Bosteels: Kwak (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 8.4% ABV)
Visual: Caramel brown. Large browned froth for a head.
Nose: Brown sugar in a carmalised and crème brulee fashion. Aniseed. Crushed palma violets. Toffee. Perfume. Blackpool rock. Sugared orange sweets.
Body: Brown sugar and crème brulee. Cane sugar. Sugared orange sweets. Golden syrup cake. Reasonably light mouthfeel. Sweet lime syrup. Slight cloying, sour, doughy touch at the very middle.
Finish: Candyfloss. Brown sugar. Orange sugars. Lemon sherbet. Very light earthy note. Slight liquorice. Slight woody. Light sour undertone as it warms.
Conclusion: You know what? This has no right being a decent beer. Very sweet with lots of residual sugar evident, kind of perfumed aroma. Very silly, impractical gimmick glass. Should be ballacks right? The simple, lowest dominator Belgian sweet thing?
Yet it isn’t. Very malt led, quite clean and slightly light textured body. It has a lot of raw brown sugar, Blackpool rock and other sweet flavours, but the lighter texture keeps it from becoming sickly sweet. It is one of the few dark, high abv beers that I find the lighter texture actually helps rather than hinders it. That is the thing that keeps it from ending up as just a cheap, sweet beer… well one of the things. The other is the wonderful interaction with the Belgian yeast. You get lots of fruity esters coming out, binding with the sweetness to give the impression of lots of candied fruit blended into the mix.
In fact there is another point that works for it, and that is the subtle grounding notes not found in the simpler sweet beers. There is a slight doughy, cloying touch, just at the middle, a grip in amongst the lighter texture. There is also a light wood and earthy note in the finish, brought in with a very, very slightly sour touch as it warms – at a point when otherwise the sweetness would be rising too much.
It is the beer that should have been the epitome of a sweet, simple, disposable beer – yet it is so much more than that. It takes careful work to make such a seemingly sugar dominated beer work this well. AB INBev, it is in your hands now. Don’t fuck it up.
Background: A bottle from before the AB INBev takeover. Grabbed from Independent Spirit on the day I head about the deal. I have been a big fan of this for a while but never got around to doing notes on it despite having had it reasonably often. Often beers go downhill after being bought up so I thought I would so some notes now so I can compare to them in years to come. According to the bottle Bosteels have been independent since 1791, and I guess not independent since 2016 now. I broke out the absurd Kwak glass for this one, wooden handle that lets the glass shuffle around in it. Silly bulge at the end that causes the beer to glug out suddenly if you are not careful. Technically it is a terrible glass but I love it, wooden handle and all. Drunk while listening to a random mix of erock metal tunes.