Tag Archive: Belgium


Tilquin: Gueuzerable Tilquin (Belgium: Gueuze: 10% ABV)

Visual: Light caramel to toffee body. Lots of small bubbled carbonation in a clear, if slightly hazy body. Large caramel to off white head.

Nose: Clean. White wine. Subtle milky coffee. Subtle dry fudge. Funky yeast character. Honeycomb.

Body: Tart green grapes. Very dry. Subtle maple syrup. Dry white wine. Tannins. Oak. Subtle toffee.

Finish: Maple syrup. Dried apricot. Dry white wine. Wet oak. Tannins. Yeast funk.

Conclusion: Ok, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a lambic made with maple syrup. Would there be much maple syrup character left after the sugars had been converted? Would it just be a high abv lambic? Well now I have drunk it I am still not 100% sure what I got. Also I am still in coronavirus UK lock-down. Still, I have booze so I am ok for now.

I mean, at the base it is a dry lambic. Very dry, which I found surprising considering the considerably beefed up abv that I was expecting to bring a bigger body.

There are lots of white wine notes here, dry and backed by a touch of tannins and funk. Not mouth puckeringly dry like a Cantillon, but very distinctly dry.

And yet…

There is also more sweetness to this than the average lambic – possibly residual non fermented sugar? Possible maple syrup? Both? Magic? I dunno. It is a kind of dry toffee and fudge character, with some maple syrup notes in there as well, but still all deathly dry.

So, is it any good? Generally, yes. There are some hints of the alcohol, but not much – which is a mixed blessing. It makes it dangerous to drink, especially with the dry character – but it means that an alcohol air is the only rougher element marking the flavour.

The sweetness is subtle, dry, but makes for a a very different take to what would otherwise by a very dry white wine lambic. It adds a little something that makes it stand out.

Not a must have, and very heavy abv for the flavours it brings, but very interesting and satisfying as a lambic.

Background: Soooo, a lambic made with Maple Syrup. What the actual fuck? Yes of course I bought it. I had to see how it worked. It is made with a mix of 1,2 and 3 year old lambic, and oh, yeah is fermented with maple syrup for the sugars! Anyway, grabbed this from Independent Spirit and was fascinated to see what change this could make to a lambic. Went back to Miracle Of Sound: Level 10 for music for this. Such a good mix of music styles in video game inspired music. Check it out.

Martens: Buho Strong (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Massive white head that leaves lace.

Nose: Cane sugar. Clean. Candyfloss. Naan bread like hops. Lightly earthy. Brown bread. Watermelon. Nail polish.

Body: Banana sweets. Cane sugar. Jolly ranchers. Earthy bitterness. Brown bread. Coriander. Apple sweets to apples. Vanilla.

Finish: Apple hard sweets. Candyfloss. Unleavened bread. Earthy bitterness touch. Watermelon. Vanilla.

Conclusion: This beer I took to be a strong lager on first pour. It was pale, fizzy, and let’s face it lager is by far the most popular beer style in India so I wasn’t exactly betting against the odds by thinking that was what I had here.

A quick sniff told me that I was way wrong. While this has a touch of nail polish oddness around the edges this is very evidently a strong Belgian blond beer, with even hints leaning towards a Tripel interpretation. Though the abv tells me that it most definitely is not that.

It has those cane sugar notes, and is quite fruity, though in a quite artificial kind of hard sweets styling. Like crushed fruity sweet had been dissolved in the drink. It leans very heavily into banana sweets in the sweetness even more so than the cane sugar – and, considering the abv, I was surprised there were not any custard like malty notes here, all of which remind me again of a tripel.

Despite the abv and those sweet notes it actually feels quite well attenuated and dry in the mouthfeel. Very drinkable in feel, even if that comes with a few rough edges in the flavours, though thankfully not too many. The big thing to stop it being an easy drinker is, you guessed it, the high abv.

Shock that.

It is pretty well balanced, with the dry mouthfeel working well with the sweet and artificial main flavour so neither gets too heavy. It has a slightly earthy, bready hop character and light spice that grounds it nicely through that. Not the most polished Belgian beer but it shows all the expected characteristics in nicely contrasting layers.

Not a must have, those few nail polish like notes that I think are hints of alcohol don’t show the beer at its best. However here in India where I am doing these notes I am happy to find something a bit different, and it is a well enough done release from all the lagers I see that I am enjoying it.

Background: Ok, googling gives me very little info on this. I had grabbed it at a beer store in India thinking it was another untried local beer, but a quick check of the can shows that it is actual made in Belgium. Which is odd as I have never heard of it. The can says it is part of Martens set of beers, but I can find nearly no record of its existence, and what little I do is from in India, so maybe it is a beer they brew for that market? No idea. Anyway with these notes I am doing my little bit for increasing its web presence a tad for future searchers.

Cantillon: Cuvee Saint Gilloise (Belgium: Lambic: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear pale yellow. Slightest haze to it. Thin white head.

Nose: Fluffy popcorn. Mild horse blankets. Elderberry. Tart. White wine to champagne. Crushed walnuts.

Body: Big. Tart. Lightly chalky. Light sulphur. Dry nuttiness. Rocks. Fluffy feel. Palma violets. Charred. Dried apricot.

Finish: Crushed peanuts. Light sulphur. Cold stones. Tart grapes. White wine. Pepper. Slight oily. Generally nutty.

Conclusion: Ok, this is both kind of normal, and also kind of unusual. Which may be one of the worst opening sentences I have ever written. What this means it is either a really interesting beer, or I am just really shit at doing these kind of notes.

It is a toss up between the two really.

Anyway, at it’s base this is a fairly standard Cantillon lambic – Dry, mouth puckering with white wine like notes and a horse blanket aroma. If you have had a Cantillon lambic you know the drill and know that it will be good. It is decent – not the best Cantillon I have encountered but the usual high quality you would expect from the brewery.

The hops are what make it different – more sulphurous, bitter and slightly oily – but more than that, what they mainly add is a very nutty character. I mean, I know lambics can be nutty anyway, but I’m fairly sure most of this is coming from the hops. Probably.

It’s a fluffier, mildly oilier, feeling lambic – a tad heavier mouthfeel. None of these are massively so , but gives a bit of grip and takes it away from the super dry lambic character that is more expected here. Like nearly all Cantillons, it is good, but the hop usage, while interesting, doesn’t feel like it makes the beer better, rather than just unusual.

It makes it feel darker, weightier and more bitter – I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy my time with it, especially the oily bitterness which was probably my favourite part of the more unusual character– but I didn’t feel like it made the beer better overall, just more bitter.

Still good, which, now I am more used Cantillons, I find most are – but t is a more expensive one, and doesn’t show any real extra quality for that extra cost.

Background: New Cantillon! Strange how, over the years, I’ve gone from being wary of Cantillion to adoring them and grabbing any release from them I have not tried before whenever I can. This one was grabbed at Zwanze Day, over at the Moor Tap Room. Zwanze day is a day when a few select places get to serve a one off beer made by Cantillon – a different one each year. This year it was a smoked lambic – very nice, the smoke was subtly used and gently built up over time rather than being a dominant punch. Was very much worth the trip. This beer however is a 2 year lambic that has been dry hopped with Hallertau. Had a bit of a problem getting the cork out of this one – it basically was crumbling on the way out, but I think I managed to keep it out of the beer itself. Went with Tool for music while drinking. Again. Yes I know. It is just such a good album.

De Strusie: Aardmonnik – Earth Monk 2013 Vintage (Belgium: Flemish Bruin: 8% ABV)

Visual: Very dark black cherry red to brown. Thin grey brown dash of a head.

Nose: Strong brandy cream. Rich red wine. Fruitcake. Glacier cherries and raisins. Malt chocolate.

Body: Vinegar. Malt drinks. Earthy. Dry white wine. Dry middle. Rich red wine. Blueberry. Yellow raspberry. Brandy cream late on. Pinot noir.

Finish: Dry white wine. Tart grapes to sour grapes. Tannins. Earthy. Teabags. Dry red wine. Yellow raspberry.

Conclusion: This is Vinous! As! Fuck! So, that is first impression dealt with.

Actually, that said, let’s take a bit more time to go over first impressions. Contradictory as that may seem – there are some interesting points here. Because the vinous first impressions is an overall first impression of the beer. The aroma was actually very different – the aroma is all dark and spirity, promising heavy fruitcake, deep dark fruit and a mix of strong spirits.

That first impression is bollocks.

The first impressions on first sip had me very disappointed. It was vinegar touched and very earthy that seemed simple and paid off none of the promise of the aroma. I was disappointed, but I should have remembered that generally I have to take a bit longer than normal to acclimatise to sours.

Time creates something very different to the first impressions, either the aroma of those first sips. Dry white wine at the base, still earthy and tannin touched. Then slowly tart blueberry and yellow raspberry notes come out, before it blossoms into rewarding red wine that mixes well with the fresher and tarter fruit notes. It becomes even richer wine over time, feeling like a tart beer meets pinot noir, which is quite an experience.

It is a slow burn beer, going from the initial simple tart grape and vinegar notes into a remarkably deep and expressive beer, with the earthiness becoming balanced by much malt drinks and malt chocolate. Shoot, very late on it even pays off those spirit cream notes that the aroma promised long before.

It is a hard beer to get into, which does keep it from being a favourite, but it rewards you when you get below the surface. Challenging but rewarding.

Background: I’ve been looking this for ages. One of the beers in 100 Belgian Beers to Try Before You Die and one that is released very rarely. You can see why, this one has spent 5 years in a Burgundy cask, that is something that may hold up your release schedule a while. Anyway, I never found it for all my searching. However my mate Tony saw it while he was in Belgium and grabbed it for me. So many thanks for that Tony. Anyway, went with Tool again while drinking – the new album gets better every time I listen to it.

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.

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.

%d bloggers like this: