Tag Archives: blond

#214 – Achilles Serafijn Blond

#214 - Achilles Serafijn Blond

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.2 %

We first met Achiel van de Moer when I tried my first Achilles beer – the Serafijn Tripel (#161). The Serafijn Blond was next up, and an opportunity to explore the symbolism of the Serafijn brand.

Achiel was a music and dance teacher before he moved into brewing, and is still a keen musician today supported ably by his wife Jo. Legend has it that if you pass by the microbrewery at the right time of the day or night you may be lucky enough to hear a duet or two resonating around the copper kettles. With this in mind, it was perhaps a logical choice to choose the Seraph as the symbol for the house beers – the Seraphim are the six-winged high angels of Heaven who exist to serve as messengers between God and man. They are particularly noted for their sweet celestial singing skills, and Achiel would go as far to argue that the Seraphim are also natural beer lovers – although I found little evidence of this in any research I did.

In fact the angelic female form that Achiel has chosen to use on his labels are perhaps a far cry from the reality of the real Seraphs. The Bible reveals the Seraphim in the Book of Isaiah to be fiery six-winged beings who continually praise God while encircling his throne, and the etymology of the word Seraph translates literally as “burning ones”. The Book of Revelation goes onto describe the Seraphim as having ‘eyes all around, even under his wings’. Both Hebrew and Christian Bibles even use the term Seraph as a synonym for serpents. Not ideal images I suppose to promote a family run brewery.

The image of the Serafijn throughout the ages though has tended to be portrayed in the more euphemistic light. Thomas Aquinas considered that the Serafijn “have in themselves an inextinguishable light, and that they also perfectly enlighten others”.  Pico della Mirandolo’s Oration on the Dignity of Man (1487) also went as far as to say that “they burn with the fire of charity as the highest models of human aspiration”. Which just leaves the question of whether the beers can live up to the brand?

The Serafijn Tripel had certainly previously delivered, and the Serafijn Blond really wasn’t that far behind. It poured obediently and hit all the right buttons on the aroma. Here was a pertly crisp blonde beer with enough bite to distinguish it from the pantheon of average mid-strength blonde beers. I am not convinced that the two beers I had tried thus far serve as the highest models of human aspiration, but considering they are pretty much made in Achiel van de Moer’s garage, they get my vote.

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Filed under 7, Achilles, Belgian Ale

#202 – La Trappe Blond

#202 - La Trappe Blond

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

When I tried the La Trappe Dubbel (#159) I introduced the history of the Trappist Abbey of Koningshoeven across the border in the Netherlands. I promised then that I would continue the story, and so the La Trappe Blond gives me that opportunity.

We left the story just where the head Abbot Nivardus Schweykart in 1884 decided that the Abbey needed a brewery, and effectively its been there ever since. Many breweries suffered at the hands of the copper-hungry Germans in World War I, however the Netherlands remained neutral at this time and so the Abbey of Koningshoeven remained untouched. In fact in the 1920s the production at the brewery began to increase, and the brewery was modernised considerably in order that it could cope with the demand.

The brewery continued to brew lighter blonde beers, including a first prototype of the La Trappe Blond, and it continued to flourish until World War II when resources were scarce. The 1950s and 1960s saw further developments including a lemonade factory and laboratory being built, and more recipes were established including dark beers, Pilseners, Dortmunders and Bocks. A number of collaborations were made with other brewers to enable the monks to find time to pray, however by 1980 the monks regained full control and established the La Trappe brand, which has remained true to this day.

In 1987 a brand new brewery was reconstructed on the premises moving the production firmly into the 21st Century, and more La Trappe beers were to follow until another partnership was formed with the Bavaria brewery in Lieshout. A new bottling plant followed shortly after, and the Koningshoeven story ambles to a unremarkable conclusion – the brewery now living well off it’s claim as the 7th Trappist brewery, and attracting Belgian beer hunters the short distance across the border.

The La Trappe Blond recipe has altered a fair bit since the 1920s, and is now a solid golden blonde which was the perfect accompaniment to a spicy tandoori chicken curry. This was a really thick fruity brew which for its relatively low strength by Belgian standards was very impressive. It faded a little in the final death throes, which may have something to do with being completely stuffed with curry, but I’d definitely seek this beer out again; even though it isn’t strictly Belgian*

* I have argued my case for inclusion somewhere before – I think it was #101

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Filed under 8, Belgian Ale, de Koningshoeven

#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.

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

#186 – Bourgogne des Flandres Blonde

#186 - Bourgogne des Flandres Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6 %

There are two beers which make up the Bourgogne des Flandres range. Most punters would likely have first tasted the brune, which is a famous sour ale from this area of West Flanders. I however first managed to get my hands on the golden Bourgogne des Flandres Blonde, the stronger but less auspicious sister beer.

The most striking quality about these beers is perhaps the bottles. Both come packaged without traditional labels but with beautifully crafted and embossed images of the Bruges skyline, complete with the famous Belfry, or Belfort. It was here about seven generations ago that the artisanal brewers of the Van Houtryve family first got their hands dirty with the fine sour brown ale. A further clue to this strong family tradition is the shield of the Van Houtryve family which bedecks the neck of the bottle itself.

The family stopped brewing the beer themselves in the 1950’s, whereupon distant relatives at Verhaeghe took over the production; themselves well renowned for their sour ales of Vichtenaar (#146) and Duchesse de Bourgogne (#105). Time ran out on this partnership however in 1985 when Timmermans offered to become chief custodians. The 25 year relationship has been successful for the Bourgogne des Flandres beers, which have been marketed under the Anthony Martin’s “Finest Beer selection since 1993.

To be fair most of the marketing around the beers is about the famous sour ale which continues to gather dust in my cellar, however the blonde accompaniment is no trite addition. It is a lively little beer which mixes a spicy bitterness with a dry hoppy nature. It doesn’t exactly blow you away, but I’d recommend anybody buying at least one and keeping the bottle on a dusty shelf somewhere for friends and family to admire at their leisure.

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Filed under 7, Belgian Ale, Timmermans

#175 – Pilaarbijter Blond

#175 - Pilaarbijter Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

There are two Pilaarbijter beers produced by Bavik, and I was drinking the Blond today. Pilaarbijter is a word that is largely disused in modern times, but was prevalent in the 16th Century and meant ‘a hypocrite’, especially with regards to views on religion. The term literally translates into ‘pillar biter’. There is a very good reason why Bavik chose the name of this beer, but I will save that for the Pilaarbijter Bruin.

The real fun with this beer came when I discovered where the brewery got the image of the unfortunate looking gentleman biting the pillar on the label. If you study the painting of ‘Netherlandish Proverbs’ by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, you will eventually find the identical image – I say eventually, as it took me ages to pore through the detail. I won’t spoil the fun of pointing out its exact location so feel free to try and find it yourself. In fact, if you look close enough you can find over a hundred different proverbs being acted out in this crazy village scene.

The point of the painting wasn’t to catalogue as many Flemish proverbs of the time in art form, although it would have been a bloody good idea. Brueghel’s real aim was to define on canvas the pure stupidity of man. The original title of the painting was ‘The Folly of the World’, and if you look closely at the characters you can see the blank faces which Brueghel often used to represent fools in his work. Just sitting there picking out the characters got me thinking – surely there must be more proverbs which relate to my journey to drink and write about all these Belgian beers?

People mocked me when I began my Odyssey. Perhaps I was trying to hold an eel by the tail (to undertake a difficult task)? Or was I just simply yawning against the oven (to attempt more than I could manage)? It is worth bearing in mind though that once I have spilt my porridge I cannot scrape it all up again (once something is done it cannot be undone), and that the journey is not yet over until I can discern the church and steeple (do not give up until the task is fully complete). It may take many years but an odyssey is an odyssey after all. I still got plenty of empty fields to walk through yet!

Anyway in the midst of all these proverbs there’s a beer that needs my attention. The Pilaarbijter Blond was a decent one at that. There was enough body and strength to keep it interesting, and plenty of fruity citrus which blended well against a spicy backdrop. I would hazard a guess at peaches and lemons. I’m distracted. Sorry, I can’t leave without a few more brilliant 16th Century Flemish proverbs.

1. What is the good of a beautiful plate when there is nothing on it – some beers certainly look a lot better than they taste.

2. You shouldn’t cast roses before swine – yes, maybe I am wasting some of my time on drinking the unworthy!

3. Wild bears prefer each others company – I thank all the sad beer drinkers of the world for that!

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Filed under 8, Abbey Tripel, Bavik

#173 – Omer Traditional Blond

#173 - Omer Traditional Blond

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Omer Traditional Blond is a highly regarded beer whose recipe is based on one that has been passed down from generation to generation of the Vander Ghinste family. It all started way back in 1892 when Remi Vander Ghinste bought a brewery for his son Omer. As part of his gift, he named it the Brouwerijen Omer Vander Ghinste. This name stuck for another 85 years until 1977 when the brewery was renamed Bockor for commercial purposes.

The recipe for Omer has always been something of a secret, and each father of the family would pass it down to his own son. This has continued at the latest count for five generations, and the upshot is that the eldest son of every generation is called Omer, and hence becomes the head of the brewery.

The reason for this is particularly interesting. Back in 1892 it was unusual for brand names to be used for beers, moreover they were often named after the owner and the brewery. Omer Vander Ghinste had promoted his beer by making stained glass windows which incorporated the slogan ‘bieren Omer Vander Ghinste’, and after passing on the brewery (and recipe) in 1929 to his son Remi, it was deemed excessive to have to replace the expensive windows every time there was a change of owner. It was therefore decided that the name Omer would precede the name of each owner for every generation to come. This is true for Omer who followed Omer Remi in 1961, and then for Omer Jean in 2007 who still runs the company today.

Clearly this tale of old traditions has been the inspiration behind the name of this beer which celebrates the famous recipe, and of course keeps loyally to the same name. The beer itself is made from the highest quality malted barley from the Loire region of France, and uses three varieties of hops harvested from the fields of Germany, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. It is these hops which help to identify the sharp bitterness which this beer imparts on consumption. The Omer Traditional Blond is a good beer which is crisp and fruity, as well as hoppy and is very professionally produced. It doesn’t quite leave you gagging for the same beer again, but then I am becoming more and more choosy with each beer.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Tripel, Bockor

#137 – Tongerlo Dubbel Bruin

#137 - Tongerlo Dubbel Bruin

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6 %

This is the second dabbling I have had with the beers of Tongerlo, my first stop being the Tongerlo Tripel Blonde (#30) which gave me a chance to introduce the Abbey which so elegantly adorns the beers labels. The abbey is famous for its Norbertine traditions, but just what sets aside a Norbertine from say a Cistercian, or a Trappist?

It all stems funnily enough from St. Norbert, who was a migrant preacher that founded the religious community of Premontre in France in 1121. The influential teachings here spread like wildfire, and the Norbertines or Premonstratensians were soon involved in the beginnings of Tongerlo Abbey in 1133. You may also recall he was the founder of Grimbergen Abbey (#8).

The main difference in the Norbertines of the Premonstratensian order was that they weren’t exactly monks, they were canons regular. It’s a subtle difference, one in which I am trying manfully to get my head round – especially as the orders and expectations manifest themselves so differently through time. Essentially the Norbertines originally based their traditions on the Cistercian (#94), and Augustinian ways, in that they were seeking a more austere way of being, but fundamentally they acted as canons regular, and therefore did not lead the true monastic contemplative life. They had far more responsibility in looking to minister to those outside the abbeys, and were if you like, the link between the inner sanctum of the monks, and the wider secular clergy. A subtle difference but one which saved the canon regulars from the long choral duties, and systemic moral reproofs which characterised the monks lives.

At the end of the day though, they were bonded by the brewing of the beer, and I say amen to that. The Tongerlo Dubbel Bruin itself was a safe brown. Thinner and fizzier than I expected, but with the subtle maltiness that you expect from a decent brown beer. At 6% it didn’t have the kick of some darker Belgians but is one I wouldn’t have a problem drinking again.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Abbey Dubbel, Haacht