Category Archives: Snail

#138 – Saxo

#138 - Saxo

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

Caracole lovingly adorn their beer labels with incarnations of snails. The reason for the snail on the label of this beer being mocked up with a saxophone is because Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the instrument, was born in Dinant; a stones throw from the home of Caracole.

Antoine-Joseph “Adolphe” Sax was born in 1814 into a musical family, and seemingly was always going to follow the trade of his father. He began to make his own instruments at school, and went on to study the flute and clarinet at the Royal School of Singing in Brussels. When he left there he devoted his life to improving the design of instruments, including the bass clarinet, and valved bugles which became known as saxhorns. These saxhorns were a revelation and changed the world of orchestras for ever, really laying the foundations for the brass band movement which was to come.

His coup de grace was to come in 1846 with the successful patent of the saxophone, which completely imposed his reputation on the world, ultimately securing a lucrative teaching job at the Paris Conservatoire in the 1860s. It wasn’t always plain sailing for Adolphe though, who continued to design instruments, and found himself bankrupt twice over claims he had stolen other designers ideas. He eventually passed away an old man in 1894, and was buried in the Montmartre cemetery in Paris.

The town of Dinant is very proud of Monsieur Sax. I had recently stayed near the town, and took advantage of a number of bars and restaurants in the town of an evening. When the lights come down on the main street, crudely hung neon saxophones flicker into action, and thanks to Caracole, you can even pay homage to the great man with a very enjoyable beer. It pours a deep amber and smelt so good that the first taste almost came as a bit of a disappointment. Where my nose was initially flooded with sweet caramel, I was slightly surprised with the mild bitterness which followed. That said, this beer got better and better on drinking, and was an excellent example of a sweet beer with a bit of a tang. The Caracole Saxo should be instrumental in any serious collectors cellar!

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Filed under 8, Belgian Ale, Caracole, Snail

#98 – Caracole Ambree

#98 - Caracole Ambree

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

Caracole is a proper brewery. You need to consider that the water is uniquely warmed with a wood-fired oven, that the bottling and labelling is done by hand, and even more amazingly that the malt is milled on a grinder dating back to 1913 – a process that takes about eight hours. The fact that the final output is so damned good is a testimony to concentrating on quality rather than quantity.

The brewery in Falmignoul, not far from Dinant, is owned by Francois Tonglet and Jean-Pierre Debras in what used to be the old Moussoux brewery premises constructed in 1766. The brewery may have changed hands a few times, but the atmosphere hasn’t really changed. The lighting flickers, spiders guard the alcoves in thick cotton-wool havens, and the equipment has been begged, stolen and borrowed from halcyon days.

Caracole took over here in 1992 and now manage to run off about 39,000 gallons of beer each year which is no mean feat when you consider that the labour is intensive. Often a days brewing can spill into the next, and the brewers tend to brew one week on and one week off, thus if you want to get out here and visit the place, then you need to time it well – something I plan to do this summer to kill time between World Cup matches.

The Caracole Ambree was chosen for selection in the ‘Top 100 Belgian beers to try before you die’ and for good reason. A rich golden amber with a real plethora of inner flavours which made for perfect late evening sipping. It was both complex and yet consistent – equally suitable I would imagine for a cold winters evening or dare I say a warm summers day (not sure they exist in the UK anymore). The satisfaction one can take drinking this, while considering the love that went into making it, only further enhances the experience.

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Filed under 8, Belgian Strong Ale, Brewers, Caracole, Snail