Tag Archive: Belgium


fantome-chocolat

Fantome: Chocolat (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy darkened yellow to apricot with a large off white head and some sediment.

Nose: Carrot and coriander. Wheaty. Light malt chocolate. Lemon fresh air. Orange zest. Dried apricot. Bready.

Body: Juicy but warming. Chocolate late on. Peach and cream. Rustic middle. Light chilli seeds. Sour dough. Lime. Slight custard notes. Blood orange. Blackpool rock.

Finish: Chilli seeds. Light green peppers. Chocolate and cocoa dust. Lightly earthy. Ginger. Slight sour cream and chives. Apricot. Lime jelly. Dried banana.

Conclusion: You know what I like about Fantome beers? The fact that they can use a concept for a beer, show the concept clearly in a beer, but not make the beer solely about that concept.

Take this for example – chocolat by name – so, for most people they would this to be a dark beer and to be pushing all chocolate all the time, right? Except it isn’t. It is a beer that clearly has that light Belgian spice use, with a fruity but rustic base body and evident fruit sweetness. The chocolate only comes out late mid body and into the finish. Similarly, this has chilli powder in it – is it some heat factory? Nope, just a slight mild chilli tingle, not no more prevalent that any other spice in a Belgian beer.

So, you end up with a fruity Belgian Ale with only some hints of its saison base there, leaning instead towards the Belgian Blond Ale side of things. It is smooth, the saison notes coming in light rustic elements, but definitely more on the sweet cane sugar touched, fruity blond ale style. This then leads out into the warming and chocolate styled finish. Normally around now I would be talking about the shock of moving between two such distinct elements – but here they manage to make it feel like a natural progression.

Now before I get too raving about it here, there are weak points -with the amount of strong flavours it can get wearing, and feel more a beer you appreciate than enjoy – but for the most part it is well done. It has a very solid base, and the smoothness of the texture shows a beer that is very competently done. That wearing character mentioned is most evident over several glasses. At 750 ml it is definitely a bottle best shared to get most enjoyment from it. So, not as high flying as most Fantome ales – but a very solid middle ground beer, with unusual styling. So, enjoyable, but not one of Fantome’s exceptional beers – Still, kind of damning with very faint criticism there – still enjoyed it a lot.

Background: I’ve been a huge fan of Fantome since I first managed to get my hands on their beers. This, a saison made with cocoa and chilli powder, was grabbed from Independent Spirit I am not quite sure if cocoa and chilli powder should go together, but hey, up for giving it a a try. Drunk while listening to some music from Louise Distras who I only recently heard – a nice mix of Billy Bragg and Riot Grrrl style punk to my ears. Due to an extended session on Dark Souls 2 this was drunk fairly late in the night. So far it seams weaker than the original Dark Souls – the bosses especially seem not as inspiring or awesome – still, early days yet – could be all the cool stuff is packed at the end.

de-dochter-van-de-korenaar-peated-oak-aged-embrasse

De Dochter Van De Korenaar: Peated Oak Aged Embrasse (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 10% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Smoked meat. Brown bread. Smoke. Mature cheese. Beef broth soup. Light toffee.

Body: Brown bread. Big smoked meat – mainly smoked ham. Beef slices. Soft vanilla. Slight funky yeast feel. Brown sugar and malt chocolate.

Finish: Smoked beef and dried beef slices. Malt chocolate. Nuts. Slight salt and medicinal notes. Soft vanilla. Brown sugar.

Conclusion: This is a big, meaty beer. Yet somehow the peated boom still leaves room for the base beer to show through. First impressions therefore are that this is going to be massive – either in a good, or a bad way.

The base beer seems a solid Belgian brown ale, lots of malt chocolate, very smooth, slightly nutty with hints of brown sugar and some of that funky Belgian yeast feel. Good, and pretty much straight in the middle of what you would expect from the style.

It is hard to say more about the base beer – it feels very smooth, very high quality – but where it leads out from that base, the barrel ageing comes in with intensity. Big peat, big meat, and slight medicinal elements that make me think they probably picked something from the Islay end of the table for this. I am sure there is more to the base, it has a quality feel that says that there would normally be a lot more – but it is lost under the weight of the barrel ageing. Frankly I’m impressed so much of the base came through anyway – a big bready weight that gives room to set everything else up.

This is smooth, booming, manages to get a lot from each side of oak and base – feels like a beer that would have been better shared, rather than greedily devoured by just one person as I did. By myself I found it getting a bit over bready and peat dominated by the end – at the half way point it still felt great – just working enough to make it feel like a medieval feast of bread, meat and alcohol. In fact, while you are sharing it, might as well make a feast – break out some greasy meat, some bread to mop it up with, and this beer. Think the combination would work well.

Background: So, is this 9% or 10% abv – bottle says 9, the cardboard attached says 10. Looking into it, I think the base beer was 9%, but time in the oak has shoved it up a percent. So, 10% it is. Anyway, grabbed from Brewdog’s guest beer selection, this is a new brewery from Belgium on me. I do love Belgian dark ales, and since this is aged in peated whisky casks that also is a big plus point for me. Drunk while listening to some ultra heavy metal from Meshuggah – hoping to see them soon. Hoped it would work out as heavy metal for heavy beer.

de-cam-oude-lambiek

De Cam: Oude Lambiek (Belgium: Unblended Lambic: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to lemon juice. Loose, real ale like large bubbled dash of a head.

Nose: Dry. Fresh crusty bread. Sulphur and hard boiled eggs. Smoke.

Body: Sulphur. Hard boiled eggs. Still. Oats. Light dried apricot sweetness. Light vanilla. White grapes. Dry lemon. Nutty. Dry Madeira. Palma violets.

Finish: Dried oak. Eggs. Sulphur. Dry raisins and Madeira. Tannins.

Conclusion: As I started sipping this I thought – Am I a philistine? On this matter and in general. This is a very well reputed lambic, and, while I am not going to insult it, on first sip I really couldn’t see why the massive raving about it. Could be a hype issue. Once you have your expectations way up for a beer, it is hard for anything to live up to that. Well, let’s just take a look at this again, as just another beer, not as a hyped up lambic, and maybe I will get a better handle on it.

Ok, well chilled down it is a bit empty – odd as often lambics work very well cool, but without the liveliness of a geuze this doesn’t seem to able to trade as much on the dryness, tartness or sparkling mouthfeel. Because of this it needs to do more with the subtle flavours, which it doesn’t manage initially – just an empty kind of eggy and sulphur character. It still has quote a dry base, but not with that teeth tingling character I get with geuze – just around equivalent to a good APA level kind of dry.

So, let’s let it warm up a bit – now the flavours develop. A more nutty, dry Madeira touched undertones come out. Ok now I can see what people like about this a bit more. As mentioned, oft lambics work well chilled – this seems to need a bit more heat than most – still cool, but not fully chilled.

So, now with light fresh notes – not many but there. It actually reminds me a bit of aged sake in a way. Both share the similar dry Madeira notes and dark fruit touched character along with a few lighter fresher notes. Though this differs in that it has a slight, but distinct, sulphur character and a real ale like beer texture backing it up.

So, as mentioned I am starting to get the love for this beer. It isn’t a must have for me, but it is very nice – like the negative exposure of a standard lambic; Still instead of fizzing like a geuze, dark fruit notes instead of fresh ones, but still a lambic. Still drinking it now, and it gains more as it warms more – more nutty, more tannins and more subtle dried dark fruit notes. Ok, not quite up to the hype, but each time I let it warm a bit more I have come to appreciate it more as more Madeira base and rich complexity comes out. I can take my time happily with this one.

Background: I am not 100% sure this is an unblended lambic as it is generally listed as – the name makes me think it is – blended lambics tend to be called Geuze in the name. Also the fact it is still and not fizzy unlike most geuze. However Belgian Experts website says “The Lambics used to make this unparalleled blend come from Girardin, Drie Fonteinen, Boon and Lindemans, while the casks used to age the beer come from Pilsner Urquell.”. I think I can square this circle by maybe a) There are two different beers by this name? b) One of the sources is wrong? or c) Possibly the lambics are blended then aged in oak at De Cam and it only counts as geuze if they are blended after oak ageing? I do not know – if anyone has more information please let me know in the comments. Any which way, something unusual grabbed from Independent Spirit. Drank while listening to Anthrax – Amongst the living. Yes again. I am excited that I will hopefully see them live next year.

vliegende-paard-prearis-quadrupel
Vliegende Paard: Prearis: Quadrupel (Belgium: Quadrupel: 10% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown, with overripe banana colour at the edges. Thin grey to brown dash of a head that leaves sud rims.

Nose: Dried sultanas and liquorice. Coffee beans. Malt chocolate. Crushed Blackpool rock. Dry roasted peanuts. Banana.

Body: Candy floss. Banana syrup. Frothy mouthfeel. Lemon sherbet. Treacle. Light chalk. Apples sweets. Caramel. Very milky coffee. Raisins. Cloves. Carrot.

Finish: Caramelised brown sugar. Dried banana and toffee syrup. Malt drinks. Bitter nuttiness. Mild apple sours. Coffee and caramel. Bitter cocoa. Carrot.

Conclusion: It is heavy duty Quadrupel time again, and damn today we have a doozie. Been over a year since I last broke open a Quad so I was looking forwards to this. The thing I love about Quads is that, due to the high strength, they have plenty of time to develop strong, often radically different, flavours in one beer.

Take this for example – candyfloss sweetness and banana mix – that could be one beer. Toffee and caramel with bitter cocoa and milky coffee- that could be another beer. Cloves spice, carrot savoury and lightly chalky over dark fruit – that could be yet another beer. Yet here they all act together in one big, balanced entity.

So, what is dominant, and does it work? Well the caramel and the very syrup styled banana are the most evident up front. Yet this mix of sweet flavours is smoothly delivered to not be sickly, and then the spice and grounding note slowly rise to restrain and then expand upon it. You get a big instant pleasure hit dancing on your taste-buds up front, and then it slowly lets the complexity come out, and makes sure that the original big wow doesn’t wear out its welcome. Very nicely done.

So, in case you haven’t guessed, to answer the second questions. Yes it does work. It seems unlike a lot of Quads that I’ve enjoyed in that it doesn’t follow the Trappist Quad examples very closely. It is smoother, sweet caramel style, but without losing those awesome Belgian rough edges. For flaws? Well it is very sweetness dominated, despite having a lot more to it than that. Not a problem for me, but if you don’t have sweet tooth then your probably want to look at some of the less overly sweet Quads. That aside, damn there is a lot in this beer – It is like A Belgian rough edged take on a USA smooth take on a Belgian Quad. That may have made no sense whatever. Any which way, I highly recommend this.

Background: Ok, I had to look up the brewers name just to check – I thought it was Prearis until I read the bottle carefully then did some googling to confirm. Any which way, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit – new Belgian brewery turning out a Quad, how could I resist? Not much else to add to that, was going in fairly blind on this one – put some Shadow’s Fall on for listening to while I drank.

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.

Chimay: Grand Reserve 2016: Viellie En Barriques (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Moderate creamy brown coloured small bubbled head.

Nose: Crushed almonds and peanuts. Funky yeast. Popcorn. Dry. Wholemeal bread. Fig rolls. Sour red wine.

Body: Smooth. Carmalised brown sugar. Fig rolls. Plums. Hazelnut liqueur. Vanilla toffee. Lactose. Fizzy and sherbety. Liquorice. Malt chocolate. Gummed brown paper. Raisins and sultanas. Red wine and Madeira.

Finish: Hazelnut liqueur. Cream. Plums. Vanilla toffee. Lightly woody. Gummed brown paper. Slight sulphur and smoke. Brown sugar. Slight funky yeast. Cloves. Cognac.

Conclusion: Chimay blue by itself is a big, rewarding beer. In fact one I really should have done notes for by now. This is bigger, and possibly even more rewarding. At this level of quality it is hard to say.

At its base it is a very familiar, big dark fruit, brown sugar, creamy and malt led drink with obvious Belgian yeast influences. So, at its base still the same dark heavy delight the blue is.

So, what makes this different? Well the ageing has given it smoothness. You still feel the weight that says this is an alcohol heavy drink, but a lot of the rough edges are worn down. Thankfully not completely – it still has enough charming prickly edges to not be mistaken for the (in my opinion) overly smooth American take on the style.

Ageing in the barrels seem to have given it some unusual characteristics to play with. There is a light oaken sour note mixed with malt drinks below that which remind me of a good quality Flemish red. There is also a definite mix of sour red wine and sweet Madeira styling – the second of which I’m guessing may be from the cognac ageing. Maybe. Any which way it works very well backing up the strong dark fruit flavours. The final odd note is a much larger nutty character – generally it stands well, though it is slightly overly dominant in the aroma which gives a weak first impression to what is an excellent beer.

As you can probably guess from the examining above, I am very impressed by this. Very smooth, yet booming in flavour. The only difficulty in detecting new flavours is managing not to get washed away in the flood of what you have already encountered as there is so much going on.

The only real flaw is the nuttiness which can be too present occasionally. Everything else is an excellent Trappist beer carefully nurtured in oak. Slightly less nuttiness would let the other notes roam more, but that is a minor thing.

Suitably subtle Flemish sour ale notes meets Trappist dark ale meets multiple barrel ageing. Not perfect, as said above, but definitely very well done. Wish I had one to age further.

Background: OK, this is a big one, Chimay Blue at the base, aged in a mix of French oak, new chestnut, American oak and new cognac barrels. Fermented in tank, barrel and bottle. It was an expensive one picked up at Independent Spirit, but you don’t see many barrel aged Trappist beers, and I am a huge fan of Chimay – I think the blue was the first Trappist beer I ever had if I remember rightly. There are very few Trappist breweries, and the beer has to me made or overseen by the Trappist monks themselves – so they don’t tend to play with the more new wave brewing tricks, like this. Drunk while listening to a mix of History of Guns tracks on random.

Cantillon: Soleil De Minuit (Fruit Lambic: Belgium: 5% ABV)

Visual: Clear, still gold. Thin dust of a head. Hazy with bits evident in the body as you reach the end of the bottle.

Nose: Horse blankets. Ultra dry white wine and sour white grapes. Light gingerbread. Lightly musky. Honey.

Body: Very dry. Very light initially. Vanilla. Musky berries. Very smooth. Tart grapes. White wine. Champagne funky feel. Dried apricot. Nettles and prickling. Light honey. Mandarin orange. Passion fruit near the end.

Finish: Grapes. White wine. Oatmeal. Light charring. Light cloud-berry. Funky yeast feel. Vanilla. Lightly tart. Nettles. Dried apricot. Light vinegar. Orange juice.

Conclusion: Ok, this is absolutely nothing like what I expected. At all. I am used to super tart, dry, mouth puckering lambics coming from Cantillon. Also, with this having the unusual selection of cloudberry fruit to be aged on I was expecting that to be pushed hard.

Neither were true. Chilled down it tastes similar in style to their unblended lambic on the front, and full of subtleties. It definitely was white wine like, dry, very dry white wine like. Also the lambic character very much showed in the aroma with the horse blanket like character. By comparison the cloudberry was limited to the more funky edges of the beer around that white wine character.

Similarly there is nearly no acidity or harsh tartness – it is smooth as silk to drink, probably the easiest going Cantillon I have tried – my non Cantillon aware friend tried it and could easily enjoy it. It you are happy drinking good quality wine, then this is a similar experience.

That is not to say that this lacks subtlety, it has a very champagne like funky bready character (Admittedly this is going from my one true Champagne experience in Avery Bristol), the beer has a much more complex feel than it does taste.

Warming it really brings out the flavours though, it gives a lightly tart touch, and even a slight vinegar air right at the back of the throat, while still, generally, being smooth as heck. Much more cloudberry comes out, it never dominates, but it now has enough definition to distinctly complement the main wine like character. Soft apricot and an almost light vanilla sweetness then round it out, then delicious orange late on.

While chilled it is a far more easy to drink beer, at close to room temperature it gains much more to differentiate it from the unblended lambic it initially resembled. Then again, while I was not quite taken with Grand Cru, in general unblended lambic is hardly one to turn your nose up at. As is, chilled I was disappointed, especially considering the cost. It was good, but hardly above a standard lambic. As it warms it becomes another excellent quality fruit Cantillon, but with extra smoothness.

Is it worth the price? For the flavour, no. There are other lambics from Cantillon at far cheaper price that are of equal quality. As an intriguing event, as an experience, well, ouch, that is almost up to you – how much do you value trying a rarity?

For me, at the price I will not return to it, however looking at it just as a beer, I will have to admit, when you let it warm … Yes it is excellent, it builds up gently, and you get a different experience over several glasses. Not top 50 in the world good, but just, just comes in as one of my favourites.

Background: Holy crap, I did not expect to find this one. Now, to head people off at the pass – yes this is a Belgian beer, from the legendary lambic makers Cantillon. So why did I get it during the Sweden holiday? Well, simple, this was brewed for Akkurat bar in Stockholm and as far as I am aware that is literally the only place you can legitimately buy it. I found this, the Oct 2015 release (Drunk Aug 2016), in the vintage beers section of their bottle list and immediately checked that it was in stock. It was. Oh yes. It is a lambic made with cloudberrys, and at the time of writing, one of Rate Beers top 50 highest rated beers. It is also very expensive. Though the price of it did end up causing a conversation with two Russian teachers who were sat next to me at the bar, which was pretty cool. They asked us our views on Brexit then laughed at two synchronised, yet unplanned, facepalms from my friend and me. I offered some to them to try, and they politely referred to it as “Interesting”. I think they were not a fan. However my friend, who is not usually a beer fan, found it quite enjoyable. I also like that this was laid out in a wooden boat shaped container while we were drinking, very snazzy. Before drinking this I had some water to clean out the tastebuds from the previous beer so I could give this my full attention.

Rochefort 8

Rochefort: 8 (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown. Large bubbled brown froth head.

Nose: Raisins. Wheaty. Figgy pudding. Smoke. Burnt grains. Brandy cream. Bready. Fortified red wine. Cherries. Chewy.

Body: Very vinous. Sour grapes. Sweet port mixed with Madeira cake. Black liquorice. Bready – both brown and unleavened. Lightly creamy.

Finish: Dry sultanas. Malt drinks. Madeira cake. Liquorice. Brown bread slices. Lightly earthy feel and peppery.

Conclusion: One day I will have to do Rochefort 8 and 10 side by side – I always seem to end up describing them with similar notes. Then after drinking both I will instantly collapse due to my weak alcohol resistance before their strong abv levels.

From memory this sets very neatly between the 6 and the 10. It has the big, fruity and vinous character that is similar to the 10, but without the wonderful, indulgent, malt load sweetness. It delivers the wine and plentiful dark fruit in a drier style, matching it with liquorice working against the sweetness. I’m not a huge fan of liquorice in beer most of the time, so that is a mark against it, but generally it is a very good set of flavours.

From the style of the 6 comes that bready, slightly Orval like drier character, which is what prevents the beer reaching the insane 10 like sweetness. For such a big beer in flavour and abv it feels very well attenuated, ending up dry and slightly peppery. It makes it a reined in rather than dessert like beer.

When the beer is cool it learns a bit too much towards the dry side for my tastes, but at room temperature it becomes fruitier and more fell – and here it is the standby of the Rochefort crowd – managing the flavour of the ten but without the excesses.

Despite that, I must admit I prefer the 10, I just love it, it is one of my favourite beers. This, I will admit, is the better balanced beer though, even if it is not my favourite of the three. It is still very impressive, and will age to a true gem of a beer if you give it time. So, if you prefer sweet go with the 10, if you prefer dry go with the 8. Any which way you will find a great beer.

Background: For ages I thought I had already done notes on this one, for a long time the Rochefort beers were my favourite Trappist ales and I grabbed them whenever I could. So, once I realised I had not yet done notes on them, there was only one thing I could do. Grab a bottle (from Independent Spirit again) and take my time with it. As you are probably aware, there are very few places allowed to call themselves Trappist beer producers – of which the majority are in Belgium. The brewing needs to be done, or overseen by the monks for it to count. Drunk while listening to Iron Maiden: Book Of Souls – an odd album in that I enjoy it, but none of the tracks really stand out by themselves.

Fantome India Red Ale

Fantome: India Red Ale (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Deep cloudy bruised apricot. Massive off white, lace leaving loose bubbled head.

Nose: Coriander. Lemon. Carrot. Lightly minty menthol. Peppermint and crushed mint leaves. Paprika. Light strawberry. Orange crème.

Body: Strawberry sweetness. Custard. Orange crème. Light hop character. Smooth. Prickle in the middle. Toffee. Earthy notes. Dried orange fruit sugars.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Toffee. Custard. Custard hop character. Some greenery. Solid hop bitterness and character. Sour dough. Earthy notes. Resin.

Conclusion: Apparently, at least best I can tell, this beer does not use spice in the ingredients. Instead all the spice seeming flavours must be coming from the hops, yep, as you may have guessed already, this is spicy as heck. Odd, no?

On top of that it is a fair mixed up beer. For all it is called an India Red Ale it actually has a hell of a lot of saison influence – from the soft custard hop styling of Saison Dupont, to the lime notes of Fantome’s own spring Saison, to the traditional earthy rustic saison styled base. A lot going on there. From the red side of India Red Ale we get an amber ale set of calls mid body which develop into some strawberry sweetness and chocolate toffee malt notes near the end.

As for the India part of the name? Well, it leans close to Belgium IPA in the smoothness, but the hop bitterness is only really a thing in the earthy bitter finish. Then again, India gets appended to pretty much any high hop ale these days, even some lagers, so having the high bitterness is not automatically needed I guess. That however is a rant for another day.

Early on the beer is a bit rough and greenery led, with an odd menthol character, but as the late end sweetness rises it manages to balance itself out, more or less. At that point in this, high abv, bottle it seems closer to the spicy, Belgian IPA character that its name calls to. Still a bit greenery and resin led, but far more recognisable.

Overall a bit rough around the edges Amber Ale IPA Saison mash up – not the best, but there is hardly a dull moment.

Background: A hard one to pick a beer style for this one is. It is listed as an India Red Ale, which would make me think an IPA variant, so list under IPA, ratebeer calls it the ever helpful “Belgian Strong Ale”. For me, it seems closest to a Saison, so lacking any other definitive call, and knowing Fantome’s reputation with Saisons, I’m going with Saision. Seriously, Fantome does awesome saisons. Incidentally some places has this thing’s name abbreviated as IRA, which for seem reason they don’t seem to call it that in the UK. I wonder why… Anyway, drunk while listening to many Meets Metal tracks, with Flashdance Meets Metal being the standout one. This beer was grabbed from Brewdog’s Guest Beer selection. Warning, this is a frothy beer – The beer was rushing out and I desperately shoved the cork back in while I shoved the bottle neck into the glass to pour.

Boon Old Geuze Boon Black Label

Boon: Old Geuze Boon: Black Label (Belgium: Geuze Lambic: 7% ABV)

Visual: Clear banana yellow. Huge solid white bubbled head. Large carbonation.

Nose: Crisp. Wheaty. Fresh cut apples. Mild earthy spice. Tart white grapes. Fresh cooked pizza dough base.

Body: Very tart. Sharp lemon. Froths up easily. Lime notes. Oats. Solid mouthfeel. Light banana custard and pineapple. Grapefruit. Peach syrup.

Finish: Lemon juice. Slight meringue. Light oak. Lime juice. Apricot. Dry white wine. Oats. Apples. Grapefruit.

Conclusion: Juicy. Tropical juicy. You know, considering that this is the driest boon yet, or so the bottle says, this has a fruity character that is absolutely pounding. It starts out with lemon and lime notes and builds to pineapple and grapefruit burst – that lambic character means that it ends up mixing pure fruit juice with dry white wine like character.

What surprises me is that, dry as the beer is, it does not feel drying. There is no teeth tingle, nor those mouth puckering notes that a real dry acidic lambic can bring – no back of the throat acidic feel here. In a way it feels like a lambic equivalent of restorative beverage for invalids and convalescents – the highly attenuated body means that it mostly gets out of the way and lets the fruit explode.

This is good, very good – the base feels like a dry white wine but without any acidity or harshness, the fruit feels like the tartest of tropical fruit hop explosion – choosing the lambic base means that there isn’t any real sweet influence from the malt base intruding so you get everything very clean and fresh. Best of all it is very easy to drink for a lambic, As long as you are happy with tart flavours then dealing with the acidity is a cakewalk.

Beyond the fruit, at that base, there s a recognisable lambic character – Light earthy spice, oat character, and even some very understated sweet notes – it is hugely attenuated but they don’t let that become its defining characteristic – instead you get a masterpiece of lambic balance.

I am very impressed.

Background: The cork exploded out of this one – I was a mere two twists of the corkscrew and it popped out so hard that it took my hand and the entire corkscrew with it a good half foot up. Strangely, after that the beer did not froth up and out. Still, hell of a lot of force in there. On the pour it took a few attempts to get one that was not entirely froth. It is lively on the pour. Drunk while listening to some Madness – had seen Suggs do his life story recently and was in a retro mood. This had been grabbed from Independent Spirit.

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