Tag Archives: Achouffe

#213 – Gulden Draak Vintage

#213 - Gulden Draak Vintage

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

Although I had previously recounted a version of the legend of the Golden Dragon in my review of Gulden Draak (#145), there is an even more fanciful alternative in a book by Bertha Palmer Lane called ‘Tower Legends’. This anthology details the mystical dragon from Aleppo, and other similar stories related to an assortment of world belfries. It’s more a book for children, and considering children aren’t supposed to be drinking beers and almost certainly should have better things to do than read about beers, I am going to dispel all those myths right here. I did the same whistleblowing recently on the gnomes of Achouffe (#185), and nobody there has come knocking on my door yet.

Despite the fact that the people of Bruges seem to think that their Golden Dragon was stolen by the people of Ghent in actual fact this is complete baloney. It’s hardly surprising they might think this though given that Emperor Maximilian once labelled his own Brugeois people as mad (Brugse Zot #36). We can assume that without the invention of broadband at that time that maybe word of mouth and propaganda was responsible, although the myth has permeated through to the 20th Century. Not only are there still regular requests in Bruges to have the dragon returned, even the people of Norway made a request in 1918 for their claim on the prize. It was after all a Norwegian king who in the legend had first donated the mythical dragon to the Turks. Sigh.

The actual dragon that sits atop the belfry in Ghent was commissioned at the request of the people of Ghent in 1378. It was suggested the dragon would be symbolic of the power and freedom of Ghent at that time, and as dragons are supposed to never sleep, this creature would always look out across the city and protect its citizens. It has often been involved in key historical festivities, notably first in 1500 at the baptism of prince Karel, and on regular occurrences since when it would spit fire (no doubt some sly mechanical sleight of hand in case you were beginning to wonder). It has lain dormant however since 1819; no doubt when the people of Ghent began to realise it was in fact just a copper statue.

Whether you prefer the facts or to lose yourself in the legend, there is no getting away from the popularity of the copper statue and the role it plays in the identity of the city. The two beers made by Van Steenberge are equally iconic; although I haven’t myself quite worked out why as yet. The Gulden Draak Vintage was slightly better than the original beer, but to be honest it wasn’t by a great deal. The Christmas version started badly by viciously exploding on my lap (when will I learn?) and having managed to first decant it into two glasses and then scrubbed the sofa I was able to continue with what was left. I found the remains to be less artificial than the original but lacking in any real flavours which you might expect from a seasonal beer. It packed less of a punch but was slightly more rounded in flavour than the Gulden Draak. I may be in the minority on this one but I’d give both beers a wide berth – once again the truth is less interesting than the hype.

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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Christmas Beer, Dragon, Van Steenberge

#185 – N’Ice Chouffe

#185 - N'Ice Chouffe

Size: cask

ABV: 10 %

If you still believe in Father Christmas, as well as little elves, goblins and gnomes then please look away now. In fact I would suggest immersing yourself in the fairy tale of La Chouffe (#168) rather than reading on any further. I had previously written that La Chouffe beer was once made by gnomes from golden nectar that flowed from a sacred spring, however I wish to make it clear that this is categorically not the case.

I realise this may come as something of a shock to many regular readers and beer aficionados, but the story of the gnomes is just a cruel marketing ploy by the brewers at Achouffe to lure small bearded men in bright clothing to drink their beers. Not long after the brothers-in-law Chris Bauweraerts and Pierre Gobron had set up their hobby-cum-brewery, Chris had spotted the logo of a dwarf on a painting used by a local charity to raise money for victims of a storm. The image had such an effect on him that the very next day the brothers were conducting a business meeting to discuss using a similar design for their beer label. The fact that Chouffe is Wallonian dialect for a gnome or dwarf, and is almost identical to the spelling of the place where the beer was brewed, was in fact just a brilliant coincidence.

Pierre commissioned a work colleagues daughter to knock up a drawing for them, and the rest just fell into place, with the brothers then able to conduct a fantastical fairy tale, set amongst the idyllic Ardennes countryside. The whole thing was a perfect marketeers dream – even the valley where the brewery sits is known locally as the Vallee des Fees, (the Valley of the Fairies).

Nobody would surely though deny these gentlemen this slight twisting of the truth. What started as a hobby when Gobron quit his day job in 1982 was big enough in cash and potential to lure Duvel Moortgat to invest heavily in the venture in 2006, therefore continuing to safeguard the very future of the brewery. It is a massive success story

I finished my night in the Rake with the breweries winter offering – the unfiltered N’Ice Chouffe on cask, which turned out to be another fine brew. A malty thick soup of spicy cheer, that bulged in your mouth with every swill. The flavours are imparted through the addition of thyme and curacao, although by this stage of the evening I was far too busy lamenting the fact that the elves of Achouffe do not exist to bother with the finer details of the beer.

(Thanks to http://www.beerobsessed.com for the picture)

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Filed under 8, Achouffe, Belgian Strong Ale

#168 – La Chouffe

#168 - La Chouffe

Size: 750 ml

ABV: 8 %

Any range of beers that is world famous for a little gnome deserves to have a fairy tale written about it. Please permit me the opportunity to be Hans Christian Belgianshrimper just for today.

Once upon a time in the beautifully forested swathes of the Ardennes, there lived an industrious colony of gnomes. Hidden away in the secluded hills, these small creatures were rarely seen but were able to brew enough beer to keep the entire Realm of Belgium suitably merry all year round. This golden nectar flowed directly from the sacred spring in the woods of Cedrogne where a thousand years before the Knights Templar of the Crusades had convened secretly to plan their wars. This magical place, once the highest point in the Realm, served as the font of life to its people.

Fate however was to befall this fertile place when a great plague brought devastation to the region. All the local villages rotted away through the ravages of time and neglect, while a great natural disaster caused the hillsides to implode burying alive the gnomes of Achouffe. Almost at once the magical font in Cedrogne slowed to a tiny drip as the thirsty locals queued in despair. Years later water began to seep back through the hole in the rock, and the surviving inhabitants who by now were forced to brew their own beers, began to use this sacred water in honour of the legendary gnomes.

A remarkable event happened many years after the disaster when the last remaining gnome ever seen in the Realm of Belgium had managed to escape from the rockfall under the forest. He would only get as far as the small house owned by two brothers-in-law from the village of Houffalize though. Before he drew his final breath he whispered the legendary recipe of the La Chouffe beer to the gentlemen in question. Those two gentlemen were Pierre Gobron and Christian Bauweraerts and they have remained in Achouffe ever since, drawing the water from the magical spring. That is the fable, and the rest is history.

The beer itself is a completely unfiltered golden beer which is extremely good. I had guests round to dinner and was delighted to share out the 750 ml bottle. Friends who are normally satisfied with lagers in tins were amazed that a beer could be this strong and as tasty. La Chouffe is a fruity delight, with hints of coriander, vanilla and other legendary gnome ingredients. It remains smooth and strong to the very end, and my guests were crying out for more.

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Filed under 8, Achouffe, Belgian Strong Ale