Anker: Gouden Carolus: Cuvee van De Keizer: Blue (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 11%)
Visual: Dark black cherry to brown. Thin grey-brown head.
Nose: Raisins. Malt chocolate. Sour wine. Light prune juice. Malt loaf. Fresh crusty bread. Glacier cherries.
Body: Big figgy pudding. Brandy cream. Plums. Madeira cake. Christmas pudding. Smooth and creamy. Crusty fresh white bread. Raspberry liqueur. Orange crème centres. White sugar dusting.
Finish: Madeira. Raspberry pavolva. Brandy cream. Raisins. Sugary fruit jelly sweets. Cane sugar.
Conclusion: The big mummy and/or daddy of the Gouden Carolus range. The smooth, creamy, slick granddaddy of deep malt beers. Ok, maybe the family tree is getting a bit inbred there, but you get the point. This is the big one.
This is super smooth and creamy, you can feel an alcohol weight to the flavour, but no burn, no heat, there really is not the tingle you would expect from an 11% abv beer. There is just this vague indication that the beer is far stronger that it seems and you should be taking your time with it.
Flavour wise it is full to bursting with Christmas pudding, plum, dark fruit and brandy cream. Like the ultimate spirit drenched winter dessert. the beer is sweet, but in a very natural feeling way, more fruit sweetness, with only the edges feeling like the more raw, more processed sugars.
While normally beers like this suit aging, I cannot imagine this getting any smoother. Maybe it can benefit from age, I mean I can’t see it ever becoming a bad beer, but this already has most of the elements I would expect to get from an aged beer. The integrated flavours, the smoothness – it is already there. The balance here is exceptional – it even has tiny offsets from the main creaminess – a light fresh bead solidness, a light bitter offset in the nose and finish to package it up nicely.
This is the decadent experience of supreme Belgian beers. It has that smoothness I would associate with American takes, but manages to keep that weight that calls to the rawer Belgian interpretations resulting in flavours big enough to stand out without ever getting sickly.
Background: The 2015 bottled edition, drunk in the same year. Gouden Carolus Classic is one of my all time great beers, and I tried this, the brewed up anniversary style of this beer many years ago, but was never able to find it since. I found the, also great, red version of the beer, but kept seeking the blue until it finally turned up in Independent Spirit. Drunk with friends while listening to Against Me!’s 23 Live Sex Acts.