Monthly Archives: November 2009

#26 – Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin

#26 - Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

The beers of Steenbrugge are steeped in a rich beer-fuelled history – 925 years to be exact! It was then in 1084 that a certain Arnold of Tiegem – the dude kissing the potato waffle on the label – founded St Peter’s Abbey in Oudenburg in West Flanders, where he wished to escape a life of fighting. It was here that St Arnoldus started to brew some serious beer, as monks tended to do at this time as it was healthier than water. History suggests however that there was a certain magic to his brews and that those that drank his beers would be healed – and he eventually become the Patron Saint of Brewers. Yes, we do indeed have St Arnold of Tiegem to thank for this gift to life, and if you are ever in Brussels in July, you can join the throngs honouring him on the ‘day of beer’.

The item on the label is not actually a potato waffle, nor either a Belgian waffle – it is in fact a mashing rake, used while brewing to stir the mash. Anyway, long after our good friend Arnold had gone, the years took its toll on the monastery, but in 1898 a certain Abbot Amandus Mertens decided to recreate the beers to honour his St Peter’s Abbey. Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin is one of these.

I think its possibly one of the most attractive labels but quite under-drunk beers. The head was fine and lasted well, over a thin dark underbelly of beer. The smell was bright and hoppy, as was the taste. It continued to sparkle with thin warmth in the mouth and remained clean cut and distinguished but nothing of that remarkableness I was hoping for from a beer of St Arnold.

(Post-Script) – for something with a bit more bite you might want to try the Steenbrugge Tripel (#103)

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Filed under 6, Abbey Beer, Abbey Dubbel, Palm

#25 – Leffe Brune

#25 - Leffe Brune

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

Almost every UK supermarket now seems to stock Leffe, in both 330ml and 750ml varieties. Since being taken over, most recently by In-Bev, the saturated marketing ploy is clearly evident. It hasn’t always been this way however, as Leffe was first brewed almost 800 years ago by the monks of St. Norbert, at a small abbey on the Meuse river in Dinant, Namur. Things went well until the 1460s when the Abbey was first flooded and then invaded by Burgundian troops. It took until 1719 for a new church to be consecrated on the site, but the good days didn’t last long, as the French Revolution took its toll on the Abbey when it was continually vandalised and eventually abandoned under Republic Law.

The Abbey saw further immeasurable grief during World War I until once again the Norbertine monks took control of the Abbey in the 1950s and eventually made a deal with the brewer Albert Lootvoet to re-launch the production of Leffe beers, starting with Leffe Brune. It seemed to work wonders, and the rest of the Leffe brands followed. 1977 was a pivotal year in which the Artois brewery came in and took control, but I will leave that story for the next Leffe beer (#41).

Leffe Brune is readily available but shouldn’t be underestimated. It is a fine drink with a good solid chocolate coloured appearance and a sweet smell. The taste is cloved and malty and stays to the end. This beer won’t win prizes but is certainly value for money.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Abbey Dubbel, InBev (Belgium)

#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 !

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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?

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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).

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