Tag Archive: De Struise


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.

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.

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.

De Struise Ypres

De Struise: Ypres (Belgium: Sour Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Large fizzy bubbled brown head.

Nose: Port soaked raisins. Black cherry. Red wine. Vanilla. Madeira. Golden syrup and treacle. Liquorice. Sour dough.

Body: Black cherry. Blackcurrant jam. Tart berries. Acidic apple. Liquorice. Smooth. Bready – brown bread. Madeira and toffee.

Finish: Blueberry. Apples. Malt chocolate and vanilla toffee. Blackpool rock. Liquorice.

Conclusion: This is a lot smoother than I expected, guess I have become used to the tarter end of the Flemish Brown and red ales. So to find something smooth and sweet like this did give me a kick to the preconceptions.

The golden syrup like sweetness to the nose made me think of barley wines, but it was mixed in with vinous and berry notes that promised something more than that. I wasn’t sure which way the beer was going to go but I was very interested to find out.

Dropping down into the main body I found the expected sourness never really comes – instead, smoothed by oak, you find a vanilla sweetness. There are tart berries, but they are mixed with jammy sweetness so never seem too intense. They give an extra tingle to the beer but no more than that – it is instead fruity and slightly vinous. There is a sweet toffee base below, but the main work for the beer is done with the huge amounts of jammy dark fruit. It keeps just enough tartness and charred oak feel to make sure you know it is a Flemish brown, all the rest of the effort is put into the flourishes.

It is very soothing and makes fully use of the berry flavours without losing the base beer. In fact, as the beer warms the base makes itself felt more and showing more of the Flemish character – it helps accentuate the sweetness by giving contrast. Easier to drink cool, and more soothing, but warmer feels more complex.

Maybe a tad easy going to be a true classic of the style, it mutes its potential just slightly – but a very nice beer to chill out with and appreciate.

Background: This is the 2010 Double Barrel Aged FOB (Flemish Old Brown) as the bottled says. De Struise are one of the growing unusual side of Belgian brewing, and they tend to turn out tasty beers. Looking online the double barrel ageing is apparently Bourgogne and Wild Turkey barrels, or at least 2009 was, I can’t find exact details for 2010. Drunk while listening to Shadows Fall: Fallout From The War. It was only when I came to write these notes up I realised that was an odd pick considering the beer is named after a city that was the centre of a sustained battle during world war 1. A complete coincidence I assure you. Picked up from Independent Spirit – the convenience of grabbing stuff from them is dangerous to my bank balance.

De Struise Tsjeeses Reserva BBA

De Struise: Tsjeeses Reserva: BBA (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 10% ABV)

Visual: Dark red. Large yellowed frothy inch of a head. Small amount of sediment visible.

Nose: Barley. Juniper gin. Custard. Wheat. Pencil shavings and fruitcake. Lightly yeasty. Orange peel.

Body: Gin. Greenery. Fruitcake. Green grapes. Toffee. Candyfloss. Golden syrup. Glacier cherries. Aniseed. Frothy sherbet texture. Lemon sherbets. Orange zest. Cinnamon.

Finish: Liquorice. Vanilla toffee flavoured vodka. Digestives. Malt chocolate. Chives. Dried meat. Orange. Slight Belgian yeast. Cane sugar. Cinnamon.

Conclusion: Well, if nothing else, it isn’t boring. I find myself saying that a lot recently. That is good, boring is bad. Anyway this is a shifting quicksand trap of a beer. It is an eternal moving target, shifting away from the very expectations it builds up and then drags you under with a new flavour.

There is ESB style fruitcake and cherries, delivered with Belgian funky yeast and light citrus fruit and esters. Then there’s bourbon influenced vanilla toffee and smoothness.

Simple enough so far.

It also has aniseed against cinnamon spice, layered over flavoured vodka and varied gins, then stuffed with greenery. Contrasting spice notes, evident alcohol airs, and slight artificial flavours grounded with a herbal mix.

But wait, there’s more. Super sweet golden syrup, candy cane and candy floss with a sherbety texture when it froths up, that becomes almost sickly sweet.

This is the same beer, just examined at different times of the proceedings. an that is before the orange and lemon zest came out. So, interesting, but also a tad mental.

How well it works seems to depend on what combination you get in any given sip. If you get all the sweet elements at once it is sickly, if you get aniseed unopposed it is somewhat off putting. When you get fruitcake, citrus and flavoured spirits together at once it is a bit tasty.

So, a gamblers drink maybe, nothing is assured. At its most common experience it is decent, smooth and fruity, but not exceptional for this type of beer. At its highest it is an intriguing mix of flavours, ones that rarely meet and even rarer meeting with such quality. At its lowest it is sickly sweet and aniseed filled.

Worth a punt, if only because it holds the attention so well, and when it is on, it earns that attention. The barrel ageing seems to actually struggle to overcome the madness of the base beer, but when it does it makes an impact. It is such a strong base beer, influenced but far from dominated, and that is what appeals.

A beer that goes from class to crass depending on the moment, but not a beer I would turn away.

Background: I picked this up from the Beer Emporium, as well as being a great bar they also have a great bottle shop. So far my encounters with De Struise have been excellent, and I was in the mood for something bourbon barrel aged (Which is what BBA stands for if you hadn’t guessed) so picked it up. This is the 2012 edition and was drunk in mid 2014. Drunk while leaving my computer doing a full backup – recent issues with a certain game has left me even more paranoid than usual about doing backups. Also drunk while listening to some “Hate In The Box”, the “Under The Ice” album to be precise. The combination worked well.

De Struise: Cuvee Delphine (Belgium: Imperial Stout: 13% ABV)

Visual: Black with a large toffee brown frothy head.

Nose: Coffee. Roasted nuts, Hint of chocolate orange. Creamy mocha and hints at vanilla. Rye and barley. Cinnamon spice or spiced orange. Fudge. Definite bourbon influence.

Body:  Tingling punchy front into a peaches flavour. Vanilla. Slight light grapefruit.  Feels slightly hopped in its bitterness. Oranges, fudge and slight chocolate comes out after a while.

Finish: Dry coffee and bitter chocolate. Toffee. A very long and dry finish.  Slight charring. Milk chocolate as well. Roasted coffee beans. Strawberry touch occasionally surfaces.

Conclusion: Oh you Belgium stouts, you never do what I would expect. Now top and tail you do get chocolate and coffee as you would expect, but that’s not what I’m referring to.

On the body though, well oh my. Spiciness, vanilla and spiced orange, some of which I presume is from bourbon influence. The grapefruit of all things I have no idea where that came from.  It’s fresh and fruity and very easy to appreciate.  Very cool, it’s almost a direct beer of its label image – an unexpected and colourful art piece of a beer.

It is then the perfect imperial stout from when you fear you have bored of the wonders of the style. It makes you look with fresh eyes to imagine what may yet be done, and wonder at what has already passed.

So, yes, it is a good beer.

Background: 2009 Bottled, Drunk 2011. As visible from the images this is a bottle of Black Albert that has been aged in Four Roses Bourbon casks.  Drunk in the amazing Bruges environment with friends, this was my second choice of beer after finding Black Damnation was out of stock.  I am a sucker for little extras like art on the bottle so this put me in a good mood before trying it.

De Struise: Black Albert: Batch 0 (Belgium: Imperial Stout: 13% ABV)

Visual: Coffee liquor thick pour, a dark black colour with a surprisingly thick toffee brown head considering its high ABV.

Nose: Treacle and cloying cream. Roasted coffee beans and bitter coffee. Roasted nuts. Cinder toffee. Bitter chocolate, spiced blood oranges. After about half a bottle can gain a slight soap sud nature.

Body: Treacle, liquorice, smooth and thick texture initially, then charring and a slightly chalky texture if you hold it in your mouth for a while.  Slight nuts, blood orange and sweet lemon traces. Chocolate orange, mocha and brown sugar.

Finish: Bitter chocolate and dry hops, wheat texture. Charring, big nuttiness and good rising bitterness. Blood orange plays its hand once again.

Conclusion: So, here we are, playing with the heavy duty entries of the beer styles, the imperial stouts.  Imperial stouts nigh always seem to have a powerhouse of flavour, and this is no exception, the question is always – do they manage to focus that flavour well?

Well this example starts out with its big roasted front, giving an impression that you are going into a standard heavy roasted style stout, but it eases into an almost hidden fruitiness as the back, subtly done but distinctly different.  The brown sugar feel seems to almost call to the dubbel style, this puts the brakes on the roaring force for a moment, before sliding into a roasted and hop back.  These new elements are putting a distinctly Belgium slant on what initially seems to be a stereotypical imperial stout.

It is these fruity and sugar cane touches that make an unexpected and welcome change that keeps the heavy and almost cloying body from becoming too much.

It plays a lot with changes of style, a smooth texture that becomes chalk rough on the last remnants, or the slowly growing hops at the end that never dominate like the oft overhopped examples of the style

So after this glowing review, what do I say against it? Well about half way through a slight soap sud nose emerges, similar to Thornbridge’s Saint Petersburg. Thankfully this element integrates better than the off putting incarnation of Thornbridges beer, but it does not quite mesh with the rest of the beer, more is the pity.

So a fine work, and a brilliant example of meshing Belgium and craft style.  T Smisje tried the same with their Catherine The Great, but ended up losing the feel of an Imperial Stout. This whilst not perfect is a much better melding of the styles.  Not the best Imperial Stout, but does something different well.

De Struise: Pannepot Reserva (Belgium: Belgium String Ale: 10% ABV)

(2007 Edition: Drunk 2010)

Visual: A very dark brown black, fizzy coffee brown head on pouring which bubbles viciously then vanishes without a trace.

Nose: Figs, rum and dark chocolate. Red wine and brown bread. Raisins and fermenting fruit. Plum pudding, blackberries, hosts of dark fruit. Toffee, smooth liquorish and Danish pastries. With custard and a cinnamon dusting.

Body: Smooth, blackcherry and liquorish, Milky chocolate and bitterness. Slightly fizzy and bready. Fruitcake. Sweetness hinted at, caramel and chocolate cake.

Finish: Blueberry pie, liquorish, sour berries, dry malt and raisins combined with slick rum, spiced fruit, festive herbs and just a lick of bitterness.

Conclusion: With a few years under its belt this is one smooth rich beer. Rum and wine are massively evident up front giving a marvellous nose, which almost fools you into thinking its going to end up dominating the entire beer.

It’s been a while since I had a normal Pannepot so I hope I can be forgiven in forgetting that the body on that beast is robust as hell and can shine through clearly. Imagine if Innis and Gunn rum cask had to contend with Westvleteren 8 on the body. Delectable results and so very shippable.

Defined by a solid fruitcake body, it’s a strong willed yet smooth beast yet without the harsh edges. An abstract art piece rather than a rigid diagram of flavour, very open to interpretation and experience. The bottles label is very appropriate as you often feel adrift upon a rolling sea of changing flavour.

Very well done.

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