Tag Archives: Crusades

#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

#145 – Gulden Draak

#145 - Gulden Draak

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 10.5 %

If you visit Ghent you will almost certainly have to look up at some point at the majestic Belfry in the main square. You shouldn’t need a telescopic lens on your camera to spot the Gulden Draak sat atop the tower. She weighs almost 400 kilograms, is over 3 metres long, and is so famous they decided to name a beer (or two) after it.

There is a legend to the story of the dragon which dates back to the Crusades in the 12th Century, and involves a certain Norse king called Sigrid Magnusson. He had been fighting hard in the Crusades, and had received such a heroes welcome on entering the city of Constantinople (now of course Istanbul), that he took the gold plated dragon from the prow of his boat and donated it to the Hagia Sofia church. Almost a hundred years later, the Flemish earl Boudewijn IX during the 4th Crusade was crowned Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, taking Constantinople from the Turks. Impressed with the dragon, he dragged it all the way back home, which prompted a succession of bids for its possession, culminating in the Battle of Beverhoutsveld in 1382, where the people of Ghent stole it from atop the St. Donaas church in Bruges.

For anyone who has drunk Kastaar, and read the review (#96), an interesting side note is that the legend details the Dragon was originally donated to the people of Biervliet before the Brugse Zot (#36) wrestled it from them, in recognition of the brave soldiers who in 1204 were the first men to climb Constantinople’s walls. This is of course all legend and I plan to disclose the real facts when I get round to tasting the Gulden Draak Vintage (#213).

I can’t say I am particularly looking forward to it though, as the original Gulden Draak was extremely over-rated. I had looked forward to it all day, but all I got was a ridiculously strong dark beer, with no head, and no redeeming features whatsoever. It was bordering on the metallic and was very artificial. Like the legend above, I was beginning to wonder whether all that shimmers really is gold.

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Filed under 5, Belgian Strong Ale, Dragon, Van Steenberge

#126 – St. Louis Premium Kriek

#126 - St. Louis Premium Kriek

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 3.5 %

Saint Louis has done rather well for himself in the naming stakes. A state in Mexico, a city in the US, a famous baseball team, an Oscar winning movie, and of course the cherry on the cake being associated with a range of low alcohol fruit beers from Van Honsebrouck 😉 So who is the gentleman with the crown who graces some of the labels, and what is his association with Belgian beer?

The Saint in question was actually also King Louis IX of France, who ruled between 1226 and 1270. It is unusual for kings to end up as Saints, and indeed he was the only French king ever to be canonised. Considering this canonisation took place only 29 years after his death, it is clear he must have done some seriously good shit in his life to warrant this.

Many considered Louis to be the model of the ideal Christian monarch, a man who spent his early life bravely fighting in the Crusades, and yet always having enough time for the poor and the needy. He was a huge patron of art and architecture, and yet also is remembered as the lynchpin ruler during which the Kingdom of France was at its political and economic zenith. The whole of Europe looked to this fair man as an arbiter at times of struggle, which was some compliment, although the fact he commanded the largest army in Europe at the time may have been a consideration.

Nevertheless, it’s his association with beer which interests us most. During his reign, Louis passed a succession of laws to regulate the brewing and selling of beer, and in 1250 incorporated the first French brewers’ guild. His influence in this sphere at a time when the production of beer was extremely inconsistent cannot be underestimated. Naturally, the good people of Belgium with their love of fine beer have also taken Louis to their hearts, and his name lives on within what I would recognise as pretty decent fruit beers.

The Kriek is made from traditional Gueuze lambic, to which about 25% of fresh black cherry juice and natural sugar is added. The result is a deeply fruity dark red beer, with a pink frothy head which tastes absolutely splendid. It was a mission trying to stop the wife taking sneaky sips, which I am normally very pleased to offer when working my way through your average fruit beer. I realise this review will upset the purists who expect to see authentic steeping of fruit, but if it’s a deliciously sweet refreshing summer cooler you are after, then look no further than the St. Louis Premium Kriek.

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Filed under 8, Lambic - Fruit, Van Honsebrouck