Tag Archives: Empire

#63 – La Gauloise Brune

La Gauloise Brune

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.1 %

My second beer in the Purnode campsite was another local brew from just across the way – La Gauloise Brune. This is a beer that celebrates the many Gallo-Roman sites in the locality, and which when first brewed back in 1858 by Du Bocq, attempted to recreate how those residents of ancient Gaul would have brewed beer. The strapline of the beer echoes this – ‘La biere de nos ancetres’. These ancestors funnily enough were known as Gauls.

Gaul is the historic name used by the Roman Empire to refer to the region of Western Europe that was what is now largely France and Belgium. In fact, Julius Caesar went as far as to break Gaul down further into three distinct ethnic groups – The Aquitani in the south west, the Celts in the middle, and the Belgae in the north between the Rhine and the Seine.

Gaul was eventually conquered by the Romans during the Gallic wars, where at least a million people died, and a further million were enslaved (totalling almost a half of the entire Gallic population). three hundred tribes were subjugated, and eight hundred cities destroyed. The tribes never really had a chance to be fair, as more often than not they were fighting amongst themselves, even when Julius Caesar became the common enemy. Their principal religion tended to be animism, in which animals were worshipped, and they tended to follow the political inclinations of the Druids, who had particularly strong beliefs in not recording the Celtic wisdom and literature into writing. It is often said that this is the reason the language of the Celts has virtually disappeared without trace except for parts of Brittany. For anybody seeking further information on the Gauls I would suggest reading Asterix. From what I have read on Gaul so far, it remains remarkably coherent in its portrayal of life at this time.

I was served the beer in a cracking little tankard with the newer logo on it, and after pouring I held it up to the light, to see a chestnut brown infused with ruby red. It looked the business, especially with its sepia head remaining pert on top. The aroma was intensely malty, and the taste was smooth and strong, echoing even more maltiness. It was a pleasant drink right to the end, but just didn’t go far enough to earn a better rating. Anyway, it has inspired me to go back and read Asterix, which of course I will do once I finish Tintin.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Dubbel, Du Bocq

#39 – Keizer Karel Blonde

#39 - Keizer Karel Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

If you studied 16th century history you may know Keizer Karel or Charles Quint by a different name – Emperor Charles V. His realm was so large at one point that it was popularly described as one in which the sun never sets – in actual fact it spanned almost four million square kilometres. He was notably the most powerful man in the world during the mid 1600s as both the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, and all her foreign lands. Why then was this leading figure of world history so associated with Belgian beer?

The answer lies in his heritage. He was born in 1500 in Ghent and was brought up in Mechelen, Brussels and Leuven – all fiercely proud Flemish cities, and at the age of just six, he inherited his father’s territories of the lowlands and Franche-Comte. His Aunt Margaret acted as regent until he was 15 years old, and Charles then took over in full force, adding a number of new territories to a new unified lowlands of which he was the ruler – this included his birthplace of Flanders, levered away from the French. Although he spent the majority of his time in Spain and her outlying lands, his heart was always in the place of his birth, and he ensured a unified nation for his heirs when he eventually abdicated in 1556 and then passed away in 1558.

The brewers Haacht have celebrated the reign of Charles Quint through two beers which symbolise the power of his Empire. This Keizer Karel Blonde symbolises the pure morning light of the rising of the sun on one side of his realm, while the Keizer Karel Rouge (#134) represents the ruby red of the warm evening shimmer as the sun sets on the other. There are other stories about good old Charles Quint, and I will save them for later as it isn’t just Haacht who celebrate this man on a beer label – some go much much further.

Good little beer this. Actually drunk a couple of months after the best before date but still tasted remarkably fresh. A great strong fruity aroma on opening, and a very clear pale golden pour with barely any head. What looked slightly insipid initially was eventually very pleasant on the tastebuds with the 8.5% clearly evident. Fruity and sweet with undertones of vanilla ice-cream, this went down far too well. I Just wish I’d had another waiting in the fridge.

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Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Brewers, Haacht

#36 – Brugse Zot

#36 - Brugse Zot

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6 %

The beer Brugse Zot is actually a slight against the people of Bruges. The jester or fool on the label is meant to represent the people of this elegant, quaint tourist haven. This isn’t just a wild accusation of widespread idiocy by the brewers, but actually a legend that stems from the colourful history of the town.

The modern day country of Belgium was once part of the wider Netherlands, which was also a part of the enormous realm of the Holy Roman Empire. For sixty years from 1459, Maximilian ruled the Empire, and did much to protect the lowlands from French rule as a way of defending his first wifes inheritance (Duchesse de Bourgogne, #105). Many Belgians were extremely fond of the emperor for his attempts to stabilise the area, and none more so than the people of Bruges who welcomed him on a visit to the town with a colourful parade of merrymakers. At the end of the visit, local dignitaries asked the emperor if he would be so kind as to provide hard cash for a new lunatic asylum in the town. Maximilian responded with the immortal lines ‘Madmen? Lunatics? Since I got here I’ve seen nothing but lunatics – Bruges is a madhouse!”. The nickname for the people ‘Brugse Zotten’ stemmed from this day.

It is unclear in what context Maximilian made his reference, although it should be pointed out that the burghers of Bruges once held Maximilian hostage for several months in an attempt to raise a ransom. Whether this was before or after Maximilians remarks would largely go someway to defining just how foolish the people of Bruges actually were.

The beer itself is the flagship beer of the town of Bruges, brewed by the De Halve Maan brewery. It had a nice pale colour on pouring with a frothy white head. It looked a bit lagery on first glimpse yet the aroma was polished with a really fruity bouquet. The first swig was though quite mild in comparison, with a pale flavour that threatened to explode at times but remained firmly in the anonymous camp. The odd hint of daring citrus just wasn’t enough to turn this beer into anything but an average Belgian blonde. I’d certainly be a fool to buy a crate of this !

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Filed under 6, Belgian Ale, de Halve Maan