Monthly Archives: January 2011

#181 – Kasteel Triple

#181 - Kasteel Triple

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 11 %

This is the second and penultimate beer from the Kasteel range which has found its way down my throat. The first was the dark sweet cloying beast that is the Kasteel Donker (#93), where I had previously told the story of the history of the famous castle in Ingelmunster, up until 1986 when the brewing siblings Luc and Marc Van Honsebrouck moved in.

It hasn’t all been good news though since. In 2001 the beautiful moated building was devastated by a terrible fire. Work has been done ever since to restore the castle however so immense was the damage that at least two thirds are no longer open to the public. The structure does though remain, and has been bandaged up over the years to at least look better on the outside, but the heart and soul has literally been ripped out of this historic building. This is no better exemplified than by the loss of almost everything inside – family furniture, tapestries, sculptures and paintings all perished forever one September evening.

It also isn’t the first time that the castle has burnt down. This jinxed building and in fact the whole village of Ingelmunster was completely razed in 1695 following hostilities between English, French and Spanish soldiers. The rebuilding which followed under Hapsburg rule has led to the current design which has only just hung onto existence by the very skin of its teeth. In fact, the only area now safe for the public to enter is the Kasteelkelder, the atmospheric name for the castle’s basement. It is here where tourists and beer fans can enjoy tasting the famous Van Honsebrouck beers in their traditional castle shaped glasses.

The Kasteel Triple is another megalith of a beer. Weighing in at 11% you would need to ensure you had a designated driver if you were stopping in at Ingelmunster for a quick tipple. Somebody recently suggested to me that this beer is similar to the Bush Blonde (#164) by Dubuisson, and to be fair they aren’t too far wrong in terms of appearance and potency, however I feel the Kasteel Tripel has just a little more panache in the finish. There is some fruit in there, some spice and whatever that something is that just urges you to want another. This is by no means a professional ground-breaking brew, but it deserves its place as one of the better super-strength triples.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Tripel, Van Honsebrouck

#180 – De Block Speciale

#180 - De Block Speciale

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6 %

De Block is a solid little brewery tucked away in the Flemish Brabant region of Belgium. I had already tried their Dendermonde Tripel (#47), and Kastaar (#96), each of which had a unique story to tell, but as yet the story of De Block has gone untold. They don’t produce a wide range of beers so I will take my opportunity now.

It’s another great family tradition that has endured for well over half a millennia. The actual brewery was initiated by Louis de Block who was a local miller and farmer, who married the daughter of a brewer from Baardegem. This was particularly handy for Louis as he had inherited a right to brew beer from his immediate family. Henricus de Block way back in the 14th Century had been bestowed this privilege for his contribution as a vassal of the Duke of Brabant and Burgundy. Whether Louis had chosen his bride out of love, or for her specialist brewing knowledge is now immaterial.

As is common in the lowlands, the family tradition has been to hand down the baton of brewing to the next family member, and the De Blocks are no exception. We can trace the family history right the way back. The most recent beneficiary is Paul Saerens who married into the De Block family. He has been keen to ensure that the De Block name continues despite the apparent void of male heirs. It has been under Saerens that De Block have widened their scope in the export market. Flemish Brabant is not shy of a few breweries, being one of the most condensed areas in Belgium for beer production. Saerens spotted this and opened up De Block to the rest of Europe, North America, Australia and Japan, and now almost 80% of current production leaves Belgium for foreign shores. Perhaps the most recognisable brand is that of the Satan beers which dominate the brewery’s marketing.

You might be mistaken for thinking as I was that, that the De Block Speciale is a staple house beer. It is far from that! The unique taste of this attractively packaged beer is certainly one to divide opinion. It is actually a brew blended from both young and old beers, and is flavoured with pomegranate and elderflowers. This certainly accounts for the bizarre medicinal floridity which is definitely one of the most unsubtle kicks I have had so far on this journey. Although on first appearance the De Block Speciale looks like a traditional golden ale all comparisons thereafter can be written off. This is a particularly carbonated fruity sour ale albeit with a redeeming bitterness. It is certainly unique, although after about half a glass becomes somewhat tiresome. I guess this is one of those beers you would have little chance of not recognising blindfolded, and I am still trying to work out if that is a compliment or not.

(Thanks to Andrew at 40 Beers at 40 for the excellent photograph)

 

 

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Filed under 6, Belgian Ale, De Block

#179 – Duivels Bier

#179 - Duivels Bier

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

This is yet another tale of a modern beer with a very rich and gothic history. Frank Boon (#89, #147) our hero and defender of lambic put Duivels Bier on the market in 2003 – a very unassuming looking dark beer amidst a sea of high quality lambic and gueuze. He had once enjoyed a beer called Duivelsbier which was produced by Vander Linden. Sadly this was another regional brewery who bit the bullet during challenging times, and Frank, just as he did with lambic, could not bear to sit by while this favourite beer rotted into extinction.

The original Duivelsbier was the first of its kind in Belgium to appellate itself to the Devil. In 1883 the brewery in Halle known as Petre Freres started brewing a Scotch Ale that was made with the raw materials of a Faro, yet with English hops and yeast. It did so well that in 1900 Joseph Petre won a “Grand Prix” award, and by 1916 the town of Halle was famous for it. It would still be another eight years until the famous beer from Moortgat would title its beer after the Devil (#34). This would eventually lead to quite a fierce rivalry for the name.

The brewery Petre Freres unfortunately lost its way after the Second World War, and in 1952 was taken over by Vander Linden who acquired the brand name of the Devils beer, and repackaged it in enamel 33cl bottles. In 1958 they further upped the stakes with a switch to a darkly gothic label and font – one not at all dissimilar from that of the most well known beer named after the Devil as illustrated below.

Gothic Label

The rise and fall of each beer over the next forty or so years is most appropriately indicated by the fact that when Frank Boon repackaged Duivels Bier in 2003 he was not best placed to recreate the original gothic labels so as to distinguish itself from Duvel.

The two beers are of course very different. Duvel is a famous golden ale, whereas the original Duivelsbier from Halle was much darker, sour and spontaneously fermented. Frank Boon has kept the new Duivels Bier a much more steady brown offering. It is fairly sweet and yet remains dry on the palate with hints of malt and chestnuts. It is thick enough to discern itself from other similar beers but for me is still rather living in the shadow of a beer that in a previous life was once its apprentice.

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Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Boon