Tag Archives: Duvel

#215 – Satan Red

#215 - Satan Red

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

The de Block brewery in Peizegem is probably most noted for its two Satan beers. Certainly the bulk of the marketing around the brewery centres around the little red devil on the label, although it isn’t always positive as the below will attest.

Belgian beers sell very well across the world, and probably none more so than in the United States of America. The most logical place would be the Eastern and Western seaboards where craft breweries are growing in number every week. Distributors may though wish to exercise a little more caution in the Deep South following the extreme reactions from the local population which followed the launch of Satan beers there in 2008. The people of the Deep South tend to have something of a reputation for being somewhat ‘god-fearing’ and puritanical. I don’t particularly have an opinion on the matter but I certainly found the associated stories amusing and worth sharing on here. *

It all started with a distributor who unimaginatively called themselves Cask Distributers. They picked up on the lifting of the high-gravity beer ban in Charleston by adding a number of Belgian beers to their range. One of the companies main outlets was the chain of Piggly Wiggly stores until customer complaints saw the store manager ban the beer. Bill Trull, the General Manager commented “We’re in the Deep South. We have to be careful of what we put in front of families”. The shop also no longer stocks the ‘Best Damn Chili ever’ or Fat Bastard, Old Fart and Bitch wines. Another store in the area was making remarkable sales on Satan and a beer called Arrogant Bastard, but again following complaints these were hidden in the back of the shop and then made available on ‘special order’ only.

It isn’t just a localised issue though. In Houston, a church group staged a sit-down protest at a local grocery store and refused to leave until Satan was removed from the store. Further trouble flared when an underage and undercover person was sent by the state’s alcohol authority to purchase beer, and the little blighter selected Satan. An investigation followed, and the Noble Union Trading company who imported the beer was banned from Texas. They were particularly unimpressed and suggested that in the Deep South there seems to be a “Bible thumping crusader behind every tree”. The clamour of the launch of Satan caused such a stir that even the brewery de Block were forced to make a statement. They pointed out that the name emanated from the old brewing traditions of slaving over a hot fire rather than it being about any religious statement. They were also keen to point out the popularity of beers such as Duvel (#34), Lucifer (#169) and Duivels Bier (#179), and that even the Belgian national football team are called the Red Devils.

Despite the ban, sales have continued to be strong. In the case of Satan Red, this isn’t just a result of gimmicky labels – it’s a fantastic beer. It was even more satisfying as I really wasn’t expecting it, especially as the beer appeared a little thin on pouring. The aroma was keen and fruity though and the beer certainly packed a trifle-like punch. A wonderful mix of hoppiness, strong alcohol all served up with an unforgettably delicious tangy flavour. The newspaper originally covering this story had come up with a number of headlines for beer shops to accompany the beer. The one which most sums up the experience must be “It’s so good, it’ll have you speaking in forked tongues”.

* I will find out for myself next Easter as myself and a few pals are undertaking a baseball road trip from Chicago to Jacksonville.

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Filed under 9, Belgian Strong Ale, De Block

#185 – N’Ice Chouffe

#185 - N'Ice Chouffe

Size: cask

ABV: 10 %

If you still believe in Father Christmas, as well as little elves, goblins and gnomes then please look away now. In fact I would suggest immersing yourself in the fairy tale of La Chouffe (#168) rather than reading on any further. I had previously written that La Chouffe beer was once made by gnomes from golden nectar that flowed from a sacred spring, however I wish to make it clear that this is categorically not the case.

I realise this may come as something of a shock to many regular readers and beer aficionados, but the story of the gnomes is just a cruel marketing ploy by the brewers at Achouffe to lure small bearded men in bright clothing to drink their beers. Not long after the brothers-in-law Chris Bauweraerts and Pierre Gobron had set up their hobby-cum-brewery, Chris had spotted the logo of a dwarf on a painting used by a local charity to raise money for victims of a storm. The image had such an effect on him that the very next day the brothers were conducting a business meeting to discuss using a similar design for their beer label. The fact that Chouffe is Wallonian dialect for a gnome or dwarf, and is almost identical to the spelling of the place where the beer was brewed, was in fact just a brilliant coincidence.

Pierre commissioned a work colleagues daughter to knock up a drawing for them, and the rest just fell into place, with the brothers then able to conduct a fantastical fairy tale, set amongst the idyllic Ardennes countryside. The whole thing was a perfect marketeers dream – even the valley where the brewery sits is known locally as the Vallee des Fees, (the Valley of the Fairies).

Nobody would surely though deny these gentlemen this slight twisting of the truth. What started as a hobby when Gobron quit his day job in 1982 was big enough in cash and potential to lure Duvel Moortgat to invest heavily in the venture in 2006, therefore continuing to safeguard the very future of the brewery. It is a massive success story

I finished my night in the Rake with the breweries winter offering – the unfiltered N’Ice Chouffe on cask, which turned out to be another fine brew. A malty thick soup of spicy cheer, that bulged in your mouth with every swill. The flavours are imparted through the addition of thyme and curacao, although by this stage of the evening I was far too busy lamenting the fact that the elves of Achouffe do not exist to bother with the finer details of the beer.

(Thanks to http://www.beerobsessed.com for the picture)

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Filed under 8, Achouffe, Belgian Strong Ale

#184 – ‘T Smisje Dubbel

#184 - 'T Smisje Dubbel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

I continued my adventure in the Rake with another beer from ‘T Smisje. The Tripel (#183) had been so good that I opted for the darker double, and am therefore quickly able to continue the story of Johan Brandt following his move of premises to Mater in Oudenaarde.

Between 1995 and 2008 as De Regenboog, the brewery was famous for an extensive range of experimental beers in the traditional style, pulling on interesting and distinctive ingredients, fruits, herbs and spices. Brandt had tried beers made with mustard seeds (Wostyntje), valerian root and lemon balm (BBBourgondier), honey and raisins (Guido), and sloes (Sleedornbier). Brandt had also worked his magic on maturing an ale for six months in Calvados barrels (Calva Reserva), very much in the style of similar beers from de Struise, Alvinne and de Dolle breweries.

In 2010 however it was with regret that I heard that Brandt had decided to take a break from the wide range of beers, and to concentrate his efforts on one or two house beers. Only a new blond hoppy ale called Smiske survives, with a seasonal variant at Christmas to be produced. He hasn’t closed the door entirely though, and has given beer lovers the chance to still get their hands on one historic recipe per year if ten thousand people on Facebook will sign a petition for it. This has recently worked for the Duvel Tripel Hop, although I would hope in keeping with his fine traditions, Brandt doesn’t rip off his customers at 15 Euros a pop, as Moortgat did.

So it is with regret that this ‘T Smisje Dubbel was possibly the last one I would ever taste. In true Brandt fashion, this was no ordinary dubbel, having been made since 1997 with fresh dates and honey. At 9% strength it is also clearly no run of the mill double, abounding with plenty of guts and a sweetness that simply blows you away. I still probably reckon this is about the best beer I have ever had the pleasure of trying in a bar. My only regret was that I had taken the only one left in the overstocked refrigerators of The Rake. I will continue to look for it on my journeys into Belgium in the older and more eclectic beer stores, or else I may just have to hope a petition of like-minded souls can coerce Mr Brandt to somehow recreate this masterpiece.

 

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Filed under 9, Abbey Dubbel, Dog, Smisje

#179 – Duivels Bier

#179 - Duivels Bier

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

This is yet another tale of a modern beer with a very rich and gothic history. Frank Boon (#89, #147) our hero and defender of lambic put Duivels Bier on the market in 2003 – a very unassuming looking dark beer amidst a sea of high quality lambic and gueuze. He had once enjoyed a beer called Duivelsbier which was produced by Vander Linden. Sadly this was another regional brewery who bit the bullet during challenging times, and Frank, just as he did with lambic, could not bear to sit by while this favourite beer rotted into extinction.

The original Duivelsbier was the first of its kind in Belgium to appellate itself to the Devil. In 1883 the brewery in Halle known as Petre Freres started brewing a Scotch Ale that was made with the raw materials of a Faro, yet with English hops and yeast. It did so well that in 1900 Joseph Petre won a “Grand Prix” award, and by 1916 the town of Halle was famous for it. It would still be another eight years until the famous beer from Moortgat would title its beer after the Devil (#34). This would eventually lead to quite a fierce rivalry for the name.

The brewery Petre Freres unfortunately lost its way after the Second World War, and in 1952 was taken over by Vander Linden who acquired the brand name of the Devils beer, and repackaged it in enamel 33cl bottles. In 1958 they further upped the stakes with a switch to a darkly gothic label and font – one not at all dissimilar from that of the most well known beer named after the Devil as illustrated below.

Gothic Label

The rise and fall of each beer over the next forty or so years is most appropriately indicated by the fact that when Frank Boon repackaged Duivels Bier in 2003 he was not best placed to recreate the original gothic labels so as to distinguish itself from Duvel.

The two beers are of course very different. Duvel is a famous golden ale, whereas the original Duivelsbier from Halle was much darker, sour and spontaneously fermented. Frank Boon has kept the new Duivels Bier a much more steady brown offering. It is fairly sweet and yet remains dry on the palate with hints of malt and chestnuts. It is thick enough to discern itself from other similar beers but for me is still rather living in the shadow of a beer that in a previous life was once its apprentice.

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Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Boon

#169 – Lucifer (pre 2008)

#169 - Lucifer

Size: 750 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

There is almost a frightening symbolism to the fate of the beer Lucifer. Here was a strong golden ale which stood proud and strong in the pantheon of beers, and yet following the bankruptcy of the Riva brewery it found itself cast down into Purgatory.

Lucifer, as the beer label of the pre-2008 beer will attest, is a name nowadays widely used to describe the devil himself. Interestingly however this particular reference is never used in the Bible. In fact according to the Old Testament, Lucifer refers to the latin term lucern ferre meaning ‘light bearer’, referring to the rising of the Morning Star (the planet Venus).Throughout religious antiquities, stars have often been commonly regarded as living celestial beings, and it has commonly been believed that shooting stars are in fact fallen angels. One such famous fallen angel from Apocalyptic literature is Lucifer.

Lucifer was though not just any old angel – he was the favourite archangel of God, only second in command after his own son Jesus Christ. His light which shone more brightly than all the others reflected his perfect form and powerful intellect. So the story goes that he began to seriously believe in his own hype and became intensely jealous of God’s son, believing that it should be he, and only he, at God’s side. He began to appeal to the other Angels who he promised he could offer a better life, not only as replacement as God’s deputy, but inevitably as God himself. The Angels of Heaven watched on in horror as Lucifer managed to stir up a rebellion against God, who sat passively with his security blanket of omnipotence watching the malevolence play out.

Thus it was that Lucifer, the light-bearer and sharer of God’s glory became Satan, God’s adversary. The battle of good and evil began to play out, and once satisfied that Lucifer could not be saved, God inevitably expelled him and his rioting angels from Heaven. Lucifer had been cast off and forced to seek his revenge on mankind. The same of course was true for the beer. When Riva could no longer afford to pay the bills, Duvel Moortgat came in to offer a lifeline, although inevitably opted to give more attention to the fruit beers inherited from Riva. The beer deserved better, and eventually an agreement was made with het Anker to re-launch and re-brand the beer. Lucifer, the fallen Angel was given another chance at redemption. God’s work is seemingly playing out in the kettles and tuns of East Flanders.

I managed to get my hands on a 750 ml bottle of the original pre-2008 Lucifer. It was a strong golden ale, very much of course in the image of Duvel (#34) and Judas (#5), particularly fruity, but somehow lacking in the depth of the former and ending up more in similarity with the less impressive latter. It was not quite as good as I remember it had been in older days, but I had taken my Belgian beer drinking much more seriously since then. I will be keen to try the new reformed Lucifer just to see if the light truly has returned to this famous beer.

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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Riva (defunct)

#162 – Duvel Groen

#162 - Duvel Groen

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

Red devils are commonplace in myth and folklore (and Old Trafford), but very few people have heard of a green devil. The archetypal golden ale of Belgium – Duvel (#34) has been sold successfully around the world, resplendent in it’s red and white packaging. It does however have a more reclusive brother beer – the Duvel Groen (Green) which is much harder to track down.

Duvel Groen is essentially the same beer as the normal Duvel, in that it uses exactly the same ingredients. Same yeast, same Styrian and Golding hops, same pilsner malt. The big difference is the timing. After about thirty days of the first fermentation, the brewmaster at Duvel Moortgat usually brings in his taste panel, whom once satisfied, sign off the beer for its secondary fermentation in the bottle, with additional yeast and sugar. Not all the beer however has always been sent on for bottle conditioning. There are those, particularly staff within the brewery, who have enjoyed the flavour which results from cold-filtering the first batch of single-fermented Duvel. This has then been bottled and given the green label.

The bottled Duvel Groen is rarely seen outside of Belgium, and only in Belgium in selected locations. There has been however more recently a draft Duvel, again labelled in green, which made its way to export, but although it follows the same processes as above before being kegged, isn’t exactly the same beer, as it weighs in only at 6.8%, but is essentially the red Duvel sent to keg as opposed to a 250ml bottle.

Either way I was particularly excited to be trying this rarer beer. If the CEO of Duvel Moortgat can be believed, then this beer is essentially a lighter and crisper version of the red classic, with all the developing flavours of the brother beer, but one that is lower in alcohol and carbonation. My overall impression however was that it was further from the real Duvel than they imagined it to be. It did have hints of the wicked edge that we have come to enjoy from Duvel, but it lacked any kind of bite that you might expect from a 7.5% beer. It faded fast and by the end I was hankering for the original. Here is categoric proof that green devils are much less menacing than red ones.

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Filed under 6, Belgian Ale, Duvel Moortgat

#159 – Bon Secours Blonde

#159 - Bon Secours Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Bon Secours translates into English as “good help”, and this message is reinforced on the new and improved Bon Secours labels, by the image of a St. Bernard dog – possibly the most symbolic of animals associated with the rescuing of people. It might not necessarily be truly beer related but it’s a nice little story, with references to monasteries and booze.

There was actually a monastery of St. Bernard, which was situated high in the Swiss Alps, and founded unsurprisingly by St. Bernard of Montjou in around 1050. In the valley below sat a majestic pass which was a popular route for travellers, traders and pilgrims for around the next 75 years, who often brought a variety of dogs to the monastery. It was then that the route became difficult to pass and for almost 400 years barely a soul came through. When the St. Bernard pass did once again open up for travel, the monastery was suddenly guarded by this new huge breed of dog.

Dogs were always so much smaller, and thus it was quite something to suddenly see beasts of this nature. It is thought that during the prolonged period of quiet at the monastery, a number of breeds of dog were mated, which including several larger breeds such as the Tibetan Mastiff. The St. Bernard dogs were an obvious choice for the monks to help lead travellers through the snow and dangerous conditions and were also used wisely as rescuers, with their keen sense of direction and strength and size. Quite whether the dogs really did carry barrels of alcohol on their collars is disputable, but there may have been a small chance they might have contained beer.

As for the Bon Secours Blonde, this was actually fairly reminiscent of a Duvel in flavour (#34). The pour was aggressive, and a hazy golden blonde threatened to burst over the sides over the glass. Once it had died down I was left with a very pleasant mildly hopped beer that perhaps slightly overdid the yeast, but countered it with a citrus twang that kept right till the end. I certainly didn’t need rescuing from this one.

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Filed under 8, Abbey Beer, Belgian Strong Ale, Caulier, Dog

#158 – Vedett Extra White

#158 - Vedett Extra White

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 5 %

Just one look at the Vedett website and you know exactly what you are up against. Here is a company which seemingly has recently employed a brand new marketing manager whose illustrious career history has probably been broken up by various stints in rehab from wild hallucinogenic narcotics. By the time I had worked out how to navigate the website, my eyes had begun to cross, and I was feeling somewhat disorientated. That this is the same brewery as the understated Duvel and Maredsous, I felt some serious trepidation for what might become of De Koninck since their recent arrival under the Duvel Moortgat umbrella.

I don’t intend to pull any punches on this one, in that I really didn’t think the Vedett Extra White was any good. I’ve drunk the Vedett regular blonde on various nights out in the UK prior to my Odyssey, and that is pretty average fare also. My point is that somebody smart in the company must have realised that this beer isn’t going to sell without a lot of fancy gimmickry. The fact that it is selling, I guess somewhat vindicates that decision, and maybe frees up capital to invest in better beers.

Once I had started to follow the cement mixer truck around the country on it’s Vedett tour, I went on to enter the competition to estimate the amount of miles that the cement mixer truck will travel. I wont share that with anybody at this stage as I am fairly confident that the Vedett Cement Mixer truck will be mine at the end of this, and I will be able to sell it at a novelty truck auction and thus fund my Belgian beer bar dream in the Ardennes.

It has also been a dream of mine since starting my Odyssey to commission my own beer. Why not make the 1000th beer my own creation? Vedett give you the opportunity to personalise your own case of Vedett beer at a not so unaffordable cost, which is a step in the right direction I suppose, and I decided to play ball and give my own label a go. Bearing in mind my overall view of the beer was a pungent, over-wheaty bottle of garbage, I thought we would go with this design. Let me know what you think? I wouldn’t mind betting I’ve ruined my chances with the cement mixer truck now. Oh well.

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Filed under 4, Belgian White (Witbier), Duvel Moortgat, Polar Bear

#151 – Straffe Hendrik

#151 - Straffe Hendrik

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

The Straffe Hendrik hasn’t always had things it’s own way. Life certainly hasn’t always been kind, and the fact that the beer is still alive and tastes so damn good is one of the great miracles of Belgian beer.

The original Straffe Hendrik beer was only launched in 1981, by the Brouwerij de Halve Maan. It weighed in at about 7.5% – 8%, and was only available in small kegs. It was named after the original brewer of the Die Maene (The Moon) brewery, as it was back then. His name was Leon Maes, but was affectionately known as Henri I. The beer was particularly potent, and thus it became known in Flemish as Heavy Henry (Straffe Hendrik). The beer is thus greatly symbolic of the brewery, as a succession of head brewers were all sequentially named Henri.

The symbolism of the beer was such, that in 1988, the Riva brewery took over the brand name. It continued to be brewed in Bruges though, until 2002 when the whole package moved to Riva in Dentergem. This was where things seriously began to go amiss for Hendrik. The quality of the beer began to mysteriously subside, and the ABV soon dropped as low as 6%. Hendrik was losing his weight fast, and like an aging prize fighter, he was hanging on to the ropes to retain what reputation he had left. The poor quality though soon had a devastating effect on the Liefmans Breweries (of which Riva was one), who went backrupt in 2007. Duvel Moortgat took them over, and immediately closed the plant. Heavy Henry was dead on his feet waiting for the count.

It was never to come though. In 2008, the nostalgic hands at De Halve Maan made an agreement with Duvel Moortgat to buy back the brand of Straffe Hendrik, and within months, Henry was back, this time as an utterly delicious 9% Tripel. I had spent the morning with the folks wandering the sights of the old town of Bruges, and while everyone else was happy to stop for a croque monsieur and a coffee, I was gagging for a beer. I had recently read about the revival of Henry, and where better to try it out than its’ spiritual home. It was absolutely perfect – creamy, sweet, bitter and potent and the perfect accompaniment to some local cuisine. An hour later, like a dazed boxer, I stumbled back into the afternoon sun, knowing full well I would be back for plenty more Henry this weekend.

(Post-Script) – In late 2010, Henry was re-united with his old brother. For a time while at Riva, a dark Straffe Hendrik beer was introduced, although of course it really wasn’t working for them at the time. The Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel is a dark complex beer weighing at 11% and is definitely on my hit-list for my next trip to Bruges.

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Filed under 9, Abbey Tripel, de Halve Maan

#122 – De Koninck Tripel

#122 - De Koninck Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

If you asked me to describe what Antwerp means to me I would probably say three things. Diamonds – shouldn’t it have been Antwerp where James Bond had the infamous fight in the lift in Diamonds are Forever? Nausea – the worst whitey I have ever had in my life was after an errant Norwegian persuaded me one fateful night to stick a wad of snus on my gums (which I forgot about until the headspins began) . Finally, it has to be the Kulminator bar – the best ever Chimay Grand Reserve (#45) aged and served from the cellar. The hangover though was crippling.

Ask any Antwerpian however and you might get a different answer. The Schelde – the famous river which dissects the town is the lifeblood of the city. The Zoo – apparently so? The most likely answer though would be De Koninck beer. Probably no beer in Belgium is so intrinsically linked to a city than De Koninck. The beer started being brewed here as far back as 1933, and has been as popular with locals ever since.

The phenomenon may be more of a regional thing though. On my wanderings through Belgium I rarely see it out of Antwerp, which considering 114,000 hectolitres is produced annually is quite remarkable. The brewery reckons 35% leaves the country though, most to the Dutch, and you have probably as much chance of seeing it in Amsterdam as you will in Brussels. Go to Antwerp however and you have no chance of escaping the influence. In any bar, it really is a part of the furniture.

Recent events are worrying the locals though, with Duvel Moortgat only a few days ago acquiring 100% of the shares in De Koninck. It is fair to say that De Konick have had better days – there was a time when they would brew up to 140,000 hectolitres a year, but their beers now only equate to about half a percent of the overall Belgian beer market, and as the world recession hits us all, it is wielding its stick particularly on café culture in Belgium. Drinkers have less money, and as De Koninck is very much an Antwerp café beer (present in at least a hundred cafes in Antwerp alone), it is a worrying sign. La Chouffe is an example of a relationship with Duvel Moortgat that has worked well and we keep our fingers crossed that De Koninck is able to keep its head above the froth.

As for the De Koninck Tripel, which came highly recommended I might add, I would bestow a consistent 7. As the beer is made with biological South American cane sugar, as opposed to the typical Belgian white sugar, I had expected a sweet, thick glutenous beverage, but it was much lighter, and I just couldn’t recreate the head that dominates the advertising. If it meant buying a crate to keep De Koninck from selling up (and out) though, then I’d be happy keeping this as a safety beer.

(Post-Script) – Antwerp has never been renowned as the party capital of Europe, but I seem to have had my fair share of debauchery here. It was only after racking my brains further on what Antwerp means to me, that I recalled getting detained by the police on a long walk back to my hotel. I had rather unintelligently chosen the main police office wall to urinate against. I have made better decisions in my life.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Tripel, De Koninck

#76 – Sloeber

#76 - Sloeber

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

You could at the end of a long evening on the Belgians easily mistakenly pick up a Sloeber, thinking you were going for a Duvel (#34). The colours of the labels are fairly similar, and with the slurred bottle design probably looking fairly normal under these circumstances, it is just possible you could be mistaken. It is probably likely that the marketing men at the Roman brewery had devised a cunning plan in order to jump on the successful Duvel bandwagon.

The name in Flemish kind of means ‘bad boy’. Any dictionary search throws up a hatful of possible translations, but perhaps the most likely is that of an epicure – somebody who tends to like the good things in life in a slightly hedonistic, yet mischievous way. It might perhaps represent well the man who likes to drink the finest beers in the world but that just maybe does not know when to stop !

It has become clear that this Belgian Beer Odyssey isn’t just teaching me about beer and about Belgian history, but also about the art of drinking. As age begins to wither me in my mid-thirties, I now have half my mind on the waistline, and the recollection of how bad the last early morning meeting was on a Thursday after one too many Abbey tripels. It hasn’t however always been that way. Please permit me the licence to stray a little off track and use my own personal example of how beer can sometimes make a Sloeber of us all.

I once played for a football team in Devon, and that football team went for end of season drinks as football teams tend to do. Fifteen or so fellows together normally spells mischief but I can sadly and unremittingly point to myself as the main Sloeber of the evening. After the night had ended down in Teignmouth harbour, there were a number of us who wanted more. There was a party across the estuary at Shaldon and we could hear the music, and the laughter resonating across the quiet April night. As luck would have it we were walking past a boatyard and an idea sprung to mind. Boat… water… party.. ‘With no means of propulsion’ aptly reported on the front pages of most of the local media the next day, six grown men sailed into the night, into one of South Englands most strongest currents, and then in a matter of minutes found ourselves many miles out to sea. I can rarely recall ever seeing as much fear etched on drunken faces as I did that night.

Clearly I am here to the tell the story, but only thanks to the Royal National Lifeboats, the Devon Coastguard and one solitary man by the harbour side who had the good sense to raise the alarms. It is worth remembering that mobile phones had not been invented, and we were all wearing t-shirts. Had we not have been picked up we would have frozen to death, even if the weather hadn’t turned the boat over before. I always remember the 26th of April with a great deal of humility.

Had Sloeber been the beer of choice on that fateful night we would have all had passed out long before we passed the boatyard, as this is a pretty powerful beer – full of Belgian guts! It looked like the Duvel on the pour, and yet had the reminiscent lemony taste of the St Feuillien Blonde (#29), although somehow less distinctive. This was certainly not a beer to dislike, but unlike the Dirty Duvel, the Sloeber ran out of energy in the final third. Bad boy indeed.

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Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Roman

#65 – La Moneuse

#65 - La Moneuse

Size: 375 ml

ABV: 8 %

There is a most definite morbidity amongst the Belgians. We have already come across and drunk beers known as Judas (#5) and Duvel (#34), and learnt of others called Satan and Lucifer. While there is a certain degree of separation between the modern world and these figures of notoriety, the story behind Blaugies La Moneuse is far more contemporary. The person in question is Antoine-Joseph Moneuse, and the co-owner of Blaugies, Marie-Noelle Pourtois, is convinced that she is his descendant. On further reading I might have kept quiet about this !

A J Moneuse claimed to be a miller and a trader, although most who ran into this unsavoury character would argue this was a euphemistic claim. Moneuse spent most of his career as a coach driver cum highwayman, womaniser, robber and murderer. It was unlikely though that he would become anything but given his family background. His grandfather died in prison while on a fourteen year stretch, and his father was murdered during a fight with a sword. He fell into bad company while driving coaches, and it was inevitable he fell into the highwaymans way of life.

It would be easy to romanticise this character in the style of Dick Turpin, however when you read of his works, it is ever more surprising that somebody named such a great beer after him. Legend has it that when unwitting victims refused to give up the location of their stash, Moneuse and his cronies would burn their feet on the open fire until they confessed. The worst story came from 1795 when Moneuse and twelve other men attacked a hostel killing a couple, their six children and the family doctor. Records of the time reported that the bodies were macerated by both blunt and sharp weapons while the body of a twenty-two month old child was found with the guts ripped out in the arms of her dead sister.

Thankfully Moneuse was eventually caught with a number of his cronies and imprisoned in Asquillies. He was eventually sentenced to death and faced the Guillotine (#61) in June 1798 in the Place de Douai with his accomplices. They were made to wear the shameful red shirts set aside only for murderers and poisoners.

It was with trepidation that I visited the Trois Fourquets in Blaugies for lunch on our last day in Belgium. It was a far more enjoyable experience than the one documented above, ordering local sausages cooked in front of us on the open griddle, and served with a large bottle of La Moneuse. This was as near to an Orval (#37) as I had tasted since, yet more subtle and pronounced in its hoppiness. A truly impressive saison drunk in wonderful surroundings. The beer was a pure pleasure, quite unlike the man it is in honour of.

(Post-Script) – I have done a few brewery taps for lunch in Belgium now, but probably none finer than Blaugies – Its remote but if you get the opportunity do it !

Address: Rue de la Frontière
435 Blaugies, 7370
Belgium
Phone: 32 (0)65 65 03 60
Email: info@brasseriedeblaugies.com
URL: http://www.brasseriedeblaugies.com/



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Filed under 8, Blaugies, Horse, Saison

#57 – Hopduvel Blondine

#57 - Hopduvel Blondine

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 9 %

While we are on the subject of blondes, it seems almost the perfect time to introduce the ‘blond/e beer’. When you have a beer called Blondine and a label with a beautiful blonde on it, I doubt there will be a better time to talk about it. I decided to find a translation of Blondine, and discovered it seems to mean the preparation used to bleach ones hair blond. It sounded synthetic and to be honest, I feared the worst.

I have always felt that brown or amber beers are my personal favourites. Just like I prefer red wine to white. My rationale was that average brown or amber beers, and red wines can be well hidden, but an average blond beer or white wine gets shown up. I still think this is true. A good blonde is a real treat, but its much harder to get right. Whether this is true for the female species I shall leave up to everyone else, although again my personal preference has always been the brunette.

Blonde ales tend to be offered by most breweries. You get the feeling that many brewers secretly share my thoughts above, but feel that there is a definite market out there for blonde beers. Again it is this stereotypical view that most beer drinkers would prefer to drink unimaginative blonde lagers. I wouldn’t necessarily advocate this view, as I thought the Piraat 9 (#15) for example was immense, but there appears to be some degree of truth in there somewhere.

That said, there is much more to ‘blonde beers’ than lagers and pils. There are good basic Belgian ales with medium strength but plenty of flavour. Abdij van Roosenberg (#11) a fair example so far, and then there are the hoppier blondes which have much more bite. Tripel beers don’t scientifically have to be blonde, but most tend to be, and are almost always strong and stylish although most I have tried on this trip so far have been a bit of a let down. Then there are the strong Belgian ales or Golden blondes, such as Duvel (#37) which remain classics in their field, or the more experimental with flavours, such as the St. Feuillien Blonde (#29). The latter seem to represent well the craft brewers of Belgium, who seek to give their drinker more value for their money by either trying new techniques or adding new ingredients.

The Hopduvel Blondine on offer tonight was trying to be the latter, but ultimately failed. It was 9% but it certainly didn’t taste it. She tried to explode on opening (probably a by-product of hurtling down the Alps this afternoon), and I caught the cloudy remnants well in the glass. This was definitely more solid and beguiling than the previous blonde, but there was almost something quite unsavoury in there. Her personality was orangey and bitter, and I really felt that with 9% on the label she would be able to offer a little more. Clearly the gentleman is not preferring this blonde.

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Filed under 5, Belgian Strong Ale, Van Steenberge

#51 – Abbaye de Forest

#51 - Abbaye de Forest

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

The light had begun to fade at the campsite after our late start, and it had started to get a little chilly. I dug around for my army jumper, pulled myself up to the barbecue and decided to have one last beer for the night. I closed my eyes and randomly stuck my hand into one of the boxes I had filled from our Couvin stop. Abbaye de Forest from the Brasserie Silly, and I just assumed from the uninspiring label that it was one of those tawdry beers made by a supermarket with a made-up Abbey name to sell a few extra brews. I was wrong, not that I am going to apologise to anyone.

There is actually an Abbaye de Forest, and there is actually a place called Forest. Remarkable what a little research can do. Instead of contemplating the two strange campers with the worlds smallest tent who had set up a late night butterfly watching vigil in the woods, I might have sat there pondering the decline of yet another Benedictine Abbey.

The Abbaye de Forest was founded in 1106, and it grew in splendour and importance due to its location near Brussels on the main road from Paris. Often key dignitaries in olden times heading to Brussels, would stop here for food, shelter and entertainment. The community was thus able to grow in size as craftsmen, brewers, wine growers and farmers moved to be near the opportunities provided by the Abbey. The inevitable decline came however in 1764 when a massive fire razed the place, and it wasn’t until 1964 that the local commune were able to begin the restoration of this once majestic complex. The Abbaye is available for visitors now, and is apparently well worth the effort – sadly unlike the beer.

I didn’t expect much, and to be fair the Abbaye de Forest did its best not to disappoint. It looked pale and golden once the froth had decided to calm down, a little like a Duvel (#34), although clearly that is where all comparisons ended. It was watery and non-descript, and although clearly better than most premium lagers, it certainly won’t stay long in my memory. If I was throwing a barbecue in the summer, and this was on offer in the supermarket, I might consider it for the less discerning English drinkers, however I am not, and that’s what Stella Artois (#116) is for anyway.

(Post-Script) – having visited Brussels on my stag weekend, it is clear this is a staple beer of the city;  being freely available in many bars.

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Filed under 5, Abbey Beer, Belgian Ale, Silly

#44 – Maredsous Tripel 10

#44 - Maredsous 10

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 10 %

Maredsous is another example of a range of Abbey beers, whose monks still take the concept extremely seriously. The beers have long since been brewed outside the Abbey, now by Duvel Moortgat, but the Maredsous Abbey has a long tradition of making beer and cheese from its completion in 1892.

The Abbey itself is picturesquely sited in the Namur countryside just outside the village of Denee. It is a truly stunning piece of Neo-Gothic architecture as I can testify after a short visit there this summer. If you stand in front of the main towers and look up at the sheer splendour set against a radiant backdrop it really sends you dizzy with awe.

Maredsous Abbey was another example of a Benedictine Monastery. At the end of the 18th century there were about 50 examples of these dotted around the territory which corresponds to modern day Belgium, however within years there were literally none remaining! I have already touched on this a few times, but the desolation caused by the French Revolution was a major catastrophe for the monastic ways in these lands, as the abbeys and monasteries were sold, and if not sold, almost certainly destroyed. The monks did fight back however, but it was nothing less than a struggle. Some didn’t make it (Floreffe #40), but Maredsous did and the evidence is clear there today, where in excess of thirty monks still live, pray and work according to the strict rules of St Benedict. They still have a key role to play in the brewing of the beer, as the Maredsous recipes at Duvel Moortgat are still fastidiously observed through the supervision of the head Abbot himself.

I took this strong Tripel into the fading sunshine of my balcony. It was a splendid end to a tough day at the office. The pour was pert and amber with an average head, accompanied by a strong smell and even as ten-percenters go this one tasted stronger than usual. I’m a big fan of tripels but this seemed to lack some of the characters of others. It was hard to define any definite flavours other than the taste of spice, and I left unenthralled as I had heard great things about this beer. I am definitely more in awe of the building than the beer.

(Post-Script) – I have since had my faith restored by the beautiful Maredsous 8 (#111).



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Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Abbey Tripel, Duvel Moortgat

#34 – Duvel

#34 - Duvel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

I have been drinking Duvel fairly steadily for the past 6 or 7 years. Fed up with weak tasteless lagers that permeate the world these days, I have always sought out something with a darker streak of menace. Many a night has gone woefully astray after a couple of Duvels, and I probably have the devil to thank for my passion for all things wet and Belgian.

It could have been oh so different however, as when Moortgat launched the beer in the 1920s, it was to celebrate the end of World War I. Moortgat Victory Ale found its way onto the streets, and half of Belgium probably drunk a few and forgot what on earth they went to war for. One of these Belgians, a shoemaker, and friend of Albert Moortgat sat in a bar one night, and commented that the beer was ‘nen echten Duvel’ – a real devil. Even then it was 8.5%, and a new name was born for the Moortgat Flagship beer.

You may also notice, when you drink Duvel that it seems more lively when served in its own glass – well, there is some logic in this. Not only is the traditional tulip glass designed to release flavour, but also as it narrows towards the top, it helps preserve the carbon-dioxide and therefore the head. Not content with that however, a couple of years ago, the manufacturers of the glass also engraved a ‘D’ into the inner circle of the bottom of the glass which also scientifically enables further levels of carbonation.

So it was time to put Duvel to the test. Was it as good as it always was, and did the glass really have these magical properties? It didn’t disappoint. The appearance was as golden and heady as ever, and the smell evoked some form of inebriated nostalgia. The taste is warm and definitely gets stronger as the beer gets downed. It’s fairly complex and behind the fruitiness is a sourish taste that encourages you sensibly to drink slowly, which when messing about with the devil is probably good advice.

(Post-Script) – Did you know that there is also a Duvel Groen (#162)….?

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Filed under 8, Belgian Strong Ale, Duvel Moortgat

#5 – Judas

#5 - Judas

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

Judas was first brewed in 1986, probably as a Golden Ale that could compete with the highly successful Duvel (#34) beer made by the Moortgat Brewery. The similarities in title, label and goblet are evident. In fact, it is surprising to find the number of beverages of this ilk which refer in some degree to the darker side of the force.

Duvel of course means ‘Devil’ in Flemish, Liefman’s brewery (now sadly defunct) produced the similarly styled Lucifer (#169), and of course there is the De Block brewery who are famous for their Satan Red (#215) and Satan Gold beers. Judas may not directly represent the devil, however the story of Judas Iscariot – one of the 12 disciples of Jesus who betrayed the son of God for 30 pieces of silver – is one that certainly leans towards the more macabre side of the spiritual fence. Certainly in the Gospel of St Luke there is a reference made to the fact that Satan himself enters Judas during the last Supper which might rather diminish the view that the 30 pieces of silver had any significance in the decision to hand Jesus over to Pilate’s soldiers.

The real truth about Judas is one of the most debated topics in modern day Bible school, and much of it depends on what school of thought you have or what book or version of the Bible you read. Either way he played an extremely inauspicious role in the history of Christianity and for that reason finds himself in the pantheon of evil Belgian beers. Quite what this fascination is remains to be told, however if the drippy Stella Artois (#116) can be rightfully labelled ‘Wifebeater’, then perhaps your more potent Belgian craft beers deserve to be associated as more sinister !

In terms of the beer, there was little head and very little sediment, although plenty of bubbles. A fruity aroma accompanied the opening with a strong uncomplicated flavour initially. He was a little coppery, yet fairly drinkable but there was nothing wholly tantalising. I am left unlikely to be a traitor and leave other better beers for this, but beware the strength though – two or three of these may leave you forgetting where you hid the silverware !

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Filed under 7, Alken-Maes, Belgian Strong Ale