Tag Archives: Ambree

#164 – Bush Blonde

#164 - Bush Blonde

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 10.5 %

The Bush Blonde is a relatively new creation, being only first brewed in 1998 on the 65th anniversary of the launch of the Bush Ambree (#3). It was the first blonde beer produced by this very traditional brewery, who are proud of their roots and values. Dubuisson only have a small selection of beers considering their status and size, and steadfastly refuse to produce label beers for anybody else. In fact, prior to the launch of the blonde, the brewery only offered the Ambree and the Bush de Noel (#83).

The key to the traditional outlook may lie in the history of the brewery, which was first formed in 1769, by Joseph Leroy (a direct descendant of eight generations of the current manager Hughues Dubuisson). It is the oldest brewery in Wallonia, which is a source of some local pride, and is still situated on the very same spot it was first built. Even before then, Joseph Leroy was brewing beer across the road on the Ghissegnies land, which was a seigniorial estate – these breweries were then exempt from tax and particularly lucrative. The Empress Maria-Theresa of Austria who at the time ruled the region had picked up on this quite quickly and decided in 1769 to order their unconditional destruction. Joseph Leroy quietly packed up his kettles and tuns, crossed the road, and set up his own independent farm brewery. This quiet determination has been a strong family trend ever since.

It had been quite a while since I first drunk the Bush Ambree, and to be honest I certainly didn’t have great hopes for this one. My drinking pal Andrew had gleefully passed me his last bottle of this, with the view that it was one of the most revolting drinks he had ever tasted. I would add it to my 1000 and let myself be the judge of that. It was certainly very strong, with the ethanol very evident in the flavour, but with just 250ml of the stuff, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I actually preferred this to the Ambree, and certainly couldn’t see what was so dislikeable about it. The Blonde definitely wasn’t a classic, but neither was it worthy of a sub-average score. I will enter it into my pantheon of beers defined as a ‘workmanlike strong Belgian blonde – nothing else’.

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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Dubuisson

#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

#3 – Bush Ambree

#3 - Bush Ambree

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 12 %

Bush Ambree was the original Bush Beer produced by Dubuisson. From 1933 it was pretty much their only beer until 1991 when the family began to extend their range. This beer is also famous for being the oldest Belgian beer brand on the market, in that the recipe has remained completely unaltered since first brewed over 70 years ago.

It is interesting to note that the name Bush, is the anglicised name for the French Dubuisson. This was due to the desire of the Dubuisson family to produce a beer based on the English barley wines of the time. Stepping back into the present day, it is clearly noticeable in many shops round the world, particularly in the UK that the name has changed to Scaldis. Aside from a potential sexual connotation why would a brewery with such a rich history opt to change their brand to something that sounds more like a Latvian washing detergent?

Essentially it all comes down to corporate greed – the now defunct purveyor of Budweiser, Anheuser Busch decided in 2004 that Bush Beer was too similar in name to their weaker product Busch Beer, and so began a completely uneccessary legal battle against this small Belgian brewery. The minnow of course lost out and thanks to a ruling from the International Court of Arbitration in Paris they were only able to keep the Bush name in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Switzerland and Portugal. Elsewhere it must be Scaldis! Petitions and protests were launched all around the beer community but common sense of course did not prevail.

This was another beer drunk in the safety of my own home, from my ever growing collection bought from ‘Beers of Europe’ in Norfolk. I had pretty high hopes for one of the strongest beers in the Belgian catalogue, but despite the initial impressive flavour, I found it didnt really bring anything else of much distinction to the party. By the time the meagre 250ml had been downed I really couldnt think of anything else to say other than that this beer appeared to be little else than an expensive Tennents Super !

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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Dubuisson