Category Archives: Huyghe

#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

#226 – Floris Honey

#226 - Floris Honey

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 3 %

I haven’t thus far had the most positive experiences with honey beers. The Barbar (#19) was remarkably average and didn’t even taste of honey, and the Le Pave de l’Ours (#117) was more akin to bears piss than anything else. Despite being a pretty naff excuse for a beer, at least the Floris Honey did actually taste of honey.

There are generally two ways in which honey can be added to a beer, and a simple comparison of the Barbar to the Floris Honey may well explain the taste phenomenon. The Barbar method, and the one which I have slightly more respect for, is to add the honey during the kettle boil. This process usually means that the honey will become part of the original gravity of the wort. As the honey tends to be a single sugar profile, then it will tend to ferment out completely and any sweetness may only remain aromatic. Brewers can attract widely varying flavours at this stage by trying different types of honey. Wildflower strains of honey tend to ensure a floral streak, whereas Buckwheat strains lead to a more roasted flavour. This likely though will be at the expense of the sweetness of the honey which is particularly true of the Barbar.

The Huyghe brewers of the Floris Honey however unashamedly add the honey post-fermentation, and so it doesn’t have the opportunity to lose its flavour and of course is added in such amounts that it will likely disguise the lack of flavour of a low strength wheat beer – a low strength wheat beer brewed with the sole intention of being butchered with flavourings. I have no idea what Silenrieux did with the Le Pave de l’Ours, but it may well have been a result of somebody leaving the door open at night!

Unlike the Le Pave de l’Ours, at least the Floris Honey is at least reasonably pleasant. I had popped into the Dovetail pub (#119) for a quick lunchtime beer, ahead of a reasonably important external meeting, and so anything too meaty could render me asleep by the first tea-break. The barmaid filled up a cloudy pale tumbler which had a wonderfully thick bubbly head. I was thirsty and it didn’t take too long to polish off half the glass. I can’t really say much more than it tasted of honey and was particularly refreshing. It wasn’t going to win any prizes but I knew what I expected when I ordered it.

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Filed under 6, Belgian White (Witbier), Huyghe

#201 – Artevelde Grand Cru

#201 - Artevelde Grand Cru

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.3 %

Jacob van Artevelde. He was so good the brewers at Huyghe named him twice. The original Artevelde (#144) was first marketed on the 5th July 1985, and then in 1987 the brewery decided to rightly improve things and had their first stab at bottle conditioning a beer.

Jacob van Artevelde is a natural choice really as a symbol of Ghent. The 14th Century statesman was of Ghent stock, and a successful Flemish statesman. He was also known widely as the ‘Master Brewer of Ghent’ such was his love for making beer. Until very recently and the opening of the Gentse brewery, Huyghe has largely dominated the brewing scene in Ghent, and despite my spurious views on Huyghe as a quality brewery, nobody can really argue that they aren’t the master brewers themselves of Ghent.

The Artevelde beers signalled what was a massive change for the brewers at Huyghe. I’m yet to delve into the earlier history at the brewery, but at this time there was a radical renovation and reformation of its purpose and structure. Away went the dull and listless pilsener recipes for which they were known, and in came the plans to develop high fermentation beers for both the Belgian and International markets. It was a statement of intent, and despite more famously now being known for beers such as the Floris range, or the Delirium Tremens, it was the Artevelde beers which kick-started this successful move into mainstream.

Despite my misgivings of the original Artevelde, the result of the attempts to improve it was the Artevelde Grand Cru. This special vintage beer was destined to be stronger, thicker and brewed using only natural sugars. For some reason I expected a more syrupy version of the original but on the pour I was surprised to see a sepia coloured beer, with a thin meek head. The murky depths provided an oddly herbal aroma, which failed to really materialise on tasting it. There were strains of malt and chocolate somewhere within, but the flavour never really went anywhere, and although this was a reasonable first attempt at bottle conditioning, I would be lying if I said this stood the test against comparable beers.

Jacob van Artevelde was murdered by a mob of his own townspeople and is in many ways a martyr to the city of Ghent. In a kind of symbolic way I get the feeling the beers of Artevelde remain on the market more out of nostalgia for their role in revolutionising Huyghe than for any aesthetic qualities they bring – which seems fair enough.

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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Huyghe

#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!

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Filed under 5, Fruit Beer, Huyghe

#144 – Artevelde

 

#144 - Artevelde

 

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 5.7 %

As I opened this impressive looking beer on a quiet night indoors I didn’t give a great deal of thought to who it was named after. Once though I had unfortunately drunk it, I needed to know exactly what possessed a brewery to create such a monster.

Jacob van Artevelde is the man in question, who was famous as a 14th Century Flemish statesman and political leader. Born in Ghent, of wealthy stock, he continued to amass fortunes here as an entrepreneur in the weaving industry and as an occasional brewer. During the Hundred Years War though he began to fear for the prosperity of Ghent, as the hostilities between France and England began to crank up a level. He created an alliance with the city states of Bruges and Ypres, and then sided these with the English, in order to continue to gain from the wool and textile trade. At this stage Artvelde almost single handedly ruled Ghent as the Captain General.

His great rivalry was always with the Counts of Flanders who had been unable to check his rise to prominence, and with the Three Member Alliance, and allegiance to England greatly building the wealth of Ghent, he became an easy target for jealousy and resentment. The reality was such that in 1345, Artevelde proposed to recognise the English King as the sovereign of Ghent at the expense of Louis, the Count of Flanders. A large insurrection in the streets ensued, and Artevelde was caught by his own people and murdered at the hands of the mob. It was to signal the return to obedience for the town of Ghent.

Jacob van Artvelde faded into history soon after, but has posthumously regained his status as a key figure in the history of Ghent. He is honoured by a number of statues in the town, and the local brewery Huyghe even went as far as naming two beers after him. Bearing in mind it was Huyghe, it should come as no surprise that this beer was unpalatable and moribund. At least Sexy Rubbel Lager (#87) had the decency to do what it suggested on the bottle, rather than besmirch the good name of a local legend. Avoid at all costs.

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Filed under 4, Belgian Ale, Huyghe

#125 – Campus

#125 - Campus

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7 %

Campus is an orphan beer. This is a term I tend to use for those beers who have survived on in the new world despite losing their parental home. The foster parents in this case are Huyghe who rescued a number of small local breweries through acquisition in the 1990’s.  Biertoren from the town of Kampenhout, were the unfortunate original mother and father.

Biertoren translates fairly easily into English as the Beer Tower, and was a title used when the Smedts family first began brewing in a property previously owned by the Duke of Arenburg around Rotselaar. The place was already loosely titled ‘the tower’ after the local castles main keep, and so it didn’t take much imagination to finally agree on ‘beer tower’. The Smedts at the time were very much leading a collective of locals in producing the beer, and eventually common ground was lost, with a number of other partners choosing to set up other breweries.

In the 1930’s the Smedts family were forced to move due to the high rents placed upon them, and they found the empty brewery buildings in Kampenhout which in 1939 would begin to serve as the home of Biertoren. These buildings already had a rich brewing history since around 1840, and a range of Campus beers were added to the menu. The beer gets its name from the town of Kampenhout, and the label bedecked with the university mortar board is an apt one, in that it reflects the student spirit which is centred around Leuven.

If I ever get the dubious honour of drinking another beer from this orphan stable then I will detail a little more of the recent history at Kampenhout, although to be fair it’s fairly uninteresting, just as was the Campus beer itself. It’s important to discern this amber brew from the Campus Premium (lager), and the Campus Gold (blonde) which by all accounts are even worse. This beer should have come with a sheet of muslin, to enable the pour – never have I seen so much crap in a beer! After three attempts at some strategic decanting, in which I lost about a quarter of the volume I was able to start drinking. Amber, fizzy and decidedly herbal were the best descriptors I could use. It did improve as I neared the canal sediment, but by that stage I had definitely decided to give this one up for adoption.

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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Huyghe

#87 – Rubbel Sexy Lager

#87 - Rubbel Sexy Lager

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 5 %

Rubbel Sexy Lager is ashamedly Belgian. When you close your eyes and think of why Belgian beer culture is so revered, you don’t immediately think about Rubbel Sexy Lager, but for now, for this moment in time, it would be great to share the story, and to enjoy some gentle irony at the expense of the alcohol regulators in the UK.

In February 2008, all bottles of Rubbel Sexy Lager were stripped from UK shelves. It would be best to use the exact words of Portman Group manager David Poley to explain why – of course also remembering to keep referring back to the label pictured above. And yes, that is a scratch and remove bikini !

“Drinking excessively can affect people’s judgement and behaviour leading to them engaging in sexual activity which they later regret…Our Code disallows drinks marketing being linked to sexual success…The industry has set itself strict marketing rules and this drink has fallen short of those high standards.”

Rightly or wrongly, and forgetting the quality of the beer for a moment, is it worth considering the amount of products that exist on our TV screens today, and on bill-boards across the country that don’t use sex to sell products? Cars sell on the premise of sex. It wasn’t long ago that almost all car and motorcycle advertisements used scantily clad females draped across the paintwork. Advertising has become more subtle but the message remains. Just ask all those men who as teenagers were besotted by Nicole. The marketeers behind Lynx deodorant would make you believe that even the most undesirable male can pick up hot girls with a couple of deft applications of cheap bodyspray. Even such obscure products as burgers (Paris Hilton, 2005) and Brylcreem have linked sexual success to their products.

I guess however there is a moral line somewhere in this which is important to note. Any male, or female for that matter, could pick up a can of bodyspray or hair product, or drive a fancy car to impress the opposite sex, but all is seen as fair game. Portman may of course argue that it might not be quite as fair to use drugs such as alcohol to gain an advantage in this area. Sexy Rubbel Lager is far removed from something sinister like Rohipnol, but the marketeers perhaps need to realise the position of alcohol in the market, and the potential dangers. After all there is statistically far more chance of picking up a partner in a bar than there is in a burger bar, and it is almost certainly exponentially related to the amount one or both has drunk.

That aside, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this beer to anyone, even if there was the faintest chance it might entice Kylie Minogue round for a peek in my cellar. Even if you consider the thirty seconds of fun I had revealing one unidentifiable breast and a glimpse of pubic hair, there is no way I would return and drink this beast of a drink again. It was a foul weak tasteless lager with no redeeming features whatsoever. Caveat Emptor !

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Filed under 3, Huyghe, Pilsener