De Struise Tsjeeses Reserva BBA

De Struise: Tsjeeses Reserva: BBA (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 10% ABV)

Visual: Dark red. Large yellowed frothy inch of a head. Small amount of sediment visible.

Nose: Barley. Juniper gin. Custard. Wheat. Pencil shavings and fruitcake. Lightly yeasty. Orange peel.

Body: Gin. Greenery. Fruitcake. Green grapes. Toffee. Candyfloss. Golden syrup. Glacier cherries. Aniseed. Frothy sherbet texture. Lemon sherbets. Orange zest. Cinnamon.

Finish: Liquorice. Vanilla toffee flavoured vodka. Digestives. Malt chocolate. Chives. Dried meat. Orange. Slight Belgian yeast. Cane sugar. Cinnamon.

Conclusion: Well, if nothing else, it isn’t boring. I find myself saying that a lot recently. That is good, boring is bad. Anyway this is a shifting quicksand trap of a beer. It is an eternal moving target, shifting away from the very expectations it builds up and then drags you under with a new flavour.

There is ESB style fruitcake and cherries, delivered with Belgian funky yeast and light citrus fruit and esters. Then there’s bourbon influenced vanilla toffee and smoothness.

Simple enough so far.

It also has aniseed against cinnamon spice, layered over flavoured vodka and varied gins, then stuffed with greenery. Contrasting spice notes, evident alcohol airs, and slight artificial flavours grounded with a herbal mix.

But wait, there’s more. Super sweet golden syrup, candy cane and candy floss with a sherbety texture when it froths up, that becomes almost sickly sweet.

This is the same beer, just examined at different times of the proceedings. an that is before the orange and lemon zest came out. So, interesting, but also a tad mental.

How well it works seems to depend on what combination you get in any given sip. If you get all the sweet elements at once it is sickly, if you get aniseed unopposed it is somewhat off putting. When you get fruitcake, citrus and flavoured spirits together at once it is a bit tasty.

So, a gamblers drink maybe, nothing is assured. At its most common experience it is decent, smooth and fruity, but not exceptional for this type of beer. At its highest it is an intriguing mix of flavours, ones that rarely meet and even rarer meeting with such quality. At its lowest it is sickly sweet and aniseed filled.

Worth a punt, if only because it holds the attention so well, and when it is on, it earns that attention. The barrel ageing seems to actually struggle to overcome the madness of the base beer, but when it does it makes an impact. It is such a strong base beer, influenced but far from dominated, and that is what appeals.

A beer that goes from class to crass depending on the moment, but not a beer I would turn away.

Background: I picked this up from the Beer Emporium, as well as being a great bar they also have a great bottle shop. So far my encounters with De Struise have been excellent, and I was in the mood for something bourbon barrel aged (Which is what BBA stands for if you hadn’t guessed) so picked it up. This is the 2012 edition and was drunk in mid 2014. Drunk while leaving my computer doing a full backup – recent issues with a certain game has left me even more paranoid than usual about doing backups. Also drunk while listening to some “Hate In The Box”, the “Under The Ice” album to be precise. The combination worked well.

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