Tag Archives: festival

#161 – Achilles Serafijn Tripel

#161 - Achilles Serafijn Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

The Achilles brewery was once just a hobby for Achiel van de Moer, who spent seven long years trialling a number of different efforts before finally deciding to open this great little microbrewery in 1999.

Achiel, after whom the brewery is named, now sustains his full income from brewing beers, having retired from his previous job as a music teacher. Having said that though the operations are still tiny – just three truck loads of beer are brewed every year! Despite the professional look of the bottles on the range of Serafijn beers, it is even more remarkable that this microbrewery is wedged into a crowded garage in the placid and unremarkable town of Itegem. Even if you manage to locate the town, it’s even less likely you will find the brewery without the latest state-of-the-art GPS system – there are no signposts.

At home, Achiel has, like many microbrewers in Belgium, converted his living quarters into his office and factory. Squeezed into every nook and cranny lie the kettles and tuns, and even a bottling line just waiting for the next batch. Achiel has even made room for a small beer bar/café in what used to be the family’s front room. It is extremely popular with the neighbours and local populace, and the extra revenue generated helps to support this great venture.

I caught up with Achiel on his stand at the Bruges Beer festival, and was happy to oblige in taking almost the whole range of his beers away for future drinkage. It wasn’t long until the Achilles Serafijn Tripel passed my lips though, and what a fine beer to start off with. It is generally heralded as the pinnacle of the series – a typical golden honeyed tripel, complete with a hoppy backbite which leaves you desperate for more. I am very much looking forward to finishing off the collection, and perhaps a trip out to the Serafijn Cafe.

(Post-Script) – The brewery is sadly currently up for sale, although there don’t appear to be many takers !

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Filed under 8, Abbey Tripel, Achilles

#129 – Cassisframbozenlambic

#129 - Hanssens Cassisframbozenlambic

Size: Cask

ABV: 4 %

There was a damn fine reason to be in The Rake pub this evening, which was the highly vaunted and much anticipated Lambic beer festival. I had started the evening on a high with the bottled Oudbeitje (#128) strawberry lambic, and my confidence had risen. I thought it was about time I tried the real stuff on cask. Being still somewhat of a novice on all things lambic I decided that the Hanssens Cassisframbozenlambic which was brooding in their cellar would be the perfect choice. ‘How can you possibly go wrong with a fruit beer?’ were the fateful words uttered by my other half.

It was with these words ringing in my ears, that I strode purposefully back to the bar and ordered two halves of the Cassisframbozenlambic. Priced at £9.90 a pint, it certainly failed to qualify as a bargain, but then how often do you get a lambic beer festival in London? After a short wait, two glasses of a rich red torpid liquid were placed in front of me, while a gentleman to my left nodded manfully with approval. It would be probably the only time in my life where the purchase of a fruit beer would be so professionally acknowledged. Having sorted out the Vedett drinkers in our round, we both dived into the extremely pungent brew.

This was to be no ordinary fruit beer. Never since accidentally drinking rancid milk as a child I had been so offended by a drink. While my face told the story, and I tried gainfully to get through it, Tash had surrendered the most expensive drink I had ever bought her to the bar, demanding something, anything to wash away the flavour. I returned to the couple of locals who had been so impressed with my purchase, who reassured me that the ¾ of a glass I had managed to drink was quite an achievement and that this stuff is normally only used for blending, not for drinking.

Incredibly though when I searched the ratebeer website to check others opinions, I found people rating this monstrosity at high 3s and in some cases over 4. I will leave you with two separate reviews from the evening, both which perfectly highlight how either people are able to develop their palates over time, or that some people simply think its cool to like having their throat burnt at £9.90 a time.

The Good – “Shockingly sour to a point of acidity, suggesting more raspberries and rhubarb rather than blackcurrants. Maybe this wrecked my palette but all the other lambics that I sampled subsequently, tasted rather tame! I kept returning to this little beauty and ended up finishing the evening off with a pint of it. It’s a very difficult drink to rate: certainly not a great deal of finesse but heaps of attitude. I would be intrigued to experiment with this beer in the kitchen, perhaps even using it to make a sorbet. My rating reflects how keen I would be to obtain it again rather than the beer’s technical merits. Many thanks to Tom for assembling and hosting what was probably the finest exhibition of lambic beers ever held outside Belgium

The Bad – “God that is horrible, stale and one of the worst beers I’ve tasted. Total doubling over of the body vile. Weird aftertaste. Clearly one of the most acidic beers I’ve drunk. Like drinking mould. Aroma is a 6 but every thing else is awful

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Filed under 1, Hanssens, Lambic - Fruit

#96 – Kastaar

#96 - Kastaar

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6 %

The label of Kastaar is adorned by what looks like a king, but I was struggling to find out just who this fellow was. In the end after some poking around on the internet I contacted the right people, and I am mightily pleased that I did. Forget the Olympic Games in London in 2012. I’m off to Biervliet in the Netherlands to join a crowd of eccentric villagers recreating wars and stealing city monuments !

Biervliet (apparently) has always been an important place in history, mainly due to its strategic location on an island in the Westerschelde river between Ghent and Antwerp. It’s population have been historically recognised for their efforts in the Middle Ages during the Crusades, and more recently during the Eighty Years War for Dutch independence. In 1573 while under Spanish control, William of Orange and the ‘gueuzen’ (essentially the French peasantry), fought a terrific battle to win back the area and liberate Biervliet. This was no doubt consigned to the back of the history books until in 1973, exactly 400 years since the liberation, the people of Biervliet decided to celebrate this event with a festival.

The idea is to pick a story from the rich history and to recreate this in the form of a parade over a long, and more often than not, boozy weekend. In 2007 this recreation took the form of the story of Kastaar, the bastard son of Count Lamoral of Egmont (#22). There may be a certain amount of spin to this story, and many would argue that it is questionable as to whether he really ever existed, but the story goes that when Lamoral was imprisoned in the Gravensteen castle in Ghent, Kastaar was knee deep in resisting the Spanish in Biervliet. Learning of his fathers predicament he rallied his troops to Ghent and successfully stormed the Gravensteen. Stopping only to celebrate with a raucous party, he returned to Biervliet and routed the Spanish – a victory which was to largely determine the successful restoration of independence from the infidels.

Thus in 2007, the modern day revellers numbering around fifty descended on Ghent in full costume and armed with weapons, and plenty of Kastaar beer to storm the Gravensteen. These adventurous pilgrims – not content with a quiet few pints – also have a history of kleptomania, in the name of avenging the cities who once sullied the name of Biervliet. In this case they stole the twelve ton cannon which sits peacefully in the centre of Ghent. This cannon is called the Dulle Griet, which is also the name of another beer by the Schelde brewery, and thus is another tale altogether.

If I had to imagine a weekend of high octane drinking of Kastaar I can imagine myself being led to high jinks in this manner, assuming of course I didn’t fall over drunk first in the cobbled gutters. At 7% this is a powerful beer, and felt like a bit of a cross between a blond and a brune. I merely sipped mine from the safety of the sofa while the football was on, and imagined rampaging the streets of Ghent. A good beer and an even better story !

(Post-Script) – the people of Biervliet have had quite an impact on history; even during the Crusades they played a brave role (#145).

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Filed under 7, Belgian Ale, Brewers, De Block

#83 – Bush de Noel

#83 - Bush de Noel

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 12 %

Bush de Noel represents the first Christmas beer on my journey. If you are going to stock up on rare winter beers for your cellar, then the winter months are the ideal time to do so, as there are many rare specials made by breweries which normally suit the cold winter months. There tends to be a good number of reasons why the seasonal winter beers are brewed, and I will run through these below.

Firstly, and probably the original reason, is that of practicality. The late summer harvest usually ends up leaving plentiful supplies of grain, and the old stocks simply need to be used. Coupled with the need to provide enough beer through the winter months, this additional brew is just common sense really.

The second reason really stems from the first, in that it gives the brewery the opportunity to make a beer that is well suited to the winter conditions. In the cold weather, there is nothing more warming on a bleak night than to be tucked up by the fire with a strong dark beer full of spices and fruit. Not all Christmas beers fit this description, but many do. The spices vary and often include cinnamon, allspice, ginger or nutmeg and variations of dried fruit. Often breweries try to replicate Christmas treats such as mince pies in the liquid form.

This also gives the brewery a third reason – that of marketing. Customers like to try new beers, and the winter months tend to give the good craft brewer a great reason to experiment. Winter beers can often vary every year as the creative brewer tries to find great new recipes that might end up becoming a popular year-round brew. These Christmas beers are then often showcased at a winter beer festival, like the one in Essen.

Brewers see these as a Christmas present to their customers. Most tend to use more ingredients in these Christmas beers, and as the beers tend to be stronger, there is a higher levy of duty to be paid to the taxman. Brewers, particularly in Germany, argue that there is not so much money to be made on Christmas beers, and therefore this is their gift for their customers loyalty. Whatever way you look at it, if you are planning a raid on the Belgian countryside to stock up, this is the time to do it !

The Bush de Noel may be small but it is potent at a steaming 12%. It has a dark red-amber colour which is attained by adding caramel malt in large quantities. The beer is also quite bitter which is achieved by dry-hopping while the beer rests. It is one of the more recognised Christmas beers and can often be found in the UK and in many Belgian drankencentrums. It has been doing the rounds since 1991 believe it or not. It was fairly pleasant, but like most beers from Dubuisson it was over just too soon, which considering its flat appearance wasn’t a major worry. It reminded me rather oddly of the colour of water that is left to rot in a car radiator for years – dark and coppery. It is strong this beer, and ideal for a winter night in, but I’m sure there are so many christmas beers better than this !

(Post-Script) – interestingly the little house on the label covered in snow is the main Dubuisson brewery on the main Pipaix road.

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Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Christmas Beer, Dubuisson

#14 – Abbaye de Malonne Blonde

#14 - Abbaye de Malonne Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.3%

Malonne is a small village in Namur, where the Abbey Notre-Dame de Malonne once sat. The abbey was built in the 7th Century by an Anglo-Saxon monk named Saint Berthuin. The Abbey was the centre-piece of the heavily forested local area, and the village grew up around it. The Abbey has  long been dissolved, but the people of Malonne still celebrate the memory of the Irish monk.

Every year villagers carry a shrine throughout Malonne, which is offered to everybody to touch to bring good luck throughout the year. Inside this silver and gold shrine are the bones of St Berthuin. Nice !

The beer itself is elaborately brewed with natural ingredients according to monastery traditions including Bavarian hops. It all started well with a good typical blonde smell, and a buoyant head, but it fast faded – ending watery and distinctly unmemorable. There is little substance to the beer and even if this was to bring me good luck for a year I definitely wouldn’t touch it again!

(Post-Script) – I did later touch the Abbaye de Malonne Brune (#92) and to be fair it did little to lift the reputation.

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Filed under 6, Abbey Beer, Belgian Ale, Lefebvre