Category Archives: Abbey Tripel

#250 – Les Brasseurs Tripel

 

Les Brasseurs Tripel

Size: cask

ABV:  5.5 %

Stag parties tend to drink quicker than average; which in Belgium can be pretty dangerous. The poor Best Man will tend to hold the pocketful of age-weathered bank-notes and begrudgingly have to order a round of drinks every time the quickest drinker finishes his; and everybody else is too embarrassed to decline a drink so will continue to drink apace. In this case our quickest drinker was one of those more mature gentlemen who spends the majority of his time at the bar in England quaffing three or four pints of real ale every hour and never ever getting even slightly tipsy. This was very bad news.

We had only been in Les Brasseurs de la Grand Place for about eight minutes and we were already on to round two, which included the time it took to order from the bar. Table service seemed to have dried up at the moment the proprietors clocked it was a stag party, although from what I have heard about this place it could just as likely have been their customary incalcitrance. This brewpub is quickly having its reputation tarnished as an unfriendly tourist trap, which of course my party were not helping in any way with.

The location though is damned impressive; set literally just an inch off the Grand Place in Brussels. On a warmer day one can sit outside with a fag and a beer and watch one of Europes finest city squares go about its business. Today though it was cold, and we were all firmly indoors, which is also something of a pleasure. As soon as you enter Les Brasseurs you are immediately faced with the copper brew kettles on your left, from which seemingly miles of steel tubing wends away around the bar, upstairs, and into various atmospheric niches, nooks and crannies. The brewpub is set on three levels and the owners have done well to cram it all in so snugly. If you get bored tried to follow the maze of tubes with your eyes, then there is plenty of breweriana to explore.

Les Brasseurs de la Grand Place opened in the summer of 2001, and occupies a splendid looking building in the corner of the square. It was once a grocers, hardware store and even a concert hall, before finally ending up a famous coffee house in the 14th Century. It was only after a terrible fire in more recent times that the premises changed to one of Belgium’s most famous microbreweries. They continue to serve Brussels tourist fraternity by everyday drinking hours, and only somehow find the time to brew overnight when the public have finally been shoe-horned out the premises. It’s an expensive place to drink as you would expect, and they clearly make a lot of money given the daily throughput.

I recently read a comment about Les Brasseurs along the lines of “it could and should be so much more”, which is really quite painfully true. Here sits a microbrewery set in the very beating heart of a beer drinking capital which doesn’t seem to really take care of its customer. Les Brasseurs seem to have targeted their market at the average tourist, as opposed to any particular beer aficionado, and I feel their beer portfolio probably reflects this well. The Tripel was distinctive in its flavour but not particularly memorable. It was quite pale and a little flat, and I had hardly time to dwell on anything else before somebody was lining up my next one. Sigh

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Filed under 6, Abbey Tripel, Brasseurs de la Grand Place

#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

#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

#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

#217 – Grimbergen Tripel

#217 - Grimbergen Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

Only beer #217 and it was with some relief that I reached the end of the Grimbergen range with the Tripel. I’m not saying that these beers are awful in anyway, but if ever there was an example of mass marketed mediocrity then this is it. This is an accusation often levelled at Leffe, but to be fair I’d take the Leffe Blonde (#41) over any of the Grimbergen beers any day.

It was only a few beers ago when I went exploring the Grimbergen website to search for the Goud/Doree (#212) and it was there that I found something most peculiar. Everything was in order on the Belgian version of the website, but somehow I had also managed to end up on a slightly different version of the website which presented me with what could only amount to a parallel universe. Where I was previously perusing through the Grimbergen Blonde (#8), and Grimbergen Dubbel (#9), I suddenly found myself at the end of a long dusty wardrobe staring out at an alien wintry landscape – there in full Grimbergen regalia stood a Grimbergen Blanche, and a Grimbergen Rouge. I rubbed the centre of my eyes to dramatic effect and looked again only for a Grimbergen Ambree to bounce into view. I really had entered some awful version of Beer Narnia.

With the horrific realisation that I might have to try more Grimbergen beers, I panicked and stumbled back through the wardrobe grasping at the fur lined coats and gasping for breath. As I sat in a puddle on the floor I tried to make sense of what I had just seen. I tried the website again. Nothing. I searched for Grimbergen. Nothing. I even checked with the O’Mighty one at ratebeer. Still confused. I looked back through the wardrobe and there was nothing but a sturdy oak panel. Christ, what did they put in that Val-Dieu Tripel (#216)?

Once my mind was straight(er) I was able to eventually find my way back to the reality which all stems from the history of takeovers which have punctuated the existence of the Brasserie Union; from its days as Alken-Maes, to the takeover by Carlsberg, and now where it sits under the watchful sentry of Kronenbourg. The latter of course are a monolithic beer producer in France, and all the apparitional beers which clouded my judgment do exist but more notably for the French market. There is even a Grimbergen La Reserve which I’m still working out whether I need to consider adding to my Odyssey. For now though I’m drinking the Grimbergen Tripel with the view that this will be my last for quite some time.

In fairness this may not have been that bad a beer. Although the pour was particularly flat with little sign of any lasting head, and that there was a certain flatness to the carbonation – the taste was quintessentially Tripel. There was some medium spicing and a good level of alcohol which you would expect from a beer of 9% ABV. I would go as far as saying this was the pick of the range that is marketed in Belgium – and I will leave it there for now. I have grudgingly accepted that that there is no quelling that damned Phoenix.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Abbey Tripel, Alken-Maes, Phoenix