Tag Archive: Belgium


3 Fonteinen: Zwet.be (Belgium: Porter: 7% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin to middling creamy brown head that leaves suds but has a quite short lifespan.

Nose: Sour red wine. Black cherry. Coca dust. Rum soaked raisins. Chocolate liqueurs.

Body: Tart black cherry. Charring. Black cherry sour sweets. Salt water. Cold stones. Touch of Pocari Sweat drink. Bready. Soft pineapple. Dry raisins. Lightly tart.

Finish: Charring and bitter character. Oats. Bitter cocoa dust. Brown bread. Salt water. Cloying coffee notes. Soft pineapple. Dry Madeira. Tart apple.

Conclusion: The sour stout, or in this case sour porter, is one of the odder styles to have come out of recent years. In fact if anything this is somehow both more odd and more restrained that previous examples I’ve tried. Maybe it is more odd because it is more restrained. Which may need some breaking down to make sense.

The nose provides full on mix of sour wine, fruity experience with chocolate hints – it is something really fresh and bursting with flavour. Unfortunately the rest of the beer is not that.

The body is drier, with charred notes and even a slightly salty character – it is full of the heavier, rougher notes that can come with a porter. The tarter notes are there, but as gentle additions not super sour intrusions – it gives dark fruit early on, but somehow late on lambic like green fruit and pineapple hints give very subtle fresher notes.

Warmth gives it more of what you would expect – tart black cherry and spirit soaked raisins – chilling really hurt this, making it far too pedestrian. Warmth makes this reasonable – still quite dry, but with fruit range of both dark and light fruit. The biggest disappointment is the porter backing to that. The porter character is often relegated to a dank (in the cold wet cave style of the meaning, not the resinous hop style of the meaning) background that seems to bring down the sour notes rather than enhance them.

Overall an ok beer, but one of the weaker sour stouts/porters I have encountered.

Background: So, something more than just a bit unusual here – a beer from 3 Fonteinen, celebrated sour beer makers, but according to a quick google brewed at De Proefbrouweij – a famed contract brewer. I’m guessing they did that to prevent yeast infection issues from the wild yeast. Anyway, this one is a porter brewed with lambic yeast. So, yeah, odd as heck. Drank while listening to some Siouxsie and the Banshees for appropriate backing to that oddness. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

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Oud Beersel: Oude Geuze Vieille Vandervelden 135 Years (Belgium: Gueuze Lambic: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy yellow and pale. Small bubbled carbonation with a small white head rim.

Nose: Oats. Clean and tart. Dry white wine. Light white grapes. Muesli.

Body: Fizzy. Champagne. Slight cheesy yeast that rises. Dry sherry. Black cherry. Chalk touch. Madeira. Dried apricot. Apple cider. Moderate funky character.

Finish: Dry sherry. Sultanas. Slight chalk. Light tart apples and grapes. Plums. Tart cider. Cheese puffs.

Conclusion: Been trying a few of these darker barrel contents aged lambics recently – I quite enjoy them – they add a nice depth to what is traditionally a more sharp flavour dominated style. This one lets the wine foeder ageing show through more obviously than the others I have encountered. Lots of raisins, through into plums and black-cherry rising up out of the fresh beer.

It feels like a traditional lambic mixed up with tons of Christmas fruitcake imagery – It still shows the cider notes and white wine influence that I associate with lambics and delivers them it a dry style – however that imagery is easy matched, if not exceeded, by the red wine notes that come through.

The main lambic style is not too harsh – the traditional horse blankets aroma is muted and the main body is dry rather than sharp. It feels very dry white wine like as I’ve mentioned and it is a solid base, but here is mainly just setting a lambic sandbox for the darker red wine notes to play in.

Together it is rich and rewarding, tasting much more red wine like than it looks and all nestled within a well done lambic character. It may show more of the foeder ageing than it does the base lambic, but it is nice to see the “wine of beers” showing something a bit more red wine and sherry styled to keep fans of that happy, while still not betraying the more white wine lambic base.

A very nice experience.

Background: Another beer I picked up as part of Independent Spirit’s big influx of unusual sours. This one is a mix of one year old lambic aged in foeders that had held red Brunello di Montalcino Tuscany wine and three year old lambic from Oud Beersel foeders. I’m presuming the 135 relates to the 135th anniversary of the brewery being set up (1882).

Rodenbach: Alexander (Belgium: Fruit Sour Brown: 5.6% ABV)

Visual: Clear black cherry red with off white head.

Nose: Red cherries. Tart. Gummed brown paper. Apple cider and pear perry air. Malt chocolate.

Body: Tart. Red cherries. Strawberry ice cream syrup. Cherry-aid. Fizzy. Morello cherries. Slight burn at back of throat.

Finish: Gummed brown paper. Cherry-aid. Strawberry ice cream syrup and raspberry ripple ice cream. Pears.

Conclusion: Ok, a few things off my chest first. This is very smooth for an aged Rodenbach – Maybe it is because I am mentally comparing it to the harsh, acidic, almost vinegar touched thing that is the Grand Cru, but I was expecting something much harsher in that vein, with accompanying complexity as a trade off.

This walks a different path, tending towards a cherry laden interpretation of the standard Rodenbach release – sweet, but slightly tart – with that very familiar gummed brown paper kind of note to it.

The beer is still slightly burning at the back of the throat in a call to the Grand Cru style, still slightly cider touched in acidity, though here with some perry notes as well. So, slightly sour and acidic but generally comparatively mellow in how it deals with those acidic notes.

The cherries are delivered in a harder to explain way. Initial impressions are of an artificial feeling mixing glacier cherries, ice cream syrup, raspberry ripple and cherry-aid. It is not unpleasant but isn’t what I expected – pretty sweet, in a dessert style but kind of cheap artificial feeling dessert. Thankfully it develops far from that – gaining a distinct juicy, kind of morello tart cherry depth. That is what helps make the beer – it makes it feel much more natural, and much more complex. It gives and juicy and sweet core that really cuts through the more artificial notes.

So, smoother than expected, just using just a little backing of that burn and weight familiar to Grand Cru fans. More artificial than expected but with a genuine quality core. Not what I expected then, more gentle, more fruity, and more easy drinking – Well vaguely more easy drinking, still not for people who aren’t looking for acidity or sourness. Ends up a very well done fruit ale with more depth than the short set of notes would suggest.

So very glad I managed to hunt this down.

Background: I have been waiting to get my hands on this one for oh so long! It is one of Michael Jackson’s listed 500 great beers, and has not been made for many a year now, until, finally it popped up again roughly a year ago. This was the first time I managed to find it in person, at my ever reliable booze supplier Independent Spirit. I broke it open while listening a bunch of tunes Warren Ellis curated together many a year ago to match the amount of time I have been waiting to try this. Makes sense to me.

Oude Geuze Boon: A L’ancienne Vat 109 Mono Blend (Belgium: Geuze Lambic: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Apricot skin coloured body. Large solid white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Fresh brown bread. Oats. Dry. Horse blankets.

Body: Sherbet lemon. Tart lime. Frothy mouthfeel. Brown bread. Dry sultanas and dry sherry. Oats. White wine. Marmalade.

Finish: Dry sherry. Raisins. Madeira. Slight liquorice. Marzipan. Tannins. Plums. Slight marmalade.

Conclusion: This is a strange one, in that it has a fairly condensed set of tasting notes, as you can see above, yet feels complex as hell. A lot of that comes down to mouthfeel, which I find hard to describe in as florid detail as taste seems to lend itself to. Still, I’ll give it a shot.

This is dry, like, white wine dry – yet it froths up in a sherbety fashion up front which gives a completely different first impression before it sinks into that dry main body. After that it finally leads out into a similarly dry, but red wine and tannins touched dark fruit and sherry finish. A lot of the variation is expressed in terms of feel – the tannins especially are as much feel as taste and the varied acidic, dry, sweet and fresh areas give layers to the comparatively simple flavours in a way that I still feel I have not quite explained.

So, onto the main flavours themselves – generally very dry sherry like, mixing dark fruits with vinous notes – yet, again, the first elements up front are fresh lemon and lime notes that are not seen later on. Generally though this takes the lambic base and turns it bone dry, dark and rewarding. There are slight marmalade notes late on as the flavours build up – I presume this is the cognac ageing coming to the fore, rather than expressing in the wine like notes – it really is a slow build and does not overwhelm the base lambic at all. While it may not have a huge range of notes, the way it delivers them slowly over time makes it very rewarding – everything becomes bigger and heavier over time changing in intensity if not in nature.

A lot of the best points come late on in the drink, especially the marmalade notes – this is actually a fairly good thing – they are intense notes that would have become sickly if brought on earlier.

Overall this is a brilliant lambic that is far more than it seems on paper. Well worth it.

Background: This was one of the lambics got in during Independent Spirit‘s very impressive batch of sours. There are still tons I want to get. Anyway I finally settled on this one as a) Boon have been very impressive in my experience and b) it is unusually aged in ex cognac casks. From a quick google it seems that it is 4th fill casks due to the cognac being too dominant in earlier fills which is interesting to know. Anyway, put on some White Zombie for drinking this – no reason, just felt like some retro horror themed metal. Who needs a reason for that?

De Cam: Wilde Bosbessen (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Very deep, cloudy black-cherry red. Moderate burgundy fizzy head.

Nose: Massive horse blankets. Some sulphur. Brown bread. Pungent dark berries. Oats. Black-cherry. Smoked cheese. Smoked meat.

Body: Acidic. Smoked salami. Blueberry. Apples to cider. Smoked cheese. Brown bread.

Finish: Black-cherry. Cider. White wine. Red cherries. Slight yogurt. Smoke. Gooseberry.

Conclusion: Where to start on this one? From the first moment you could sense the aroma sloughing off from the body and seeping over the edge of the glass. From the first moment I smelled this, I knew it was going to be something different.

A lot of fruit lambics seem to trade off some of the base lambic character when giving the fruit full rein – but this one overflows with huge horse-blankets character, sulphur and smoked cheese. The last one is what really made me pay attention. The beer really ramps up the funk and throughout the whole beer it delivered smoked meat and cheese notes amongst the more the common tarter cider apples like notes. It pushed this big wet hair meets brown bread aroma. Which again is something I say as a good thing despite how horrid those words may seem.

So, yeah that base brings funk and depth, but what about the berries? You may think that since I am concentrating on the smoke, meat and cheese that the funky character brings, that the berries are taking a back seat? Nope. There is a real deep, muggy, thick dark berry character here -working from sweeter blueberry, heavy black-cherry to slightly soured berry notes.

You end up with such a complex lambic as the two sides combine – so muggy, thick and musty – yet in a good way. It takes a mix of flavours that normally clash and mix them together for a complex beer, underlined with white wine like notes and dryness that make it all just that touch easier to drink and makes for a genius drink.

Great. Just amazing.

Background: A mildly odd, but not unheard of fruit for a lambic time this time – wild blueberries. After De Cam’s last different fruit choice worked out pretty well I decided it was worth giving this a go as well. 40KG of fruit is added per 100 litres of young lambic. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit – their new beer selection is going from strength to strength – I keep seeing beers I mean to pick up later, but by the next week there are more news arrivals I want. Drunk while listening to a mix of Mclusky and their spin off band Future Of The Left, after they were recommended to me – odd, energetic cool stuff. Will have to listen more.


Tilquin : Oude Quetsche Tilquin a L’ancienne (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy ruddy red to dried apricot. Small white bubbled rim for a head.

Nose: Black-cherry. Floral. Vanilla. Plums. Cherry blossoms. Dried apricot. Lightly tart apples. Horse blankets.

Body: Light mouthfeel. Brown bread. Tart apples. Moderate acidic character. Dried apricot. Strawberry. Sour plums. Dry Madeira. Light tayberry. Tannins. Lemon. Marzipan. Dry spice.

Finish: Tart apples. Dried apricot. Charred oak. Prunes. Lots of tannins. Dry sherry. Dried raisins. Plums. Acidic dryness. White wine. Raspberry. Strawberry.

Conclusion: I often find it odd how fruit lambics – while usually fruity as hell – often don’t taste massively of the fruit used to make them, instead emphasising what to seems to be a random other range of notes.

This, for example, is made with plums. It does have some plum notes, but more than that it gets interactions with the lambic to have it come across more as dry raisins and dry sherry like notes.

More normal is the base, with acidic apple and lemon notes working in a tart and moderately acidic base – not super mellow, not super sweet, dry or harsh. It feels very manageable, but still a distinctly tart lambic. It emphasises more a large amount of tannins, especially late on, giving a good amount of weight and grounded character to the body behind the freshness.

What is most unusual to encounter is the middle ground between the dark fruit and the fresh lambic – this is where the largest range of fruitiness comes out. They both merge to bring out very fresh raspberry to tayberry notes, some fresh strawberries and grounded dried apricot. This is what I tend to call the almost holographic flavours brought on by the mix of the base flavours and the acidity, and make up the front half of the beer; The initial impressions before the darker fruit of raisins and plums come in, which initially are in the latter half to the finish of the beer. Over time though the darker fruit rises, and come to take centre stage from sipping onwards as the flavours build up – closer to what you would expect from the chosen fruit.

I can see from this why plum isn’t the most commonly used fruit, not up there with cherry and raspberry, but it still does pretty darn well for itself. The base lambic is pretty darn good, and the plums take it to darker dry fruit notes in an unusual fashion – generally darker fruit I have seen used go in a sweeter direction. This feels closer to red wine sour influences, though you do get sweet almonds to marzipan late on to add a touch of sweetness to it.

This is almost a sherry lambic to my mind, with the dark fruit getting more notable the longer you spend with it. Definitely earns its spot as something different in the lambic league.

Background: This is the 2016/2017 batch of the beer – a lambic made with one and two year lambics, fresh plums and refermented in the bottle for three months. So, an unusual fruit choice which made me really want to try it. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was a big beer, so I put on some Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – heavy duty punk yo go with it.

Hanssens: Oudbeitje (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6% ABV)

Visual: Clear and still, with a gold to apricot skin colour.

Nose: Strawberry in a creamy fashion. Rose wine. Vanilla. White grapes. Acidic apple. Horse blankets and oats.

Body: Very tart. Oats. Mild strawberry. Dry cider. Acidic at the back of the throat. Slight nail polish imagery.

Finish: Strawberry. White wine. Lemon juice. Dry cider. Fresh apples. Slight vinegar. Tart raspberry. Slight nail polish air. Rose wine.

Conclusion: Ok, strawberries in a lambic – I was expecting this to be pretty unusual, so was excited going in. The excitement continued as I popped the cork out – there was lovely creamy strawberry aroma, matched with the tart rose wine character from the base lambic. It looked like this was going to be a brilliant balance of the lambic and the fruit.

What did surprise me at this early stage was how little colour the fruit seemed to add to the beer. It was possibly a little darker than the standard lambic, but not where near as bright or as colourful as the usual fruit lambics.

The initial flavours are promising – with slight strawberry into tart raspberry notes alongside a dry cider style lambic character. It is harsh at the back of the throat, but otherwise a good start.

Unfortunately over time a thicker, slightly unpleasant character emerges. The best way I can describe it is akin to breathing in the fumes of wood or nail polish. It’s thick, kind of gas fume like and far from pleasant. As time goes on even more this element gets heavier and heavier. This one element very much hurts the rest of the beer, and even made it feel like a chore to finish the last quarter of the beer.

So, a nice start, with promise, but by the end it was genuinely a bad experience. Maybe strawberries are not generally used in lambcis for a reason then. A pity as it showed such promise to begin with.

Background: Been looking for this one for a while – I hear about it in a 100 Belgian Beers To Try Before You Die, and it seemed interesting. A lambic made with the unusual choice of strawberries for the fruit choice. After many years of looking I finally found this in Manchester in the very well stocked Beermoth. Friendly staff as well, had a nice chat about lambics in there. I had hoped to go back to grab more beers, but time did not permit. Drunk while listening to Svalbard again – had just grabbed their Gone Tomorrow album off bandcamp.

Fantome: Vertignasse (Belgium: Saison: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Bright green. Massive green to white bubbled head.

Nose: Minty. Wheaty. Lamb stew. Lime. Coriander.

Body: Lime. Sage. Wheaty. Moderate bitterness. Peppery. Minty. Peppermint and mint leaves.

Finish: Lime jelly. Moderate bitterness. Wheaty. Malt drinks. Greenery. Peppery. Mint.

Conclusion: This is the, I think, 2nd green Fantome beer I have had. I think. It’s not something you expected to see more than one per brewery of at the most. Anyway, considering that there is strong suspicion that woodruff is used to make this green, that could explain that flavour that I am having a very hard time pinning down. I have never tried woodruff in anything except a Chorlton beer which a) similarly confused me and b) wasn’t green. So, anyway, could taste like woodruff for all I know, I’m doing my best here.

What seems to come out of the beer is a mix of lime and herbal sage notes over the usual peppery, high quality saison from Fantome. The result is good, but seems slightly less than the sum of its parts. The base seems to lead towards their awesome Spring Saison but the … you know what, right or wrong I’m going to call it woodruff for now just so I have a word for it rather than just saying “green thingy influence” … the woodruff influence does overpower a lot of the lighter subtle notes that made that beer so awesome.

Now, it’s still good – but also more one note, or really more two note with the strong lime and sage like notes. There is an impressive, slow building, bitterness backing it, but again this is matched by the fact it overpowers the lighter notes.

So, fairly decent – though another one I would say to share – despite the lower abv the flavours can get wearing if you solo this beer raid (If you forgive the video game reference). There is a cloying note and a minty character that raises up, adding complexity, but it still becomes heavy going over 750ml.

So, good, kind of one note – I would say to go with some of Fantome’s other excellent beers over this merely ok but not great one. The curse of having such a great line up is that only ok ones like this seem weak by comparison.

Background: Another beer with style disagreement online- depending on where you look it is described as a wit or a saison. Frankly, considering whatever was added to it to make it green, it isn’t close to any style really – but I have leant towards saison based on my experiences. I don’t think official word has been given on what makes it green, but a few people have guessed woodruff, which seems a fair call. I adore Fantome saisons, they rate from ok to bloody excellent, and from just excellent takes on a standard saison, to weird mad experiments. All good. This one was grabbed at Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to some Rhapsody – great fantasy, storytelling metal. This was drunk the night before heading up north to go watch NXT wrestling – so I knew good times were ahead.

Kazematten: Grotten Sante (Belgium: Belgian Ale: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown to black. Large brown small bubbled fizzy head.

Nose: Yeastie. Wheaty. Gentle raisins and sultanas. Clean hop bitterness. Still cola. Crushed stones. Minty and menthol.

Body: Fizzy. Earthy bitterness. Cola bottles. Charring. Sour dough. Cloying touch. Slightly mint. Chalk. Raisins.

Finish: Cola bottles. Charring. Earthy bitterness. Cloying cream. Sour dough. Palma violets. Menthol.

Conclusion: Ok, I remember loving this beer while it was in St Bernardus’ hands. Either my memory is shitter than I thought or Kazematten have really driven this beer into the ground.

It is a surprisingly fizzy feeling beer – and filled with a lot of rough flavours along with that. There’s chalk, crushed rock and earthy hop bitterness -with the rougher edges of these dominating. You get hints of some of the raisins I remember before, but that is the only call to dark fruits that you get – I would expect much more from a Belgian dark beer. Instead it manages some flat cola notes, which really aren’t a fair trade off for what you are missing.

There’s even some menthol, greenery and minty notes that would be refreshing if there were more heavy notes for it to work off and refresh from. I mean it does give relief from the charred character, that much is true and good, but usually these fresher notes work well against heavy hop bitterness or sweet notes to prevent them from becoming excessive. Those things just aren’t present here.

What I once viewed as a favourite seems to have become a genuinely bad beer in new hands. Bad in itself, doubly bad compared to what it once was.

Background: This was a beer made by St Bernardus for many years under the name Grottenbier – after the original brewer sold them the rights. This seems to be the new home for it with Kazematten. I’m unsure if the grottenbier is still being brewed by St Bernardus, or if this has replaced it. Any which way – a beer aged in cold caves for an extended period of time. The grottenbier is currently one of my favourite beers I have never got around to doing notes for, so I hope this one holds up to that reputation. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to Brassick’s album – some great punk tunes.

De Cam: Nectarine Lambiek (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy tropical fruit juice colour. Still. Slight white head.

Nose: Tart. Oats and muesli. Slight raisins to dry Madeira. Dry pineapple. Mashed fruit. Subtle orange.

Body: Tart orange and mandarin orange. Nectarines. Slight flour. Sharp pineapple. Sour fruit stone centers. Tart pineapple. Slight oats. Slight vanilla. Peach melba.

Finish: Tart orange. Nectarines. Stewed fruit notes. Tart. Lots of pineapple. Tart grapefruit. Dry at the end. Vanilla.

Conclusion: This is fruit dominated. Like, super fruit dominated. This surprised me. I have got used to the more unusual fruit lambics having pretty subtle influence from the fruit. I have figured that the reason Cherry, Raspberry, et al are the go to choice is because frankly they work. The other fruit lambics tend to be interesting, but tend to have more influence from the base lambic character. This – well, wow – this seems to match sour nectarines with tart mandarin orange, with lots of pineapple and grapefruit as it is mixed with the base.

With nectarine being a lighter coloured fruit I was, again, expecting this to mean that the base lambic would be more noticeable. This impression was reinforced by the first encounter with the aroma – the first notes that hit are dry and quite oaty; So I thought that the base was going to follow with that dry and rural character. The texture of the base beer is quite oat filled, but a mix of tart fruit quickly comes in to fill up that space nigh instantly. It results it a feeling akin to sucking fruit flesh off the sour fruit stone centres; Slightly harsh, very tart and very fresh and flavoursome.

It really is a sour fruit mash up – it doesn’t have the subtlety of the more famous lambics – instead it just tries shoving everything out at once. The closest you get to progression is that, while it is quite dry at the start, it ends up being remarkably juicy – with its only real subtlety being in the subtle vanilla sweetness picking it up.

This isn’t a classic lambic – but it does use the lambic base well as a delivery system for something tart and fruity, rather than using the base as an element in itself. A heck of a fresh experience.

Background: Saw this one at Independent Spirit a while back – and I was intrigued at its unusual choice of fruit for a lambic. However it is fairly expensive, so it was only recently I decided to take the plunge and pick it up. This, as you may have guess from the name is a lambic made with nectarines. It is fairly obvious, no? Anyway, broke this open after watching Logan at the cinema. Amazing movie – blows the lacklustre first two Wolverine movies away. Drunk while listening to Judas Priest – Screaming For Vengeance. Old school metal time!

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