Grain D’Orge: Belzebuth (France: Belgium Strong Ale: 13% ABV)

Visual: Golden hued apricot flesh that holds up a medium bubbled white head.  Only a few small bubbles are evident main body.

Nose: Figs, golden syrup and dry malt. Lemon sherbet mixes with apricot. Some slight pencil shavings then evident overripe banana.

Body: Very sweet. Figs, raisins and liquorice. Banana. Cane sugar massively. Solid malt core.

Finish: Dry malt. Alcohol air, maybe gin. Cane sugar and dry black liquorice. Malt chocolate. The alcohol hits noticeably at the back of the throat for a while.

Conclusion:   In always slightly distrustful of a beer that has its abv nearly as big as its name a on a label. It tends to indicate the beer favours intoxication over flavour. Though this as not as bad a sign as a beer that has its abv as part of the name, that is nigh always a sign you are about to drink shit (Carling C2 I am looking at you).

This beer thankfully doesn’t get too obsessed with abv over flavour like some other (Start The Future I’m now looking at you) but it does come close.  The cane sugar that makes up a good proportion of the main body does remind me of the rare instance I’ve run into a bad Belgium Tripel and the sugar used to get the alcohol up has left a slight over sweet remain.

The beer however redeems itself a lot with banana and fig richness in the aroma and main body. It takes the excessive sweetness and works with it rather than against it. This holds on until the finish where a dry liquorice takes over.  Unfortunately at this point it is almost gin level alcohol influence so it doesn’t quite work

Now as you can probably guess, this doesn’t shout fine craftsmanship as much as papering over the cracks, but at least it claims its flaws and makes them part of the experience instead of trying to ignore them.  It does end up better than you would guess from the individual elements.  It’s like a random pile of broken down items that haphazardly create a fun image. Not fine art, but better than you would expect.

Background: picked up as it is one of Michael Jackson’s 500 great Beers.  Apparently used to be at 15% abv but was reduced, though I doubt the 15% version would have been any more balanced.