Tag Archive: Belgian Ale

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.

Incredible Brewing Co Patersbier

Incredible Brewing Co: Patersbier (England: Belgian Ale: 4.9% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon juice. Thin white head. Some sediment and a small amount of carbonation.

Nose: Palma violets. Sugar dusting. Ryvita crackers. Dry malt. Marzipan. Banana. Lemon.

Body: Fruitcake and port. Marzipan and sugar dusting. Orange zest. Candy floss and banana.

Finish: Sultanas. Dried dates. Fruit sugars. Dried orange. Palma violets. Port.

Conclusion: Patersbier! Been a while since I’ve had one of these. Don’t think I have ever had one in the tasting notes queue. Turns out this, more real ale, take on the style is still sweet as hell. Who would have thunk it?

The thing is, this is real mixed up sweet beer. On one hand it is all sugar dusting, lemon fresh and banana sweetness – Lots of bright orange and yellow notes with a bit of Belgian yeastiness and sugar shock sweetness. Something of a sweetened up Belgian blond basically.

Then there is the other hand, the hand that holds what is hidden underneath but pushes through if held on the tongue. This hand holds sultana fruit cake, port and feels more like a thicker ESB in how it carries on.

These are both the same beer. It is basically the Two Face of beers, minus the coin toss gimmick. Yet somehow they become one beer – sometimes with one side showing in the body, and a different one in the finish – sometimes one style shows the whole way through.

Overall, while, yes it is a tad over sweet it does manage to temper that with the slightly dry malt, and the robust real ale texture, and the influence of funky yeast tricks. Still sweet, but manageable. Refreshing but with depth. Not quite “Incredible” but I am taken with this beer and its charm. An unusual take on an uncommon style and well worth a try. Will have to check out more from the brewery.

Background; Another brewery from Bristol. This one doesn’t seem to have much web presence, especially not for this beer -a Belgian style brew. I had picked it up from Corks Of Cotham on a whim to try something new. Both in brewery and in that I have tried very few patersbiers. This frothed up quickly after I popped the lid so I had to pour it quickly to save the precious liquid. Drunk while listening to some Alanis Morissette – used to love the Jagged Little Pill album when I was younger.

Monsieur Rock

Greenbrew SPRL: Monsieur Rock (Belgium: Belgian Ale: 6.6% ABV)

Visual: Very pale yellow. Large mound of white crisp bubbled head. Moderate carbonation. Clear body.

Nose: Quite funky. Sulphur notes. Lemon.

Body: Coriander. Spritzy. Sharp lemon. Kumquat. Funky yeast. Puff crisps. Very frothy feel. Mature cheese.

Finish: Carrot. Musty. Cheese puffs. Bitter hops. Cheddar. Pepper.

Conclusion: I dub thee. “Cheese Beer”. Hey, don’t blame me, all the good beer names were already taken. It could be from the funky Belgian yeast maybe, but this has a real strong Cheddar element going on. It took me a while to get used to it, but it turns out the beer doesn’t suck.

I mean that as a compliment by the way. I know it can be hard to tell sometimes.

As I said, it took me a while to get a grip on this beer. The aroma isn’t the most forthright and the first sip came in very spritzy up front, then very frothy as it developed. It felt like a lot of the elements seemed to mingle in the midst of that froth cloud, making them hard to discern individually.

It feels kind of half saison, half Belgian wit in how it comes across – with a bit of the Orval style yeast effect dusted over the top. That last one may have been psychosomatic. There is a lot of the saison rustic character, hop feel and, yeah the yeast. From the Belgian Wit comes that carrot and spice stylings. The real mature cheddar elements are right there in the middle.

It merges pleasantly, and I’m thinking it would go well with some savoury snacks. The pepperiness makes for a good finish after the cheese character. In fact a lot of the elements seem to have built around the cheese as a base.

By itself it gets a bit one note quickly – it is definitely interesting for the first few moments, then kind of samey. However I have a hunch that it you find the right food complement it would shine. Something savoury, maybe crackers. May be worth an experiment but doesn’t stand up on its own.

Background; I ummed and ahhed over where to place this – it is contract brewed by Meantime in the UK, but the brewers are based in Belgium. They are apparently awaiting building of their own Brewery. In the end I plumped for Belgian, it seems to fit closest with my picks for past contract brew work. Jean-Marie Rock, one half of the team was associated previously with the Orval brewery. Which I will admit is what convinced me to give a try. Picked up from Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to the classic album Mezzanine by Massive Attack. mainly for “Angel” – that song is amazing.

Magic Stone Dog

Stone: Magic Rock: Brewdog: Magic Stone Dog (Scotland: Belgian Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Banana to gold. Small white bubbled dash of a head. Some carbonation. Hazier with the last of the bottle’s pour.

Nose: Orange peel. Light funky yeast. Soft lemon. Gingerbread. Passion fruit late on.

Body: Light prickle. Slightly sour grapes. Cheesy puffs yeastiness. Spritzy. Slight greenery hints. Dry passion fruit. Kiwi.

Finish: Cheese puffs. Spritzy first, then dry later. Coriander. Clean alcohol touch. White wine. Passion fruit. Turmeric.

Conclusion: I am 64% sure this should have a white wine barrel aged variant. Ok, admittedly that is barely above average certainty, but both white wine barrel ageing, and light beer barrel ageing can be a bit of a shot in the dark. For example Everyday Anarchy did not feel like it benefited much from the wood. However, here, this beer not only distinctly calls to its two inspirational elements, that of a rustic saison and a hoppy pale ale, but it also has distinct white wine like characteristics. I would just be intrigued to see what adding to that would do.

It is an interesting mix already, especially considering that my favorite saisons tend towards the hoppy end of the spectrum anyway. Here however it uses the hops differently, giving more soft fruit from the American hops, though often in a drier style than usual. The saison funkyness is gentle, the spice similarly so. It all gives just a gentle spice warmth and a slight earthiness, along with very small greenery notes.

The wine I mentioned before shows in a spritzy clean white wine like feel, and slight sour grapes mid body, fruity but tangy.

It’s odd, all the elements are eclectic, but blended together it feels very easy to drink, and yes is very gentle. It is hard to pin down exactly – it feels very fresh up front, very dried fruit on the tongue, but finishes earthy and spiced.

For what seems to be the craft beer definition of session (because I refuse to accept any beer over 4% abv comes under an actual definition of session beer) it is a lovely session saison style beer, the flavour just never gets old because of that progression it takes.

It doesn’t win my heart in the way that Dupont or Fantome‘s Saisons have, but its twists means it is its own distinctive thing. It feels like you can have it on its own, to complement food, it is an anytime beer. Which should not be taken literally. Don’t drink and drive for one REALLY OBVIOUS EXAMPLE! But generally it is a beer you can enjoy any time you have a beer, and that is a good thing to be.

Background: Belgian Ale is such a generic beer description. This is an attempt at a mix between a saison and a Pale Ale. The guy at the bar was absolutely raving about it just before I picked this up, so I had to work hard to manage expectations. Anyway, is it just me or is the label on this very restrained for a Brewdog beer? I think it may be part of their maturing image as of late. I guess it had to come, they are the big dog of the British craft scene these days, and the rebel look doesn’t quite fit as well when you are the big dog. Still, if it is the way they are going I will miss the insane over the top labels. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was drunk at Brewdog Bristol whilst waiting for mates to turn up.

Belgian Trappist

Brewdog: Unleash The Yeast: Belgian Trappist (Scotland: Belgian Ale: 6.3% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed gold. White loose bubbled head. Moderate carbonation.

Nose: Funky yeast. Cheese puffs. Pepper and crackers.

Body: Funky yeast. Dry. Banana and dried apricot. Pepper. Solid bitterness. Tingles on the tongue.

Finish: Dry. Peppery. Popcorn feel. Banana sweets and lemon curd. Significant bitterness.

Conclusion: Oddly, here at the end of my ”Unleash The Yeast” trek, we find the beer that seems to have least flavour from the hops. For a beer that had such huge hop levels in other expression it feels weird to come to one where you have some hop flavour mid body, maybe, but it is very minor. Again this has really helped me realise why a countries’ beers have developed the way they have.

What you get here is a lot of the funky Belgian yeast character, all cheese puffs and pepper. Like the weizen yeast it is amazing how much flavour can be attributed to the yeast, rather than just texture.

You get some other notes such as banana sweets and lemon at the end, but for the most part the characteristics imposed by the yeast actually dominate the character, both in flavour and in crating a very dry beer.

As a beer in itself it is a bit dull, none of the elements in it have been crafted to take advantage of the strength of the yeast resulting in the beer being quite single note. As part of the set of four demonstrating what effect yeast has though…wow. Mind blown. I always knew the yeast had a large effect, but the sheer way it muted the hops flavours and added its own was still a shock. A great learning experience if a substandard beer.

Background: The last of the “Unleash The Yeast” series. Four beers with the same recipe, except for the yeast, which changes each time. This has been a fun series so far, with all the beers being interesting, and some of them really good. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Brugge Cornelius Bier (Belgium: Belgian Ale: 7.5%ABV)

Visual Hazy amber gold with a quite manic ice cream froth of a white bubbled head. It’s a rock solid head too that leaves bubbled trails.

Nose: Spicy. Cinnamon and wheat. Fresh yet sweet, banana like. Caramelised sugar and sugar dusting mix with cake icing. Ginger biscuits. Slightly earthy and sour mixing underneath as it settles.

Body:  Very wheat styled, sugar cane. The bitter at the back is present but very light. Carrot. Cinnamon again. Brown bread and lemon curd.

Finish: Orange peel. Dry popcorn, grapes. Blackpool rock sweets. Bitter and malt. Slight syrup sweet.

Conclusion: Lively! That’s the word.  From a massive easy pour head to a fresh spicy nose to a body of sugar and cinnamon dustings it is all very energetic, and, as said, lively.

It has some sweet sugar cane style touches, which I am aware are often listed as a bad thing in a beer, however since it fits so well with the energy of this beer I’m not going to complain. It does have a dry finish to offset, but if the sugar cane touches aren’t your thing then ignore the rest of this review as it won’t be a beer for you.

Now, if you are still reading, well, the aroma is by far the best element in being wandering and expressive, a touch sweet and leads into a decent body that mixes sweetness and earthy in equal measures.  (Side Note: I may be getting obsessed with carrots in Belgium styles of beer. Initially limited to wit beers, I’m seeing traces of them in blond ales as well now; I wish I knew what caused that aspect to come out)

Overall it is a playful and cheery blond with a lot of depth (No jokes please) and just a teasing hint of the abv. Pretty much a textbook how to on the Belgian Blond style that only suffers if you wish for a beer that breaks out of the expectation of the style.

Background: Bought from the excellent Bacchus Cornelius bottle shop in Brugge.  Looking online there have been several guesses that this is a pre existing beer that has been repackaged for the shop rather than it being a new beer.  I am not sure on this as I asked the person running the store who made the beer for them, to which she replied “We make it”. Now it could have been a translation issue, but considering the average quality for English in Brugge I would find that hard to believe.  Any which way, it was drunk late at night after slightly chilling to deal with the recent heat outbreak from the evil sun.

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