Tag Archives: Flemish

#197 – Ename Cuvee 974

#197 - Ename Cuvee 974

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7 %

This is an interestingly titled beer, which actually refers to the founding date of the local borough of Ename, which has now essentially been subsumed into the bigger town of Oudenaarde.

The beer was first brewed in 2002 as a winter beer, at a time when the local town was working very hard to celebrate its rich medieval heritage. Since the 1980s there has been an ongoing project called Ename 974, jointly sponsored by the Flemish Heritage Institute and the Province of East Flanders. The aim of this work was to conduct important archaeological excavations, historical research and to promote the local municipality. The resident brewery Roman supported this work by promoting a new beer to the Ename range.

Another key driver of the Ename 974 project is the Provincial Archaeological Museum which was opened in 1998 and is located beside the St Lawrence Church. It highlights the daily life in Ename from the early Middle Ages until the present day. The Roman brewery also supports this local cause in the form of royalties paid for the sale of its beers. The logos that adorn the Ename range of beers are in reference to the ruined Abbey which is part of the archaeological presence in the town. It’s pretty much an accepted truth that a brewery who can tie their beer to an Abbey will sell more beer regardless of the quality.

There are plenty more Ename beers to be drunk and so I will save the enlightening history of the abbey until then. For now I need to wheedle my attentions away from archaeology before anyone falls asleep and onto the important matter in hand. Beer. The Ename Cuvee 974 was a promising looking brew, which poured obediently leaving a good looking average sized head atop a dark amber mass. The aroma was hoppy and herbal with a tinge of fruit, which to be honest promised more than the actual beer delivered. There was certainly a degree of exotic spice contained within but it was eminently unable to take me anywhere else. A nice beer but in the end really rather average. I guess at least though I have done my bit for the restoration of history in Ename.

Leave a comment

Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Belgian Strong Ale, Roman

#175 – Pilaarbijter Blond

#175 - Pilaarbijter Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

There are two Pilaarbijter beers produced by Bavik, and I was drinking the Blond today. Pilaarbijter is a word that is largely disused in modern times, but was prevalent in the 16th Century and meant ‘a hypocrite’, especially with regards to views on religion. The term literally translates into ‘pillar biter’. There is a very good reason why Bavik chose the name of this beer, but I will save that for the Pilaarbijter Bruin.

The real fun with this beer came when I discovered where the brewery got the image of the unfortunate looking gentleman biting the pillar on the label. If you study the painting of ‘Netherlandish Proverbs’ by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, you will eventually find the identical image – I say eventually, as it took me ages to pore through the detail. I won’t spoil the fun of pointing out its exact location so feel free to try and find it yourself. In fact, if you look close enough you can find over a hundred different proverbs being acted out in this crazy village scene.

The point of the painting wasn’t to catalogue as many Flemish proverbs of the time in art form, although it would have been a bloody good idea. Brueghel’s real aim was to define on canvas the pure stupidity of man. The original title of the painting was ‘The Folly of the World’, and if you look closely at the characters you can see the blank faces which Brueghel often used to represent fools in his work. Just sitting there picking out the characters got me thinking – surely there must be more proverbs which relate to my journey to drink and write about all these Belgian beers?

People mocked me when I began my Odyssey. Perhaps I was trying to hold an eel by the tail (to undertake a difficult task)? Or was I just simply yawning against the oven (to attempt more than I could manage)? It is worth bearing in mind though that once I have spilt my porridge I cannot scrape it all up again (once something is done it cannot be undone), and that the journey is not yet over until I can discern the church and steeple (do not give up until the task is fully complete). It may take many years but an odyssey is an odyssey after all. I still got plenty of empty fields to walk through yet!

Anyway in the midst of all these proverbs there’s a beer that needs my attention. The Pilaarbijter Blond was a decent one at that. There was enough body and strength to keep it interesting, and plenty of fruity citrus which blended well against a spicy backdrop. I would hazard a guess at peaches and lemons. I’m distracted. Sorry, I can’t leave without a few more brilliant 16th Century Flemish proverbs.

1. What is the good of a beautiful plate when there is nothing on it – some beers certainly look a lot better than they taste.

2. You shouldn’t cast roses before swine – yes, maybe I am wasting some of my time on drinking the unworthy!

3. Wild bears prefer each others company – I thank all the sad beer drinkers of the world for that!

Leave a comment

Filed under 8, Abbey Tripel, Bavik

#146 – Vichtenaar

#146 - Vichtenaar

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 5.1 %

The claim to fame often laid at the feet of the Flemish oud-bruin Vichtenaar, is that it is the family favourite. This isn’t just any old family either, when you consider that since 1817, the Verhaeghe clan have been brewing in this area of West Flanders. Even now they dominate the local culture and own approximately 15 pubs and bars in the local area.

The name of the beer is in reference to the tiny village of Vichte, which has been the home to the brewing operations since 1875. Before this, the Verhaeghe’s were holed up in the village of Kuurne. The present owner of the brewery is Karl Verhaeghe and he is extremely keen to keep the family traditions running. It was his great-grandfather who started things off at the brewery in Vichte, armed with his own maltery and copper brew-kettles. These were removed by the Germans during World War I, when Paul refused to brew for the occupants, and the maltery has long since been closed, but much else remains the same – this includes many of the large oak casks, and the koelschip, although this is no longer used.

Paul Verhaeghe carried on the running of the brewery until 1928 when he handed it over to his two sons, Leon and Victor. It would then be another 44 years until they handed over to their sons, Jacque and Pierre. I just love the way that this arrangement is still present in so many breweries in Belgium. This isn’t just a nostalgic look at the way breweries used to be; this is real life, and this is a proper brewery. Beers like Vichtenaar win prizes and turn heads.

The brewing and fermentation process for Vichtenaar is virtually the same as the Duchesse de Bourgogne (#105), except that the beer remains unblended. It is aged in oak casks for eight months and then simply bottled. The result is a typical sour red-brown ale which tantalises the tastebuds. There isn’t a great deal of difference between the two but I would venture that the Vichtenaar is somewhat sweeter, although without the two together it’s hard to compare. I will save that for another night.

1 Comment

Filed under 8, Lion, Sour Ale, Verhaeghe

#102 – Echt Kriekenbier

#102 - Echt Kriekenbier

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 6.8 %

Echt Kriekenbier is a famous traditional Flemish cherry ale made by Verhaeghe, and is based on the brew Vichtenaar (#146). After being matured in oak casks for about eight months, in a similar style to the Rodenbach Grand Cru (#17), a batch of the Vichtenaar is not taken for sale, but is left to mature in the oak casks and filled with very local and very sour cherries. A selection of different aged casks of this fine concoction are then blended together (usually between one and three years) and then bottled for our delectation.

It is worth making the point here and now that this is a kriekenbier and not a kriek! There is a subtle difference as all aficionados will tell you, in that one is not officially allowed to call a kriek a kriek unless it contains lambic beer. Kriekenbier refers to any other possible fusion – which I suppose could include steeping in sour ales, stout or even wheat beer. Like the Bacchus Frambozenbier (#38) the Echt Kriekenbier is mixed with an Oud Bruin. It is worth making the distinction as other sour ales exist which are known as red ales, such as the Duchesse de Bourgogne (#105), also from Verhaeghe.

The Echt Kriekenbier is an impressive brew, actually not unlike the Rodenbach Grand Cru, although there is slightly less of it in the 250 ml bottles. The Echt in the title refers to the adjective in the German and Dutch languages meaning ‘genuine’ or ‘authentic’. My mum will vouch for this through her screwed up face on having a sip of what I cheekily told her was a cherry beer. At least I didn’t have to waste any more, and it’s a good sign as if my mum likes a beer you know its probably bad !

1 Comment

Filed under 7, Brewers, Lion, Sour Ale, Verhaeghe

#42 – Bacchus

#42 - Bacchus

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 4.5 %

We have already come across a Bacchus (#38) whereby raspberries were added to brown ale – well this is the brown ale in question – Bacchus Vlaams Oud Bruin. ‘Oud Bruin’ is Flemish for Old Brown, distinguishing the colour from other local sour ales like Rodenbach, which tend to be red, and ‘Vlaams’ is Flemish for … well ‘Flemish’ – Flemish Brown Ale.

When we drunk and purred over the Rodenbach Grand Cru (#17), we learnt that the sour ale is made by oak-aging the beers in order to mature them. It is this process which gives the beers of East and West Flanders their unique acidity. The oak-aged conditioning introduces a similar lactate fermentation to the lambic beers (#12) except that there are less natural yeasts around thus the product isn’t quite so extreme. The brewers also add a dab of acetic acid at this stage to get the flavour going – something taboo for lambics.

The best sour ales of this kind are made in oak-vats and usually kept for two years, although some breweries might resort to using steel casks, or even trying to get the oaky effect by suspending particles of wood in their brews. Van Honsebrouck are reliant on a ‘koelschip’, which is essentially a large vat in the roof where the wort is left to attract natural yeasts just as lambic beers do. It all adds to the breweries attempts to recreate the good old days – even the new paper label of the old bloke with the beer is a typical Flemish old-time image.

The label also reflects the aging process used with the quotation ‘met wijnsmaak’ – meaning ‘with wine taste’, and its fair to say this brew is a little similar. My over-riding impression was that this was like a fruit beer without the fruit – a frambozenbier without the frambozen. It’s certainly sour on opening, and it rightly pongs but it isn’t overpowering on drinking. It looks the part, is pleasant to drink, but it doesn’t really set any standards – unlike the Rodenbach Grand Cru.

1 Comment

Filed under 7, Sour Ale, Van Honsebrouck

#17 – Rodenbach Grand Cru

 

#17 - Rodenbach Grand Cru

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6 %

Rodenbach is an extremely unique brewery in that after brewing and fermenting in the normal fashion, the beers are aged in oak casks – something of a Flemish tradition. There are about 300 ceiling-high oak wooden tuns on the premises, all of various sizes, and each gives the contents a slightly different taste and colour.

Rodenbach age the beers for two distinct periods of time. The “young” beer tends to mature for four to five weeks to give it the sharpness, however the “old” beers tend to mature for about two whole years – although this is by no means official information such is the secrecy instilled within the brewery.

The key to the production of the Rodenbach beers is that the contents of these tuns are mixed together to create the different Rodenbach beers. The standard Rodenbach (#195) beverage mixes the young and the old together for bottling, whereby the Rodenbach Grand Cru uses only the finer mature tuns.

The end result is that of a red Belgian Sour Ale, that the sadly departed beer guru Michael Jackson labelled “the most refreshing beer in the world”. From my experience on a warm night in, she poured a dark crimson, with a lacy head and a real pungent aroma immediately pleasured my olfactory senses. With a fine amount of fizz, the beer stayed both immeasurably fresh and sour from start to finish. It has a fairly odd taste to your normal beer, but you really can’t help but enjoy it. For anyone who doesn’t like this, then surely it must be a case of sour grapes.

7 Comments

Filed under 8, Rodenbach (Palm), Sour Ale