Tag Archive: Belgian Ale

Beavertown: Stillwater Artisanal: Skullwater (England: Belgian Ale: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice. Moderate white loose bubbled head.

Nose: Apricot and grapefruit. Hop bitterness and character. Soft lemon. Wheaty. Vanilla. Apples. Pineapple.

Body: Good bitterness. Custard malt character. Apples. Dried apricot. Nettles. Good hop character. Tart grapes. Lemon juice to lemon sherbet. Peppery.

Finish: Malt chocolate and malt toffee. Solid bitterness. Slight palma violets. Kiwi. Tart grapes. Custard cream biscuits. Wheaty. Vanilla. Apples. Peppery and cheese puffs.

Conclusion: I’m split. Half of me wants to dig into examining the depths of this. Half of me wants to rant about how nearly every unusual beer style seems to be hijacked by high hopped releases that are done in such a way to make them lose their distinct stylistic oddities that make them so interesting in the first place.

Ok, let’s go for the rant first. For the most part this doesn’t feel like a Belgian ale. The huge hopping instead takes front, with just some funky esters and Belgian smooth custard malt notes tipped the hat to the base style. I would like a few more beers that take full advantage of their base style

Rant over. With that done, there is a lot to enjoy in this beer. The closest call stylistic is actually probably a Belgian IPA due to the intense hopping, and boy does it use the hops well. Lots of lemon and apples notes throughout, with tart grapefruit floating over the aroma and dried apricot sweetness seeping into the body. All of that backed by big hop feel and solid hop bitterness makes this an intense flavour experience.

Despite my rant there is some slight Belgian influence and it does enhance the hops – it keeps a peppery grounding that helps give a solid layer that stops it just being a hop fest, and funky fruit esters help the hop fruit flavours to create more complex range. That is why, despite my rant, I still find it a damn good beer.

Style wise it even feels slightly Belgian wit influenced – between the lemon, the pepper and the akin to wheaty feel it actually seems closer to that than its claimed Belgian pale style. As time goes on though the funkier notes rise, easing some of my prior complaints as distinct cheese puff yeast feel gives real grip and Belgian style to the beer.

So, the beer has gone from making me rant, to impressing me. It is all hops early on, Belgian style late on. Ok, rant aside , this is bloody good.

Background: This is a dry hopped Belgian Pale – so I’m guessing either a pale ale made with Belgian yeast, or a Belgian blond ale. Any which way, the advice on the can is to drink fresh, so I broke it open the day I grabbed it. Think the cans had been available for less than a month, so still fairly darn fresh when I had it. Speaking of the can – as is usual with Beavertown the can design is awesome, and has raised areas giving a cool feel in the hand as well. This was picked up from independent spirit and drunk while listening to Crossfaith- New Age Warriors and Zion. On a right Crossfaith kick at the mo – the whole metal, electronic mash up style is very heavy and fun.


Kazematten: Grotten Sante (Belgium: Belgian Ale: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown to black. Large brown small bubbled fizzy head.

Nose: Yeastie. Wheaty. Gentle raisins and sultanas. Clean hop bitterness. Still cola. Crushed stones. Minty and menthol.

Body: Fizzy. Earthy bitterness. Cola bottles. Charring. Sour dough. Cloying touch. Slightly mint. Chalk. Raisins.

Finish: Cola bottles. Charring. Earthy bitterness. Cloying cream. Sour dough. Palma violets. Menthol.

Conclusion: Ok, I remember loving this beer while it was in St Bernardus’ hands. Either my memory is shitter than I thought or Kazematten have really driven this beer into the ground.

It is a surprisingly fizzy feeling beer – and filled with a lot of rough flavours along with that. There’s chalk, crushed rock and earthy hop bitterness -with the rougher edges of these dominating. You get hints of some of the raisins I remember before, but that is the only call to dark fruits that you get – I would expect much more from a Belgian dark beer. Instead it manages some flat cola notes, which really aren’t a fair trade off for what you are missing.

There’s even some menthol, greenery and minty notes that would be refreshing if there were more heavy notes for it to work off and refresh from. I mean it does give relief from the charred character, that much is true and good, but usually these fresher notes work well against heavy hop bitterness or sweet notes to prevent them from becoming excessive. Those things just aren’t present here.

What I once viewed as a favourite seems to have become a genuinely bad beer in new hands. Bad in itself, doubly bad compared to what it once was.

Background: This was a beer made by St Bernardus for many years under the name Grottenbier – after the original brewer sold them the rights. This seems to be the new home for it with Kazematten. I’m unsure if the grottenbier is still being brewed by St Bernardus, or if this has replaced it. Any which way – a beer aged in cold caves for an extended period of time. The grottenbier is currently one of my favourite beers I have never got around to doing notes for, so I hope this one holds up to that reputation. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to Brassick’s album – some great punk tunes.


Elusive Brewing: Plan B (England: Belgian Ale: 3.7% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed to apricot. Hazy streaks in the body. Large amount of carbonation and a massive white mounded head that leaves suds.

Nose: Wheaty and peppery.

Body: Nicely bitter. Slight cloves. Dried banana. Creamy texture with prickly hop character. Custard crème biscuit’s centre. Light vanilla toffee. Cane sugar. Apricot notes.

Finish: Peppery. Light earthy bitterness. Turmeric. Smoked banana. Slight funky yeast feel – puff crisps. Good hop character. Pine needles. Cheddar cheese.

Conclusion: You know where I have, recently, been chatting about beers that are not complex, but are fun. Well, I didn’t expect a Belgian ale to come along and be an example of that style. I associate Belgian style ales with massive complexity and range. Oh and usually massive abv. Then again this isn’t from Belgium, just in the Belgian style. So that may explain that.

So, a Belgian style blond ale with light sweetness and a slight yeastie character. Ya know, standard, what you would expect. Backed by slight peppery character, slight cloves – again what you would expect. Rounded off by mac off huge bitterness, ya know stand…wait, what?

Basically, instead of adding layers of complexity to this Belgian ale it seems that they just slammed the hop bitterness way up. Earthy notes, prickly hop bitterness. Actually works a lot better than it feels it should.

The balance between the oddity of the funky Belgian yeast and the massive hop character is actually kept quite well, while allowing both to be very influential. Despite two fairly big flavours it is still very easy to drink, very sessionable despite having big (if limited in range) character. Perfect character for something at a tidy 3.7% ABV.

Even better, near the end of the beer some of the more expected fruity flavours that oft come with high hopping, such as apricot notes, start to come out – alongside more traditional cheddar cheese like funky Belgian yeast flavours. Still not massively complex, but just a bit more when you need it to keep the beer from getting dull, when the simple assault would be wearing out its welcome.

So – a simple mix of Belgian style and high hops, but charming, fun and sessionable. I dig that.


(EDIT: Quite amusingly I have been informed that this is meant to be one of our arseholes – Boris Johnson (hence Plan B) and not Trump. Damn, I always knew they looked similar, but when 8 bitted up they look damn near identical. Anyway, I stand by my comments Re: Trump and have left them there to show I am a fallible human being, oh and Bojo is a prick as well)

Ok, so yes, as is evident this beer is taking the piss out of Trump. I am aware a good chunk of my readers are from the USA. I am also aware that just under half of the USA voting people voted for Trump. So, to address the elephant in the room. Fuck Trump. At best he is a raw populist willing to spout shit from the fascist playbook to get elected, and to snuggle up to the newspeak like named Alt-Right to do so, or to speak plainly – Fucking Nazis. The alt-right are Nazis, at some points literal sieg heiling Nazis, and Trump gives them succour. So, yeah, I’ve never gone wrong in my own personal morals with saying fuck the Nazis and I’m not about to stop doing so now. So fuck them and fuck him. I am aware that we have enough shit in our backyard in the UK and Europe, so don’t worry I’m not claiming this is a uniquely USA issue – just the one I am addressing at the moment. Ok, that now addressed – the beer, a Belgian style pale ale made with English malts, German and Australian hops, and Belgian yeast. Grabbed from Independent Spirit as it was a new brewery on me, and the mix of lower abv and Belgian style made it seem an interesting one to try. In happier news, drunk while listening to Mobina Galore – a punk band who was one of the warm ups at the Against Me! Gig. Great fun, lots of energy, definitely worth checking out.

Arbor and Buskers Lost In Translation

Arbor and Buskers: Lost In Translation (England: Belgian Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Dark cloudy caramel to brown. Massive caramel touched loose bubble head.

Nose: Wheaty. Passion-fruit. Mango. Mixed dry fruit. Caramel. Peach jelly sweets. Flour. Light hop character and bitterness. Cheese.

Body: Funky, cheesy feel – Edam and cheese puffs crisps. Lime hops. Moderate bitterness. Peppery and crackers. Muesli backing. Light vanilla custard. Bubblegum.

Finish: Cheesy- mature cheddar. Pepper. Funky yeast. Slight hop oils, hop feel and bitterness. Dried apricot. Passion-fruit.

Conclusion: Since this was packed with simcoe and mosaic hops I have to admit I was expecting this to be more bitter, and more fruity hop dominated. I should really have learned by now that reality exists purely to shatter my expectations. That is its only purpose. No I am not narcissistic, that would mean I had a flaw.

Anyway, this has some nice hop characteristics – including moderate bitterness, hop character and use of hop oils, but what really dominates it is the funky yeast character that gives a pepper backing and a mass of cheese laden crackers. Instead of a big Belgian style fruit hop bomb this thing delivers a savoury plate to sup and chew upon.

It is both a very good impression of the Belgian style – and a more unusual, less mainstream Belgian style at that – which is awesome – and also a beer, that within that mileau, does not stand out too much from the actual similar Belgian beers. Which is less good. It is a bit hoppier, a bit more bitter, and a bit more intense in that style. That is where it stays though – which is no terrible thing, that might be exactly what you want from the beer. There isn’t exactly a huge range of similarly funky Belgian style ales floating around. It just doesn’t quite have a twist that makes it stand out as a unique entity in itself.

To concentrate on the positives, this really shows what you can do with Belgian yeast, and while moderated in the impact, it does also show the nice character you can get from high alpha acid hops like simcoe. So a decent beer, with nice stylings. Also, one of the all time great bottle labels. Which as we all know is the most important thing.

So, pretty good, just not great. Except the label. Which is great.

Background: Yeah, I bought this because of the label. Come on, Super Mario Bros and beer, you cannot tell me that is not cool and expect me to believe it. From a quick google looks like Buskers is an Italian brewing operation, not run into them before, should be interesting. Drunk while listening to Against Me!’s new album Shape Shift With Me. Solid so far, sounds a bit different to their usual sound. Let’s see how it grows on me. Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Knäppingen John Doe

Knäppingen : John Doe (Sweden: Belgian Ale: 6.1% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy yellow to apricot. Thin white head that leaves suds.

Nose: Yeastie. Crusty white bread. Pepper. Moderate bitter hop character. Banana. Cloves. Slight musty note.

Body: Vanilla. Good hop character. Greenery. Slight prickly feel. Custard. Crushed Blackpool rock. Banana. Light sulphur. Light cream. Kiwi and apple.

Finish: Banana and custard. Dry. Big hop character. Moderate bitterness and greenery. Light smoke. Cream. Resin. Apple. Peppery.

Conclusion: This is a pretty hoppy beer for a take on the Belgian Pale Ale. It has the dryness, peppery character and the mix of yeastieness and associated fruity esters for a traditional Belgian ale – however the hops are super fresh with that resin and greenery set of notes you get with that freshness, along with a very present hop character. Despite that it only had restrained to middling bitterness, at least until the finish where it suddenly gets free rein.

The base underneath those hops is that kind of vanilla, custard and banana that is native to the lighter end of the Belgian beer scale. While the base is well done, I have to admit is is the fresh hop character that makes the beer stand out. Without that it would be a very competent and cleanly delivered Belgian ale, but not anything really worth noting. With the hops it becomes a wake up call, with hints of green fruit that really add to it, and a brash hop character that kicks. It feels like a beer fully designed to maximise the advantage that they can get the beer to you fast.

As a result it is a bracing, yet easy to drink beer- taking the Belgian style and making it a bit more prickly over the smooth base. A nice mix of spice, smooth sweetness and good hops.

Very easy to drink, with good play of flavour – a dangerous combination, both for intoxication and because of Sweden prices – At least they make sure when you pay top dollar (or krona) you get good stuff.

Background: This one is from the Knäppingen brewpub in Norrköping, and the second set of tasting notes from the Sweden Beer and Coasters trip! The brewpub was excellent, and the friendly staff helped translate their food menu for us linguistically challenged Brits. Much appreciated! The food was amazing as well, had their steak and the cooking and sauce was genuinely great. Also tried their Double IPA – it was ok, tasty but did not stand out in the double IPA range. Though I may have been spoiled by the SolDIPA the day before in Gothenburg We had just been to the Museum of Work moments before – it is free and only a few minutes walk from the brewpub. Well worth a look as it gives a very good guide to the ups and downs of the city over the past century and really gives you a feel for the city. Also the Museum of Work seems to be in the middle of a cluster of wonderful architecture for fans of such things.

Good Chemistry Hurly Burly

Good Chemistry: Hurly Burly (England: Belgian Ale: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown. Mostly opaque. Caramel brown moderate mounded coffee head looking froth.

Nose: Crushed peanuts. Treacle toffee. Gritty hop character and bitterness. Crushed granite. Sugar comes out as it warms – Blackpool rock and caramel.

Body: Lime. Mild bitter black coffee. Liquorice. Moderate bitterness. Slightly thin chocolate notes. Dried apple. Candy floss. Orange sweets. Brown sugar and cane sugar mix.

Finish: Slightly earthy and some bitterness/hop character. Mint leaf. Thin feeling chocolate liqueur. Dried apple. Watermelon Jolly Ranchers.

Conclusion: Ok, this feels either like a surprisingly sweet and fruity British bitter, or a similarly surprisingly earthy yet restrained Belgian Dubbel. Not a comparison I have to make often.

First impressions tend towards the British bitter side of things, slightly chilled as I first encountered it, it was slightly nutty, slightly bitter and slightly coffee, fairly generic, but there were these feelings that it was hinting at something else going on below so I gave it some time.

Warmed, or at least less chilled, it brought out those hints and developed them. It brings out an artificial fruit flavoured hard sweets set of characteristics. It very much calls to the less attenuated core and brown sugar notes of a Belgian Dubbel, but without any of the accompanying weight. It is very sugary tasting, but as you reach the finish you find it descending back into a more traditional British bitter character on the way out.

The sweetness of the beer, and raw unattenuated sugar character, feels heavier than you would expect for the abv, but the texture of the beer itself feels lighter, actually probably slightly less thick that I would expect for 4.4% and a touch thinner than the beer really needs. It has good flavour characteristics but feels like it needs more grounding weight behind it.

Overall it is a funky idea, and one that definitely works better at room temperature where it cleaves closer to the Belgian side of its heritage, and where the artificial sweetness is mellowed by a more natural feeling caramel backing to the base body. I still think it needs a tad more weight to bulk up the base feel and reign in more of the artificial feel, but it has a good base conceit. Not recommended as is, but has potential.

Background: I’ve been meaning to try these lot for a while – their unusual bottles caught my eye at Independent Spirit, but there have always been other beers I wanted to try first. UNTIL NOW! Out of the selection available I went for this one as it listed that it was brewed with Belgian yeast, which always gets a thumbs up from me. Drunk while listening to more of Garbage’s new album, not as good as their first two albums so far, but it is enjoyable, and, let’s face it those albums were utterly excellent.

Buxton Origo Patersbier

Buxton: Origo: Patersbier (England: Belgian Ale: 4.0% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold with hazy string throughout. Small white head.

Nose: Brown bread. Mashed boiled eggs. Light sugar dusting. Mild caramel.

Body: Sweet and hoppy. Popcorn style hop character and cane sugar. Brown bread. Low level bitterness. Quite dry. Vanilla. Apricot and fruit sugars. Light custard and lime.

Finish: Brown bread and some bitterness. Light white sugar. Sour greenery. Light chalky character. Bitterness grows over time.

Conclusion: A gentle Belgian is what I am thinking here. This is pretty much session strength and flavoured to match – pretty much solid in the middle of style expectations. While initially underwhelming it builds up carefully. The aroma gives you little to work off, but does show that brown bread character that will later become the mainstay of the beer.

A dry, initially light but soon robust bitterness breadiness is what you get as you sip along. It is refreshing but at the low abv it does not catch the complexities that even slightly stronger Belgian ales can bring. Instead it relies on a light, sugar dusting like, sweetness to back the main character.

It is one of those beers that feels like the perfect base waiting for the (Literal or, most likely and more preferable, metaphorical) spice to be added to it. It definitely doesn’t offend and the rising bitterness is both drinkable and well done, but, when you get past that, there isn’t much else.

A good solid session start, but it feels like it needs more work to perfect.

Background: Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this is one of a range of Belgium inspired beers coming out from the Buxton brewery. Patersbier (literally “Father’s Beer” in translation) is the weaker abv beer that monks brew for their own drinking. You don’t see many of these around, either from the original Trappist breweries, or from people copying the style. Drunk while listening to David Bowie’s Black Star again. That is still one haunting album.

Wild Beer Co Witness

Wild Beer Co: Witness (England: Belgian Ale: 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Bright clear apricot gold. Small white bubbled head.

Nose: Pepper. Funky yeast. Cheese puffs. Cellars. Apricot.

Body: Moderate bitterness and funky yeast. Pepper. Bready. Slight sour notes.

Finish: Cheese puffs. Pepper and crackers. Charring. Dry bitterness. Breathing in the air of an active farmyard.

Conclusion: Well, I do have to say I respect how well this manages to call to the yeast usage of Orval – it really manages to emulate that funky yet dry and drinkable character very well. It has a lot of pepper notes and a slight cheese puff characteristic that screams the Belgian influence. It is very much designed for a balanced, slightly sour note touched beer against a growing dry bitterness that refreshes, and yet still lets the bitterness kick. Drinkable, yet lively.

It all sounds really good doesn’t it? Problem is that while they have the wonderful base they don’t actually go anywhere with it. It just feels lacking in the middle, just letting those first impressions continue on until it is time to end it in the finish.

It really needs to do something the the centre so there is some feeling of progression – some burst to split the start from the finish. Maybe some time letting the brett in the bottle do its work will tighten up the whole package, but right now it is a very drinkable feel matched to a very one note beer.

So much of the journey is done right, so I am hoping they don’t give up on this one – the hard part seems to have been done – getting that feel and balance of texture right. Now they just need to add the metaphorical spice to make it work. Right now I can’t recommend it but it has promise.

So. Wild Beer Co, please work on this one – right now it is a touch dull in taste, but it really feels like it can be used to make something so much better.

Conclusion: As a huge fan of Mad Max: Fury Road I may have declared “Witness me!” As I poured this, ascending to Valhalla all shiny and chrome. I was kind of hoping it would be average so I could boom “MEDIOCRE” in the review. Then forgot to do so. Anyway, I only kind of hoped that, more wanted it to be a good beer as it sounded like a very drinkable beer indeed if it works out. Basically a pale ale made with brett, inspired by the trappist beer Orval. Ok, they didn’t mention Orval by name but that is blatantly the one they are referencing. Drunk while listening to some more Akala. Really been loving his work for a few months now. grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Stewart Brewing First World Problems

Stewart Brewing: First World Problems (Scotland: Belgian Ale: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Thick dark gold. Large yellow white frothed head.

Nose: Crushed bird seed. Soft banana skin. Mild apples. Yeastie and light bitterness. Nettles.

Body: Creamy texture. Pear drops. Apple. Moderate bitterness. Hop oils. Nettles. Slightly acrid. Light banana. Cumin. Soft pastry. Apricot.

Finish: Good bitterness. Charred wood. Slight hop oils. Nettles. Cloves. Custard cream biscuits. Peppery.

Conclusion: This is on of those beers that, on paper, look right up my alley, but there is just something off about it in practise. There is a big mix of stuff I like, I mean I am well disposed towards Belgian IPAs in general and this blends a soft Belgian ale with a good level of spice influence, Belgian IPA hoppyness and bit of funky yeast character. Ok, near all of those are Belgium related – I just happen to like Belgian beers, ok?. I was surprised by the spice level, I couldn’t find any indication of added spice so I must guess it is all from hop choice.

However despite my love of individual elements, overall it didn’t quite mesh, and I’m having a hard time quite saying why. The soft sweetness is  well done – soft pears, apples and the like. The hops are present, but possibly could do with a bit more traditional hop character. In fact a lot of what I would expect from an IPA is actually provided by the spiciness not the hops. I think this may be my main issue. The emphasis on the spice gives a bit of a greenery character that makes the beer feel slightly acrid in the harsher notes and that becomes dull fast – leaving the better elements hidden behind.

A pity as with a bit more clean hop and a bit less acrid I could see this having a lot of legs. The base texture works very well, and the clean custard like sweetness is very much in its favour, but everything ends up leading to that peppery and clove filled finish that seems to dispatch all the subtlety that came before.

So, close, but needs a bit of work. Or so I think. A quick google seems to indicate most of the internet disagrees with me. Oh, the pain, the pain, the regrets. Such first world problems eh?

Background: Ok, I bought it mainly for the funny name and cool can art (hopefully shown in more detail below). I’m allowed to be shallow once in a while. Anyway, a Belgian style IPA with an IBU of 80 and made with wheat and oats. I was listing to my friends band Television Villain (plug plug) while drinking this. Yeah, I know, mates and all but it is genuinely good in my opinion as well. Bought at the increasingly well stocked Independent Spirit.

First World Problems 2

Chimay Doree

Chimay: Doree (Belgium: Belgian Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy overripe banana skin. High carbonation and an off white thin head.

Nose: Orange peel. Dry mead. Shortbread and digestives. Funky yeast. Lightly milky. Cinnamon. Fresh cut apples and light lemon character.

Body: Sweet orange. Crisp hop character and moderate bitterness. Bready character. Banana sweets. Blackpool rock. Greenery. Coriander and carrot. Brown sugar.

Finish: Honey. Cinnamon. Banana. Brown bread. Minty.

Conclusion: I’m glad I came to this later in my beer drinking life. Back when I first encountered Trappist ales I was of the mindset that bigger was way better for me. Even the quality Orval seemed a but of a let down compared to its dubbel to quad brethren, I think back then I would not have appreciated this.

This is a very balanced and drinkable brew – with a restrained sweet base that feels like dry honey, speckled with occasional bursts of cane sugar styling. Those bursts allow it to push past the bready crisp hop character that is the mainstay of the beer. It doesn’t taste like a big beer, but neither does if feel the need to hide its light under a bushel. Despite the easier drinking character there is a lot going on, greenery and mint notes and light fruity esters.

It doesn’t feel challenging, it slips down easily. Though if you let it slip down you end up only really experiencing the thirst quenching bitter hop character. If you hold the beer then that is when the sweetness rises. Character wise it actually reminds me of the hoppier end of the saison market.

It is very drinkable, the only real flaws are that the crisp hop character does become slightly leaden by the end of the beer, and that as you get used to the base beer the middle of it can end up feeling slightly empty when compared to the top and tail. A pity as it was otherwise setting up to be the trappist abv equivalent of a session beer. Even with that slight flaw this proves a lovely easy going beer that you can break open with a meal or just for a relax with friends.

Background: Ohh, fun. This is only just available in the UK to my knowledge. For ages this was the beer that was available for drinking to the monks of the abbey. Over the years it has slowly got more available, being served on tap in Belgium, and then bottled, then finally turning up here in the UK. I saw it at Independent Spirit and grabbed it as quick as I could. Drunk while listening to some Propagandhi. No reason. Just like them.

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