Tag Archives: Boucanier

#237 – du Boucanier Christmas

#237 - du Boucanier Christmas

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9.5%

When you drink 9.5% beers it tends to have an effect on your mental faculties. Of course the range of dysfunction will tend to depend on the number of 9.5% beers consumed however it certainly takes less of these to get to that happy maladjusted state. Once I had got around to polishing off the Biere du Boucanier Christmas I was keen to ask the question – so how do pirates celebrate Christmas?

It’s not something I’m sure many people have ever thought about and once I was sober again I realised it was a stupid question. I have to admit to searching on Google in the extremely optimistic hope that somebody had published a university paper on the subject. Aside from finding a plethora of Christmas carols which had been butchered to fit a jaunty nautical theme or a number of children’s storybooks I found very little. What was I hoping for? A Christmas tree plundered from an island and tied to the mast? Boozed up buccaneers passed out around the wireless waiting for the Kings speech?

I am surprised though that the marketeers haven’t yet cashed in on the festive piratical theme when it comes to the du Boucanier range of beers – they seem to have covered everything else. The beers are brewed by Van Steenberge but marketed and distributed by a company called Icobes. The portfolio of beers consists of the Blonde Ale, a Red Ale (#27), a Dark Ale (#174), and this Christmas Ale. There is also a Buccaneer Old Reserve beer which seems to use the same theme but is actually the same beer as the Bornem Tripel. This is also the same brewery which makes the much tastier Piraat 9 (#15), and Piraat 10.5. Clearly somebody at Van Steenberge likes pirates, and Icobes certainly feel there is a market given the merchandise available.

The beers, in particular the flagship (excuse the pun) Blonde Ale are sold in anything from 33cl bottles, six pack gift boxes and 750ml bottles, to Magnums, Jeroboams and the mighty Salmanazar. These are largely for one-off brews such as the Grand Reserve 3rd Millenium, and the Grand Reserve Prestige du Brasseur, although I have never seen any of these and given the dated nature of the company website can only assume the novelty of the du Boucanier beers has waned in recent years. If anyone wants to put this to the test the following can be ordered for Christmas presents:- T shirts, baseball caps, posters, mirrors, enamelled pins, picture frames, bandannas and shawls, as well as the regular beer mats, gift sets and beer glasses. You can also buy the boot shaped 0.5l glass which was discovered in the du Boucanier Dark Ale (#174). I rarely see these beers anymore although still cling to the hope of trying the popular Blonde Ale some day.

The Christmas beer itself though was really quite disappointing. While the Red and the Dark Ales hadn’t exactly been seminal brews they did at least have some redeeming features, whereas this high strength amber could and should have delivered so much more. It’s a style of beer that I am particularly fond of, but there was very little flavour to the beer, aside from a pineapple tinge and the extra strength offered no increase in character in any way. It will get you pissed though which is at least something when you have had enough of the relatives on Christmas day.

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Filed under 5, Belgian Strong Ale, Christmas Beer, Van Steenberge

#174 – du Boucanier Dark Ale

#174 - du Boucanier Dark Ale

Size: 330 ml

ABV : 9 %

I had already tried the du Boucanier Red Ale (#27), which dealt with the origins of buccaneering. I won’t go into that again, however it would be good to explore the links between buccaneers and their beer. They certainly didn’t mess around when it came to drinking!

These undesirable pirates of the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean had a tradition of drinking a toast while on the deck of plundered ships or harboursides they may have just overrun. Not content with a nice 330ml tumbler or tulip, buccaneers had an altogether different vessel of choice for their strong seafaring ale – their boots! A sobering thought given the hygiene issues many of these vagabonds would have endured. To drink from the boot of a fellow buccaneer was seen as a symbol of brotherhood and a bond of trust between fellow seafarers. It was known as the custom of being “brothers of the coast”.

Modern day acts of brotherhood often include initiation rituals or the sharing of blood. I would imagine all are preferable to swallowing the verrucas and corns of stinking scurvy ridden sailors. This hasn’t deterred the marketeers of the du Boucanier beers though, who have continued the tradition into the modern day world, and sell glasses shaped as half-litre boots. These can be ordered from their website should anybody wish to indulge.

I opted for a half of the dark ale served somewhat more sedately in a Grimbergen chalice. It was not how I would have envisaged real buccaneer dark beer to be though. Although strong and weighing in at a hefty 9%, this beer didn’t have a lot of guts. It was thin and limp, and lacking in any real definitive robust flavour. I enjoyed it, as I do most Belgian beers, however these leaner dark beers often tend to be ten to the penny on the market, and thus this one gets the boot from me I am afraid.

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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Van Steenberge

#80 – Biere du Corsaire

#80 - Biere du Corsaire

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9.4 %

Pirates (#15), buccaneers (#27), and now corsairs. It would appear it truly is cool to be a seadog in Belgium. Corsairs were more on a par with buccaneers than they were with pirates, in that their acts of piracy were also sanctioned by a letter of Marque. It is from this that the name derives. The King of France during the middle ages sought to weaken his enemies in the foreign trade routes, and thus would legalise the acts of piracy through a “Lettre de Course” – the same thing as a Lettre de Marque. ‘La course’ tended to be a euphemism at the time for chasing down foreign merchant shipping, and it is from this word that the term Corsaire was derived.

The line between pirate and corsair is a fine one, with the Letter de Course giving the benefactor the right to only attack state enemies. Any raids upon friendly or neutral parties would render the crew pirates, and thus almost certainly hangable upon capture. This method of foreign warfare worked brilliantly for the French king, who severely dented the progress and wealth of the Spanish and English at the time, particularly in the Caribbean. In fact, the use of Corsairs also unwittingly had a positive effect on the engineering of boats during this golden age. As the Spanish and English sought to avoid capture from the increasing number of mercenaries, so did their efforts to improve the technology, speed and manoeuvrability of their fleet. Corsairs have been credited with the introduction of the topsail and the gaff rig, and eventually for the designs that led to the Genovese and Bermuda sails.

The golden days of the Corsair had to come to an end, and this was precipitated in 1706 when the Treaty of Utrecht effectively put an end to the Corsair raids in the Caribbean, and although there remained a trend to continue across the world, the change in the French state in 1815 effectively shut down the practice. It wasn’t until the Congress of Vienna however in 1856 that the use of Corsairs was officially ended.

The beer of course still exists, no doubt a hankering back to the romantic swashbuckling age. It started on the wrong foot with the pour, which looked more like pineapple juice – fair in colour and littered with soupy strands of something! It redeemed itself on the palate though, with strong and very fruity overtones. It would have had to have been strong to keep on long journeys overseas, and in the end this effort seemed to have a detrimental effect on the overall experience, which faded from the memory as the beer continued. Like many of Huyghe’s brews outside the Delirium range, this is more a white elephant !

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#27 – du Boucanier Red Ale

#27 - Boucanier Red Ale

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7 %

Only 27 beers into the journey and another sea-faring beer already. Buccaneers are often mistaken for pirates, but there is a subtle difference – in that buccaneers were generally located in the Caribbean during the 17th Century, whereas pirates (#15) tended to roam much further afield.

The term comes from the French word ‘boucanier’ which referred to a person on the islands of Hispaniola and Tortuga who would hunt for meat and then smoke it on a barbecued frame called a ‘boucan’. These French locals were soon driven from their lands by the Spanish, and they reacted with acts of piracy, which fairly often were backed by the British Government with letters of marque, which essentially legalised the act. This was useful for the British as it entitled them to shares of the collected spoils and the subsequent weakening of the Spanish with whom they were at war.

The letters of marque were however of little concern to the Spanish who made examples of every captured buccaneer by hanging and garrotting them. The age of buccaneering however was soon to die out once the French and British grew tired of their presence, seeing their activities begin to hinder their attempts at commerce and trade in the area.

Buccaneers, just like pirates were famed for their drinking and there remain plenty of stories to be told in later beers like the du Boucanier Dark Ale (#174). The du Boucanier Red though was actually a rose pink colour with excellent carbonation, and a real bouquet of vanilla ice-cream. The taste was crisp, with overtures of orange and other citrus whiffs. It held up well for the entire half hour it took me to negotiate it, and was ultimately really quite pleasant.

(Post-Script) – another type of seadog was a corsaire (#80)

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Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Van Steenberge