Archive for the ‘Belgian Ale’ Category

Buffalo Bitter

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

2010-01-09-buffalo-bitterPerhaps a strange designation for a Belgian golden ale, Buffalo Bitter is brewed by Br. Van den Bossche in Herzele, Belgium. I don’t have any background information or anecdotes about this beer or brewery. Before I opened the bottle I didn’t even know what style of beer it was.

The Buffalo Bitter is a very pale straw color, with just a hint of haze. The head is thick, moussey, and long-lasting, supported by the strong effervescence of this beer. The nose is remarkably clean for eight percent alcohol. I get whiffs of hops, a grassy character accented by flowers. Just a bit of pale malt is present as well.

The flavor is quite delicate. A green grassy and herbal flavor comes first. Despite the name there is not a whole lot of bitterness, but the hop flavor is clean and bright. This is accompanied by malty sweetness that may have a bit of corn as well. It is hard to say if that apparent character is actually simply from the pale malt and a decent addition of Belgian candi sugar. There is just a bit of residual sweetness that coats the mouth, but the carbonation balances it to maintain quaffability.

Overall, the Buffalo Bitter is light and refreshing. Like gossamer it seems to be in your grasp but then floats away. This beer reminds me that spring is not too far off (despite the two feet of snow outside my door).

+Buffalo Bitter

3.7 (4-7-7-4-15)

Sour Week: Grand Cru Bruocsella Cantillon

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

The term “grand cru” refers to a brewery’s finest product, and it is no different at Cantillon. After three years of fermentation the very best casks at the brewery museum are selected for the Grand Cru Bruocsella. This organic lambic is unblended, so it is essentially without carbonation and has a rich, mature flavor profile. Cantillon says this beer is intended to be “not drunk but savoured”.

2009-08-18-bruocsellaThe Bruocsella is a lightly hazy golden poppy. Just a hint of activity puts a spindly thread of straw-colored head in a ring around the glass. The nose is quite funky and sour: horse blanket, vinegar, and sour laundry. There is a bit of peanut butter. The aroma is dry and dusty. Like many lambics it is woody, but taken to a new level: it reminds me of the smell of my recorder from elementary school. Notes of cheese and gym sock. Paired with all this pleasantness is a delicate fruit character of mango, papaya, and red delicious apple.

A noticeable acidity leads the flavor charge, turning more potent as it moves back in the mouth. A sharp lactic tart is augmented by a bit of acetic sour. A funky, sweaty barnyard character rides the top of the tongue. Grains come out on the sides with wheat, pale malt, and some huskiness. A bit of a jelly bean fruit character.

The flavor is rich, the sour pungent, and the carbonation nonexistent, but somehow this beer is still quite drinkable. Oh, I’m sorry Jean-Pierre, “savorable”.

++Grand Cru Bruocsella Cantillon

4.0 (3-9-7-4-17)

What a long, strange week it’s been.

Sour Week: Oude Geuze Boon Mariage Parfait

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Mariage ParfaitBrouwerij Boon moved their brewing facilities in the 1980s from their original location where beer had been made since the 1680s. Frank Boon, who has been very helpful to “outsiders” wishing to learn the intricacies of lambic brewing, has owned and operated the brewery since 1978. They produce a faro, a framboise, a kriek, an oude kriek (old or aged kriek), a strong brown, and two gueuzes. Their Oude Gueze is a blend of six month and two year lambics. Their Mariage Parfait is the blend of the best individual casks and is intended as the brewery’s finest product.

As with a number of selections for Sour Week, I obtained this bottle at Lush on Halsted in Chicago. It is a vintage 2003, bottled, I believe, in 2007. In case you were curious, the best before date is 3 Feb 2027, totally beating my previous furthest-in-the-future best-before-date of sometime in 2013 (on a case of Unibroue Quelque Chose).

The Mariage Parfait pours a lightly hazy saffron. The head is a generous creamy long-lasting white.2009-08-16-date The nose is delicate, dry, and dusty, the aroma that of a farmhouse attic, with barnyard character drifting in through an open window. Grass and straw, dust and must, wood, horse, and goat. Subtle, complex, and elegant, the aroma on this beer seems light at first but will fill and tantalize your nose.

Initially fruity, the taste quickly turns strongly tart. A mostly clean lactic acidity is supplemented by shades of acetic. Tastes much like champagne on the middle of the tongue but with kiwi, pineapple, and grapefruit on the front and malt on the sides. Just a bit of horsey and sweaty funk. A hint of husky astringency and hop bitterness. The flavor is bold yet balanced and complex yet approachable. A quite active carbonation offsets the lingering acidity.

This delicate masterpiece is the beer to give to your (crazy) friend who loves wine but thinks all beer is gross.

++Oude Geuze Boon Mariage Parfait

4.5 (4-9-9-4-19)

Note: Both gueuze and geuze are acceptable spellings for the style.

Sour Week: Brouwerij Verhaeghe

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Tonight I will have three beers made by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium. Verhaeghe is a great example of a west Flanders brewery, producing a number of what they call red-brown ales as well as a kriek, a pils, a few amber ales, and a Christmas beer. Tonight I will have the three sours they make that I can readily get a hold of: Echt Kriekenbier, Vichtenaar, and Duchesse de Bourgogne. Astute readers may remember that the Duchesse was the first sour I rated on this blog, as well as note that it is now the first beer I have tasted twice.

Brouwerij Verhaeghe

First up, the Echt Kriekenbier, which pours a ruby-tinted caramel amber with wisps of tan head. The nose has a delicate sweet and sour character. I notice cherries at first, then sweet malt and apple cider vinegar. A complex blend of wood, smoke, and blackberry jam makes this subtle aroma remarkably intriguing.

The sublime cherry flavor begins on the lips before the beer even enters the mouth. The balancing tart accentuates the fruit. Rich acidic and caramel malt body, a bit cidery. The cherry is supported and enhanced all the way back, remaining prominent even in the tart aftertaste. A serious kriek.

The Vichtenaar is an opalescent deep hazelnut brown with a thick and creamy tan head. It has a rich woody aroma with a strong vinegar character. The nose is also a little fruity (grapes or dates) and a little malty. Just a touch of bourbon.

This beer tastes like a strong brown aged in a balsamic vinegar cask. Rich malty toast and caramel is complimented by major woody and flavors and a mild acetic sour. Creamy and mouth filling but lively and with a lingering tart.

The Duchesse de Bourgogne is a lightly hazy dark ruby brown with a thin, long-lasting, layer of tan foam. A rich balsamic vinegar and acetic nose with significant fruit: raisins and dates but also kiwi and bubblegum. This beer has the thick aroma of an empty port barrel.

The Duchesse is relatively balanced but leans heavily towards sour. Some complexity comes from a rich oak character and fruit: raspberries, blackberries, and raisins. A robust cider vinegar sour and caramel malt sweet hold on for a bit before yielding to a fruity tart that lingers for quite a while.

+Echt Kriekenbier

4.0 (3-8-8-4-17)


4.0 (5-7-7-5-16)

+Duchesse de Bourgogne

4.0 (3-8-8-4-17)

Sour Week: Hanssens Oudbeitje

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Among the most unique authentic fruit lambics is Oudbeitje. This strawberry lambic is brewed by Hanssens Artisanaal in Dworp, Belgium. Some of the oldest bottles I have tried taste wonderfully delicate and balanced with a subdued fruit flavor. This bottle (I got it at the Red Monk in Des Moines) was a bit more sharply sour.

The Oudbeitje pours a brilliant salmon. It is usually not too carbonated but this bottle is quite still (loose cork?). There is no head, just a few bubbles around the glass. A pungent barnyard aroma dominates, with a hidden strawberry character and hints of bubble gum and cattiness.

The taste is mouth-puckeringly sour. Very funky flavors come out: horse blanket and balsamic vinegar. There is also a definite strawberry taste. The sour fades into a long lingering tart.

+/-Hanssens Oudbeitje

3.2 (2-6-7-3-14)

Sour Week: Liefmans Frambozen Bier

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

From Brouwerij Liefmans in Oudenaarde, I’m having a bottle of Frambozen Bier.Liefmans Frambozen Bier The cork says this raspberry beer was bottled in 2004. Liefmans Frambozen is not a lambic. It, like other Flanders fruit beers, is made from a sour brown aged on raspberries.

The Frambozen Bier pours a hazy ruddy caramel. It has some creamy tan head but that dies relatively quickly. The nose is assertive and strong with raspberries. A bit of cherry and some cotton candy is present as well. If an odor can be syrupy then this one is. A light tart aroma and balsamic vinegar add complexity.

The taste is at first a rich tart fruitiness, much like a jam. The raspberries soon give way to a hearty balsamic sour. This fades to a slightly astringent malt character with notes of raspberry as well as kiwi and mango. There is a lingering sweet and sour character with hints of raspberry.

+Liefmans Frambozen Bier

3.8 (3-7-8-4-16)

Sour Week: Cantillon Iris

Monday, August 10th, 2009

To kick things off I’m having a bottle of Iris from the Brussels brewery-museum Cantillon. This is a spontaneously fermented beer in the style of lambic. However it is not a lambic because it uses fresh hops (lambic uses aged hops to avoid hop bitterness and aroma) and all barley malt (lambic uses a good percentage of unmalted wheat).Cantillon Iris Iris is dry hopped just before bottling as well. It is for these reasons brewer Jean-Pierre Van Roy calls it his ‘extreme’ beer. I brought this bottle (brewed 2005, bottled 22 March 2007) back from my visit to the Cantillon brewery, and it’s the last one I have from there.

As soon as I popped the cap the cork started inching its way out of the bottle. The pour formed a generous head for such a still beer, proof of the high levels of proteins and tannins present; however, without lively carbonation it was doomed to fall quickly. Iris is a wonderfully hazy goldenrod with head the color of cream. The nose is quite strong: very fruity, with a persistent earthiness and notes of barnyard. The fruit is a little citric with some apple, and the barnyard is hay and horse blanket. A clean and spicy noble hop aroma abounds (I won’t say that again for a week). This complexity makes me wonder why there aren’t more hoppy sours. As a rule I don’t give perfect scores but this nose is worth ten points.

The taste is at once tart and bitter, with hints of fruit, all in all reminding me of rhubarb. The tip of my tongue is almost knocked out, but the intensity quickly subsides. There are but moments of spicy and herbal hop flavor before the barn doors open. A collection of horse and goat finds the middle and back of my tongue. Some malt character is present. There is just a hint of sweetness, perhaps from the fruit flavor.

++Cantillon Iris

4.5 (4-10-8-4-19)

Chimay Red Label

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The Chimay Brewery, one of the seven surviving Trappist breweries, is located within the walls of Scourmont Abbey in the village of Chimay, Belgium. Their red label is officially called Première to reflect the fact that it was the first (and, for many years, the only) beer brewed by the monks of Chimay. Chimay PremiereIn addition to their great beers these monks make a variety of tasty cheeses. The red label is usually classified as a Belgian dubbel due to its dark color and malt character.

Première pours a very hazy cidery reddish-brown. The creamy off-white head doesn’t last nearly long enough. The nose is light and dry, with just a bit of malt caramel. A hint of fermentation fruitiness comes through as apricots and pears.

The flavor is dry and lively as well. The malt and yeast flavors are tantalizingly delicate. Toasty, lightly fruity, and a bit dusty. Very active carbonation. This is a remarkably smooth and light beer at 7% alcohol: drinkable yet complex.

+Chimay Première

3.5 (3-7-7-4-14)

IPA Week: Houblon Chouffe

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

2009-07-01-chouffeAll the beers from Brasserie d’Achouffe in The Ardennes of Belgium are named something with “chouffe”, Flemish for gnome or elf. Today I’m having Houblon Chouffe, or “Hop Elf”. This beer is labeled a Dobbelen IPA Tripel, so it’s a hybrid style that takes inspiration from both American Double IPAs and Belgian tripels.

The Houblon Chouffe is a turbid yellow gold. The head is massive, pillowy, and white. The aroma is complex and compact, a wonderful marriage between an IPA and a tripel. The tripel character is just a bit more prominent, possibly because the bottle is not entirely fresh (thank you, Iowa ABD). The nose is strongly peppery, with toasty malt and an herbal and earthy hop presence.

The taste is immediately a bit bitter and a bit alcoholic. Some pale malt flavor comes out as well. Earthy hops provide a background that indicates it really is half of an IPA. It grows just a little sweeter through the taste, and it’s not too active so the palate is quite creamy.

All in all a tasty beer.

+Houblon Chouffe

3.7 (5-8-6-4-14)

Phoenix – Day 2: Frustration

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

The broski and the pops on the new light rail.

The broski and the pops on the new light rail. Notice his shirt.

The bro is a thoughtful guy. Phoenix is the definition of sprawl so even finding a gas station is difficult sometimes. Before the trip he printed out a map of things we might try to look for: trailheads, places to eat, breweries.

Most of the time looking for Mexican food we just wing it (that’s the one thing you can find there). Before our game in Scottsdale we found a place there called Los Olivos. Wonderfully tasty in an old slightly strange building. I mean that in the best way – this is a place you really can’t find anywhere else.

2009-03-26-olivosAnyway, after lunch we saw the Royals at the Giants. After that we made use of the broski’s map, deciding to go to Papago Brewing, also in Scottsdale. Papago is a first class beer bar, and they also contract produce a half dozen beers, a few of which have won Great American Beer Festival awards. I get the sense that they do alot of to-go sales: they have probably ten cooler doors of microbrews. Most of the selection is from the west coast, especially southern California. I spent the whole evening worrying about wanting to take it all home. Half way through dinner I switched seats so I wouldn’t have to look at it.

Stupid airline checked luggage costs. Well I could take them if they were in 3 ounce tasters and all fit in a quart size ziplock bag.

At least while I was there I tried some interesting things that, for one reason or another, you cannot get ahold of in Iowa.

I started out with Papago’s abbey tripel contract brewed by Br. Van Steenberg, makers of Gulden Draak. Called Oude Zuipers, it is a crystal clear old gold, with some creamy bone-white head. The nose is a little fruity with strong notes of caramel. The taste is initially slightly sweet but fades to a strong peppery spice flavor that quickly disappears. A bit of peppery sweetness lingers. Light, but a bit cloying.

I followed this with Karma from Avery Brewing, another Belgian-style ale, this one brewed in Boulder, Colorado. It’s a bit hazy, a golden amber with some off-white head. The aroma is very clean, with just a bit of maltiness showing through. The taste is caramel and herbs, with a light sweetness that is clean and drinkable. Karma is lively, light but significant.

New Belgium’s Biere de Mars (another Belgian style, bier de garde – beer for keeping, that is, cellaring) is an opal deep straw color with a bit of head. The aroma is thin: hints of malt and hints of fruit, perhaps mango? In contrast, the flavor is strong, sharp, and spicy, though it quickly dulls to a lightly malty, peppery sweetness.

When I ordered my last beer I had a hard time explaining it. Yes, it is brewed by a place called “Pizza Port“. Yes, it’s actually really good beer. Yes, they were just some pizza joint that decided to start making beer, and now they’re among the best. After all those Belgians I needed something hoppy, so I ordered The Ripper, their English IPA. This is a brilliantly clear copper ale with ample near-white head. The nose is delicately floral, but I also got a significant off character that must have been from the age or storage of the beer. The flavor is great, with a full, round bitterness and a good amount of floral hop flavor. It is dry and fizzy, bitter and drinkable.

I did pick up one beer to-go, for the purposes of consuming while still in Arizona. More later…

+/-Papago Brewing Oude Zuipers

3.1 (3-6-7-2-13)

+/-Avery Brewing Karma

3.4 (3-6-7-4-14)

+/-New Belgium Biere de Mars

3.5 (3-6-8-4-14)

+/-Pizza Port The Ripper

3.1 (3-5-7-4-12)