Tag Archive: Belgium


Cantillon: Zwanze 2021 – Parasol (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 5% ABV)

Visual: Slightly darkened apricot skin. Brown bread colour touched thin head.

Nose: Very fresh lemon. Citrus tart orange. Slightly bready. Light horse blankets and hint of sulphur.

Body: Pancakes. Jiff lemon. Crumpets sans butter. Peppery. Lemon juice. Orange juice. Honey. Gooseberries.

Finish: Peppery. Orange juice with bits. Lemon juice. Tart grapes. Menthol touch. Light peppermint.

Conclusion: This is so freaking citrus as heck and fresh. It absolutely bursts with the citrus notes from the aroma right to the last embers of flavour from the finish of the last drops that you sipped. There is so much orange and lemon styled notes and they all feel so natural and so fresh. Clearly themselves , something a lot of other fruits seem to find hard. Those fruits are still enjoyable in how they mesh with the sour lambic, but these are possibly the most cleanly identifiable fruit notes in a lambic I have encountered.

Like nigh every Cantillon that exists that isn’t the whole story though. This isn’t as sour or mouth puckering as you would expect from a Cantillon. It feels like the citrus character has mellowed the tartness, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to examine. There is a lovely low level peppery character that is such a good underline to the very fresh experience. On the other end of the scale it has a sweet honey touch that just pops up the experience a bit.

It hasn’t got the grace of a lot of Cantillon beers, but it is just bursting with flavour in every direction. I really enjoy it, even in its graceless nature. Is is so different, that freshness is unlike anything I have seen in lambics before, a very clean bright freshness rather than the sour, puckering freshness of most lambics. It may not be classy, but I just love that it shows there are still things to be discovered in what can be done with lambics.

We need someone, possibly even Cantillion to take this idea and run with it as if they can do this on first try (or technically second based on their attempt 70 years ago) then I’m sure that they can polish it up to something special. As is this is still fun as hell.

Background: This is it, I finally did notes on a Zwanze day beer! I have had two before, but never did notes. For those who are not aware, Zwanze day is when Cantillon releases a unique beer each year, and a limited number of places around the world have access to put it on tap. I happen to be lucky that Moor’s Taproom is competitively easy to get to and have had Zwanze day events for a few years now. I missed last years Zwanze as, well covid and lack of vaccines. This year I was still nervous, but they split the event into three smaller groups, with drinking done outside and that helped me decide to give it a go. This years Zwanze is a blend of lambic and citrus fruit (mostly orange says nigh every site I look at). Apparently they tried a similar thing about 70 years ago, but ended up with corks exploding out of bottles from the re-fermentation and the brewers running for cover and getting drenched. Thankfully it seemed more stable this time. I love that little story, tales behind beers and drinking them is one of my favourite things about this pastime. I nearly missed out on this despite being at the event – my booking was for between 16.00-19.00 and I am used to the Zwanze pour being later in the event in past years, so was not too worried when my train was delayed so I was 15 mins late. Turns out they did it as the first pour of the night! Thankfully they trusted me that I was not trying to grab a second and poured my Zwanze for me. Many thanks! There was no abv listed but the staff let me know if was 5% abv when asked.

Cantillon: Fou’foune (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy dark lemon juice to apricot skin. Thin white rim of a head.

Nose: Tart. Grapes. Apricot skin. Oats. Light horse blankets. Wet with fruit remains apricot stones.

Body: Tart. White wine. Fresh apricot that alters to dried apricot over time. Grapes. Thick grape syrup tart middle. Acidity. Cider. Dry oak. Lightly bitter.

Finish: Tart grapes. Apricot skin. Honey. Apricot syrup. Tart apples.

Conclusion: This a comparatively relaxed and yet still very flavoursome Cantillon. It does have the acidity of a Cantillon, but the fruit choice seems to have gone a long way towards keeping it from being too mouth puckeringly sour.

The apricot is delivered remarkably well. It comes through as drier apricot skin like notes front, then that sweeter clinging dried apricot notes in the middle, into a slightly syrup like release at the end. In fact that syrup character does show in the middle as well, just there it is more just the thickness with a slight grape taste that gives a lovely release from the drier Cantillon base. Finally there is a low level oat feeling bitterness underneath it at all times.

These three layers make it work wonderfully – the sweeter fruit touches gives release from the sourness. The tart Cantillon style, while not as high as usual makes for a solid rewarding main middle and the dry bitter touches ground it. Around all this the rest of the rewarding complexities of the fruit roam and reward you.

This probably the best introduction to Cantillion I have seen. Delicious, fruity but reins in the more mouth puckering side of Cantillion without completely hiding the sourness. I never thought I would find an easy drinking Cantillon, and I still haven’t, but I feel this is the closest thing we will ever get to it and it is lovely.


Background: Sooo Fou’foune is a bit of a rude word it turns out. I am so innocent and had no idea until anyone told me. Honest. Anyway, an advantage of of drinking with others at Zwanze day is someone let me know the rude pun of the name. This is unusual in that it is a lambic made with apricots, which is very far from a standard lambic fruit choice. This is listed in “100 Belgian beers to try before you die” where they oddly say that the taste has “little or no apricot or peach” – I have seen arguments that this beer is at its best when very fresh, so possibly the fruit fades fast and I was very lucky to try it on tap at the aforementioned Zwanze day when it was, I presume, very fresh. I only did notes on this and the Zwanze day beer, but the tap list at the Zwanze day event at Moor Taproom was immense. Magic Lambic was on, Camerise, Menu Pineau, Nath and more. I wish I could have spread my drinking over several days so I was in good tasting condition to do notes on more! So many rare Cantillon beers I had never seen anywhere else. I looked up the abv for this online as it was not listed, most say 5.5% which is what I put. Some say 5%. So around that region.

Brussels Beer Project: Pico Nova – Zero West Coast IPA (Belgium: Low Alcohol: 0.3% ABV)

Visual: Clear browned gold. An inch of off white mounded head. Very little carbonation visible.

Nose: Ovaltine. Crushed bourbon biscuits. Malt chocolate. Musty hop character and bitterness. Choc orange. Brown bread and sour dough.

Body: Ovaltine. Greenery. Moderate hop bitterness. Slight iced tea. Slight toffee. Fresh calls to grapefruit.

Finish: Iced tea. Lemon pancakes. Moderate hop bitterness. Slight choc orange. Malt drinks. Dry coffee remains. Slight grapefruit hints in the air. Vanilla. Lightly peppery.

Conclusion: Generally when I think of a west coast IPA I think dry, an out of the way malt character, high hop bitterness and sometime a bit of hop fruitiness and/or tartness to go along with it.

This actually feels quite malt led, which is both odd for a west coast, and impressive for a low alcohol beer that can’t use too much of the malt to get the flavour. There is a lot of malt drinks, malt chocolate and even some dry toffee notes in there. Despite being traditionally sweet notes, they don’t express here in a very sweet way, so it isn’t like it tastes like a bigger, sweeter East Coast IPA – it is just a tad sweeter, darker and more present malt than you would expect from its description.

The hops are moderately bitter, prickly, with a bit of greenery amongst the notes. Not super heavy, but noticeable over the malt character so doing the job that hops should do. The hop flavours that come from that are subtly done. There is a gentle backing freshness that calls to grapefruit, and a slight sweetness to the chocolate malt that calls to choc orange. Nothing too out there, just a slight freshness and rounding sweetness that adds to that base.

Behind all this is a pretty savoury, bready basic character that, again, is weightier than expected. There are some slight low abv tells to this, mainly in a hint of that iced teas style, but generally its tendency is towards being more a neutral feeling middle than anything obviously low alcohol.

It is kind of west coast, but feels half east and half west coast overall – nothing too showy, though the slightly tart notes pick up as the beer goes on which is welcome. A reasonable beer that doesn’t quite fit a style or a theme, and can end up slightly indistinct in character as a result despite having some quite big feeling flavours in there.

Not bad, does the bitterness well, but needs a bit of sparkle to help it really work.

Background: Now most people who have been around this blog a while will know I love a good West Coast IPA. So, when I saw, as part of my recent batch of low alcohol beers from light drinks, that they were calling one a 0.3% abv west coast IPA it had my attention. Even more intriguing it is a Belgian brewery doing it, which is not what I would have expected. Went back to some classic 90s tunes with Garbage’s first self titled album for music. I still adore that album.

Het Anker: Gouden Carolus: Indulgences: Funken (Belgium: Smoked Belgian Strong Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual: Amber gold clear body. Lots of small bubbled carbonation to the body. Ridiculously large yellow white head that leaves a lot of suds around the glass.

Nose: Meaty. Smoke. Beef broth. Dried, smoked pepperonis to pepperoni pizza. Brown bread. Coriander. Orange peel.

Body: Prickly. Smoke. Charred burnt meat bits. Slightly dry. Brown sugar. Brown bread. Orange skin. Lemon zest. Peat. Some mature cheese.

Finish: Charring. Chalk. Smoke. Dry. Dried beef slices. Slight salt. Malt chocolate. Orange zest. Lemon zest. Brown sugar. Peppery. Slight mature cheese.

Conclusion: Ok, this reminds me of that peated golden ale, Rex Attitude. It seems even with the heavier Gouden Carolous amber beer base that this, like Rex Attitude, cannot put up much to stand in the way of the sheer assault of the peated malt.

Well, initially anyway. Flavours do manage to come out over time, but they are so different from what I would expect from a standard Gouden Carolous Classic that, combined with the beer’s colour, I am fairly sure they didn’t use that one as their base beer when working out the recipe for this.

Initially it is very smoke driven, especially on the aroma, and it uses that smoke alongside a variety of meaty impressions that really hammer home the heavier style. The body after that is pretty much the same, just drier. The aroma had a touch more fatty meat style while the body feels a more attenuated thing that makes the smoke and charring even more potent.

At this point in time it is a not complex, but powerful assault of a beer.

Over time some of the base beer does manage to show itself past the smoke. There is brown sugar on the sweeter side, and orange and lemon zest on the fruitier side of things. Never a heavy set, but it is nice to see the base beer trying to make an impact so the heavy smoke doesn’t ruin you.

Over time the smoke mellows and the richer notes manage to mix with it and control it, allowing a touch of mature cheese character to come out, giving some class to the whole thing.

With the beer tasting nothing like the classic Gouden Carolous I’m guessing either the peat utterly killed it, or they picked a very different recipe for the base beer for this. Which is a pity, as I feel this needs a creamier, dark fruit weighty character that the classic beer shows to really have something to balance and pop against the peat.

As is it is a lovely smoke assault but the base fails to match or balance it, instead just letting out those little orange and brown sugar notes that are ok, but really don’t manage to pull their weight. It means that you get a decent enough beer for utter peat heads but it feels like it falls short of what it could have been.

Background: This came out a while back, being the 2020 Summer release of the (I think yearly) Indulgence series, where Het Anker try something a bit different with their Gouden Carolous series. So, yep this already has a year of ageing under its belt, which is of special note hear as the special trick this year is that it uses peated malt. Now peat tends to fade fast, but that is mostly noticeable in whisky terms while it is in oak, I don’t think a year for a beer in a bottle will have done much to lighten that aspect. As a peat fan this seemed very interesting to me, so I grabbed a bottle from Independent Spirit. Gouden Carolous Classic is one of my old favourite beers, so there was a lot going in this thing’s favour. Went back to some old school punk with Anti Nowhere League: We Are The League. I’m having less and less thematic reasons for my music picks these days, I just felt like some more punk tunes.

Bosteels (AB Inbev): Tripel Karmeliet (Belgium: Tripel: 8.4% ABV)

Visual: Clear, medium brightness gold. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Massive mounded white head.

Nose: Peppery. Coriander. Wheaty bitterness. Vanilla. Orange zest. Lightly earthy. Turmeric.

Body: Peppery bitterness. Oily character. Menthol, with a sap like core. Greenery touch. Vanilla. Thick. Sweet brown sugar. Orange zest. Wheaty. Crusty white bread. Brown rice.

Finish: Peppery. Slightly oily. Good bitterness. Brown rice. Orange zest. Lemon zest. Brown sugar. Grapes.

Conclusion: What I’ve always like about this beer over this years is that, quite frankly, it is an utter mess, but a glorious mess in that and one I’ve always enjoyed.

That may sound strange, but follow me on this one. It is distinctly peppery in its characteristics, yet that spice works alongside brown sugar raw sweet notes at its heights. Despite a dry edge this has a oily feel to the core, with accompanying bitterness. Yet that texture also comes across as a sap like menthol thickness that refreshes rather than bites. You have orange zest fresh notes working against a savoury brown rice base. So many notes you normally wouldn’t find together all cohabiting here in perfect harmony in an oily, dry, sweet, citrus, spicy, etc, etc way.

It is a high alcohol beer, and feels it, but in a way that shows itself as an odd, well attenuated kind of alcoholic haze. There is nothing too evident, but there is always a dry alcohol shimmer that makes you take care of what you are drinking, without hurting the overall experience.

It comes with a lovely cornucopia of flavours that somehow mesh despite the fact that they really shouldn’t and should just make an utter car wreck of a beer instead. Bitterness, sweetness, alcohol, savoury, sweet, spicy, I’ve been over this already, it just plays with so many flavour styles.

It is a joy, but one I am sure is not for everyone as it is a lot of a mess, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a big fan, and there is a lot to enjoy here if you go with it.

Background: This is one of the Belgian beers I first encountered many a year ago, when I was just starting on my beer hunting journey, and a big fan of it I was back then. So of course I never did notes on it until now. I even had a Tripel Karmeliet glass, which was one of my favourite glasses, until I broke it. It turns out that being drunk often around glass can cause breakages. Who would have thought it? This was picked up from Waitrose, but many places seem to have it in, it is fairly easy to get. Though the Brexit related delivery issues of recent months seem to make it harder to find in some places. Went with Crass – The Feeding of 5000 for music. Crass is one of those well reputed, classic punk bands that passed me by back in the day so I thought I would make an effort to check them out. Impressed so far.

Halve Maan: Straffe Hendrik Tripel Wild 2021(Belgium: Sour Ale: 10% ABV)

Visual: Clear, slightly hazy yellow gold colour body. Some small bubbled carbonation. Medium sized, unbalanced layers of white mounded head.

Nose: Funky yeast. Cane sugar. Brown bread. Sulphur. Cheese puff crisps. Sour dough. Pepper. Light greenery.

Body: Lime touch. Vanilla. Funky character. Cheese puff crisps. Mature cheddar. Peppery. Dry. Cane sugar. Greenery. Tart grapefruit,

Finish: Peppery. Mature cheese. Funky character. Smoke. Raspberry air. Dry vanilla fudge.

Conclusion: Ok, I know what a Straffe Hendrik Tripel tastes like. I know in general what sour beers taste like. With all that in mind, I was in no way expecting what this tastes like.

I mean, there are hints of the base tripel here – cane sugar notes, some dry fudge, but way drier than normal. This is attenuated as heck and with that has the peppery character turned way up.

Added into that is a huge amount of yeasty funk, a touch of sulphur, cheese puff crisp mouthfeel and wisp of smoke that gives a wonderful texture and style to this whole thing. This is then tarted up with grapefruit and lime like notes, and in fact a general tart yet dry freshening character that should be familiar to anyone who has has some experience with wild yeast made beers.

It makes for something that calls to the dryness of a lambic, but is most definitely not a lambic. It has the cane sugar notes of a tripel but is definitely not a tripel. It is fluffy , full textured and plays very much to showing this unusual mouthfeel, but is not limited to that. It lets some thicker, sweeter notes out, but still is led on by its dry core. There is such contrast of feels, flavours, aromas and styles that makes it fascinating in every moment to explore.

So, I love it and yes, I have one set aside to age – I want to see what this does over the years. I highly recommend it if you are into wild, sour beers but don’t want to limit your experience to just lambics. This has such good tart, funky character matched to a super dry tripel and works both to perfection.

Background: First problem I had with this is, should I list it as Sour or Tripel? It is based on Straffe Hendrik Tripel but made with wild yeast which make it sour soooo. In the end I went with sour. Sue me. Looking online it seems that there is some variance between the releases of this. The 2015 version came in at 9% as one example. Anyway, this looked very interesting so I grabbed one to do notes on and one to age for later – wild yeast tends to be amazing for beer ageing. I had the chance to visit the Halve Maan brewery while in Bruges – a nice wee tour, great view of the city from the building top, and some unfiltered, unpasturised beer available at the end of it. All nice. Not much else to add, this was bought from Independent Spirit, and I put on Nine Inch Nails: The Downwards Spiral while drinking. Yes I am in a happy mood a lot currently. Why do you ask?

Struise: Pannepot: Vintage 2020 (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 10% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to almost black. Thin off white dash of a head. No visible carbonation bubbles.

Nose: Raisins. Plums. Very rich. Cocoa dust. Licorice. Brandy cream. Slightly dry fudge.

Body: Smooth. Brown bread. Cake sponge. Sherry soaked raisins. Bitter red wine. Bourbon whiskey. Warming alcohol. Licorice touch. Bourbon biscuits.

Finish: Dry fruitcake to Christmas cake. Glacier cherries. Raisins. Vanilla cake sponge. Watered down bourbon whiskey. Bitter red wine.

Conclusion: Shortly after finally doing notes on Chimay Blue, I return to talk about another big Belgian beer that is in the “how have I never done notes on this before” camp. It is a surprisingly well populated camp. I did do notes on the barrel aged Reserve version, but not the standard

So, having had this many a time before, I return to it, with no surprise that it turns out it is great. It opens with full on dark fruit, spirity notes, and with drier takes on what would normally be sweet flavours. The body hides the 10% abv very well. It feels heavy, sure, but always far from feeling boozy. In fact, one of my few minor complaints with this is that it can feel just slightly light early on, leaning into a smoother take on the mouthfeel in a way I associate with the USA take on the style. Now, this is only in the mouthfeel side of things, the flavours always have those delicious edges and the texture does build up over time allowing it to come up to its proper potency by the end.

The body is heavy into the fruit cake, sherry and bourbon, with a mix of other vinous and spirity touches really making it feel like a treat. Not a simple, sweet beer for that pleasure, but a rewarding mix of heavy flavours. In fact, considering the complete lack of any fancy barrel ageing going on here, this somehow manages to taste oak smoothed and spirit aged. Such an impressive feat.

The only off flavour is a liquorice light touch, which isn’t even that bad, it is just liquorice isn’t my favourite flavour in most beers – so with this being well integrated it is just the fact it isn’t 100% my thing, and that is the worst I can say here.

This is complex and rewarding in a huge way – it never takes the easy road to get there, but rewards you with an intoxicating (literally considering the abv) mix of flavours that it restrains just enough to not be overwhelming.

A wonderful, worthy, beer

Background: I tried Pannepot many a year ago, pretty early into my beer exploring days. Think I may have started the blog around that time, or maybe just before. I’d grabbed a batch of beers from a now closed shop in the Netherlands – Which, back then was one of the few ways I could get some of the hard to find beers I wanted. Things are so much easier these days, I am spoiled. Anyway on their website they mentioned De Struise and Pannepot in particular as getting a real buzz about it. Of course they were trying to sell me stuff so they would say that, but I grabbed a bottle anyway and that is how I found De Struise beers. Amazing stuff. I did a set of notes on the barrel aged Reserve edition shortly after, but never actually returned to do notes on the standard beer, though I drank it many a time. So here is me, grabbing a bottle from Independent Spirit and actually pulling my thumb out and doing notes on it. Needed some happier tunes at the time, so went with Andrew WK: You’re Not Alone. It is cheesy, and a lot of the self help sounding sentiments in the spoken pieces are bollocks, but it is such a fun rock album that I adore it.

Chimay: Blue (Belgium: Belgium Strong Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Dark caramel brown. Slightly creamy inch of browned head that leaves lace.

Nose: Walnuts. Brown sugar. Crushed coffee granules. Yeastie touch. Puff crisps. Slightly creamy at times, slightly dry at others. Cinnamon touch. Orange skin.

Body: Bitter chocolate to malt chocolate. Bitter, just slightly milky coffee. Yeastie feel. Walnuts. Peppery. Quite savoury. Cashews. Slight mature cheese. Brown sugar. Lightly bitter.

Finish: Cashew nuts. Malt chocolate. Walnuts. Lightly bitter. Slight mature cheese. Generally nutty. Peppery. Mild Palma Violets.

Conclusion: This is both smother than I remember, yet also showing the nicer rough edges of the style that come out of my favourite Belgian Trappist beers. It really eschews the sweeter side of the trappist beers, it is not heavily bitter, but much more savoury – nutty, often in a cashew style way.

There is a chocolate character, but it is in a more malt chocolate drink kind of way, which again leans away from the sweetness, this mixes with a milky, lightly bitter coffee style to really emphasise the point. The beer is smooth in feel, slightly funky but not heavily so, slightly peppery, and it has all the rougher Belgian beer edges coming from the flavours rather than any harsh alcohol or imperfections in the brewing.

Any sweetness used is subtle, even the brown sugar notes feel restrained, behind a more prevalent savoury, nutty character. Savoury really does seem to be the word of the say here – from the nuttiness, to the unflavoured puffy crisps, to a very mild amount of mature cheese, it feels restrained in style, but powerful in the weight of character. It underlines this with moderate but well managed peppery character and bitterness.

There is a lovely feel backing this, a gentle yeastie funkiness giving a bit more character to the mouthfeel and a lot to feel, taste and examine.

This was my first Trappist and still great. I have had better since, but I am never going to shun this one. It is high quality, restrained in showiness, but big in flavour. Delicious.

Background: As mentioned in the main notes this was the first Trappist beer I ever tried, found it in York while drinking with a mate. I had been getting into German Weisse beers, and was intrigued to find something different and new to me from Belgium.They had red, white and blue, and with me being young, I went with this, because this was the one with the highest abv. Hey I never claimed young me was smart. Or current me. There are more Trappist breweries around than there were back in those days, when there were only seven recognised Trappist breweries (or maybe six at the time, it may have been during the time when Le Trappe were temporarily not recognised). I once had nearly tried all the Trappist beers that existed. Nowhere near any more. Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Laura Jane Grace’s Stay Alive.

Boon: Oude Geuze (Belgium: Geuze Lambic: 7% ABV)

Visual: Pale, clear, just slightly darkened yellow. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Large white bubbled head.

Nose: Muesli. Dry. Dry white wine. Fresh cut apples. Slight oats and horse blankets. Slightly nutty. Dried and salted lemons.

Body: Apples. Dried lemon. Tart grapes. Gunpowder tea. Peppery. Oak. Tart orange. Pink grapefruit.

Finish: White wine and gunpowder tea. Oak. White pepper. Pink grapefruit.

Conclusion: Every time I think I have a handle on lambics, especially geuzes, I find out that there is more to them than I ever expected.

It opens as expected – white wine notes, muesli, horse blankets in the aroma. If you have had a geuze lambic before there is a good chance you know the general idea. So, on the aroma, this is pretty much that.

The body also has those elements but also extends a way beyond that and what I expected. The kind of charred character you see in a lot of lambics comes across here as more intense gunpowder tea like notes. It feels slightly acrid, but not unpleasant (Yes I know acrid is unpleasant by definition, it is a kind of taste I would normally call acrid, but somehow works here. Let me have this one please). Similarly the tartness have grapes, lemon and apple, none of which are unexpected, but also develops into a very pink grapefruit style, the delicious tartness of which I think is what makes the harsher notes not unpleasant. If I had to sum it up I would say the whole thing feels more “robust” than you average lambic.

While not my favourite lambic – those gunpowder tea to white pepper bits are a tad harsh for me – it is still a heck of an experience. Still a dry, wine like beer, but weigher than the dry white wine notes would otherwise suggest. The tartness and acidity hits the back of the throat with some impact.

So, the weightier lambic, and I think it is not too much of a guess to say that a lot of this can be attributed to the 7% abv which gives it a different character from the more common 5% and below lambics you tend to see. I mean, there are probably many other influences, but that is one that is immediately obvious up front.

Not a favourite, but I do respect it, and I am interested to see what ageing does to this. So, a complicated one, but hopefully I’ve given you enough information for you to know if this is the lambic for you.

Background: We have lambics in supermarkets now, this is not the world I expected when I was younger. I approve. Ok, it is Waitrose which is the posh as shit supermarket but still. Anyway, so as you may have guessed I grabbed this from Waitrose. One for drinking now and one for ageing. Boon have generally been a good one for me, balancing ease of drinking with complexity, without becoming too harsh or crowd pleasing simplistic. So happy that I can get their beers easier now. I’ve been picking up a lot of Bloodywood singles recently so lined them on repeat as background music. Hope they get an album out some time as I love their Indian street metal style and great emotional openness.

De Struise: Black Damnation: 09: Beggar’s Art (Belgium: Imperial Stout: 18.1% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Fairly small brown bubbled head.

Nose: Oily. Moss. Medicinal air. Wholemeal brown bread. Hints of blue cheese. Crushed chocolate bourbon biscuits. Kippers. Peat smoke.

Body: Oily. Thick. Cherries. Chocolate fondue. Medicinal. Beef slices. Peat smoke.


Finish: Meat feast pizza toppings. Oily. Slight salt. Peat smoke. Cherries. Medicinal. Milky chocolate. Milky coffee. Cream. Bready. Hint of blue cheese.

Conclusion: Ardbeg is surprisingly hard to use for barrel aging a beer. It can become so dominant in its harshness that it overpowers the base beer, but also in doing that loses the subtleties that makes it work so well as a complex and booming whisky.

I think that they brewed this at over 18% abv just to try and give it a chance to go up against that Ardbeg character, and you know what? It works.

The aroma is very Ardbeg led, though a bit more oily that what I would expect from that dram. In fact that unexpected oiliness follows through into the entire beer and is very pleasant at it, giving EVEN more weight and character. There is then familiar medicinal notes and peat smoke in an almost kippers like fashion. Also very pleasing to me, there are very subtle blue cheese notes that remind me of my favourite Ardbeg expression I have ever tried.

The beer, when you actually push past the aroma and sip it, manages a heavy, thick chocolate fondue style to creamy, complex coffee body, which is amazing, then utterly brutalised by Arbeg character. In a good way.

It is smoother than you would imagine, both in lack of alcohol burn and creaminess of character but uses that to show the peat smoke, meat and that oily element off well. Somehow, with all that going on, despite the weight of the Islay character occasionally sweet cherry notes manage to poke their heads above the parapets to be enjoyed. It took 18% or so, but they did it, they made a beer that can stand up to Ardbeg.

This is a beast and I love it. It is big enough to be big and chewy by itself, and the Islay influence is huge but managed. I mean how can I not love something that occasionally brings out those blue cheese notes amongst the Ardbeg influence. Do you like Imperial Stouts? Do you like Islay? No question then, get this, it is great.

Background: A big De Struise fan here, but never managed to get hold of any of their big Black Damnation imperial stouts. Then first one I do is this, an over 18% abv one aged for two years in Ardbeg casks. Well that is a heck of a way to kick things off. Not much else to add, one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Wanted something operatic and metal for a beer this big so went with Nightwish: Dark Passion Play.

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