Draft
Brewed by Brouwerij Het Anker · Mechelen · Belgium
Read more www.hetanker.be

Sometime ago I was at Belgobaren with a few friends, some old ones others new acquaintances. Everyone’s in a good mood trying out new and exciting Belgian ales, having anything from Gulden Draak to Delirium Tremens. I must admit I fell in love with Troubadour Magma during my last visit here. With the Magma still in my mind I wanted to try another Belgian styled IPA. So when I spoke to the waitress she recommended me the Hopsinjoor, also available on tap.

About four to five months back I started audio recording my reviews. I helps me keep in touch with the details and characteristics of the beer better than writing it down I figured. A girlfriend of a friend, who’s never seen me do an audio review exclaimed “nerd” as soon as I pulled out my phone. I tend to agree with her comment. And so here’s the result of that recording from that evening…

Appearance 2/3

The beer comes served in a goblet glass. A solid two finger chalk-white head rests atop a cloudy golden yellow liquid. Retention of the foam is pretty amazing.

Aroma 7/12

Chiefly notes of doughy yeast and freshly baked wheat bread. Then I pick up a minute citric acidity. Faint and soft aroma and bitter hops come through too.

Flavor 16/20

Sweet and sticky malts. Big bag of yeast and citrus fruits. Tiniest dried apricots flavor profile. There is a hops flavor but not very strong or distinct. As the beer warms up I get more alcohol and marzipan flavors. Unpleasantly enough, there’s an annoying bitterness that stays on.

Mouthfeel 3/5

It’s a light medium body with a sweet and tickling liquid. A tad too watery to support the kind of flavors this type of beer displays. Good and refreshing carbonation makes up for a lot of other faulty aspects. Ending it is a medium bitterness.

Overall impression 6/10

Nothing gruesome nor anything great. This is a notch better than a decent Belgian IPA. Sure there’s a hops aroma and taste but much less than in the Magma, which in this case is a disappointment and fails to balance with the malt.

Unfortunately I was served this beer way too icy cold for its own good, making it impossible to get the full flavor of it right away. Drink ales at the right temperature, ie 8 – 12 Celsius degrees. According to Vanna (a new acquaintance to my right) proper thing to do is to heat it using a tea light. Ever tried that?

Total Score 34/50

Very Good – Generally within style parameters, some minor flaws.

Style Belgian Strong Dark Ale · ABV 8.1% · 250 ml bottle
Brewed by Brouwerij Corsendonk · Turnhout · Belgium
Read more www.corsendonk.com

It’s the evening of Christmas Day and I get a pause from fatty foods and gift opening till tomorrow when we go to my brother’s house to meet up with the rest of the clan. My co-habitor’s away having dinner with some friends and the baby’s tucked in, sleeping soundly. Faint echoes of Silent Night solemnly disappear into the dark night as I take a long look into the fridge and discover that there’s at least one beer left with the word Christmas or Santa written on it. I go for what’s closest to me which happens to be Corsendonk’s Xmas Ale, a beer brewed and bottled at Brasserie Du Bocq in Belgium.

Previous Belgian winter seasonals this year have been N’Ice Chouffe and Gouden Carolus Noël. Let’s see how this one measures up against the others.

Appearance 2/3

The neat little 250 ml bottle empties a maroon brew with dashes of brown, creating a light beige two finger foam collar. The bubbles are small but not exactly tight, they have more of an airy quality to them. There are lots of curtains but they don’t really stick that well to the wall of the glass.

Aroma 8/12

I’m met by a rich maltiness and sweetness, a candy sugar sweetness. Plenty of alcohol but nothing in your face or crazy. The dominating aromas are of fresh dark fruits like plums and cherries seasoned with sandal wood. There’s a hint of boiled pork coming through too. Somewhere I also get a flash of metal, mostly iron. This is belgian strong dark ale and of course there aren’t any hop aromas around.

Flavor 15/20

The taste reminds me alot of N’Ice Chouffe, with its complex and slighty meaty character. Malty and sweet, plus ripe cherries and plums accented with spices and sandal wood make up the general flavor. There’s a faint almond and marzipan taste with traces of Belgian yeast coming on too. There is also an iron flavor that sticks to the back of the palate.

Mouthfeel 3/5

The mouthfeel was initially fantastic but faded rapidly leaving me with a medium body, slightly watery liquid. The carbonation lost all signs of vitality and bubbles are only here and there. Still it does its job, pouring out flavors over my palate.

Overall impression 6/10

An enjoyable ale, that’s a suitable digestif or just something you slowly sip away at, sitting down talking to good friend or reading a book. I wouldn’t bring this to the dinner table though since it’s too rich a brew to really fit in with any of the foods this time of the year.

A more than decent drink and at the same time nothing really spectacular in my opinion. This perhaps because the spiced version of Belgian strong dark ale isn’t a favorite of mine.

Happy Boxing Day everyone!

Check out other 2011 Winter Seasonals that we’ve tasted and reviewed.

Total Score 34/50

Very Good – Generally within style parameters, some minor flaws.

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Style Belgian Strong Dark Ale · ABV 10.0% · 750 ml bottle
Brewed by Brasserie d’Achouffe · Achouffe · Belgium
Read more www.achouffe.be

So we’re back with the second (first out was Gouden Carolus Noël) Christmas beer review of the year. I admit I’m easily sidetracked by hoppier beers, but I do also enjoy the seasonals. I had the N’Ice on tap a couple of years ago and remember it being a good break from that hectic holiday shopping crowd madness.

Anyways, it’s Sunday evening of the Second Advent, a day usually celebrated going to friends or family for glögg (Swedish Glühwein) and ginger bread snaps. My family and I are invited to my sister’s house for a meal and to bake saffron bread (a celebratory bread eaten between St Lucia and Xmas). Instead of the customary glögg I pull out a bottle N’Ice Chouffe and cram it into the already overloaded baby carriage.

Appearance 2/3

From the heavy duty green glass bottle comes a semi-opaque dark burgundy with traces of brown in it. On top of it is an airy two finger head which stays this way for a minute then collapses into flat islands of bubbles moving around the surface at will. What ever curtains there may be they’re blotchy and random. Around the kick-up base of the bottle I see some residual yeast.

Aroma 7/12

The first thing that pops into my mind taking a whiff of this beer is actually Christmas beer, what I’m referring to here is the malty dark lager styled beer traditionally labeled Christmas beer in Sweden. This ale is also very malty and sweet. I get candisugar, similar to Coke/Cherry Coke, after that it’s something bordering to marzipan. Notes of dark fruits, that of figs and dates but also plums, cooked meat (specifically pork) and metal. Naturally there’s also belgian yeast to be found. Last but nowhere near the least is the presence of alcohol in this nose, a staggering 10%, does make itself known.

Flavor 13/20

A striking complexity to the flavor. Full of spices (I read somewhere that they used six different spices, amongst them thyme), marzipan, figs and dates. It also has a slightly vinous profile. A mild bitterness enters after the first rush of flavors and is then overtaken by a boozy and sweet aftertaste, an aftertaste that tingles the back of the tongue.

Mouthfeel 4/5

A spectacularly light and refreshing medium body despite all that sugar. Lots of superbly sized carbonation, spreading the flavor across the palate. The liquid does balance out the sugars, flavors and bitterness well.

Overall impression 6/10

This is a sugary, flavor intense and flawlessly carbonated brew. I am no foe of complex Belgian beers but when the alcohol comes through too hard and when the intensity and complexity turns messy rather than elaborate it does have an impact on the scoring. It’s a bit like all the flavors are wrestling around the mouth, everyone trying to come out on top at the same moment. D’Achouffe’s Christmas ale is not a bad one it just doesn’t meet up to the expectations of an A-rated brewery.

Check out other 2011 Xmas Seasonals that we’ve tasted and reviewed.

Systembolaget has them stocked, check for availability.

Total Score 32/50

Very Good – Generally within style parameters, some minor flaws.