Monthly Archives: January 2012

#242 – St Idesbald Blond

#242 - St Idesbald Blond

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

One of the highlights of drinking a thousand Belgian beers is the opportunity to tell a good story. I’ve already come across a number of Saints on my venerable journey thus far and I’m expecting plenty more to come. This time it’s the turn of St Idesbald to distract us from our guzzling, although to be fair during his actual lifetime there wasn’t a great deal to set the pulse racing.

The chief protagonist of the tale was born in approximately 1090 in West Flanders. He was of good solid stock, belonging to the noble family of van der Gracht who were lords of Moorsel. He continued to ingratiate himself with the more esteemed end of the community as a courtier and page to the Count of Flanders and followed a life of piety as a Cistercian monk. He became a canon priest in the beautiful town of Veurne in 1135, and by 1150 shortly after being widowed he joined the Abbey of our Lady of the Dunes (ten Duinen). He would eventually serve as Abbot until his death in 1167, where he was buried in a lead coffin shrine within the Abbey.

The Abbey was an important pillar of the society, and as the beer label will attest, in 1138 it was taken by the Order of Citeaux as an adopted daughter of the Cistercian Abbey of Clairvaux. The St Idesbald beers in many ways celebrate this milestone as much as they do the man – who for centuries lay dormant in his final resting place. It was only in 1577 that things started to hot up a little, when the Gueuzen (essentially the Flemish uprising) plundered the Abbey and razed it to the ground. St Idesbald had been a key figure in the history of the Abbey and the locals were keen to ensure his remains were left untarnished and so transported his shrine to a farmhouse in Bogaerde. It remained here until 1623 where a macabre local survey was carried out which involved opening up the coffin. Amazingly the body of St Idesbald was found to be fully intact and uncorrupted.

The relics of St Idesbald were to become extremely important to the local populace and while the Abbey no longer existed, the farm in Bogaerde housed the coffin. He remained here until the French Revolutionary troops plundered the area whence his holy remains were whisked off to the relative safety of Bruges, eventually ending up in the hospital chapel at the Abbey of our Lady of the Potteries. Amazingly St Idesbald was not venerated as a Saint until 1894, and you can still visit his untarnished remains at the chapel in Bruges to this day, although unlike in 1623 you cannot actually view his lifeless body any longer.

You can though have a beer to celebrate his life, although the St Idesbald Blond is also hardly a brew to get your pulse racing. It is a typical standard Belgian blonde beer which pours a pale gold with a quite ferocious head. The nose is nothing to write home about and the flavour offers little distinguishable above a light fruity twang. This would be a pleasant enough summer barbecue beer for friends who perhaps don’t quite have the urge to explore anything too interesting on the tongue but want something a little stronger than supermarket lager.

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Filed under 6, Belgian Ale, Huyghe

#241 – Zatte Bie

#241 - Zatte Bie

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

Another offering from the de Bie brewery. I hadn’t had the greatest of experiences up to now from this small brewery (notably #112, #113, and #156) but I had heard good things about the Zatte Bie, and I’m aware the brewery had not always had the most consistent beers from their early offerings.

The name of the beer literally translates as Drunk Bee, and at 9% ABV a few of these wouldn’t take long to instil violence in the common man if you believed everything you read (#240). Almost every beer blog or review you will ever read will concentrate on the sensory experiences associated with tasting the beer, but we almost forget that when you drink beers properly (as opposed to tasting) it doesn’t take too many of them of this strength to wipe you out. Seeing as it’s a fairly topical subject I thought I would take a foray into what might typically happen to my body today as I get Zatted.

Generally the first few beers probably will slip by without too much noticeable activity but then things will start to happen. Alcohol increases bloodflow to the skin which will make the drinker begin to feel warm and look flushed. The Central nervous system will at this point also begin to experience some interference, firstly with picking up sensory information from key organs, and then being able to effectively respond to it. This causes those typical symptoms such as slurring, uneven balance and a dulling of pain. The frontal cortex of the brain will also start to be effected by the alcohol now, and will be the main reason for a lack of inhibition for many. You might also notice for the first few beers that you didn’t need to urinate but all of a sudden the seal has been broken. This will be the combination of alcohol being a diuretic and your kidneys starting to direct fluids straight to the bladder; a direct cause of the dehydration which will follow later in the hangover stage.

The liver starts to work its magic now also; generally responsible for metabolising the alcohol from the body, although it can only do this at about one or two units per hour; probably much slower than you can drink. If it’s Belgian beers that are on the menu then its likely there will be much more glucose entering the bloodstream. The body resists this surge of sweetness by producing more insulin; and it will struggle to know when to stop. In the latter stages of a good beer session that typical shakiness of the limbs and dizziness is caused by the now depleted glucose levels. This will make even the hardened beer drinker tired and the body will begin to crave a carbohydrate boost – a biological explanation for the Munchies.

It’s likely that sleep will be the next thing on the agenda although this will be badly affected as well by the Zatte Bie. Alcohol has a negative effect on sleeping rhythms and the dehydration caused by drinking prevents the quality rest needed to fully recharge batteries. At this stage also the pharyngeal muscles in the throat will have completely relaxed and therefore there will be an increased chance of snoring; culminating in an increased chanced of being poked and nudged all night by disaffected partners. Your body will now be preparing itself nicely for the hangover but I think that can wait for another day as I need to finish by lauding this tidy little stout. This seemed to be a newer batch from the brewery and was very well made. It looked wonderful in the glass with its regal ochre head proudly waiting to be broken. The taste was sweet and malty, with some spice and subtle bitterness underneath. This isn’t the most polished beer in the world but certainly is the pick of the brewery and is probably worth punishing your body with.

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Filed under 7, Bee, Belgian Strong Ale, De Bie

#240 – Crack Pils

#240 - Crack Pils

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 5 %

If there was ever a more appropriately named Belgian beer to take to an illegal rave than Crack Pils, then it hasn’t been brewed yet. I saw this tacky little lager sitting all alone on a dusty shelf in the old den Zytholog shed in Adegem. I wouldn’t be the first person in the world, and certainly won’t be the last to be tempted by both Crack and Pills.

It’s all very well to smugly sit here and make wisecracks about hard narcotics but perhaps the irony is that the beer we drink and read and write about is a drug. The general classification for a drug is simply ‘any substance which when absorbed into a living organism may modify one or more of its functions’. You could equally argue that vitamins and hormones are similarly classed as drugs, but they don’t quite elicit the same bodily effects as a good skinful of booze.

Anti-alcohol activists, of which there are many, would have you believe that alcoholic beverages are on a par with illegal street drugs such as Crack. Your average beer drinker might tend to disagree but it is worth looking at a few facts before immediately writing off such claims. A number of recent studies in the US have claimed that excessive alcohol consumption is associated with approximately 75,000 deaths per year, and that 41% of all deaths from motor vehicle crashes involved alcohol. How tenuous these links are is up for discussion, however you only have to be in city centres at closing time these days to see for yourself the carnage which alcohol can cause. The studies continue to allege that alcohol abuse in our youth tends to lead to academic and occupational problems, as well as physical violence and illegal behaviour. Long term alcohol misuse is also proven to be associated with liver disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurological damage, as well as psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders. Bleak stuff.

This isn’t just a US issue either. A recent journal article in the Lancet in the UK claimed that alcohol is the most dangerous drug, ahead of both heroin (2nd), and cocaine (3rd). The basis of the claims centre on both the harm to the individual and on society of excessive alcohol consumption. It’s a convenient point of view for those who wish to take advantage of the situation and increase taxes further, or censor advertising although there is almost certainly no smoke without fire. Sitting here in my ivory tower drinking this hideous little beer it’s easy to point the finger at the rest of society but then I began to recall nights when I wrestled a police officer to the ground after a pub crawl, charged at a group of riot police in Ghent, urinated against a police station door in Antwerp, and stole a boat and had to be rescued by life-boats about a mile out to sea (#76). I like to consider myself a pretty upstanding member of society and so alcohol clearly has something to answer for.

The moral of this story is clearly don’t do Crack, don’t do Pills, and more importantly whatever you do don’t do Crack Pils, or SAS Export, West Pils, Suma Pils or any other pseudonyms of this beer that may exist.

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Filed under 4, Leroy, Pilsener

#239 – Old Buccaneer Reserve

#239 - Old Buccaneer Reserve

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

The fact that here again is another pirate-themed beer seems to back up the fact that these sea-faring plunderers are synonymous with beer and booze. From the annals of buccaneers in the Caribbean to the modern day pirates of Somalia – the common denominator seems to be the natural proclivity to guzzle alcohol. It is a generally accepted myth that virtually the only initiation test a pirate needed to pass was to be able to drink a large boot of beer straight down.

Whilst beer may have played some role on dry land it is probably far more likely that pirates, corsairs and buccaneers would have been drinking other varieties of lubrication once asail. Wine kept well on long voyages and was generally stronger than beer and thus was a popular brew, and of course all pirates are associated with rum. Due to the increased strength and its durability it was the natural choice to take away to sea. It was often much safer to drink than water which wouldn’t have stored particularly well, and so pirates drinking booze was probably quite a sensible choice.

For the exact same reasons gin was also very popular, but pirates didn’t lack creativity. With plenty of time at sea there is recorded evidence that pirates made cocktails to liven up their crew. Bumboo is a fairly well known drink which is a mixture of dark rum, lemon juice and spices, and Flip would be similar to the above but with the addition of egg yolk. Rumfustian was another popular drink and tended to consist of similar ingredients to Flip but with added sherry and gin. Interestingly it seems to be accepted that the popular Mediterranean drink Sangria may have originated on a pirate ship under the name Sangaree where pirate bartenders would combine left over fruit with red wine – anything to avoid scurvy!

Perhaps the best known marine cocktail however has to be Grog. Many of us may commonly use this term to refer to beer or booze in general but in seafaring days of yore, Grog was a drink which was pretty much brewed in the kettle using rum, beer, oatmeal and spices. These ingredients would probably have been in plentiful supply and it isn’t hard to see why Grog was so popular. Whilst the pirates may have drunk Grog, the credit for inventing it seems to lay with Vice Admiral Edward Vernon who introduced the brew into the Royal Navy in 1740 as a remedy for improving health. He always wore a coat made of grogram cloth and thus became known as Old Grog. Grog is still commonly made nowadays but tends to be served warm and made sweeter with sugar which no doubt improves the taste no end.

The grog now sitting in my Belgian beer glass was strictly the barley variety and is actually a label beer made by Van Steenberge. More popularly known as Bornem Tripel, it was created to pad out the du Boucanier range which was sold and distributed through Icobes (#237). It is likely this association is very limited now as I rarely see these beers anymore in reputable beer shops, and this beer is long retired – although the Bornem variant still lives on. The Old Reserve was actually a better beer than some of the others in the range with equal measure of fizz and flavour. A standard fruity tripel which at least got your palate talking to your brain, although one which I wouldn’t buy it again even if I could.

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Filed under 6, Abbey Tripel, Brewers, Parrot, Van Steenberge

#238 – Bosprotter

#238 - Bosprotter

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

Some time ago I asked Jef Goetelen, the brewmaster and owner of t’Hofbrouwerijke if he could explain the story behind the names of some of his beers. It is often a quandary to monolinguistic people like me trying to write about beers written and made in another language. I’m glad I asked, as I wasn’t expecting Bosprotter to be a reference to people that fart in the forest.

Whilst clearing ones pipes in a designated outdoor area is probably more eco- and family-friendly than not, I was relieved to hear that the term forest-farter has a less literal meaning when translated from Flemish to English. A bosprotter is a mountain-biker, and when Jef isn’t brewing beer, and whilst his brews are fermenting each week he and his fellow bosprotters can often be found in the woods getting muddy and scaring the local wildlife!

The Bosprotter was Jefs first proper beer, and the odd title for a beer is one which is symbolic of Jefs approach to brewing, which he sees as more of a hobby than a full time job. Jefs love of forest-farting is no different to his love of brewing beer, which considering the professional set up of equipment at t’Hofbrouwerijke is surprising – Jef rebuilt his entire house to accommodate the current brewing facilities. Jef may only consider his brewing to be a hobby but many of his beers have met with high acclaim. This is clearly a result of having good kit and having practiced for many years getting it right, but I will save that story for maybe the next beer.

The Bosprotterin question which took a little while to pour and settle, was a proper home-made Tripel. It was evident that it was unfiltered and unpasteurised and underneath the slowly dissipating head sat a rich golden coloured beer. There was definitely some unique sweet and spicy flavours in there which was professionally accompanied by some good old fashioned maltiness. The beer tended to fade somewhat the longer it was in the glass which was a bit of a shame, but I’d still say it’s worth a shot if you see it in sitting on the shelves. The newer labels should easily identify it now, and at least back up the title of the beer more appropriately with what looks like an old fart in the forest making beer!

Bosprotter's new identity

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Filed under 7, Abbey Tripel, t'Hofbrouwerijke

#237 – du Boucanier Christmas

#237 - du Boucanier Christmas

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9.5%

When you drink 9.5% beers it tends to have an effect on your mental faculties. Of course the range of dysfunction will tend to depend on the number of 9.5% beers consumed however it certainly takes less of these to get to that happy maladjusted state. Once I had got around to polishing off the Biere du Boucanier Christmas I was keen to ask the question – so how do pirates celebrate Christmas?

It’s not something I’m sure many people have ever thought about and once I was sober again I realised it was a stupid question. I have to admit to searching on Google in the extremely optimistic hope that somebody had published a university paper on the subject. Aside from finding a plethora of Christmas carols which had been butchered to fit a jaunty nautical theme or a number of children’s storybooks I found very little. What was I hoping for? A Christmas tree plundered from an island and tied to the mast? Boozed up buccaneers passed out around the wireless waiting for the Kings speech?

I am surprised though that the marketeers haven’t yet cashed in on the festive piratical theme when it comes to the du Boucanier range of beers – they seem to have covered everything else. The beers are brewed by Van Steenberge but marketed and distributed by a company called Icobes. The portfolio of beers consists of the Blonde Ale, a Red Ale (#27), a Dark Ale (#174), and this Christmas Ale. There is also a Buccaneer Old Reserve beer which seems to use the same theme but is actually the same beer as the Bornem Tripel. This is also the same brewery which makes the much tastier Piraat 9 (#15), and Piraat 10.5. Clearly somebody at Van Steenberge likes pirates, and Icobes certainly feel there is a market given the merchandise available.

The beers, in particular the flagship (excuse the pun) Blonde Ale are sold in anything from 33cl bottles, six pack gift boxes and 750ml bottles, to Magnums, Jeroboams and the mighty Salmanazar. These are largely for one-off brews such as the Grand Reserve 3rd Millenium, and the Grand Reserve Prestige du Brasseur, although I have never seen any of these and given the dated nature of the company website can only assume the novelty of the du Boucanier beers has waned in recent years. If anyone wants to put this to the test the following can be ordered for Christmas presents:- T shirts, baseball caps, posters, mirrors, enamelled pins, picture frames, bandannas and shawls, as well as the regular beer mats, gift sets and beer glasses. You can also buy the boot shaped 0.5l glass which was discovered in the du Boucanier Dark Ale (#174). I rarely see these beers anymore although still cling to the hope of trying the popular Blonde Ale some day.

The Christmas beer itself though was really quite disappointing. While the Red and the Dark Ales hadn’t exactly been seminal brews they did at least have some redeeming features, whereas this high strength amber could and should have delivered so much more. It’s a style of beer that I am particularly fond of, but there was very little flavour to the beer, aside from a pineapple tinge and the extra strength offered no increase in character in any way. It will get you pissed though which is at least something when you have had enough of the relatives on Christmas day.

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Filed under 5, Belgian Strong Ale, Christmas Beer, Van Steenberge

#236 – Witkap Pater Dubbel

#236 - Witkap Pater Dubbel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7 %

It’s difficult to drink beer in Belgium and not be touched by the hand of God somewhere along the way. I have lost track over the past couple of hundred brews how many times I have come across abbeys, monks and monasteries. The beer from the Witkap range which I previously tried was the Tripel (#94) which led me to investigate the Cistercian monk from the label. I have already met Benedictines, Carmelites (#229), and Trappists and so I thought I’d use the Witkap Pater Dubbel to try and make some sense of some of these monastic classifications.

There are essentially two main categories of order; Contemplative, and Non-Contemplative. I will deal with the former first, which contain the bulk of the orders you will come across while drinking Belgian beers ie the Trappists, Carmelites, Carthusians and Cistercians. Contemplative orders are those who have given their lives to God but with minimal interaction with the outside world. Although they seek not to talk to the world, by praying they hope to save those very souls they shy away from. There are three main types who can all be traced back to their founders – the Benedictines from St Benedict (525), the Carmelites who formed at Mount Carmel (circa 14th Century), and the Carthusians from St Bruno (11th Century).

Benedictine orders typically reside in communities but have limited interaction, although they do interact with each other. This in contrast to the austere Carthusians whose monks isolate themselves even from their fellow brothers. Carmelites tend to be somewhere in the middle, although of course it is impossible to simplify these orders too much. To confuse matters even more it is worth pointing out that in fact the Cistercians formed as a splinter group from the Benedictines and that the Trappists have over time diverged from the Cistercians. Both groups sought a more literal interpretation of the Benedictine doctrine and both choose their vocation with subtle differences. Trappists tend to make a living from the production of goods for the public and have thrived whereas the insulated lives of the Benedictines and Cistercians haven’t.

The other Order, those Non-Contemplatives, are also known as Active Orders. These are the communities of monks who tend to have more direct interaction with the outside world. They are less bound by the walls of the monastery and rather than being self-supportive often tend to live off the charity of others. The two main types are the Franciscans, formed by St Francis (13th Century), and the Dominicans, hailing from St Dominic (also 13th Century). The former live a simple life with the main aim of giving aid to the poor through prayer and good works, whereas the latter have taken a more educational stance towards engaging and training society to look after itself.

It would be insulting to those involved to suggest it is in anyway as simplistic as this. Each monastic community across Belgium and the world will act and live to its own particular custom, but it does give the beer drinker a perspective on the colourful background which accompanies each brew. In the case of the Witkap Pater Dubbel, the history is probably a little more interesting than the actual beer, which was a standard malty double, with a fair level of carbonation and a sharp spicy finish. Fairly enjoyable but hardly worth writing about – unless of course you try to disseminate thousands of years of monastic life into a few paragraphs!

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Filed under 7, Abbey Dubbel, Slagmuylder

#235 – Avec les Bons Voeux

#235 - Avec les Bons Voeux

Size: 750 ml

ABV: 9.5%

There are numerous reasons why brewers make Christmas beers which I touched upon when I celebrated the Bush de Noel (#83), and one of those key reasons was by way of a thank you present from the brewery to its regular customers. It had certainly been an issue in Germany in the past that due to higher levies of tax placed upon higher strength beers, brewers would make less financial return on the sale of seasonal beverages. It was therefore the customer that was seen as benefiting most, although I’m less convinced on a wider level with this somewhat altruistic view. If there was ever a story thought that really merited the claims that brewers gave presents to their loyal customers, then the Avec les Bons Voeux must be the perfect example.

The clue is in the ridiculously long full title – Avec les Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont – which translates towith the best wishes of the brewery Dupont’. In 1970, the then head brewer and owner, Sylva Rosier wanted to reward the loyal customers of Dupont for their continued custom and decided to brew a one-off extremely limited higher strength beer. The beer was so limited that customers needed to be on a very select reservation list. The more and more I get to know about the Brasserie Dupont, the more I know that this was no marketing gimmick. They valued their customers immensely and this was their New Year present back to them. Such was the clamour for the beer, that Rosier once again brewed another very exclusive batch the following year. Unbelievably it would be another twenty-six years before the beer would finally be brewed on a regular basis where production levels were increased to be available to both the local and international markets.

There is no doubt that this was a great result for the beer drinking public of the world. The Avec les Bons Voeux is a fantastic beer which many claim to be the best beer made at Dupont; which given the reputation of many of the other beers in their portfolio is high praise indeed. It is a high strength saison, which pours a delightful copperish blonde, with an almost perfect head. It is both fruity and dry, and yet wonderfully bitter – a by-product of dry-hopping as the final act of good will. It has a complex flavour which is fairly hard to pin down and yet it leaves you knowing you are drinking a seriously high quality beer. At 9.5% ABV it is also deceptively strong. Saisons began life as beers which could be drunk by workers in the sun while they toiled in the fields. This certainly isn’t one of them. It only comes in large bottles, and while the 750ml bottle should be manageable on your own, you might want to ask for assistance in polishing off the Magnum sized bottle. I was stupid enough to share this one with my dad who naturally moaned that it wasnt real ale – what a waste of good beer!

 

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Filed under 8, Dupont, Saison

#234 – Ondineke Oilsjtersen Tripel

#234 - Ondineke Oilsjtersen Tripel

Size: 750 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

The Ondineke Oilsjtersen Tripel, is the official beer of the town of Aalst. De Glazen Toren are the brewery who make this interesting beer, and are based in the hamlet of Erpe Mere which sits just outside the town. Oilsjtersen Tripel essentially translates into the Tripel from Aalst.

De Glazen Toren have chosen the spindly female character Ondineke to represent the beer, and who depending on the vintage of the beer, you can find gracing the beautifully decorated red and yellow paper labels. She is the main character from a famous book by the Flemish author Louis Paul Boon. The book is called De Kapellekensbaan, and is largely considered to be the authors literary masterpiece – so much so that it was widely touted as a potential winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Ondineke clearly means something to the people of Aalst, despite the main subplot of the book being her continued fruitless efforts to rid herself of the place. Born as a feisty working class girl, she attempts to use her all the charms she has available to her to influence a better life for herself elsewhere. Ondineke’s labours are set in the industrial 1900s however the critique and author commentary style of the book is largely set much later in the century.  It is a somewhat chaotic book which reflects the personality of the author at the time who was wrestling with his inner Marxist demons. Gone it would seem were the idealistic aspirations which had shaped much of his early work, and what was left was a gritty taste of small town realism. It seems to suit the Belgium I know quite well, unless of course you like beer.

I have yet to visit Aalst, but I’m told if you visit you will probably come across Ondineke in some capacity. The local beer shops will no doubt stock plenty of the beer, there is a café of the same name, and if you visit the City Hall there is a cute copy of a sculpture of Ondineke which was recently moved there to protect it from vandalism. The original can be found at the Stedelijk Museum in the old fish market.

The beer itself was particularly enjoyable. I was frequenting one of those classic Pakistani kebab restaurants in the East End of London where they encourage you to bring your own booze, and although it probably could have benefited from being a bit cooler; it was the perfect accompaniment to a great meal. Ondineke Oilsjtersen Tripel is a classic Tripel which has a unique taste of its own; probably from the addition of a good dose of liquid candi sugar. The beer is double hopped with local produce, and no further spice is added, and the result is an aromatically pungent thick orange brew which stands out from the usual mainstream Tripel. It certainly got the seal of approval from my fellow diners who felt they were missing out on something with their cheap wine and tins of Aussie lager.

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Filed under 8, Abbey Tripel, Glazen Toren

#233 – Malheur 6

#233 - Malheur 6

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 6 %

The de Landtsheer brewery is yet another family business that has transcended the ages of Belgian history. The current President, Manu de Landtsheer is the latest in a long line of ancestors who have brought highly regarded beers to the market.

The founding father of the Malheur beers was Balthazar de Landtsheer, an exotically named gentleman who was born in 1773 in the hamlet of Bassrode. He set up a small rustic brewery on his farmstead which he named ‘De Halve Maan’. His son Eduard was born in 1808 and aside from eventually taking over the reins at the brewery, he also became the mayor of Bassrode. The nature of his involvement in politics meant that progress in brewing was slow, and it wasn’t until his son Emmanuel took over in the mid 1800s that the business began to muster strength.

Emmanuel decided to transfer the business from Bassrode to Buggenhout more as a means of getting in with the daughter of another local brewer who, to be fair he eventually married. Together they bought a small farm brewery named ‘it Meuleke’ and renamed it the Brouwerij de Zon (Sun Brewery). The business boomed and the company became so successful that they traded off the farm and concentrated solely on the beer. Emmanuel eventually passed away in 1879 leaving the business to his son Charles, who would in due course leave it to his own son; also named Emmanuel. The handover however was untimely as World War I arrived and brewing would have to cease. As was common at this desperate time, the family looked for alternative incomes and the brewery became in the end a depot for Pilsener Urquell, Westmalle, and the now defunct brewery Lamot.

The brewery would continue to remain inactive until 1997. Emmanuel and his son Adolf had by this time set up a successful hop farm on the premises but Adolf true to family tradition became the mayor of Buggenhout which would always distract him from his dream of once again brewing beer like his forefathers. He was mayor for a total of 33 years and he passed away in 1991. It was at this point that his son Manu felt the calling to vicariously achieve his father’s dream by reigniting the beer production on their farm. It’s fair to say they haven’t looked back since.

The Malheur 6 is a mid-strength copper coloured pale ale, which for me was distinctly average. There is much clamour around the globe now when the name Malheur is mentioned, but I would imagine it’s more for the dalliances into champagne style beers such as the Dark Brut, or the Cuvee Royale, than it is for the runty little Malheur 6. It poured an insipid looking amber colour with minimal head, and there was sadly very little of note from either the nose or the palate to recommend, which just like its name is fairly unfortunate.

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Filed under 6, Belgian Ale, de Landtsheer

#232 – Hougaerdse Das

#232 - Hougaerdse Das

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 5.1 %

I would imagine there aren’t many beer fans out there who haven’t at least once tasted the beer Hoegaarden (#81). As previously explained this beer hails from the small Belgian village of the same name. Since the brewing operations of the beer have moved back to the locality there are now two brewing establishments in the vicinity, however it is astonishing to think that in 1750 this tiny place once had 35 breweries operating at one time. With a population of around two thousand people that works out at about one brewery for every 57 people!

A number of reasons have accounted for this massive decline; notably two World wars, and the mass commercialisation of craft beers by bigger companies (of which the beer Hoegaarden has perhaps suffered more than any). A few famous old names have fallen by the wayside including the Brasserie Louis Tomsin, where Pierre Celis once worked when he was a boy, and de Grote Brouwerijen van Hoegaarden, or as it was more commonly known – Brasserie Loriers, for the name of the street on which it once proudly sat.

It was the Brasserie Loriers that launched a beer in 1931 called Hougaerdse Das. The brewmaster was Marcel Thomas who had been travelling to various breweries in England and had tried a small beer which he fell in love with. It became a very popular beer in the locality for the next thirty years until in 1960 the brewery at Loriers went the same way as so many others – bought out by Artois (a forerunner of the foodchain that is Interbrew-InBev-AB/InBev etc). It was only a couple of years and the brewery was shut for ever. Hougaerdse Das became a lost beer, although InBev continued to use the Das yeast to create their Vieuxtemps beer.

If we go back to the story of Hoegaarden (#81) we follow that Pierre Celis set up his de Kluis brewery in the village as a result of watching all his favourite breweries get closed down. In fact, Marcel Thomas helped Pierre to set up his own brewery. Following the terrible fire in 1985 Celis was forced to take alms from Interbrew, and of course the same fate befell him in 1987 when he was bought out. As a result of this unlikely partnership however, Hougaerdse Das was unexpectedly revived in 1996. Perhaps it wasn’t to be too unexpected though, as Celis had used the Das yeast for his own beers also in the early years.

I’m almost certain that in the early days this Speciale Das Ale was probably quite a beer, but it certainly isn’t anymore. It is an unfiltered light amber barley beer, which according to the official website is ‘easily drinkable, full of character and appealing to beer aficionados who like to experiment’. The recipe contains coriander and orange peel in addition to the usual water, barley, malt and hops, although the flavours were largely anonymous. Just like the original Hoegaarden beer changed under new stewardship, so probably has the Hougaerdse Das, given its local reputation of yore. I almost feel like euthanasia might be the best thing for this beer.

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Filed under 4, Belgian Ale, Hoegaarden (InBev), Lion

#231 – Authentique Blonde de Noel

#231 - Authentique Blonde de Noel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

Part of the fun of trying at least a thousand different beers is that it forces you to deviate from the popular and the mainstream. Sometimes you really wonder why you bother but then every now and then you get a nice surprise. The Brasserie Authentique is one such example.

This very small brewery in Blaton, deep in the Hainaut countryside was started by Frederick Baert back in 2004. The first few years began with just a once weekly brew which allowed him to experiment with the beers and get the business running. As with any small entrepreneurial brewing operation the kit starts to build slowly, and in the first few years Frederick was using brew kettles which were once used in the dairy for milk. He wouldn’t be the first and certainly won’t be the last. As the years have progressed, so has the output, and by 2007 Authentique were knocking out 60 hectolitres per year which virtually doubled in 2008, when a whole new set of fermentation tanks were installed.

Frederick takes the artisanal role very seriously – his brews are completely unpasteurised and bottle conditioned, and he uses different yeasts for the bottle conditioning than he does for the initial fermentation. The whole process takes about eight weeks from brewing to the final product being ready for the local shops and pubs. The first two weeks are typically spent in the warm conditioning room, followed by a couple of weeks settling themselves. A fortnight is usually then spent beginning the fermentation process, before the final two weeks is spent cold-conditioning the beers.

Authentique produce a variety of beers, including a blonde, tripel and brune (labelled as 621), however I first got my hands on the Blonde de Noel Christmas offering, which was my first beer back from the energetic weekend spent in Antwerp. I needed something strong and spicy to get me back in the saddle, and this proved to be the perfect antidote. The Blonde de Noel is brewed with star anise and juniper which certainly added a lively kick to proceedings. It poured quickly and powerfully and I was unable to get the whole beer in the glass to begin with. After a little patience I was finally able to fully decant and ended up particularly impressed with the beer in my still trembling hands. It was strong, fruity and had plenty of depth; which no doubt the spices provided. I’m glad I have a few more of the Authentique range in my beer shed to cure my future excesses.

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Filed under 8, Authentique, Belgian Strong Ale

#230 – Het Kapittel Tripel Abt

#230 - Het Kapittel Tripel Abt

Size: 750 ml

ABV: 10 %

It would be extremely rude to spend a night in the Kulminator bar and not pay more than just fleeting attention to this most impressive of booze joints. As fate would have it I’ve dabbled with a couple of others in the Het Kapittel portfolio, notably the Pater (#2), and the Dubbel (#108) so there would be a good place to brush up on the beers and the brewery.

The Kulminator is close to the city centre but far out enough to be off the tourist trail. For those curious it’s on Vleminckveld – although it’s easy to miss so look for the number 32. Hours can vary but most evenings you will find it open until the owners Dirk and Leen decide they’ve had enough for the night. This is a beer bar which is very much open on the terms of the proprietors which in essence defines the character of the place. I’ve been in enough beer bars now to appreciate a deviation from the norm and this is certainly no exception.

It was a cold wet night in question, and it easily took me two or three minutes to demist the glasses and come to terms with the stuffy layout. It took that long to find a dog-eared beer menu, and appropriate a seat at the bar, which was just enough time for Leen to accept our first order (#228). The beer was delicious, the music was stately and the atmosphere was eerie. Dirk was sat in a dusty corner surrounded by antiquities nursing a goblet of something fancy while completing his accounts. He barely raised an eye at our arrival, although I very much got the feeling that the days takings were peripheral to the real reason for being open.

The story of Dirk and Leen is an interesting one and dates back to 1974 when the couple opened a wine bar named Bodega in the Kiel district of Antwerp. The locals seemed though to prefer the grain to the grape, and so the focus of the bar was diverted towards beer; and not just local beer. Although all the Belgian classics were found there, you could also get your hands on Danish porters and reknowned German lagers and Bocks. One beer in particular, the EKU 28 was particularly popular and a favourite of Dirk. You might have heard of it by its other name – the Kulminator 28.

The Bodega bar eventually could no longer serve the increasing clientele which Dirk and Leen were garnering through their beer selection. Although the cellar could hold around a thousand cases of aging beer easily enough, the bar could only accommodate about thirty people, and so in 1979 they moved to their current location. The name was changed but the concept remained, and by 2005 they eventually managed to move all their old beer across. Some would say the Kulminator is more a museum than a bar, and it is hard to disagree. The place is littered with breweriana, but not only can you choose a beer, you get to select your vintage. Our second order of the night was a particularly expensive Chimay Blue (#45) that sent Leen into the bowels of the Kulminator. She returned a fair time later with a dust-laden vintage beautifully presented in a wicker basket. Needless to say it was well worth the investment.

By the time we had shared the Het Kapittel Abt the owners were getting restless, and we had had plenty enough beer, breaking open a Tripel Karmeliet (#229) and a La Montagnarde prior (#167). It isn’t therefore with much confidence that I bring you the thoughts on the beer, but from what I recall it was a thick meaty amberish brown which was full of flavour. Like most beers they tend to taste better from the bigger bottles where the yeast has more room to develop, and this was no different. By the time we had polished off the remains and put the world to rights, Dirk had kicked us unceremoniously out the door in his trademark no-nonsense fashion and of course having crossed the line of common sense some time ago we went in search of more beer. I’m not sure who was most upset – us the next day with the chronic hangover, or the landlady of our digs who had to let us in at some unearthly hour of the morning. Well and truly Kulminated I’m afraid.

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Filed under 8, Abt/Quadrupel, Van Eecke

#229 – Tripel Karmeliet

#229 - Tripel Karmeliet

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.4 %

I am surprised as anyone that it has taken this long to try this beer. After the Dulle Teve (#228) and some wonderful aged Chimay Blue (#45) from the depths of the Kulminator cellar it was time to try this highly rated Tripel.

In many ways the Tripel Karmeliet is a new beer; launched by the quirky Bosteels brewery in 1996, however the original recipe is said to hail from the former Carmelite monastery in Dendermonde. It was there in 1679 that friars made a beer brewed not only with barley, but also wheat and oats – proof that multi-grain isn’t a 21st century phenomenon. It is now heavily spiced and flavoured with Styrian hops which may have been beyond the friars, as was the bottle refermentation, but the idea was the same.

The Karmeliet, or Carmelites, were an influential bunch in Europe in the late 17th Century when this beer was first conceptualised. The Order is said to have originated on Mount Carmel near Haifa in Israel. The mountain has significant Biblical relevance in its connections to the prophet Elijah, and has long been a refuge for hermits laying down their lives to God – long before a 12th Century chapel was built in honour of Mary by the hermetical Brothers of St Mary of Mount Carmel. It was here that the typical characteristics of the Carmelite Order were formed; notably the importance of poverty and manual labour, and latterly the devotion to silent prayer.

Around 1235 the Carmelites were forced to flee Israel under threat of the Saracen invaders and Europe was the obvious destination for many. Over the next two hundred years the Carmelite Orders grew in importance and power, and monasteries blossomed in this new spiritual and intellectual age. Relying on their own labour and alms it was a natural inclination to begin to brew beer for the local population and save them from the evils of disease-ridden water. Of course the Carmelites would have met their match during the French Revolution and they have been virtually wiped off the map apart from small areas of the Netherlands and Belgium.

In the Tripel Karmeliet however the Ordo Carmelitarum lives on, and lives on in style. This is a robustly delicious brew which is instantly recognisable on first looks, and then taste. Its appearance, most notably served in the ostentatious and slightly tacky fleur-de-lys glass, is a light blond carbonated brew, which once put to the nose offers up a miasma of citrus and spice. The mix of wheat and oats into the grist gives the beer a uniquely dry, crisp and refreshing flavour which is bitter and sweet, and yet fruity and hoppy at the same time. It tantalises your tastebuds and defies you to order another. Dont be fooled though – At 8.4% this particular beer needs respect. The Order of Carmelites are well known for their fantastical visions, and I had one or two myself the next morning.

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Filed under 9, Abbey Tripel, Bosteels

#228 – Dulle Teve

#228 - Dulle Teve

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 10 %

This beer found me in Antwerp, and when in Antwerp there really is only one place to be – the Kulminator bar. We found a cosy couple of seats at the bar and eventually a dog-eared menu. It would be a long night, and a very long hangover, and it all started with a Mad Bitch.

Kris Herteleer, the enigmatic head brewer at de Dolle, would have people believe that this beer is named after his mother Moes, who in her mid nineties has been known to conduct tours around the Esen-based brewery. While there may be some truth behind this, there is actually another very good reason for the presence of this beer in the de Dolle range, which all stems from the history of the brewery here in the heart of West Flanders.

As the date etched onto one of the buildings in the main yard will testify there has been a building here since as far back as 1835. At that time a local doctor by the name of Louis Nevejan had set up a small brewery and distillery on the premises. Nevejan would eventually pass on in the year 1882, and the property and its trade was sold to Louis Costenoble whose family for three generations ran the brewery and distillery. In 1980 the Costenoble family ran out of interested parties to take on the business and so again the premises were put up for sale. It was at this point that the de Dolle brothers were messing about with home brews fairly seriously and were unhappy to see the loss of another local brewery. They stumped up the cash and decided to take a chance on improving their recipes in more professional surroundings.

The brewery had been inactive for a little while and so there was plenty of clearing up to be done which brothers Jo and Kris began promptly. As they began to prepare the premises for fresh brewing they discovered many old reminders from the Costenoble days – a number of which were old 250 ml bottles with labels still glued on. Costenoble had been brewing a 6% beer called de Dulle Teve for the local Het Niew Museum pub, and here were the only reminders of that time. The de Dolle Brouwers decided to recreate this beer, albeit somewhat more potently, and kept the same labels – a drawing by a local artist from Bruges.

The brewers were very keen to make a strong tripel and de Dulle Teve certainly lives up to the billing. The name, which essentially translates as Mad Bitch in English certainly conjures up how you might feel if you have had a few of these. It poured a murky golden hue, and sat menacingly looking at me from the glass. I wasn’t sure at first but as it started to warm up in the heady atmosphere of the bar all the typical de Dolle flavours began to swim with me. Made with pure malt, and candi sugar it was solid, strong and full of dark undertones which I couldn’t quite define but to be honest I didn’t really care. I wouldn’t label it a classic but I would certainly drink it again given another chance just to see if it was able to recreate the moment. I understand this beer has been rebranded simply as Tripel in the US as the name was deemed inappropriate. After writing about Satan Red (#215) that fact doesn’t really surprise me.

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Filed under 8, Abbey Tripel, De Dolle Brouwers