Tag Archives: Dendermonde

#229 – Tripel Karmeliet

#229 - Tripel Karmeliet

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.4 %

I am surprised as anyone that it has taken this long to try this beer. After the Dulle Teve (#228) and some wonderful aged Chimay Blue (#45) from the depths of the Kulminator cellar it was time to try this highly rated Tripel.

In many ways the Tripel Karmeliet is a new beer; launched by the quirky Bosteels brewery in 1996, however the original recipe is said to hail from the former Carmelite monastery in Dendermonde. It was there in 1679 that friars made a beer brewed not only with barley, but also wheat and oats – proof that multi-grain isn’t a 21st century phenomenon. It is now heavily spiced and flavoured with Styrian hops which may have been beyond the friars, as was the bottle refermentation, but the idea was the same.

The Karmeliet, or Carmelites, were an influential bunch in Europe in the late 17th Century when this beer was first conceptualised. The Order is said to have originated on Mount Carmel near Haifa in Israel. The mountain has significant Biblical relevance in its connections to the prophet Elijah, and has long been a refuge for hermits laying down their lives to God – long before a 12th Century chapel was built in honour of Mary by the hermetical Brothers of St Mary of Mount Carmel. It was here that the typical characteristics of the Carmelite Order were formed; notably the importance of poverty and manual labour, and latterly the devotion to silent prayer.

Around 1235 the Carmelites were forced to flee Israel under threat of the Saracen invaders and Europe was the obvious destination for many. Over the next two hundred years the Carmelite Orders grew in importance and power, and monasteries blossomed in this new spiritual and intellectual age. Relying on their own labour and alms it was a natural inclination to begin to brew beer for the local population and save them from the evils of disease-ridden water. Of course the Carmelites would have met their match during the French Revolution and they have been virtually wiped off the map apart from small areas of the Netherlands and Belgium.

In the Tripel Karmeliet however the Ordo Carmelitarum lives on, and lives on in style. This is a robustly delicious brew which is instantly recognisable on first looks, and then taste. Its appearance, most notably served in the ostentatious and slightly tacky fleur-de-lys glass, is a light blond carbonated brew, which once put to the nose offers up a miasma of citrus and spice. The mix of wheat and oats into the grist gives the beer a uniquely dry, crisp and refreshing flavour which is bitter and sweet, and yet fruity and hoppy at the same time. It tantalises your tastebuds and defies you to order another. Dont be fooled though – At 8.4% this particular beer needs respect. The Order of Carmelites are well known for their fantastical visions, and I had one or two myself the next morning.

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Filed under 9, Abbey Tripel, Bosteels

#180 – De Block Speciale

#180 - De Block Speciale

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6 %

De Block is a solid little brewery tucked away in the Flemish Brabant region of Belgium. I had already tried their Dendermonde Tripel (#47), and Kastaar (#96), each of which had a unique story to tell, but as yet the story of De Block has gone untold. They don’t produce a wide range of beers so I will take my opportunity now.

It’s another great family tradition that has endured for well over half a millennia. The actual brewery was initiated by Louis de Block who was a local miller and farmer, who married the daughter of a brewer from Baardegem. This was particularly handy for Louis as he had inherited a right to brew beer from his immediate family. Henricus de Block way back in the 14th Century had been bestowed this privilege for his contribution as a vassal of the Duke of Brabant and Burgundy. Whether Louis had chosen his bride out of love, or for her specialist brewing knowledge is now immaterial.

As is common in the lowlands, the family tradition has been to hand down the baton of brewing to the next family member, and the De Blocks are no exception. We can trace the family history right the way back. The most recent beneficiary is Paul Saerens who married into the De Block family. He has been keen to ensure that the De Block name continues despite the apparent void of male heirs. It has been under Saerens that De Block have widened their scope in the export market. Flemish Brabant is not shy of a few breweries, being one of the most condensed areas in Belgium for beer production. Saerens spotted this and opened up De Block to the rest of Europe, North America, Australia and Japan, and now almost 80% of current production leaves Belgium for foreign shores. Perhaps the most recognisable brand is that of the Satan beers which dominate the brewery’s marketing.

You might be mistaken for thinking as I was that, that the De Block Speciale is a staple house beer. It is far from that! The unique taste of this attractively packaged beer is certainly one to divide opinion. It is actually a brew blended from both young and old beers, and is flavoured with pomegranate and elderflowers. This certainly accounts for the bizarre medicinal floridity which is definitely one of the most unsubtle kicks I have had so far on this journey. Although on first appearance the De Block Speciale looks like a traditional golden ale all comparisons thereafter can be written off. This is a particularly carbonated fruity sour ale albeit with a redeeming bitterness. It is certainly unique, although after about half a glass becomes somewhat tiresome. I guess this is one of those beers you would have little chance of not recognising blindfolded, and I am still trying to work out if that is a compliment or not.

(Thanks to Andrew at 40 Beers at 40 for the excellent photograph)

 

 

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Filed under 6, Belgian Ale, De Block

#133 – Vicaris Generaal

#133 - Vicaris Generaal

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.8 %

The beers of the ‘vicar’ brand have been lovingly created and commissioned by Vincent Dilewyns since 1999 although de Proef have been brewing them on their behalf since then. So popular though have these beers become that by the end of the year, the Dilewyns family will have taken over the brewing themselves in a converted facility in Dendermonde.

Beer runs through the veins of this family, but that’s probably another story. What is intriguing me though is what inspired Mr Dilewyns to pursue a range of ecclesiastically titled beverages?

Vicaris Generaal, actually translates into ‘vicar general’, and refers to the deputy of a bishop. The vicar general wields the baton on all administrative duties in his diocese, and holds considerable executive power. He is appointed by the bishop himself, and should the bishop die or vacate his role, the vicar general is then immediately terminated. The next incumbent bishop is then expected to appoint his own vicar general. The only real stipulations on a candidate is that they must have a minimum of thirty years knowledge of, or a degree in, theology or canon law. Nothing to do with beer as far as I can see.

Forgetting the religious connotations for a moment, I am beginning to notice that if a beer is made at de Proef, it is normally of a high standard. I get the impression they don’t just brew any old rubbish. The Vicaris Generaal certainly is no exception. Settling back on the sofa with a black and white movie, this was a decent accompaniment. It was dark, mysterious and very strong, with definite licorice and malt that seeped deep into your bones. It remained fairly bitter till the end, and at one stage I faintly hoped that it might sweeten but it never really did. Certainly a well-made brew and full of character but perhaps just a bit too stoutish for me to command my more generous grading.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Dubbel, de Proef, Horse

#49 – Chimay Doree

#49 - Chimay Doree

Size: on cask

ABV: 4.8 %

There are some beers that you can’t just buy from your local off-licence, or if you are lucky to live in or near Belgium, go pick up from your nearest Drankencentrum. Some you can’t even pick up in a good Belgian bar. No, there are some beers where you actually have to go to the brewery tap. As I was in Belgium, it seemed rude not to venture down to the Abbey of Scourmont, and check out the Chimay Doree. Chimays’ secret fourth and rarest beverage.

The place to get it is the Auberge de Poteaupre, a 3-star bar/hotel/restaurant on a quiet country lane a stones throw from the Abbey and brewery. It was just before midday and I had built up something of a hunger and a thirst. I was driving so the 4.8% Chimay Doree was almost perfect, washed down with a traditional Chimay Cheese sandwich served on a breadboard on the open air patio. It was warm, and the sun was out. Chimay Doree means Golden. I do so love Belgium.

My other half, who seems to have developed a healthy liking of brewery taps despite having the alcoholic tolerance of an eight year old, opted for the Chimay Triple (#165) – never a good idea before breakfast. She spent the rest of the afternoon either talking gibberish or nodding off into an alcoholic stupor, while I continued to bemoan the fact that nobody would sell me a take-away bottle of Chimay Doree. I was beginning to enjoy my 48 empties stacked up by the window and a gap would upset me! I suppose it was a little unreasonable to expect them to sell the vintages on show under the blankets of cobwebs in the window. Oh well, shit happens !

This is the brewery tap beer preserved previously for the monks of Chimay. This would only normally be available at the brewery for the working behabited, and thus just like the Het Kapittel Pater (#2) this is the Pater beer. To be fair, for 4.8% it was pretty splendid, tasting stronger than it actually was. There wasn’t a great head to talk of and it was very cloudy; and seemed more wheat-based than barley. It was dry, fruity and definitely akin to grapefruit – a kind of watered down Dendermonde Tripel (#47). I reckon the monks wouldn’t do too bad drinking this all day.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Belgian Ale, Chimay, Trappist Beer

#47 – Dendermonde Tripel

#47 - Dendermonde Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

If you take a good look at the label of the Dendermonde Tripel, you can see the stunningly gothic cathedral, but if you look closer you will make out the silhouette of a monk, with musical notes fluttering further in the background. This is actually the silhouette of a woman – Hildegard von Bingen, and the representation of the music highlights just one of her many skills. In fact her association with Dendermonde Abbey is that 58 of her liturgical symphonies from the 12th Century are preserved here.

Many of her other roles in her 81 year life are listed as mystic, author, counsellor, linguist, naturalist, scientist, philosopher, physician, herbalist, poet, channeller, visionary, composer, polymath, and Benedictine Abbess. I would imagine from our experiences thus far, that it is the latter that associates her most with beer. After all what monk, male or female, didn’t enjoy a drink to help them cope with the solitude?

This medieval Carol Vorderman was born in 1098 in what is now modern day Germany. She had many visions as a child (although modern day scientists suggest these may have been migraines – but who am I to ruin a good story?), and was thus tithed to the church by her parents in the belief that this was some kind of portent. Regardless of the authenticity of these claims, Hildegard became so embroiled in the clergy that she was eventually founding monasteries in Rupertsberg in 1150, and Eibingen in 1165. Her preaching tours were legendary and coupled with her musical talent and penchance for a good vision, she ended up being extremely popular, although not seemingly as much in modern days due to so many of her medieval works being readily available for scrutiny – a rare indulgence for modern day students of ancient music.

I am surprised Hildegard would have found much time for drinking, especially given her feministic tendencies and non-liberal approach to sexuality, however she found her way onto a beer label, and for that we assume the marketers of Dendermonde Tripel saw some worth in her. The beer itself was the first of two enjoyed on my sofa the night before going back to Belgium. She smelt fairly average, but poured impressively with a solid robust head. There was a good all-round pale colour with hints of oranges deeper in, and definite grapefruit and other citrus that stirred on the tongue. The taste was excellent though, making this a good all-round strong tripel. In fact, some more of the over-rated tripels I doubt could live with this on a blind taste-test. Just don’t drink too many – like Hildegard, it might just give you a migraine !

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Filed under 8, Abbey Beer, Abbey Tripel, De Block

#10 – Kwak

 

#10 - Kwak

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Talk about Kwak, and almost certainly conversation will revolve more around the glass, than the actual beer itself. Served in a round-bottomed hourglass that is unable to stand freely unless attached to a laboratory style piece of wooden apparatus, the beer is certainly one of the more attractive specimens on offer in cafes.

There is however a story behind the gimmick which the brewers at Bosteels are only happy to tell. Pauwel Kwak was an 18th Century innkeeper and brewer whose De Hoorn Inn in Dendermonde was frequently visited by horse-drawn mail coaches and their thirsty drivers travelling between Mechelen and Ghent. During these Napoleonic times, the mail coach drivers were prohibited from leaving the vehicles and were not allowed to be seen drinking alongside their passengers. Our man Pauwel then invented this glass which could be hung on the side of the coach enabling the drivers to continue to imbibe as they drove away, without spilling any of the precious brew. It was with this in mind in the 1980s that Bosteels launched this famous amber, and its test-tube styled accessories.

There are also stories in recent times that Pauwel was only named Kwak because of his heavy stature, and that in fact the beer is so named because of the ‘quack’ sound which is made when quickly drinking the beer from the special glass. These are crap stories but when you take into account the actual quality of the beer it does make you begin to wonder. I have always probably been more disappointed with Kwak because of the reputation it affords. The pour is a mix between amber and brown yet remains coppery clear. Its fair strength is barely unnoticeable but I’m not always convinced that is always a good thing. Kwak is a palatable but really rather unremarkable beer which almost stands in stark contrast to the vessel which so often accompanies and accentuates its sales !

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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Bosteels