Tag Archive: Belgium


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.

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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.

AB Inbev Belgium – Leffe: Blond 0.0% (Belgium: Low Alcohol: 0.0% ABV)

Visual: Bright yellow gold. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Large yellow-white mound of a head.

Nose: White sugar. Wheaty. Sweet lemon. Sweet lime. Candyfloss. Dried banana.

Body: Slight sweet tea. Banana. White sugar. Sweet lemon. Syrup. Orange jelly sweets.

Finish: Lemon syrup. Sugared tea. White sugar. Light pepper. Vanilla to vanilla toffee. Later on banoffee.

Conclusion: This is an odd mix of sweet sugary Belgian beer and sweetened tea style. Yep, the low alcohol tea style notes are here again, in fact here the very sweet tea like base character really stands out.

Now Leffe has always been on the sweeter side of the varied abbey styles, and this tries to lay that on with raw sugar, and sweet lemon, sugary orange and vanilla notes. All very artificially done, sweet as heck and so very much in the character of a standard Leffe blond. Though they are, as is to be expected, much lighter due to the lower abv, and because of that the tannin and tea notes come back again a lot on the tail end.

Oddly, while the mouthfeel is nowhere as thick as a standard Leffe blond, it still is pretty solid for a zero alcohol beer – a bit thicker than most in the range. So, past that, is this any good? Eh, it is pleasant enough, and does call to the original beer’s style. Original Leffe blond was always, simple, sweet and cheerful and this is similarly artificially sweet but fun, so I’ll give it that.

Basically the tea aspect isn’t bad in itself, but it really makes you aware that this is not a standard beer and will ruin any illusion of that. It is nice enough and the first low abv beer of this style that I have encountered, but it definitely needs a lot of polish for it to be a proper stand in for an alcoholic beer.

Still, enjoyable enough as long as you know going in what it is you are getting.

Background: Low alcohol time again! Raided Beercraft‘s low alcohol selection again for this one. Leffe was one the earliest Belgian beers I tried, something which I think is a lot of people’s experience. Now, yeah, it is a bit one note compared to a lot of less mainstream abbey blonds, but I still have a bit of a soft spot for it. Oddly, I checked and this is the first Leffe I have done notes of for the blog. Huh, I used to drink tons of these. Go figure. Anyway, put n a bunch of random Crossfaith for listening to while drinking, on a huge Crossfaith kick at the mo.

Alvinne: Oak Aged Cuvee Sofie Kweepeer Quince ( Belgium: Sour Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual: Pale apricot. Thin white bubbly head.

Nose: Mashed apricots. Sour. Dry white wine. Grapes. Pencil shavings. Vanilla. Sharp lemon.

Body: Very sharp. Yellow raspberry. Vanilla. Sour jelly sweets. Tart lemon curd.

Finish: Tart. Sharp lemon. Quince Rakia. Dried apricot. Yellow raspberry. Sour jelly sweets. White wine. Marmalade. Sour lemon curd.

Conclusion: Fuck me, this is sharp. Ok, after a few sips I acclimatised to it, and it became a pleasant tart and sour thing, but that first mouthfeel was a heck of a shock to the system.

I’ve only had quince in quince rakia, so I probably don’t have the best yardstick for comparison here (delicious though that rakia may be) to say if this tastes much like the fruit used. The fruitiness in this tastes like yellow raspberries meets mashed apricots meets tart lemon curd. So, possibly that is actually what quince tastes like and if I had tried it I could have saved myself a heck of a lot of words there. Any which way it is very fresh, very citrus and very enjoyable.

Super tart, super sour, this is carefully smoothed out at the edges by vanilla notes and a slight white wine dry character, into light, sweeter marmalade notes in the finish. It stops it from being just a flat out sour assault, and, considering my response to that first tart mouthful, for that I am very welcome. With those rounding notes it is still mouth puckering, but very enjoyable, if slightly single minded as a sour ale. It doesn’t change too much once you get over the initial shock, but the beer is fairly different from most others on the market, so I kind of welcome that for once.

So, initially a shock and may seem overwhelming for those who aren’t super into their sours, it does soften a touch into tart and rewarding fruity sour character (which may or may not be predominantly quince).

I would easily recommend this to any sour fan who are not shy of the tarter end of the spectrum and want something a bit different from the usual fruit experimentation. I very much enjoyed this.

Background; There area lot of words on this label, and I will admit I am unsure of which are the name and which are descriptors. Looking online there seem to be a lot of different versions of Cuvee Sofie, so I’ve played it safe and listed as many as I could here. So, this is a sour beer, foeder aged and made with quince. It mainly caught my eye as I tried a quince rakia in Belgrade and very much enjoyed it. So a sour beer made with the fruit sounded right up my street. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, and I put on Genitorturers – Flesh is The Law to listen to while drinking. S&M themed industrial metal turned out to go very appropriately with the very sour and tart beer!

Girardin: Faro (Belgium: Lambic – Faro: 5% ABV)

Visual: Reddish brown. Clear. Still. Thin off white dash of a head.

Nose: Sugar dusting to hard sugar casing. Touch of brown sugar. Cherries. Clean. Brown bread. Light apple acidic notes.

Body: Sweet cherries. Subtle marzipan. Light sugar dusting. Brown sugar. Watered down bourbon. Tannins to weak tea.

Finish: Madeira. White grapes. Slightly tart. Apple air. Weak tea. Milk. Sugar dusting.

Conclusion: So. My first set of Faro tasting notes has revealed to me that the Faro style is a lot different to a standard lambic, and a lot different to what I ever imagined it would be.

It is softer, gentler on the tongue than most standard lambics. It has light grape notes, even occasionally tart grapes, but this is far from the acidic, sour and sharp assault that comes with, say, a gueuze. In fact, over time the tea notes and associated tannin comes come out in a way that makes me think of Lindeman’s Tea Beer – albeit a much more complex take on the idea. In fact, in general this feels more touched by a more standard beer style, but combined with that lightly tart and clean lambic feel, and a serious wodge of that tea character.

Now, I will admit that I don’t have any other Faros to compare it to, so I don’t know how representative of the style it is, but I am enjoying this one. Subtle dark beer notes such as the cherries and brown sugar give a very different take on the lambic freshness. In fact a soft sweetness over the whole thing makes it feel like an easy drinking entry point for a lambic newcomer. It is still complex, but very much moving away from the harsh, dry and sour edges of the lambic world.

It is enjoyable, though I can’t stop thinking of it as “Tea Beer” since I first noticed that element. So, a tea lambic that doesn’t actually use tea, a lambic without any lambic sharp edges. May not be for everyone, but hopefully you have enough info to decide if you want to try it. It is an experience worth having in my opinion.

Background: So, I had this about a month back, first time I had ever tried a Faro. It was so different that I decided I had to grab a bottle again and do notes this time. Which I just have. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, a Faro is a blended lambic (Sometimes with a non lambic beer by some sources) with additional candi sugar. This was drunk in the last hour of 2018, with Grimes – We Appreciate Power, and her Oblivion album playing in the background. We Appreciate Power is a wonderful mix of pop and industrial, mixed with cyberpunk imagery. Definitely a great tune for the end of the year. I’d just finished reading Gnomon by Nick Harkway before and seriously – check that book out, it is amazing.

Rulles: Tilquin: Stout Rullquin (Belgium: Sour Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Fizzy. Inch of beige head.

Nose: Fresh apples. Bitter cocoa. Brown bread. Malt chocolate drinks. Dry white wine. White grapes.

Body: Tart apples. White wine. White grape juice. Fizzy. Raisins. Madeira cake. Fizzy cola bottle sweets. Slight creamy character. Pear.

Finish: Chocolate liqueur. Lemon on pancakes. Apple juice. Cherries. Madeira cake. Banana yogurt. Cherry coke. Charring. Brown bread. Pear drops.

Conclusion: This is more dominated by the lambic than I ever imagined it would be. Only one eighth of this is lambic. It seems a little lambic goes a heck of along way! Visually this seems very stout heavy, albeit one that pours a bit quicker than the usual viscous beasts do. Taste wise though it is tart and dry white wine at the front, mixed with fresh apples and sour grapes that are layered over the darker centre.

The darker notes are never hidden, but generally they play second fiddle to the tarter notes. There are chocolate touched, such as you would expect from a stout, but more than that are the dry raisin notes and the madeira cake elements. It is still fairly dry, but darker and sweeter that those first impressions. The stout like elements are biding their time, coming out more to play late on, developing into a definite presence in the dry, slightly spicy and dark fruit filled finish.

Time and warmth allows a slightly better balance between the two to come out- though nothing seems to save the muted aroma up front. It still feels fresh, pushing pear drop notes and such, but now the darker – though still tart – notes feels spread throughout the whole beer rather than being just hidden at the back. Cherry notes, tart and fresh, mixed with chewy cola bottle fizzy notes.

It ends up a sour but balanced beer mixing tart fresh to dark fruit character. It takes that almost holographic complexity you get with sour beers and matches to a dry, spicy solid core and chocolate liqueur streaks. It is not a must have, but these lambic and something else mixes stand out as a bit different and this one is good enough that it is worth a try for that.

Background: This was another one bought in the big batch of sours I grabbed a couple of weeks ago, and definitely is the most unusual of them. I don’t see much De Rulles stuff in the UK, so that was a big plus – add into that, that this is seven eighths De Rulles Brune and one eighth one year old lambic to make a sour stout kind of thing and they definitely had my interest. So, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, using a glass given by my sister – replacing my one of that type of glass that I accidentally broke. Many thanks craft beer sis! Put on some Ramones for background music. Not my favourite punk band, but still good for a listen and definitely respect for the influence they have had.

Cantillon: Mamouche (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 5% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Still. Thin dash of white rather than a head. Later pours have an actual head – an inch of white froth.

Nose: Dry white wine. Rose petals. Sour. Elderberry. Wet oak. Horse blankets.

Body: Thin front. Peppery. Charred oak. Acidic back. Light lemon. Dry middle. Watery edges. Mild strawberry. White wine. Dried apricot.

Finish: White wine. Sulphur. Elderflower cordial. Dried lemon. Charred oak. Petals. Vanilla yogurt. Dandelions. Tart grapes. Flour.

Conclusion: There seems to be a trend with Cantillon beers, for me at least, that they start out feeling slightly underwhelming to my expectations, then slowly build up to gain my respect by the end. This is, well, slightly different, but it mostly matches that general trajectory. As always let me explain.

Early on it seemed slightly thin – not something I would ever expect to associate with Cantillon normally. Instead of the mouth puckering dryness what you get is an acidity that hits the back of the throat kind of harshly, an unexpected kick from the lighter front. There is an elderflower cordial taste, watered down a lot to create an experience that lacks lustre.

Time brings out a lot of white wine dryness, in fact this may be he most white wine like I have encountered in a lambic. The elderflower flavour seems to polish off some of the edges you would expect from Cantillion, but adds a bunch of new ones itself.

It adds a lot of petal, dandelions and similar floral notes which go into slightly charred and peppery notes later on. This side of things didn’t really work for me – so while the beer definitely improved on Cantillion’s usual drinking trajectory it doesn’t end up at the usual high. Just ends as a shrug and a “it’s ok.”

It is a white wine, floral and somewhat acidic thing that doesn’t grab me like the other Cantillons do and doesn’t feel like it earns the time to took for it to improve.

A distinctly sub optimal Cantillon.

Background: Shockingly (ok, not shockingly, maybe mildly surprisingly) I did not pick this up at the Moor Taphouses’ Zwanze day. They had sold out. Instead I found it in Independent Spirit a few weeks later. I’m guessing it came across as part of the same batch though. Anyway, this is a lambic made with elderflower in two year old lambic. Another new one on me – Cantillon seem to have more of these unusual experiments than I would have expected. Wasn’t sure what music was appropriate for this, so just went with an old favourite of New Model Army – No Rest For The Wicked. When in doubt go for some punk.

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