Tag Archive: Belgium


Siphon: White Frontier: Contreras: Krypton Blood Orange Weissbier (Belgium: Hefeweizen: 6% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy banana body. Inch of yellow white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Fresh dough. Slight sulphur. Ripe banana. Coriander. Carrot sticks.

Body: Wheaty. Slightly milky. Banana. Tangerine. Blood orange. Fresh dough. Slight sulphur. Coriander.

Finish: Blood orange. Dried banana. Slight cloves. Moderate bitterness. Peppery. Moderate hop character.

Conclusion: Ok, first things first. This is actually a good old school style weisse at its base. Very evident in the classic notes – the banana, the cloves, the wheaty feel. It doesn’t over hopped for bitterness, nor new school hop flavours. It keeps the base familiar and well done. Now I like a well hopped weisse on occasion, but doing it this way really works here as it means the one deviation from tradition – the blood orange notes, really stand out more.

So, at that base it is well made with a nice weight, and good flavour. It wouldn’t beat out, say, a weihenstephaner, but it goes well from first impressions on the eye, to a nicely solid bitterness into the finish. I’d enjoy it even like that, even though there are better weisse out there it would be a welcome entry.

But that is not all there is, we also have the blood orange! The orange is far from omnipresent, nor absent, instead it feels like a very good example of how to use fruit in a beer. It adds a light tartness, orange notes coming out at a level just slightly above the banana and spice notes but don’t eclipse them. If it wasn’t so natural feeling I could have mistaken it for just another hop note, it is balanced so well – but the fresh character of it is unmistakable.

A few off notes – it is slightly sulphur touched which doesn’t quite work, but generally I quite enjoy this. A traditional weisse with one well used twist. It shows a level of restraint that is oft missed these days and is much better for it.

Not top weihenstephaner level awesome, no, but it isn’t playing that game – and it rocks at what it is doing. I respect that.

Background: This is one of the six beers in the Noble Gas project – each one a collaboration with one Belgian and one international brewery. Was wondering about the name so I googled and got “In the right hands, the six noble gases are a powerful source of light, bringing illumination and colour to people’s lives. We want The Noble Gas Project to shine a light on the values that make us excited about beer: Belgian tradition, international influence, collaborative learning and being unafraid.” A bit silly sure, but I’ve heard worse excuses for a project name before. Plus, ya know SCIENCE! So I can live with that. This one, as you may have guessed, is a hefeweizen made with blood orange. It is in the name, right? Anyway, another beer from Independent Spirit. Went with Siouxsie and the Banshees – Hyaena for music. Still can’t believe it took me so long to get into them. Such off beat but polished tunes.

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Boon: Oude Schaarbeekse Kriek Boon 2018 (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6% ABV)

Visual: Dark black cherry red with a cherry-aid coloured inch of tight bubbled head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Smooth cherry. Black cherry yogurt. Light acidic apple. Pencil shavings. Brambles.

Body: Acidic and tart. Slight charred oak. Tart cherries. Tart apple. Dry white wine. Slight yeast funk. Slight peperami. Cherry jelly tarts. Dry cheesecake late on.

Finish: Tart red and black cherries. Gooseberry. Twigs. Puff crisps. Strawberries. Slight charring. Tiny amounts of marshmallows.

Conclusion: Most of the fruity Boon lambics I’ve encountered have leaned more towards the sweeter takes on the style, admittedly with one very notable exception. This definitely leans the other way – dry as can be at the base, which gives the moderate sweetness of the fruit influence a lot more punch.

While we are on the subject of the fruit, this is remarkably well developed in the fruit expression. From a tarter, slight sweet dessert style cherries, to black cherry yogurt style, to tarter notes that give an almost gooseberry tartness to the finish.

Despite the beer being dry, the sourness is restrained, coming across more as dry white wine (infused with red fruit natch) than, say, Cantillon level mouth puckering.

It really is a treat – there’s even a few rounding notes to add a few edges to it – mild oak influence and slight yeast funk. Beyond that there are some odd, possibly hallucinatory notes brought on by the acidity, but I’m listing them anyway – tiny sweet marshmallow notes in the finish and tiny pepperami meaty solid note to the middle. Again these could just be due to my sense being confused by the acidic character as I have seen before with similar beers. Besides those it is generally a dry wine like lambic base and well expressed cherry fruit.

Very dry, just sweet enough. Very fruity and subtly funky. Do you like lambics? Do you like tart cherry? Then I would highly recommend this. So easy to drink and so rewarding.

Background: Schaarbeekse Kriek! A very rare kind of cherry, which I have encountered once before in Drie Fonteinen’s take on a Schaerbeekse Kriek. That one really caught my attention, back when I was still getting used to lambics, so a chance to try a different interpretation from Boon was definitely a must have. Another one found at Independent Spirit – they recently got in a huge batch of sours and lambics. Went simple for music with this one – Metallica; Master Of Puppets. Metal. It goes with anything.

Bokkereyer (Aka Methode Goat): Barrique Oloroso 2017 (Belgium: Gueuze: 6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy dark gold. Loose bubbled head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Wheaty. Dry sherry and dry raisins. Tart apples. Pencil shavings.

Body: Tart apples. Tart red grapes. Sherry soaked sultanas. Fizzy mouthfeel. Lots of dry sherry. Tart white grapes.

Finish: Dry raisins and sultanas. Dry Madeira. Dry sherry. Tart apple. Very dry overall. Oats. Liquorice. Dry bitterness. Tannins. Chalk.

Conclusion: This is possibly the most sherry influence lambic I have tried. Which is quite a small sample pool admittedly , but trust me, this one is fair intense in the oak ageing influence. While this still keeps the dry apple and white wine lambic notes at the base, this is utterly dominated by the dry sherry, dark fruit and tannin notes. Very highly attenuated, very dry and almost, but not quite Cantillon level mouth puckering in feel.

It reminds me a lot of the 2018 Cantillon Zwanze beer, despite differences in the specifics of the ageing, it is really dark and dry which makes it rewarding if you take your time with it, but very heavy and can be off-putting up front if you are not used to that. It is a very acquired taste, possibly more so than even the unusual nature of a lambic, but really pays off it you can get into it.

The finish leads out into a heavy set of tannins and charring, not overdone, but again one that can take a bit of time to be open to. It feels like every element has been stripped down to its heavy core, only allowing a hint of sweetness released from below to give tarter and fresher notes.

The gueuze character, the freshness and slight fizzy mouthfeel is what takes all those heavy elements and keeps it going. It is a vital element working the freshness, the slight apple and the fizziness to keep it from being too intense.

So, very heavy and dry, full on working the sherry. Not for everyone as it keeps everything intense all the time, but very impressive in what it does.

Background: As mentioned in the Framboos notes Bokkereyer are a super hard to get hold of Belgian sour brewery with a huge reputation and there were six different bottles available to try at the Arrogant Sour Beer Festival, held at the Moor Tap Room. I had time to try one more, so decided to go with the closest thing to a standard gueuze that they had – this mix of one, two and three year old lambic that had been aged in oloroso sherry barrels. Again I say Bokkereyer, as that was how they were listed, but a quick google tells me the brewery has changed its name to Methode Goat, though I can’t find why. I’m guessing a big brewer and a trademark court case threat. Also again, was super excited to try this at the end of the festival, and had tried to pace myself so I could try to do it justice in the notes.


Bokkereyer (Aka Methode Goat): Framboos Vanille 2018 (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6% ABV)

Visual: Bright cherry red, with only a thin white rim of bubbles instead of a head.

Nose: Very fresh and very natural smelling raspberries. Toffee and vanilla notes. Soft strawberries. Cream.

Body: Soft mouthfeel. Tart apples. Creamy raspberries. Very fresh and distinctly natural raspberry. Slightly dry. Peach.

Finish: Fruity fresh raspberries. Vanilla. Cream. Tart apples. Very clean. Peach notes. Grapes. Mild tannins. Oak. Oats.

Conclusion: OK, wow, the is fruity. Now that should not be a shock, ir is a Framboos – a raspberry lambic – but I have found that while a lot of Framboos have that tart raspberry character, they often loose a lot of the fresher and sweeter elements of the fruit. None I have encountered have had quite such a full on expression of the full range of the fruit as this has.

It is fresh, mouth-filling and tart, and really expresses the flavours. I think it may be because of the vanilla beans adding a sweetness and creaminess that not just restores oft lost elements of the raspberry, but also works well against the tart apple notes of the lambic base. It makes for something very easy to drink and rich in flavour. From somewhere peach notes come out, combining with the raspberry and creamy to make this almost like a peach melba lambic, and that is just exceptional. (Note: Yes I did double check this isn’t one of the lambics they had that actually had peach in). It keeps the tart flavours, but none of the heavier horse blanket notes you see with a lot of lambics. A touch of tannins, but that is it. A very different and smooth take.

The main call to a more traditional lambic base is in the finish – here it is dry, with some oats, oak and such like. It gives a more recognisable beer and lambic character to something that is a bit away from a traditional take on the style, underlining it and emphasising everything that came before by its contrast.

Wonderfully fresh, fruity but without being fruit juice like. The tart lambic is restrained but still unmistakable – this is possible my favourite of the Framboos I have encountered. The vanilla smooths the edges but does not diminish the quality or complexity.

An exceptional beer.

Background: This is a mix of one, two an three year old lambic with a mix of three types of raspberry and made with Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans and bottled January 2019. Before this I had just known Bokkereyer by reputation of quality and their rarity, so reading those words gave me an idea of why this tiny brewery was making such a fuss. There were six different bottles available to try at the Arrogant Sour Beer Festival at the Moor Tap Room, and I quickly decided this one was one I wanted to try. I say Bokkereyer, as that was how they were listed, but a quick google tells me the brewery has changed its name to Methode Goat, though I can’t find why. I’m guessing a big brewer and a trademark court case threat. Anyway, was super excited to try this at the end of the festival, and had tried to pace myself so I could try to do it justice in the notes.

Cantillon: Vigneronne (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon to peach skin.

Nose: Dried apricot. Old muggy hops. Oats. Dry white wine. Dry in general. Slightly bready and fluffy popcorn. Crusty white bread.

Body: Crusty fresh white bread. Dry, thick hop feel. Dandelion. Sour white grapes. Slight tart apricot. White wine. Oats.

Finish: Flour. Fresh crusty white bread. Dandelions. Soft lemon. Gentle hop like bitterness. White wine.

Conclusion: This is not what I expected from a Cantillon. What I expect from Cantillon is, at the very least a very dry beer, at at the most a mouth puckering sour bomb. This has comparatively restrained sourness, a fluffy, fresh and bready mouthfeel and even some taste, and a .. erm .. kind of dandelion like vegetable character. I’ll get to that last one in a minute to explain more I promise. They are layered in amongst the tart grapes which are more recognisable as traditional elements and against what feels like an old, slightly muggy hop bitterness.

It is still white wine forwards in flavour, dry but not super dry, and it is delicious, it just has a much fuller body than a lot of the super dry Cantillons so I had to take a short while to get my bearings. It is just as rewarding as harsher Cantillons and much more easy going. It feels like a super enjoyable way to introduce people to the brewery without expecting them to jump in head first to the sour dry attack that they often are.

It is a chewable yet tart, like a flour thickened lambic that is very white wine fronted. A lot of you may be put off by my referring to the flour/vegetable notes of dandelion. Please don’t be, basically it is the best way I can get an odd note across. It is like if you drank dandelion and burdock, but without the burdock. If that makes any sense at all. It is that kind of influence here and not an unpleasant one.

A mellow tartness, full on wine flavour, thicker feel take on a Cantillon, and I would say that is very much worth trying. Not as huge range as some others but makes up for it by being much more approachable and easy to get into.

Yeah, I dig it, an easygoing Cantillon that does not compromise to do that.

Background: Another one from the Arrogant Sour Beer festival over at The Moor Tap Room, and this is a rare opportunity these days – A beer I have not previously tried that is both in Michael Jackson’s 500 Great Beers, and the 100 Belgian Beers To try Before You Die book. I tried the low hanging fruit of those books years ago, so this was a nice surprise. Did a quick double check on the abv of this, as most places list it as 5% ABV, but looks like it abv got raised to 6% recently. And by recently that could be any time in the past decade. I lose track of time easily. Also, before anyone points it out, I am aware that most Dandelion and Burdock these days is made with neither of those ingredients, but the analogy is the closest thing I had for identifying a flavour, so please allow me this one.

De Halve Maan: Sport Zot (Belgium: Low Alcohol: 0.4% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed gold. Slightly hazy. Massive white, loose bubbled head that leaves lace.

Nose: Soft lime. Wheaty. Brown sugar. Light pepper.

Body: Gentle. Brown sugar. Golden syrup. Sports drinks. Glucose. Honeycomb. Oily bitterness.

Finish: Slight charred bitterness. Tannins. White sugar.

Conclusion: This, like the low alcohol version of Leffe, makes me think that there is definitely room for a low alcohol take on the Belgian Ale, but it still needs some tweaking before we reach the sweet spot.

The aroma for this is spot on though. It mixes sweet notes from a Belgian blond, that slight peppery character for the gentle spice elements often used in Belgian ales and a wheaty general Belgian character. Even better for first impressions is how it hits the eyes, It has that massive head that comes with many a good Belgian blond and looks the part.

The body carries through some of the sweetness and an initially decent mouthfeel, but,like many low alcohol drinks, that kind of sport drink glucose notes is rapidly evident. Then again, they do call this “Sport” Zot, so at least they are owning this element. It still is not the best character to have in a beer. Despite that its got a reasonable, if light take on the Belgian blond, but unfortunately a lot of this is lost as you go into the finish.

The finish is, well, not exactly rough but kind of charred and tannin notes touched in a way that is kind of unpleasant. It is kind of the subtle edge of what would be rough if it was more intense, but as is is just a bit of a let down.

So a beer that starts well, but gets worse the further you get into it. Not a write off, but definitely needs work to be worth getting.

Background: Low ABV beers! I would claim my concentrating on them recently shows that I am an old man, but the news assures me this is totally the thing with “the youth of today”. So I must be young at heart. Honest. Anyway, another one from Indie Spirit. I’ve had their standard blond unpasteurised, unfiltered and on tap at the brewery. Was pretty nice. So this has a lot to live up to. Incidentally, why are a bunch of the low alcohol beers called “sport”? I don’t get it. Though they do taste like sports drinks a lot of the time. Anyway… After thinking about Rise Against: Endgame in my last set of notes, went for it as backing music for this one. Awesome album.

De Dolle: Stille Nacht (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 12% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Large white head with brown touches. Absolutely full of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Cane sugar. White sugar cubes. Orange sherbet. White, crusty bread.

Body: Orange sherbet. Lemon sherbet. Cane sugar. Candy floss. Bready. Toffee. Oily bitterness. Choc limes.

Finish; Candy floss. White sugar. Milky chocolate. Toffee. Odd, oily bitterness. Kind of kippers like oiliness, but not. Charred bitterness. Earthy bitterness. Peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, let’s get this out of the way first. For the most part this is sugary sweet fluff. Which I enjoy they heck out of and I make no excuses for.

So, yeah, for the most part this is straight up candy floss, sherbet, cane sugar, crushed hard sweet and the like. You get the idea. Sugar shock, the beer. The thing is that isn’t the whole of the beer.

The tail end into the finish brings an unexpected and more subtle set of elements. A slightly oily bitterness, that is also kind of earthy and peppery. There is even some oily fish character that I was hesitant to add to the notes as it doesn’t 100% match but is the best description I have managed to get. It’s basically a mix of subtle savoury and slightly bitter notes that come in as a welcome experience after the big sugar shock before.

So, a stupidly sweet, candyfloss and cane sugar, rough edged high abv been with unusual subtle notes managing to make it a tad more than that. On a technical level it is unbalanced, and rough, lots of elements that I should hold against it, but I enjoy the heck out of it and keep coming back.

Make of that what you will.

Background: So, it is, what roughly six months from Christmas is either direction, right? TIME TO REVIEW A CHRISTMAS BEER! Yes I just like being contrary. Anyway, it is a strong Belgian ale so should have held up to the time fine. Grabbed from Independent Spirit a few times over the past months, this is the first time I pulled my finger out and did notes on it. De Dolle are a fun brewery that used to have issues with over-carbonated bottles exploding the liquid out on opening. Did not have that here thankfully, so I’m guessing they fixed that over the past decade or so. I put on the ever excellent and haunting David Bowie – Blackstar while drinking. Christmas!

De Halve Maan: Straffe Hendrik Heritage 2017: Scotch Whisky Oak Aged (Belgium: Quadrupel: 11% ABV)

Visual: Very dark red to brown. Thin grey dash of a head. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Raisins, sultanas and malt loaf. Light medicinal alcohol. Cheap blended whisky.

Body: Creamy. Plums. Smooth. Brown sugar. Vanilla. Caramel. Brandy cream. Slight medicinal alcohol. Tannins. Liquorice. Cherries.

Finish: Fig pudding. Plum. Fruitcake. Slight brandy cream. Bourbon and rye whiskey. Salt touch. Tannins. Herbal spice. Peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, first up, what type of scotch whisky was this barrel aged in? I genuinely have no idea. It has a definite general whisky character, vanilla notes from the time in the oak that makes me think more of bourbon ageing than scotch, then there are some medicinal notes that call to Islay but could just be the higher abv showing itself, then finally what seem like Highland style sweeter notes. I give up. No idea.

Anyway, the beer itself! Massive in flavour, but generally smooth. Initially rich and sweet with huge lumps of dark fruit and fruitcake – a very dessert beer at this point.

The alcohol, or possibly the influence from the barrel ageing, does give a slight rough blended whisky edge – but generally the extra highland feeling weight adds a lot to the beer, helping to break up the creamy richness, and in general it feels like the time in the barrel has helped contribute to the smoothness of the beer in a way that more than offsets the slight rougher edges.

Late on oak, tannins and spice come out – an unexpected, odd savoury grounding to what had been up to this point a very sweet beer. In fact, by the end you get a sweet burst on each sip that settles into a very long lasting savoury spice finish which makes for very satisfactory progression.

Now, it is a tad rough edged, but complex and delicious – the alcohol and the barrel ageing react perfectly but still let though and awesome quad that deserves respect.

Background: Had this around for a while, waiting for a good time to break open. Not since 2017 though, I’m nowhere near that patient. Not had standard Straffe Hendrik for bloomin’ ages so not able to directly compare what the oak ageing has done, but should still be interesting. Also, for all my googling I cannot find what whisky barrel was used to age this. Ah well. I visited the Halve Maan brewery while in Brugge, very pretty, lovely view of the city and you get some unfiltered unpasteurised beer – so all good! This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Bad Religion. Yes I was pissed off with recent politics again and wanted some smart punk tunes.

Grupo Damm: Free Damm – Non Alcoholic Lager Beer (Spain: Low Alcohol. 0% ABV)

Visual: Darkened yellow. Moderate white head. Very small amounts of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Sugar dusting. Wet cardboard. Fresh cooked rice. Fresh white bread.

Body: Sugar dusting. Sweet vanilla. Glucose drinks. White bread.

Finish: Vanilla. Artificial glucose drink touch. Light hop character. Slight gentle lime. Long lasting.

Conclusion: This is kind of empty. Kind of neutral. Kind of, well, just there. The best I can say is that, while it tastes kind of like the bland mainstream lagers that were my first encounters with beer as a child, it doesn’t taste any worse for being alcohol free. So, slightly better than Tesco Value Lager! Woooo!

So, let’s look at the good side first – be positive! Well the low carbonation means that this isn’t a Fosters like soda stream of a lager which is nice. It is fairly clean and refreshing. Emr… ok, I’m running out of things to say on this side.

There are a few elements that give away it is a low alcohol beer – mainly that kind of sports drink glucose touch which pops up, though a lot less evident than in a lot of similar beers. Generally though it just tastes like the mediocre, generic kind of flavourless lager.

That makes it a hard one to write about, there isn’t really anything to get your teeth into. There are no elements that are rough, harsh or otherwise stand out as unpleasant. Mainly because it doesn’t have much in the way of any flavour.

Well… it is better than Fosters!

There, notes done.

Background: So, very little to put in this part. Was in Sainsbury’s, saw that they had a pack of this low alcohol beer, thought I would give it a try. Oddly, despite being 0% ABV you still need authorisation to buy it at the checkout. Go figure. Anyway, that is all, I like trying new low to no alcohol beers, this was one of them. Put music on random for this, had no real intent.

Senne: Bellwood: Imperial Donkey (Belgium: Imperial Stout: 8.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin dark brown dash of a head.

Nose: Vinous white grapes. Yeastie champagne. Liquorice. Subtle cherries. Dry Madeira.

Body: Bready bitterness. Sour cream. Dry white wine. Slightly astringent. Dry Madeira. Dry cherry. Dry spice. Tannins. Light cocoa.

Finish: Sour dough. Dry white wine and white grapes. Champagne. Sultanas. Spicy dry red wine. Subtle bitter cocoa.

Conclusion: Ok, my first though was “What type of wine barrel did this spend time in?” On first breaking open the bottle, as I desperately tried to pour it into the glass before it frothed over, I got hit with a distinct, strong dry white wine into champagne character on the nose, with the imperial stout character lost under that due to its intensity.

The stout character comes out more as a bready, earthy kind of thing in the main body. For an imperial stout those flavours come across as fairly restrained.

What makes me question the barrel ageing is then how it changes, becoming spicier with dry red wine character coming out. Initially dry Madeira like notes into full on spicy red wine by the end via a few dry dark fruit hops in-between.

It is very barrel ageing dominated, even if I can’t quite pin down exactly which wine barrel it spent time in. There are slight cocoa to chocolate notes late on, but if you are enjoying this, chances are it is because the barrel ageing brought you there, rather than anything else.

As of such, it is not really for me. I like what the ageing notes bring, but I really need more beer backing it up. The beer just feels lost here. So, very vinous, lots of wine character and range, but so very little beer. May be for you, was not for me.

Background: Been a while since I had a beer from Senne, they have been stonking good in most of their past beers, so this one caught my eye at Independent Spirit – A barrel aged English style Imperial Stout. From googling I confirmed that it was a wine barrel as I thought, but yet to find anything that tells me the type. If you know please drop a comment and fill me in. Don’t know much about Bellwood Brewery apart from the fact they are a Toronto based brewery in Canada and they did a Beavertown collab I tried. For a heavy dark beer like this I put Arch Enemy – Wages of Sin on in the background to match.

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