Daily Archives: December 28, 2009

#64 – Deugniet

 

#64 - Deugniet

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

Deugniet tends to have three English translations. Originally this would mean a good-for-nothing, usually it would mean a rascal or a scamp, and occasionally it might mean a knave or a jester. If you look at the label of this beer it becomes fairly evident that Du Bocq almost certainly focussed on the latter.

I chose this beer at the end of my first brewery tour in Belgium. I had previously done a tour of Carlsberg in Copenhagen as a student, but that was more for the free beer than it was for the insight into brewing, although I really needn’t have bothered too much as we ended up on the Flemish/French tour. We thought we might get by as I learnt a bit of French at school, and Tash spoke some Afrikaans, however we may as well have just done the tour in Swahili. I managed to understand some of what was going on using the English pamphlet I was so considerately given, but apart from key words such as ‘biere’, ‘Du Bocq’ and ‘bonjour’ everything else seemed to drift in one vacuous ear and out the other.

If you asked me to sum up the brewing of beer however from what I learnt at the tour, then… Men in white coats choose their ingredients, and then after messing about with the grains, they boil everything up in these big copper funnels in a very pretty rural set of buildings. After a while – probably an hour or two – the residue is left to filter and then the men in white coats add hops and spices in big vats for cooling and more filtering. After a number of rickety staircases, the porridgy mixture is transferred to another bigger vat where it is left to ferment (and stink the place out) for about a week. The resultant beer is then left to condition, and in the case of these bottled beers further conditioned in bottles by adding yeast. Once they are ready they end up in the conveyor belt room, which looks like something out of a Willy Wonka film, and the labels and bottles end up in crates on a fork-lift truck. In the case of todays visit, this was St Feuillien Blonde (#29) which DuBocq brews on behalf of St. Feuillien most of the time.

I did get the time to ask a few questions in the Brewery Tap at the end as I tucked into my Deugniet which I will share another time (#210), but now for the beer itself. Served in the appropriate glass, it was cool, golden blonde and high in carbonation. It immediately slaked my thirst from walking round confused for an hour and certainly had a bit of kick to it. There were some hop flavours, but I really couldn’t put my finger on any others. A run of the mill blonde I would say, from a run of the mill brewery.

Leave a comment

Filed under 6, Abbey Tripel, Du Bocq

#63 – La Gauloise Brune

La Gauloise Brune

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.1 %

My second beer in the Purnode campsite was another local brew from just across the way – La Gauloise Brune. This is a beer that celebrates the many Gallo-Roman sites in the locality, and which when first brewed back in 1858 by Du Bocq, attempted to recreate how those residents of ancient Gaul would have brewed beer. The strapline of the beer echoes this – ‘La biere de nos ancetres’. These ancestors funnily enough were known as Gauls.

Gaul is the historic name used by the Roman Empire to refer to the region of Western Europe that was what is now largely France and Belgium. In fact, Julius Caesar went as far as to break Gaul down further into three distinct ethnic groups – The Aquitani in the south west, the Celts in the middle, and the Belgae in the north between the Rhine and the Seine.

Gaul was eventually conquered by the Romans during the Gallic wars, where at least a million people died, and a further million were enslaved (totalling almost a half of the entire Gallic population). three hundred tribes were subjugated, and eight hundred cities destroyed. The tribes never really had a chance to be fair, as more often than not they were fighting amongst themselves, even when Julius Caesar became the common enemy. Their principal religion tended to be animism, in which animals were worshipped, and they tended to follow the political inclinations of the Druids, who had particularly strong beliefs in not recording the Celtic wisdom and literature into writing. It is often said that this is the reason the language of the Celts has virtually disappeared without trace except for parts of Brittany. For anybody seeking further information on the Gauls I would suggest reading Asterix. From what I have read on Gaul so far, it remains remarkably coherent in its portrayal of life at this time.

I was served the beer in a cracking little tankard with the newer logo on it, and after pouring I held it up to the light, to see a chestnut brown infused with ruby red. It looked the business, especially with its sepia head remaining pert on top. The aroma was intensely malty, and the taste was smooth and strong, echoing even more maltiness. It was a pleasant drink right to the end, but just didn’t go far enough to earn a better rating. Anyway, it has inspired me to go back and read Asterix, which of course I will do once I finish Tintin.

Leave a comment

Filed under 7, Abbey Dubbel, Du Bocq

#62 – Belle-Vue Gueuze

#62 - Belle-Vue Gueuze

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 5.2 %

I introduced gueuze after reviewing Timmermans Traditional Gueuze (#12) and this was another of those more sweetened lambics for the mass markets. After a few heavy days driving on the road back from Italy, through Switzerland and France, we were back in Belgium, at a small homely campsite in Purnode, a stones throw from the Du Bocq brewery. The owner ran a cosy restaurant with a limited bar, and I had spotted a few I had yet to try.

The Belle-Vue Gueuze is labelled as a filtered gueuze, which is a fairly complimentary term for a mass market gueuze. There was a famous Royal Proclamation in 1993 that ruled that any beer wanting to use the term ‘lambic’ or ‘gueuze’ on its label, must have a proportion of authentic lambic beer in it, of at least 10%. Therefore breweries such as Timmermans and Belle-Vue (now under AB InBev’s tenure) are able to increase their sales of their produce with the cheapest methods available. Lambic beer takes time and loving care to nurture, so why would a brewery intent on a fast buck want to use the authentic stuff?

Although a number of breweries have tried to muscle in on the gueuze market, it should be fairly easy for anybody even new to these beers to spot the filtered type. If its sweet and your girlfriend likes it, then it’s most likely filtered. Tash was very fond of this one so I was fairly convinced I had found a duffer. It poured a feint orange with barely any head, and a reassuring whiff of caramel. The taste was refreshingly sweet, and if anything tasted like a Caramac bar. Not the usual thing I am looking for in a beer, but I couldn’t deny it wasn’t actually as bad as it could have been. The child in me quite enjoyed it.

(Post-Script) – for the first real authentic gueuze I would try, please refer to the Boon Oude Gueuze (#89).

1 Comment

Filed under 6, Belle-Vue (InBev), Lambic - Gueuze

#61 – La Guillotine

#61 - La Guillotine

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

La Guillotine by Huyghe is a beer that was first brewed in 1989 as a celebration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution. Anyone who does a search on the French Revolution on this website or who has read all the reviews so far will know how influential the Revolution was on the entire history of monastic life in Belgium. The Abbeys and abbey life almost ceased to be, henceforth so did almost all the associated breweries.

The symbol of the Guillotine on the label is one that symbolises the immense loss of life suffered during the ‘Reign of Terror’. The names of Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, and Maximilien Robespierre are all well known and were notable beheadees of the Revolution, but another estimated 40,000 people were executed in this manner, almost certainly without trial, and in many instances, without reason.

It would be impossible to sum up in such a small opportunity the entire history of the Revolution, but it would be worth taking the time to explain quite why this event had such a profound effect on the clergy in Belgium. Essentially at this time, there was increasing poverty across this area of Europe, and while the monarchy lived the life of riley, and the clergy held important powers while being exempt from taxes, a bubbling resentment began to boil up throughout the 18th Century. The riots which led to the eventual storming of the Bastille were a build up of years of hostility to the ever growing gulf in fortunes. Once this iconic moment in the Revolution had happened, it seemed to foster anarchy across the whole nation who soon gained the confidence to attack chateaux and monasteries as evidence of their displeasure. This became manifest in November 1789 when the National Assembly declared that the property of the Church was “at the disposal of the nation.”, and legislation abolished monastic vows. The nail in the coffin came in February 1790 when all religious orders were officially dissolved, and monks and nuns were encouraged to return to private life. What religious buildings didn’t close were usually destroyed and under the Reign of Terror many priests were imprisoned and massacred.

Quite what possessed Huyghe to introduce a beer to celebrate these events is beyond me, but drink it I did, while in a Bed and Breakfast in Tivoli. Again, I had secured a room with a fridge and after a hot sweaty day toiling around Rome this beer was badly needed. It poured an immense head that took forever to clear, leaving a pale coloured liquid, beneath which was as super-carbonated as any beer I had tried yet. Just watching the legs fizzing down the side of the glass was mesmerising, leaving an intense lace. The flavour was nothing special but there was definitely pineapple and lemon somewhere within, and the overriding experience in drinking this was the profound strength. It was tart and rigged with an extremely powerful kick, and I hate to say this because others already have, but any more than two or three of these and you are guaranteed to lose your head!

1 Comment

Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Huyghe

#60 – Abbaye d’Aulne Tripel Brune

#60 - Abbaye D'Aulne

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Another different Abbey beer brand – number 18 of the journey so far, but within the story of this one there is a nice ending which almost leaves this beer unique amongst Abbey beers.

The general history however is far from unique, other than that at some points in its history, the Abbaye d’Aulne has been Benedictine, Augustinian and Cistercian. It was founded in around 637 by St. Landelinus and remained Benedictine until around 1144, when secular clerics took over who adhered to the rules of St. Augustine. This was short-lived however, as in 1147 the Cistercian Abbot, Franco de Morveaux continued the religious traditions. The Abbey remained Cistercian until the French, no doubt jealous of such fine beers, used the backdrop of the French Revolution to once again destroy a wonderful building and brewing tradition. Though the buildings were destroyed in 1752, the monks did re-establish the brewery in 1796, although it petered out by 1850 as the number of monks eventually declined to the point of being unable to support the brewery.

As was typical in the 1950’s, a number of local breweries, including de Smedt, had latched onto the Abbey theme and associated their beers with the Abbey d’Aulne, but in 1998 something quite remarkable happened, in that the Val de Sambre brewery set up shop in the ruins of the Abbey. If we go back through our veritable trail of Abbey beers, very few can lay claim to still being brewed in the Abbey grounds. The actual current brewery is what used to be the stables in the Middle Ages.

So what could a microbrewery do in an old outbuilding? The answer was not great things. The Abbaye d’Aulne Tripel Brune poured a good frothy head atop a chestnut hued lake. The smell promised much with mysterious aromas emanating but this ended up tasting like most standard browns. There was the odd touch of caramel and liquorice which my uneducated palate picked up, but it ended up far too weak and watery for an 8% beer to warrant any further attention. A fairly stable beer if you will excuse the pun.

1 Comment

Filed under 6, Abbey Beer, Abbey Tripel, Val de Sambre

#59 – Lindemans Faro

#59 - Lindemans Faro

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 4.8 %

This is the first Faro of the Odyssey, and the Lindemans is probably the most well-known Faro with its black Art-Nouveau label. This particular one was first brewed by Lindemans in 1978, however it is quite different from the original Faro recipe, which was a much lower-alcohol beer, blended from lambic and a lighter fresh beer known as a meertsbier. Brown sugar, or sometimes caramel or molasses were then added to sweeten it. Because the lambic was weakened with the lesser beer or in some cases water, it was often the cheapest beer on the market in olden days, and seen as the drink of the working man. In those days the sugar was normally added at the end, shortly before serving and therefore had little effect on the strength or carbonation of the final product.

Nowadays brewers tend not to use meertsbier, but still blend old lambics with younger lambics and then use brown sugar or brown sugar substitutes to add to the bottle, which is then pasteurised to prevent the re-fermentation while it sits. A modern day Faro never really hits the high strengths of other beers, but at 4.8% is still a dangerous one to drink chilled in the warm sunshine as its sweetness ensure it glides down far too easily. I hadn’t been feeling particularly well on this afternoon, and so this was a perfect beer to try and pick me up.

I didn’t expect the reddish colour of this beer, but of course this is a result of the brown candied sugar added to the bottle. It smelt quite sour, although not quite of the potency of a Rodenbach Grand Cru (#17), and the initial head and fizz subsumed quickly. Ice cold from the fridge this was very enjoyable though, and was a great mix of sweet and sour. It held up well to the last drop, but the odd hints of strawberry and Vimto put me off somewhat in giving it a more generous score. As I have a sweet tooth this I found more amenable than the only gueuze (#12) I had tried so far.

1 Comment

Filed under 7, Lambic - Faro, Lindemans

#58 – Cuvee li Crochon Blonde

 

#58 - Cuvee li Crochon Blonde

 

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 6.8 %

My final blonde of the night was Cuvee li Crochon Blonde – a little beer with a funky label, and another one from Couvin. The website which gives some information on the heritage of the beers identifies the Couvin warehouse as one of only a few in the area that actually stock this beer, thus this and its sister brown beer may be one of the rarer ones tried so far.

It is worth starting with the regionality mentioned above and the Onhaye municipality which has a population of only about 5000 inhabitants. It may be a tiny place, but it is proud of its beautiful Ardennes location (only 5km west of Dinant); so much so that in 1982 the ‘La Confrerie Li Crochon’ was founded. This Brotherhood of Li Crochon, as it translates, was set up to promote tourism in this area mainly based around local cuisine. Li Crochon is not the heron on the label, which I immediately assumed on drinking, but actually a symbolic dish of the region, which refers to the end slices of a loaf of bread, which are spread with local cheese and then roasted over a wood fire. By god that sounds delicious!

A modernised version of this dish tends to refer to a hollowed out bun, which is topped with cheese, ham and cream and baked in the oven. It must be good if they set up a brotherhood to look after it and then brewed a beer to accompany it. The brewing is now carried out by Du Bocq, but previously a couple of local brasseries began the tradition of finding a perfect beer for the dish. I must confess I am not sure they did a particularly good job. I found this blonde easily the most disappointing of the night. It neither fizzed or popped on opening, and once poured looked almost green in the light, and anaemic. It smelt of nothing in particular and tasted watery and weak. I had only reserved scores of below 5 for poor fruit beers and the truly disgusting but this moribund effort sadly didn’t make the grade. I just hope the dish Li Crochon is better or they may as well sack the Brotherhood.

(Post-Script) – At least the Cuvee li Crochon Brune was a lot better (#136).

1 Comment

Filed under 4, Belgian Ale, Du Bocq, Heron