Tag Archive: Belgium


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!

de-struise-st-amatus-vintage-2013
De Struise: St Amatus Vintage 2013 (Belgium: Quadrupel: 11% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thick off white head.

Nose: Raisins. Malt chocolate. Nuts. Liquorice. Brandy cream. Dry red wine. Slightly dry overall.

Body: Vanilla. Custard. Raisins and fruitcake. Cherries. Walnuts. Slight cloves. Condensed cream. Very smooth. Malt chocolate. Marshmallows. Slight cinnamon. Chocolate liqueur. Mashed banana. Bready. Bourbon and orange liqueur.

Finish: Creamy chocolate. Fruitcake – lots of cherries and raisins. Sweet red wine. Dried banana to banana bread. Brown bread. Liquorice.

Conclusion: Ok, super smooth Belgian style beers impress me – be oft feel like they lack something. Rough edged Belgian gems are just my jam, but the rough edges can put others off. This thing walks the fine line between the two perfectly.

It is very smooth textured, but somehow doesn’t sacrifice the weight of the body to do so. Rock! It brings in lots of fruitcake, nuts and malt chocolate – all you would expect from a big quad; It also brings in some unexpected notes – big shots of mashed banana and light clove, even some walnut character to the nuttiness. Together it actually makes me wonder if this is the Belgian Quad equivalent of my beloved Weizenbock Aventinus – it plays with so many of the same notes, and if that was their intent I have literally no objection. Also metaphorically no objection but that is less important.

This is so well done – it even managed to bring in some slight licorice, which is hard to use well, without hurting the overall feel. Also, early on I wasn’t sure if this was barrel aged, however as it warms I am now 100% sure – it plays with vanilla and custard notes mid body – however it seems very different in style to many barrel aged beers and doesn’t break out any obvious spirit notes for a long time. Again that smoothness is done so very well. It has impeccable subtlety in how the barrel ageing adds to the beer.

Late on as it warms you still have that impeccable smoothness from the barrel aging but you finally get the bourbon influence more obviously – just some flavour – that definite bourbon taste and light orange notes – still barely any spirit character at all – I approve.

So, as you may have guessed this is an excellent heavy duty and yet smooth as hell beer. If you like big beer there is no reason not to get this one.

Background: I think, from googling around, that this was aged in Woodford Reserve barrels – however reports differ and the bottle doesn’t say – it definitely is bourbon barrel aged – not sure of the exact nature. I only found out after tasting, so was unsure during the tasting itself if it had been oak aged. I am a big fan of De Struise – they make some huge beers – and I think Belgium is probably the best beer making country in the world. So, yeah, wanted this to be good. Grabbed from Independent Spirit – I’ve had this since before Christmas and was waiting for the right moment to break it open. Drunk while listening to Brassick’s album – only found out they had done a full album recently and quickly grabbed it – some great punk energy there.

fantome-chocolat

Fantome: Chocolat (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy darkened yellow to apricot with a large off white head and some sediment.

Nose: Carrot and coriander. Wheaty. Light malt chocolate. Lemon fresh air. Orange zest. Dried apricot. Bready.

Body: Juicy but warming. Chocolate late on. Peach and cream. Rustic middle. Light chilli seeds. Sour dough. Lime. Slight custard notes. Blood orange. Blackpool rock.

Finish: Chilli seeds. Light green peppers. Chocolate and cocoa dust. Lightly earthy. Ginger. Slight sour cream and chives. Apricot. Lime jelly. Dried banana.

Conclusion: You know what I like about Fantome beers? The fact that they can use a concept for a beer, show the concept clearly in a beer, but not make the beer solely about that concept.

Take this for example – chocolat by name – so, for most people they would this to be a dark beer and to be pushing all chocolate all the time, right? Except it isn’t. It is a beer that clearly has that light Belgian spice use, with a fruity but rustic base body and evident fruit sweetness. The chocolate only comes out late mid body and into the finish. Similarly, this has chilli powder in it – is it some heat factory? Nope, just a slight mild chilli tingle, not no more prevalent that any other spice in a Belgian beer.

So, you end up with a fruity Belgian Ale with only some hints of its saison base there, leaning instead towards the Belgian Blond Ale side of things. It is smooth, the saison notes coming in light rustic elements, but definitely more on the sweet cane sugar touched, fruity blond ale style. This then leads out into the warming and chocolate styled finish. Normally around now I would be talking about the shock of moving between two such distinct elements – but here they manage to make it feel like a natural progression.

Now before I get too raving about it here, there are weak points -with the amount of strong flavours it can get wearing, and feel more a beer you appreciate than enjoy – but for the most part it is well done. It has a very solid base, and the smoothness of the texture shows a beer that is very competently done. That wearing character mentioned is most evident over several glasses. At 750 ml it is definitely a bottle best shared to get most enjoyment from it. So, not as high flying as most Fantome ales – but a very solid middle ground beer, with unusual styling. So, enjoyable, but not one of Fantome’s exceptional beers – Still, kind of damning with very faint criticism there – still enjoyed it a lot.

Background: I’ve been a huge fan of Fantome since I first managed to get my hands on their beers. This, a saison made with cocoa and chilli powder, was grabbed from Independent Spirit I am not quite sure if cocoa and chilli powder should go together, but hey, up for giving it a a try. Drunk while listening to some music from Louise Distras who I only recently heard – a nice mix of Billy Bragg and Riot Grrrl style punk to my ears. Due to an extended session on Dark Souls 2 this was drunk fairly late in the night. So far it seams weaker than the original Dark Souls – the bosses especially seem not as inspiring or awesome – still, early days yet – could be all the cool stuff is packed at the end.

de-dochter-van-de-korenaar-peated-oak-aged-embrasse

De Dochter Van De Korenaar: Peated Oak Aged Embrasse (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 10% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Smoked meat. Brown bread. Smoke. Mature cheese. Beef broth soup. Light toffee.

Body: Brown bread. Big smoked meat – mainly smoked ham. Beef slices. Soft vanilla. Slight funky yeast feel. Brown sugar and malt chocolate.

Finish: Smoked beef and dried beef slices. Malt chocolate. Nuts. Slight salt and medicinal notes. Soft vanilla. Brown sugar.

Conclusion: This is a big, meaty beer. Yet somehow the peated boom still leaves room for the base beer to show through. First impressions therefore are that this is going to be massive – either in a good, or a bad way.

The base beer seems a solid Belgian brown ale, lots of malt chocolate, very smooth, slightly nutty with hints of brown sugar and some of that funky Belgian yeast feel. Good, and pretty much straight in the middle of what you would expect from the style.

It is hard to say more about the base beer – it feels very smooth, very high quality – but where it leads out from that base, the barrel ageing comes in with intensity. Big peat, big meat, and slight medicinal elements that make me think they probably picked something from the Islay end of the table for this. I am sure there is more to the base, it has a quality feel that says that there would normally be a lot more – but it is lost under the weight of the barrel ageing. Frankly I’m impressed so much of the base came through anyway – a big bready weight that gives room to set everything else up.

This is smooth, booming, manages to get a lot from each side of oak and base – feels like a beer that would have been better shared, rather than greedily devoured by just one person as I did. By myself I found it getting a bit over bready and peat dominated by the end – at the half way point it still felt great – just working enough to make it feel like a medieval feast of bread, meat and alcohol. In fact, while you are sharing it, might as well make a feast – break out some greasy meat, some bread to mop it up with, and this beer. Think the combination would work well.

Background: So, is this 9% or 10% abv – bottle says 9, the cardboard attached says 10. Looking into it, I think the base beer was 9%, but time in the oak has shoved it up a percent. So, 10% it is. Anyway, grabbed from Brewdog’s guest beer selection, this is a new brewery from Belgium on me. I do love Belgian dark ales, and since this is aged in peated whisky casks that also is a big plus point for me. Drunk while listening to some ultra heavy metal from Meshuggah – hoping to see them soon. Hoped it would work out as heavy metal for heavy beer.

de-cam-oude-lambiek

De Cam: Oude Lambiek (Belgium: Unblended Lambic: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to lemon juice. Loose, real ale like large bubbled dash of a head.

Nose: Dry. Fresh crusty bread. Sulphur and hard boiled eggs. Smoke.

Body: Sulphur. Hard boiled eggs. Still. Oats. Light dried apricot sweetness. Light vanilla. White grapes. Dry lemon. Nutty. Dry Madeira. Palma violets.

Finish: Dried oak. Eggs. Sulphur. Dry raisins and Madeira. Tannins.

Conclusion: As I started sipping this I thought – Am I a philistine? On this matter and in general. This is a very well reputed lambic, and, while I am not going to insult it, on first sip I really couldn’t see why the massive raving about it. Could be a hype issue. Once you have your expectations way up for a beer, it is hard for anything to live up to that. Well, let’s just take a look at this again, as just another beer, not as a hyped up lambic, and maybe I will get a better handle on it.

Ok, well chilled down it is a bit empty – odd as often lambics work very well cool, but without the liveliness of a geuze this doesn’t seem to able to trade as much on the dryness, tartness or sparkling mouthfeel. Because of this it needs to do more with the subtle flavours, which it doesn’t manage initially – just an empty kind of eggy and sulphur character. It still has quote a dry base, but not with that teeth tingling character I get with geuze – just around equivalent to a good APA level kind of dry.

So, let’s let it warm up a bit – now the flavours develop. A more nutty, dry Madeira touched undertones come out. Ok now I can see what people like about this a bit more. As mentioned, oft lambics work well chilled – this seems to need a bit more heat than most – still cool, but not fully chilled.

So, now with light fresh notes – not many but there. It actually reminds me a bit of aged sake in a way. Both share the similar dry Madeira notes and dark fruit touched character along with a few lighter fresher notes. Though this differs in that it has a slight, but distinct, sulphur character and a real ale like beer texture backing it up.

So, as mentioned I am starting to get the love for this beer. It isn’t a must have for me, but it is very nice – like the negative exposure of a standard lambic; Still instead of fizzing like a geuze, dark fruit notes instead of fresh ones, but still a lambic. Still drinking it now, and it gains more as it warms more – more nutty, more tannins and more subtle dried dark fruit notes. Ok, not quite up to the hype, but each time I let it warm a bit more I have come to appreciate it more as more Madeira base and rich complexity comes out. I can take my time happily with this one.

Background: I am not 100% sure this is an unblended lambic as it is generally listed as – the name makes me think it is – blended lambics tend to be called Geuze in the name. Also the fact it is still and not fizzy unlike most geuze. However Belgian Experts website says “The Lambics used to make this unparalleled blend come from Girardin, Drie Fonteinen, Boon and Lindemans, while the casks used to age the beer come from Pilsner Urquell.”. I think I can square this circle by maybe a) There are two different beers by this name? b) One of the sources is wrong? or c) Possibly the lambics are blended then aged in oak at De Cam and it only counts as geuze if they are blended after oak ageing? I do not know – if anyone has more information please let me know in the comments. Any which way, something unusual grabbed from Independent Spirit. Drank while listening to Anthrax – Amongst the living. Yes again. I am excited that I will hopefully see them live next year.

vliegende-paard-prearis-quadrupel
Vliegende Paard: Prearis: Quadrupel (Belgium: Quadrupel: 10% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown, with overripe banana colour at the edges. Thin grey to brown dash of a head that leaves sud rims.

Nose: Dried sultanas and liquorice. Coffee beans. Malt chocolate. Crushed Blackpool rock. Dry roasted peanuts. Banana.

Body: Candy floss. Banana syrup. Frothy mouthfeel. Lemon sherbet. Treacle. Light chalk. Apples sweets. Caramel. Very milky coffee. Raisins. Cloves. Carrot.

Finish: Caramelised brown sugar. Dried banana and toffee syrup. Malt drinks. Bitter nuttiness. Mild apple sours. Coffee and caramel. Bitter cocoa. Carrot.

Conclusion: It is heavy duty Quadrupel time again, and damn today we have a doozie. Been over a year since I last broke open a Quad so I was looking forwards to this. The thing I love about Quads is that, due to the high strength, they have plenty of time to develop strong, often radically different, flavours in one beer.

Take this for example – candyfloss sweetness and banana mix – that could be one beer. Toffee and caramel with bitter cocoa and milky coffee- that could be another beer. Cloves spice, carrot savoury and lightly chalky over dark fruit – that could be yet another beer. Yet here they all act together in one big, balanced entity.

So, what is dominant, and does it work? Well the caramel and the very syrup styled banana are the most evident up front. Yet this mix of sweet flavours is smoothly delivered to not be sickly, and then the spice and grounding note slowly rise to restrain and then expand upon it. You get a big instant pleasure hit dancing on your taste-buds up front, and then it slowly lets the complexity come out, and makes sure that the original big wow doesn’t wear out its welcome. Very nicely done.

So, in case you haven’t guessed, to answer the second questions. Yes it does work. It seems unlike a lot of Quads that I’ve enjoyed in that it doesn’t follow the Trappist Quad examples very closely. It is smoother, sweet caramel style, but without losing those awesome Belgian rough edges. For flaws? Well it is very sweetness dominated, despite having a lot more to it than that. Not a problem for me, but if you don’t have sweet tooth then your probably want to look at some of the less overly sweet Quads. That aside, damn there is a lot in this beer – It is like A Belgian rough edged take on a USA smooth take on a Belgian Quad. That may have made no sense whatever. Any which way, I highly recommend this.

Background: Ok, I had to look up the brewers name just to check – I thought it was Prearis until I read the bottle carefully then did some googling to confirm. Any which way, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit – new Belgian brewery turning out a Quad, how could I resist? Not much else to add to that, was going in fairly blind on this one – put some Shadow’s Fall on for listening to while I drank.

Bosteels: Kwak (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 8.4% ABV)

Visual: Caramel brown. Large browned froth for a head.

Nose: Brown sugar in a carmalised and crème brulee fashion. Aniseed. Crushed palma violets. Toffee. Perfume. Blackpool rock. Sugared orange sweets.

Body: Brown sugar and crème brulee. Cane sugar. Sugared orange sweets. Golden syrup cake. Reasonably light mouthfeel. Sweet lime syrup. Slight cloying, sour, doughy touch at the very middle.

Finish: Candyfloss. Brown sugar. Orange sugars. Lemon sherbet. Very light earthy note. Slight liquorice. Slight woody. Light sour undertone as it warms.

Conclusion: You know what? This has no right being a decent beer. Very sweet with lots of residual sugar evident, kind of perfumed aroma. Very silly, impractical gimmick glass. Should be ballacks right? The simple, lowest dominator Belgian sweet thing?

Yet it isn’t. Very malt led, quite clean and slightly light textured body. It has a lot of raw brown sugar, Blackpool rock and other sweet flavours, but the lighter texture keeps it from becoming sickly sweet. It is one of the few dark, high abv beers that I find the lighter texture actually helps rather than hinders it. That is the thing that keeps it from ending up as just a cheap, sweet beer… well one of the things. The other is the wonderful interaction with the Belgian yeast. You get lots of fruity esters coming out, binding with the sweetness to give the impression of lots of candied fruit blended into the mix.

In fact there is another point that works for it, and that is the subtle grounding notes not found in the simpler sweet beers. There is a slight doughy, cloying touch, just at the middle, a grip in amongst the lighter texture. There is also a light wood and earthy note in the finish, brought in with a very, very slightly sour touch as it warms – at a point when otherwise the sweetness would be rising too much.

It is the beer that should have been the epitome of a sweet, simple, disposable beer – yet it is so much more than that. It takes careful work to make such a seemingly sugar dominated beer work this well. AB INBev, it is in your hands now. Don’t fuck it up.

Background: A bottle from before the AB INBev takeover. Grabbed from Independent Spirit on the day I head about the deal. I have been a big fan of this for a while but never got around to doing notes on it despite having had it reasonably often. Often beers go downhill after being bought up so I thought I would so some notes now so I can compare to them in years to come. According to the bottle Bosteels have been independent since 1791, and I guess not independent since 2016 now. I broke out the absurd Kwak glass for this one, wooden handle that lets the glass shuffle around in it. Silly bulge at the end that causes the beer to glug out suddenly if you are not careful. Technically it is a terrible glass but I love it, wooden handle and all. Drunk while listening to a random mix of erock metal tunes.

Chimay: Grand Reserve 2016: Viellie En Barriques (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Moderate creamy brown coloured small bubbled head.

Nose: Crushed almonds and peanuts. Funky yeast. Popcorn. Dry. Wholemeal bread. Fig rolls. Sour red wine.

Body: Smooth. Carmalised brown sugar. Fig rolls. Plums. Hazelnut liqueur. Vanilla toffee. Lactose. Fizzy and sherbety. Liquorice. Malt chocolate. Gummed brown paper. Raisins and sultanas. Red wine and Madeira.

Finish: Hazelnut liqueur. Cream. Plums. Vanilla toffee. Lightly woody. Gummed brown paper. Slight sulphur and smoke. Brown sugar. Slight funky yeast. Cloves. Cognac.

Conclusion: Chimay blue by itself is a big, rewarding beer. In fact one I really should have done notes for by now. This is bigger, and possibly even more rewarding. At this level of quality it is hard to say.

At its base it is a very familiar, big dark fruit, brown sugar, creamy and malt led drink with obvious Belgian yeast influences. So, at its base still the same dark heavy delight the blue is.

So, what makes this different? Well the ageing has given it smoothness. You still feel the weight that says this is an alcohol heavy drink, but a lot of the rough edges are worn down. Thankfully not completely – it still has enough charming prickly edges to not be mistaken for the (in my opinion) overly smooth American take on the style.

Ageing in the barrels seem to have given it some unusual characteristics to play with. There is a light oaken sour note mixed with malt drinks below that which remind me of a good quality Flemish red. There is also a definite mix of sour red wine and sweet Madeira styling – the second of which I’m guessing may be from the cognac ageing. Maybe. Any which way it works very well backing up the strong dark fruit flavours. The final odd note is a much larger nutty character – generally it stands well, though it is slightly overly dominant in the aroma which gives a weak first impression to what is an excellent beer.

As you can probably guess from the examining above, I am very impressed by this. Very smooth, yet booming in flavour. The only difficulty in detecting new flavours is managing not to get washed away in the flood of what you have already encountered as there is so much going on.

The only real flaw is the nuttiness which can be too present occasionally. Everything else is an excellent Trappist beer carefully nurtured in oak. Slightly less nuttiness would let the other notes roam more, but that is a minor thing.

Suitably subtle Flemish sour ale notes meets Trappist dark ale meets multiple barrel ageing. Not perfect, as said above, but definitely very well done. Wish I had one to age further.

Background: OK, this is a big one, Chimay Blue at the base, aged in a mix of French oak, new chestnut, American oak and new cognac barrels. Fermented in tank, barrel and bottle. It was an expensive one picked up at Independent Spirit, but you don’t see many barrel aged Trappist beers, and I am a huge fan of Chimay – I think the blue was the first Trappist beer I ever had if I remember rightly. There are very few Trappist breweries, and the beer has to me made or overseen by the Trappist monks themselves – so they don’t tend to play with the more new wave brewing tricks, like this. Drunk while listening to a mix of History of Guns tracks on random.

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