Daily Archives: November 28, 2009

#24 – Fruli Strawberry

#24 - Fruli Strawberry

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 4.1 %

I love the ‘Good Beer Guide: Belgium’. I love the ‘Good Beer Guide: Belgium’ so much because of its waging of war on the fruit flavoured beers. I asked author Tim Webb why he had omitted Fruli from the Good Beer Guide: Belgium, and the response I got was.. “Somewhere between don’t know, don’t care, and isn’t a beer anyway!”

I am going to use the Guides own words to sum up these style of fruit beers as I don’t want to even compete with such bitterness. I’ll let you know what I think once I have drunk it.

‘Regular readers will notice that we have finally tired of some brewers’ relentless pursuit of mediocrity, as represented in part by the wave of so-called fruit beers – now over 100 – most of which are made by adding syrup, concentrate, extract, or cordial to an otherwise dull beer. The Guide will continue to introduce readers to the delights of drinks that for centuries have been made by steeping fruit in vats of soured ales or lambics and praise them unceasingly. On the other hand, these modern incarnations have been red-penned. However ‘nice’ some are – and many taste frankly disgusting – these are not beers and have no place in this book.

Tim Webb continues later ‘Strictly speaking, lambics are wheat beers. This may explain the ghastly new trend of adding fruit syrups into wheat beer before bottling. By all means try these concoctions but, if you do, could you please hide your copy of the Guide from view.’

For the mission to reach 1000 beers I will not red-pen these beers. As unlikely as I am to rate them particularly highly, it would be wrong of me not to judge them fairly and equitably, although having already squirmed through a Mongozo (#1) I cant exactly say I am looking forward to them. As for the Fruli, it testifies quite openly to being 70% wheat and 30% fruit juice. The advertising on the world wide web seems to openly laugh in the face of beer snobs and clearly is targeting a younger and more inexperienced beer drinking clientele.

It was certainly refreshing, and certainly tasted of strawberries. Definitely one for the summer, and definitely one for the ladies – to which I mean absolutely no disrespect for the few craft beer drinking ladies I have met. Sadly I have just found out that there are another three types of Fruli beer out there somewhere. Lets hope fate keeps me away for long enough to reach the 1000.

4 Comments

Filed under 4, Fruit Beer, Huyghe

#23 – Cookie Beer

#23 - Cookie Beer

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Ecaussinnes make the unusual Cookie Beer with speculoos – a type of brown shortcrust biscuit made with traditional christmas spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Whatever were they thinking?

The biscuits are generally native to Belgium and the Netherlands, and are traditionally baked for St Nicholas’ Eve – December the 5th or 6th depending on whether you live in the Netherlands or in Belgium. It is fair to say the Belgian varieties tend to be less spicy, but they are extremely popular all year round, and are awash in many beer supermarkets throughout the country.

The name probably comes from the Latin speculum, which translates as mirror, and reflects the images which are etched in bas-relief onto a stamp and then the face of the biscuit. The most famous place in Belgium for speculoos is Hasselt which has a strong history and association with different varieties. I have indeed tried the biscuits and urge anyone to stick to these instead of trying this beer. It was actually so bad, that I opted not to finish it.

This was a bad idea for a beer. What next, Garlic beer in France? Chorizo beer in Spain? It looked ok on pouring – nice and thick and a sweet sweet smell. There was a fair amount of sediment, obvious from the late brown mottling on top, but the flavour started bad and simply got worse. I left at least half in the glass. Neither beer nor cookies – just shit !

1 Comment

Filed under 2, Belgian Strong Ale, Ecaussinnes

#22 – Lamoral Tripel

#22 - Lamoral Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Lamoral Tripel is more than a beer. It is in many ways a celebration of national pride. It may seem a long time ago, but Belgium and the present day Netherlands were under Spanish rule back in the 16th Century. At that time, Lamoral the Count of Egmont, was a wealthy and influential statesman and general who despite being loyal to Prince Philip II of Spain, was very much opposed to the introduction of the now-legendary Spanish Inquisition. He was not alone, with both William of Orange and the Count of Hoorn reflecting the views of the increasingly frustrated populace. Egmont even travelled to Madrid to beseech the King to withdraw this policy, but met with complete disinterest.

The people continued to revolt, and during the period of Iconoclasm, when the protestants began to attack the Catholic church, Egmont remained loyal to his King, while William of Orange read the warning signs and decided to flee the country. It was to end badly for Lamoral, who along with the Count of Hoorn was captured by the Duke of Alba, who had been sent to quiet the unrest in the lowlands. On June 5th 1568 both men were cruelly beheaded in Brussels main square, and this essentially sparked what became the Eighty Years War which eventually led to the independence of the country.

Who knows to what degree the majesty of Belgian beer is owed to the Count of Egmont – at least enough to dedicate a beer to him – unfortunately it wasn’t a particularly memorable one. It started well, with a pumping froth and an amber tangerine liquid bubbling away. Good first tastes, strangely of licquorice and a certain floridity, but it really didn’t last which was a shame, ending fairly average and meekly unlike Egmont who went down dignified right to the very end of his life.

(Post-Script) – It turns out beer runs in the family. Did you know that Kastaar (#96) was allegedly the son of the Count of Egmont?

1 Comment

Filed under 6, Abbey Tripel, Van den Bossche

#21 – Hoegaarden Forbidden Fruit

#21 - Hoegaarden Forbidden Fruit

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

I had decided to tarry a while longer in the Dovetail, and having been so mightily impressed with the Grand Cru (#20), decided to partake in the darker sister beer – the Hoegaarden Forbidden Fruit, or in more guttural Flemish ‘Verboden Vrucht’. It is even given the term ‘Le Fruit Defendu’ for the French speakers of the region. Big brother marketing.

Again, it is the label that sparks debate and tells the story of the name of the beer, and closer inspection reveals a comedy-take on Peter Paul Ruben’s painting of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Pierre Celis had brewed the beer originally as an offering for the Diesters company to celebrate an event in the town of Diest. Due to a disagreement over the use of the name Diest by the townspeople, Celis decided to call his beer ‘Forbidden’, and thus the evolution of the forbidden fruit theme in the story and painting of Eden.

It doesn’t end there however, in that when Celis took the beer for export to the US, it was very quickly banned as it infringed their strict policies on nudity. The brewery were quick to counter that this was not pornography, “but a great work of art from our country”, to which the American Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms replied “Yes, but Adam should be handing her an apple – not a beer.”

Don’t you love the Americans? Well Pierre Celis was clearly not put off because in recent years he now lives in the US brewing very popular proper white beers. This beer though was far from white – the head was piebald and cookie coloured, and the undercurrent a dark writhing mass. She tasted particularly smooth and chocolately with a definite dark cocoa finish. It never went on to throttle the tastebuds but all in all I couldn’t complain too much. Now I really needed to eat !

2 Comments

Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Hoegaarden (InBev)

#20 – Hoegaarden Grand Cru

#20 - Hoegaarden Grand Cru

Size: 330ml

ABV: 8.5 %

Hoegaarden is reknowned for it’s plain wheat beer, which is something of a shame as it is a common concern of many beer fans today, that the quality of Hoegaarden (#81) has declined since it was taken over by AB/InBev. I would rather tackle that issue another time, as in actual fact, the Hoegaarden Grand Cru, which I painstakingly selected from the bar menu of the Dovetail in Clerkenwell was a much too pleasant beer to be negative about.

I was interested in the concept of Grand Cru. What on earth are they talking about? I must admit I had only heard this term largely used by winemakers, where it generally referred to the specific growth-place of a wine, intimating a region more so than a particular vineyard. The addition of ‘Grand Cru’ is a suggestion that this beverage is indeed a special one of this variation – the ‘great growth’. The term ‘Grand Cru’ can often be associated with foods, spirits and beers, but it doesn’t hold such an obvious official meaning, in that there is no regulation of what is or isn’t a ‘great growth’ beer. Pierre Celis, who invented the Hoegaarden Grand Cru, clearly felt this was his premier beer, and even went so far to use a Grand Cru wine label as the label for his new beer. His revelation in his autobiography ended much speculation that the mansion on the cover had some particular relevance to him – it was actually just a wine label he had happened to come across.

The beer itself was fantastic. A good solid head and a creamy dense mass underneath swimming in a sea of rich sediment. It felt alive. The taste is sweet and meaty and reeling with deep inner strength. I hadn’t eaten, and didn’t need to after this. I had good company in the bar, but noted quietly to myself that this was definitely a good one to look out for when restocking the cellar. Definitely some great growth in this one!

(Post-Script) – I was so impressed with this beer that I followed it, not with food, but a Hoegaarden Forbidden Fruit (#21).

2 Comments

Filed under 8, Belgian Strong Ale, Hoegaarden (InBev)

#19 – Barbar Belgian Honey Ale

# 19 - Barbar

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

This beer was probably the first Belgian beer I ever drunk back in 2000, when I was travelling through the lowlands while supporting England during the European Football Championships. I was actually driving at the time, and felt safe having a quick half. I wondered why I was half cut getting back in the car, and it was then I learnt that Belgian beer is not to be messed with.

I think the main reason I chose it back then on that warm summers day was that it said on the menu that it contained honey. I had a sweet tooth so it made perfect sense. How wrong I was. If you consider that beer dates back to the Egyptians and Sumerians (#1), then honey beer is quite simply Neolithic. Essentially ‘mead’ – as it translates from the term honey in many languages – is fermented honey and water, and was actually discovered by accident. During the harvests of the Middle Ages, honey was raided from beehives and preserved for its properties as a sweetener and other uses, in large vats of boiling water. Once the liquid cooled, and the slabs of honey removed, a sweet mixture remained that had naturally fermented with the yeasts in the air. This became the drink of the workers, and after a long hard day, men would dunk their cups in the vats and drink and be merry. Of course, honey was more expensive than naturally grown cereals, and so mead eventually declined in popularity, but its place in the history of beer is clearly evident and is now often drunk on special occasions.

Barbar disappointed me intensely. He barely smelled of anything on popping and there was little or no carbonation. I kept waiting for the taste of honey, that really just didn’t come. Barbar was smooth and the strength was well-hidden, but that was really just it. Next time – show me the honey !

(Post-Script) – I had hoped that the Barbar Winter Bok (#48) might have redeemed the Honey Ale, but alas it also fell short!

1 Comment

Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Lefebvre

#18 – Pater Lieven Bruin

# 18 - Pater Lieven Bruin

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

Pater Lieven translates from Flemish as the ‘Father of Lieven’ – the father being a certain patron saint of the local parish – St Livinus. Now, any art lovers may have heard this name before, but if like me, you have been touring the brouwerijs and brasseries and not the museums, then perhaps you might wish to make a stop at the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Inside is the famous painting by Peter Paul Rubens, called ‘The Martyrdom of St Livinus’ (1633). I have stuck the picture in the People section for anyone keen enough to get a closer look at poor St Livinus having his tongue ripped out by a torturer.

Lebwin, or just Livinus, as he was known then, was actually the son of a Scottish nobleman and an Irish princess. He was raised in Ireland, and eventually left for England where he studied and was ordained into the monasteries. His mission took him on to Flanders where he eventually became the Bishop of Ghent. As was common at the time, the secular protestant society often found themselves grumbling at the church and in an effort to stop Livinus preaching he had his tongue forcibly removed. Legend has it however, that the tongue continued to preach on its own.

St Livinus was one of a number of martyrs at this time, celebrated by the Jesuits during the counter-reformation. St Livinus lives on as a hero of legend locally, and hence the reference for this range of beers from Van den Bossche.

This was another exploder that I failed to learn my lesson with. New trousers back in the wash ! A good creamy aroma, with a fantastic soft head maintained trimly atop a dark brown ale. The taste was distinctly chocolately although perhaps ended up just a little too subtle to register as a classic. The missus was impressed though.

(Post-Script) – a less impressive beer though was the Pater Lieven Blonde (#73).

3 Comments

Filed under 7, Belgian Ale, Van den Bossche