Tag Archive: Belgium


Trappistes Rochefort: Tripel Extra (Belgium: Tripel: 8.1% ABV)


Visual: Hazy lemon juice colour. Evident sediment in the body and a moderate sized white tight bubbled head.

Nose: Slight lemon. Bready hop bitterness. Dry. White pepper.

Body: Sherbety mouthfeel initially. Dry attenuated character later. Naan bread. Lemon sherbet. Cheese puff crisps. White pepper. Slight mature cheddar. Lemon juice.

Finish: Moderate bitterness. Moderate yeastie funk. Wotsits crisps. Slight mature Cheddar. White pepper. Dry lemon. Slight sulphur.

Conclusion: Now this is definitely an interesting one. A lot of Tripels go for the sweeter route, with either evident residual sugar, or a smoother malt sweet style.

This says “Fuck that noise”

This is dry, very well attenuated, with lots of flavours that would normally be expressed in a sweeter way instead being so dryly done that they come across almost savoury here.

Yet it also defies the smooth American take on the Abbey Tripel style – it has good levels of bitterness, which is very unexpected, a savoury yeast funk that calls to the rougher edges of some of the best Belgian takes. It has all the polished brewing skilled mixed with a touch of rough gem style you would expect of a Belgian Tripel, just drier.

This slightly different take allows it to play with more unusual flavours. The dry lemon matched with an unleavened bready bitterness for a refreshing yet savoury base – then with white pepper spiciness and subtle mature cheddar notes that give the complexity and challenge. There is a lot more savoury style than you would expect.

So how good is it? Well it may not win a place as a favourite, return to often beer for me, but it 100% got my attention, and with that I enjoyed it more than most other Tripels I have had recently.

It is a challenging one, and doesn’t declare itself as a must have for me as there are just some aspects that don’t quite click – but those are more personal things than signs of its quality, I still dig it, and would still recommend it in general.

A more bitter, more attenuated, more different Tripel. Brilliantly made, just not for everyone nor one for every time.

Still worth trying.

Background: I’ve had a few of these, before doing notes today. This is the first time it poured with the very evident sediment mentioned in the notes. As a huge fan of Rochefort, hearing that they were turning out this – a rare new beer release from them, was very interesting so this was a must grab. So grab it I did, from Independent Spirit. Yes again. Went with Stay Alive by Laura Jane Grace as music while drinking. I’m a big fan of Against Me! So was interested in this solo album. In other thoughts, was nice to have an excuse to break out the Trappist beer glasses again

Westmalle: Extra (Belgium: Belgian Blond Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Straw coloured, lots of carbonation. Medium sized white bubbled head.

Nose: Hay fields. Lightly earthy. Very crisp. Palma violets. Lightly peppery. Lemon cakes. Doughnut dough.

Body: Good bitterness. Earthy and doughy hop character. Mineral water. Vanilla. Dry fudge. Greenery.

Finish: Good bitterness. Slight granite touch. Mineral water. Lemon cakes. Greenery. Good hop character. Dry honey.

Conclusion:So, this is the for so long hidden Trappist. I will admit this is not like what I expected. For on thing, mineral water like notes? What is up with that?

I guess that that odd character may be part of why this is viewed as the session Trappist beer, so now I just need to work out if that is a good thing or not.

Ok, so let’s warm up gently and start on the more standard side of the beer; The body is gentle in the malt styling with vanilla and dry fudge character. It is nicely attenuated, not too heavy. It is flavoursome but sessionable. A good start.

The hops character is probably the strongest point of the beer. This is heavily hopped for a Belgian beer and done in a crisp way that is very drinkable. Starts out very crisp on the nose, then lightly earthy and peppery. It manages to give a real solid bigger character and a doughy hop feel that adds character and heft without an accompanying weight that would ruin the sessionable character.

There is also some light citrus counterpoints that keep it fresh, but the more bitter hops are what keep my attention.

So after all that, mineral water character. This is very minerally. Initially I disliked it, it felt watery, and intrusive. Now, after a few bottles tried on separate occasions I actually find it interesting. I’m not 100% sold, but the mineral side of it adds flavour and the water side seems less intrusive, which means I am interested enough to grab a few more and see how I find them. It is different, and not unpleasant now.

Right now it is very good, and interesting even if I am not 100% sold on it. Well worth a try to see how it suits you. Probably not the “ultimate Belgian session” in my opinion though. Possibly got hyped up due to how hard it was to get.

Background: Oh this is something I was very excited for. I first heard of this in “100 Belgian Beers To Try Before You Die” Where it is described as “The ultimate Belgian session beer”. At the time it was only available to the monks in the monastery, and occasionally to visitors to the monastery. So, pretty unlikely to get hold of. It only just got a general bottled release so I jumped on that as quick as I darn could. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, my old faithful during lock-down, I drank this while listening to Billy Nomates: No. A quirky, politically active album, which still warms my heart. Worth noting, the 100 beers book lists it as 5.5% abv as opposed to the current 4.8% so it is likely the recipe has changed slightly over the years. Also the book lists it as having “like mineral water” elements, though it seems to view them more favourably than I did.

Inbev Belgium Budweiser: Zero (Belgium: Low Alcohol: 0.0% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow brown clear body. A small off white head, and surprisingly low carbonation in the main body.

Nose: Slight sulphur. Sugar dusting. Vanilla. Soft lime. Caramel.

Body: Wet rocks. Charred note. Dry. Granite. Salt touch. Muggy. Off feeling bitterness. Some dry caramel.

Finish: Granite. Slight bitterness. Generally gritty. Gritty hop character. Wet air. Lime touch.

Conclusion: Ok, is this as bad as Tesco Value Lager? Notice I am not asking if it is good, that option flew a long time ago.

Actually, it did have one moment. One moment where it may have been something more. In the aroma, slightly muggy that it was, it did have a soft sweetness and lime touch that made me think this had the potential to be inoffensive.

High praise eh?

The body’s core is empty feeling, which, ya know, is Budweiser, but all around this are these rough granite, gritty notes. It feels like they made no attempt when brewing to compensate for the lack of malt backbone to offset the off notes and it just leaves everything dry and harsh.

There are vaguest hints that this could have been more – a touch of lime here, a whiff of caramel there, but in general it manages to be both offensively dull and empty and yet rough. If they had made it that bad deliberately that would have taken skill.

So is it worse than Tesco Value lager? Maybe, maybe not. Value Lager tastes worse, but does it in a more interesting way that I can tear into. This is crap in a very dull way. I’m not even enjoying insulting it that much.

Make of that what you will. Tesco Value is probably worse, yet I regret drinking this more.

This is the king of beers only in that I am an utter anti monarchist.

Background; Yep, Belgium. This was brewed in Belgium. Shocked me as well – we don’t even get the real USA piss water. We get the contract brewed version. I once drank standard Bud in New York. While not good, I remember it felt more easy drinking than the one we get here, but emptier in flavour. Though that was many a year ago. Wonder what differences there are here between this and the *ahem* real deal. Anyway, saw this is Co-op and thought “Fuck it, not done a beer I expect to be terrible for joke for a while, let’s give it a go, amuse the readers” So yes I went in with high expectations, honest, but seriously, I was willing to give it a chance – I have been surprised before by beers I expected to be terrible. Though I did put on Slipknot self titled album as backing music as I expected a need for rage and shouting, so I may have been tipping my hand there.

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.

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