Category Archives: Fruit Beer

#246 – Mystic Limoen

#246 - Mystic Limoen

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 3.8 %

I often feel small pangs of guilt when having to write the odd bad thing about a beer; I mean at the end of the day it’s just my opinion right? There is however, a moment every so often, when you come across a beer which is crying out to be slam-dunked in the public forum. I have therefore absolutely no compunction whatsoever in advising every discerning and non-discerning beer drinker to steer well clear of the Mystic Limoen.

Any self-respecting beer aficionado of course wouldn’t need me to tell them this but there is clearly a market for the Mystic beers otherwise the brewers Haacht, and the number of other similar purveyors of these alcopops wouldn’t pollute the market with them. I would though like to bring to the attention of those who might fancy a brief dalliance with these beers, exactly what goes into them, because it certainly aint just barley, water, hops and yeast. According to the official ingredients you will also find the sinister sounding Acesulfame K among other dubiously unnatural additives.

I remember having a long conversation once with a homeopath about diet drinks and artificial sweeteners. The general view was that chemical additives such as aspartame end up pickling your internal organs if drunk in excess, and I’ve been cautious ever since. I decided therefore to have a quick look at Ace-K, or Acesulfame Potassium, or Sunett or Sweet-One as it is also more familiarly marketed as in the US. It has been an officially approved sweetener since 1988; approved that is by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA. Remarkably Ace-K is two hundred times sweeter than table sugar and therefore has been widely used in carbonated drinks alongside other high street sweeteners, whereby a combination of both can often reduce the natural bitterness. That is about all the good news.

The bad news is that this is an additive which has barely been properly tested. Although the FDA in the USA and similar bodies in Europe will deny any concerns, Ace-K contains methylene chloride which is generally held to have carcinogenic properties. Aside from cancer, long term exposure to this compound can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver and kidney dysfunction, and visual disturbances. Tests conducted on rats over three months showed that an administration of acetoacetamide (a breakdown product) caused benign tumours. The FDA argue that further tests have proved inconclusive, in particular a study by the  National Toxicology Program where 60 rats were exposed to massively high does of Ace-K and did not contract tumours. Either way, there is clearly some concern over these additives, and it is generally accepted that Ace-K is one of the most under-tested and potentially most dangerous of the artifical sweetener family.

I’m not stating a case either way but one thing is for sure; that sweeteners such as Ace-K have no place in the world of beer, or certainly not the beer world which I want to live in. The Mystic Limoen was a dreadful experience in its own right, but when you consider the potential implications on your health of drinking beverages like this it just further adds to your woe. The irony of potentially poisoning the very punters that keep them in business at least raised something of a smirk; which is at least more than the beer or this story did.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under 4, Fruit Beer, Haacht

#209 – Hoegaarden Citrons

#209 - Hoegaarden Citrons

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 3 %

You only need to read the review of Hoegaarden (#81) to understand why the beer I am drinking today has ever come to exist. I am almost certain that if Pierre Celis still looked after affairs then the Hoegaarden Citrons would be little more than a bad idea scribbled on a discarded flipchart page *. But it’s Belgian, and therefore I need to drink it. I’ll try and be quick.

The history of Hoegaarden I previously outlined was a brief glimpse into the sad demise of the de Kluis brewery, and one of the outcomes of this new modern world was the addition of a number of low strength fruit beers to the range. Simple concept of weak base beer diluted further with some kind of processed syrup. It’s a fairly common practice now amongst modern day breweries who clearly have a market for such stuff or they wouldn’t make it. Hoegaarden have delivered us the Citrons (lemon and lime), and the Rosee (raspberry). Other breweries who have succumbed are Haacht with their Mystic range, Du Bocq who have polluted the market with beers such as Agrumbocq (#74), Redbocq and Applebocq. Bockor (Jacobins), de Smedt (Grisette), Huyghe (Floris) and Het Anker (Boscoulis) are among others who have all cashed in.

The formula clearly does work. In 2009, a year after the production of beer was returned to the Hoegaarden spiritual home, the annual report of AB/InBev referred to Hoegaarden products as the fastest growing brand. This is surely more to do with the international reputation of the staple blanche beer than the summer Citrons and Rosee. An example of this globalisation was the production of Hoegaarden for the South Korean market in 2008, through subsidiary company Oriental Brewery. While this has been another commercial success for AB/InBev through the accounts ledgers, the general public agree that the flavour is a far cry from the original. I guess you could say here is another example of the great brand being Seouled out 😉

The Hoegaarden Citrons hit the Benelux market in 2008, marketed as a ‘beer aromatised with lemon and lime, with sugar and an artificial sweetener. Not filtered, naturally misty’. It was perfectly pitched for those looking for a low strength beer on a hot summer afternoon. Clearly this is why this beer never made it over to the UK, hence I tried it on a dark blustery afternoon indoors. I’m sad to say that I actually found it quite refreshing. It barely touched the sides and reminded me more of cool lime sodas that I regularly drunk while travelling around India. Nothing like nostalgia to improve a rating. If you are the designated driver and you need refreshing there are plenty worse options available than this one.

* Pierre Celis sadly passed away in April this year after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 86 years old. I feel confident that whatever Pierre is drinking right now as he looks down to survey the fruits of his labours, it won’t be a Hoegaarden Citrons.

Leave a comment

Filed under 6, Fruit Beer, Hoegaarden (InBev)

#189 – Super des Fagnes Griottes

#189 - Super des Fagnes Griottes

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 4.8 %

Griotte is a French term which defines the genus of sour cherries known scientifically as Prunus cerasus. The crop is largely cultivated in Europe and southwestAsia, and is similar to the regular wild cherry, but for the acidity of the fruit that is borne. The trees tend to be much smaller, and the fruit a lot darker.

One of the most well known sour cherries is that of the Morello. These are distinguished by their dark skin, flesh and juice, and are extremely useful for making pies and jams, and of course beer. The griotte on its own isn’t really ideal for eating as it is quite bitter, but these are perfect for use in beer, in that the strong complex flavour is brought out as a result of melding with large amounts of sugar. The griotte is also a very hardy fruit, being exceptionally resistant to pests and diseases, and is therefore often able to survive the hardest conditions. Its fertility is also renowned amongst sweeter varieties of cherries, and farmers often have little problems keeping cherry production stable. Sour cherries are often labelled self-fertile, or self-pollenizing.

So it’s fairly easy to see why sour cherries have been used so much in Belgiumto make beer. Not only are they easy to grow and store, they give good colour to the brew, but also due to their flavour they are able to hide what might normally be a pretty average beer. I am pretty sure having drunk the Super des Fagnes Griottes, that this is particularly the case here. This was a fairly sour, but largely uninspiring fruit beer. I had previously drunk the average Super des Fagnes Blonde (#56), and the excellent Super des Fagnes Brune (#50), however the Griottes left something of a sour taste in my mouth.

Leave a comment

Filed under 5, Deer, Duck, Fagnes, Fruit Beer

#166 – Floris Ninkeberry

#166 - Floris Ninkeberry

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 3.6 %

Perhaps only the makers or marketeers of Floris Ninkeberry really know why this beer is thus called. This was the first time I had ever tried a fruit beer from the colourful Floris range, and it was purely due to the fact that I had never tried a Ninkeberry before. Having spent almost ten years of my youth working in the greengrocery industry before and after school you can imagine my excitement at discovering a brand new exotic fruit. Forget the beer!

You can imagine my disappointment when on eagerly studying the label I discovered that this poor excuse for a fruit beer is just a syrupy fruit mix of a medley of other tropical fruits. Ninkeberries do not exist anywhere, only in the devious minds of the Huyghe marketeers. I had popped into the Dovetail for a quick devious lunchtime beer to try and forget the strains of work, and had found myself duped into a buying a syrupy mess named after a made up fruit. The Floris Ninkeberry is actually flavoured with mango, passion fruit, apricot and peach syrups blended into your typical staple wheat beer. Live and Learn.

Ok, so the marketing ploy was working, but what on earth prompted somebody to name a pretend fruit a Ninkeberry? It could be any of the following reasons:-

a)      Ninke is sourced from the name Aikaterine, a Greek name meaning ‘pure’. This could refer to the fact that this beer is pure….well pure rubbish.

b)      Ninke is often a nickname used in the Dutch language for Catharina, again a derivative of Aikaterine. Could it be this beer is named after somebodies daughter or wife?

c)      Other derivatives postulated have been that Ninke comes from the Greek Goddess of Magic (Hecate), or more aptly the Greek Goddess of Torture (Katateino).

d)      An urban slang dictionary labels the term Ninke as a particularly kinky form of sex, no doubt by combining the terms Kinky and Nookie.

Whatever the reason be sure to avoid this one, especially if you are buying it in one of London’s most expensive pubs. What a ninkeberry!

2 Comments

Filed under 5, Fruit Beer, Huyghe

#74 – Agrumbocq

#74 - Agrumbocq

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 3.1 %

DuBocq announced their newest beer with the following – “After the Applebocq and the Redbocq, the Brasserie du Bocq is pleased to announce the birth of the Agrumbocq”. I wonder if the Director of the movie ‘Air Bud 4: Seventh Inning Fetch’ followed a similar marketing strategy? For anybody who hasn’t seen the movie franchise of the sporting golden retriever – don’t! Where Air Bud is clearly catering for the inane and the immature, I am still no nearer working out what market Agrumbocq is trying to serve. DuBocq recommend on their website that it is ideal after sport. Perhaps this may be why the Belgian national football team have so shamefully failed to qualify for any major tournaments in recent years. I could have sworn something Isotonic would be much more useful, or even a Schweppes soft drink which DuBocq seem to have shamelessly lifted their ideas from.

Agrumbocq is essentially a mix of their Blanche de Namur witbier, and mandarin juice with a hint of grapefruit and lime. Agrum generally refers to ‘the fields’, or ‘the soil’ – not something that springs to mind when considering citrus fruit, but it seemed to work for Schweppes.

On my travels I came across a particular spiritual latin phrase which when translated seemed to perfectly sum up the relationship between Agrumbocq and my 1000 Belgian Beer Odyssey. Per Agrum Ad Sacrum – the Per Agrum (literally through the fields) being the rough unchartered terrain that life entails, and Ad Sacrum (literally out of this world) being the ultimate reward at the end of the pilgrimage. The path to nirvana is often littered with obstacles, and just as my journey to 1000 Belgian beers is going to be rewarded by exceptional tastes and flavours, there are clearly going to be ones that make you wonder why you bothered. It is a common saying in the world, that to meet your prince you have to kiss a few frogs.

The Agrumbocq wasn’t what you might call unpleasant, but then neither is an ice cold glass of Pepsi. The bigger question is can this really be called a beer? I know Tim Webb would be shaking his head at me (#24) but then I took on this journey and I reason you can’t know what’s the best unless you really have tried the worst. I don’t have anything more to say other than it tasted of exactly what it said on the bottle. I only wish I had done some sport before hand and it might have gone down a little quicker.

Leave a comment

Filed under 4, Du Bocq, Fruit Beer

#54 – Bon Secours Myrtille

#54 - Bon Secours Myrtille

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7 %

While shopping for groceries in a small supermarket in Diekirch in Luxembourg, I spotted the Bon Secours Myrtille at a reassuringly tempting price. This looked interesting I thought, and so added it to the trolley. If anyone else is similarly tempted to do the same, then please read further and ensure you leave this aberration on the shelf.

I was convinced that the Myrtille I was drinking was made of blueberries but in actual fact it is a bilberry beer, with a dash of raspberries. Bilberries are similar to blueberries but there are a number of sizeable differences. Firstly, although similar in taste, bilberries are actually smaller than blueberries, and are generally darker in colour – appearing more black than blue. The pulp of the bilberry is also a reddy purple hue, as opposed to the light green interior of the blueberry. They also grow in single or paired berries on bushes as opposed to the clusters of blueberries. Should you be interested in creating your own bilberry myrtille beer, you will no doubt now be at a distinct advantage, although finding them will not be easy. They are particularly difficult to grow and are therefore rarely cultivated. Also, they are much softer than the blueberry and therefore tend not to travel well. Good gourmet stores on the continent might well stock bilberries, but you will likely be charged up to 25 Euros per pound. It is a mystery to me that a) somebody therefore decided to brew a bilberry beer, and that b) they managed to make such a horses arse of it.

There may be something working in its favour however, in that the world of science has tended to find that bilberries may aid certain eye disorders. It was a common myth during World War II, that RAF pilots would consume bilberry jam in an attempt to sharpen their visual acuity before flying missions. Perhaps we should be thankful that pilots chose to digest jam rather than 7% fruit beers, or the course of European history may have chartered a completely different and more unsavoury path.

Talking of unsavoury, back to my tasting. Yet again, I fell foul of a Bon Secours swing-top bottle (#28) – the last one killed my Orval glass, this one soiled my ‘Good Beer Guide to Belgium’ a grotty shade of blue. I had already knocked a point off! The colour, when I eventually decanted the remaining two-thirds into my glass, was impressive with a deep bluey purple staring back at me. It smelt reasonable as well with deep summer fruits hitting my nose, but then I tried it. Certainly I have had more impressive alcopops. This tasted neither of beer or blueberries (as I expected it to), moreover it was just a glass full of foul tasting crap. How this can be described as a beer is remarkable, and contrary to the belief that bilberries can cure eye disorders, is that almost certainly when brewed like this, the side effects will be acute stomach disorders !

3 Comments

Filed under 3, Caulier, Fruit Beer

#24 – Fruli Strawberry

#24 - Fruli Strawberry

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 4.1 %

I love the ‘Good Beer Guide: Belgium’. I love the ‘Good Beer Guide: Belgium’ so much because of its waging of war on the fruit flavoured beers. I asked author Tim Webb why he had omitted Fruli from the Good Beer Guide: Belgium, and the response I got was.. “Somewhere between don’t know, don’t care, and isn’t a beer anyway!”

I am going to use the Guides own words to sum up these style of fruit beers as I don’t want to even compete with such bitterness. I’ll let you know what I think once I have drunk it.

‘Regular readers will notice that we have finally tired of some brewers’ relentless pursuit of mediocrity, as represented in part by the wave of so-called fruit beers – now over 100 – most of which are made by adding syrup, concentrate, extract, or cordial to an otherwise dull beer. The Guide will continue to introduce readers to the delights of drinks that for centuries have been made by steeping fruit in vats of soured ales or lambics and praise them unceasingly. On the other hand, these modern incarnations have been red-penned. However ‘nice’ some are – and many taste frankly disgusting – these are not beers and have no place in this book.

Tim Webb continues later ‘Strictly speaking, lambics are wheat beers. This may explain the ghastly new trend of adding fruit syrups into wheat beer before bottling. By all means try these concoctions but, if you do, could you please hide your copy of the Guide from view.’

For the mission to reach 1000 beers I will not red-pen these beers. As unlikely as I am to rate them particularly highly, it would be wrong of me not to judge them fairly and equitably, although having already squirmed through a Mongozo (#1) I cant exactly say I am looking forward to them. As for the Fruli, it testifies quite openly to being 70% wheat and 30% fruit juice. The advertising on the world wide web seems to openly laugh in the face of beer snobs and clearly is targeting a younger and more inexperienced beer drinking clientele.

It was certainly refreshing, and certainly tasted of strawberries. Definitely one for the summer, and definitely one for the ladies – to which I mean absolutely no disrespect for the few craft beer drinking ladies I have met. Sadly I have just found out that there are another three types of Fruli beer out there somewhere. Lets hope fate keeps me away for long enough to reach the 1000.

4 Comments

Filed under 4, Fruit Beer, Huyghe