Tag Archives: Honey

#226 – Floris Honey

#226 - Floris Honey

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 3 %

I haven’t thus far had the most positive experiences with honey beers. The Barbar (#19) was remarkably average and didn’t even taste of honey, and the Le Pave de l’Ours (#117) was more akin to bears piss than anything else. Despite being a pretty naff excuse for a beer, at least the Floris Honey did actually taste of honey.

There are generally two ways in which honey can be added to a beer, and a simple comparison of the Barbar to the Floris Honey may well explain the taste phenomenon. The Barbar method, and the one which I have slightly more respect for, is to add the honey during the kettle boil. This process usually means that the honey will become part of the original gravity of the wort. As the honey tends to be a single sugar profile, then it will tend to ferment out completely and any sweetness may only remain aromatic. Brewers can attract widely varying flavours at this stage by trying different types of honey. Wildflower strains of honey tend to ensure a floral streak, whereas Buckwheat strains lead to a more roasted flavour. This likely though will be at the expense of the sweetness of the honey which is particularly true of the Barbar.

The Huyghe brewers of the Floris Honey however unashamedly add the honey post-fermentation, and so it doesn’t have the opportunity to lose its flavour and of course is added in such amounts that it will likely disguise the lack of flavour of a low strength wheat beer – a low strength wheat beer brewed with the sole intention of being butchered with flavourings. I have no idea what Silenrieux did with the Le Pave de l’Ours, but it may well have been a result of somebody leaving the door open at night!

Unlike the Le Pave de l’Ours, at least the Floris Honey is at least reasonably pleasant. I had popped into the Dovetail pub (#119) for a quick lunchtime beer, ahead of a reasonably important external meeting, and so anything too meaty could render me asleep by the first tea-break. The barmaid filled up a cloudy pale tumbler which had a wonderfully thick bubbly head. I was thirsty and it didn’t take too long to polish off half the glass. I can’t really say much more than it tasted of honey and was particularly refreshing. It wasn’t going to win any prizes but I knew what I expected when I ordered it.

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Filed under 6, Belgian White (Witbier), Huyghe

#183 – ‘T Smisje Tripel

#183 - 'T Smisje Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

The brewery Smisje has been around since 1995, but began life as the Brouwerij De Regenboog. In fact it was known under this name right up until 2008 when the owner Johan Brandt moved his premises to Oudenaarde.

Brandt was born in 1963, and had trained in the graphics world for most of his tender years. He married Christine de Schepper in 1998 and soon had two sons called Stijn and Joris. The couple set up their own printing business which was fairly successful, and everything in the Brandt garden was rosy – yet the call of beer would eventually become too much. Johan was already brewing beer as a hobby, and thus the kit that was beginning to take over his home was the start of something special. Eventually, the beer did take over his life and he gradually reduced his work in printing, although continuing to use the name of his existing business, De Regenboog, which translates as ‘The Rainbow’.

The first beer produced at De Regenboog was simply known as ‘T Smisje, and was largely experimental in its nature. Brandt was also a bee-keeper and thus plenty of honey was used in this brew. The name ’T Smisje means ‘little blacksmith’, the connotation coming from a local blacksmith’s forge which was adjacent to the location of the Brandt house in Assebroek, a suburb of Bruges. This name was apt in that it in many ways sums up the hand-crafted artisanal nature of this first beer – although to be honest little has changed since. The range of beers from De Regenboog over the years have used a myriad of natural fruits, herbs and spices.

I had heard a fair bit about the beers from De Regenboog, and so when I saw a couple of bottles from the range in The Rake pub in Borough Market, there was never going to be any other choice. I started with the ‘T Smisje Tripel which was absolutely delicious, and bombarded me with the heady sweetness of vanilla and banana, coupled with the seriousness of a Westmalle Tripel (#149). The company was excellent also, bumping into inadvertently another beer blogger by the name of Impy Malting who is considerably further ahead in her writing than my good self. Anybody who travels half way across London to seek out beers of fancy is worth a read in my book.

 

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Filed under 8, Abbey Tripel, Dog, Smisje

#117 – Pave de L’Ours

#117 - Pave de L'Ours

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 8 %

Pave de L’Ours – a remarkably splendid name for a beer, and one which loses much of its meaning in translation. The ‘pave of the bear’ means very little in English, but in French tends to mean ‘to do more harm than good’. Its origin comes from a famous proverb by the renowned fabulist and poet Jean de La Fontaine entitled ‘The Bear and the Lover of Gardens’.

In a nutshell, two unlikely characters; a man and a bear, become friends and agree to look after each other following prolonged periods of loneliness and unhappiness. The man agrees to do the gardening while the bear does all the hunting. Perfect, what could possibly go wrong?

One day, when both the man and bear have finished their chores, they both relax in the garden, and while the man sleeps a fly begins to buzz infuriatingly above his head. Remembering his promise to look after the man, the bear decides to rid his friend of this nuisance thus allowing him to catch up on some uninterrupted sleep. He reaches out for the nearest item to him, a rather large paving stone, and in one unwieldy movement, throws it at the buzzing fly. The fly managed to avert itself from the hurtling piece of pavement, however the sleeping man was less lucky, his skull being crushed on the spot. A tragic tale of how harm can come even from the best of intentions.

This fable is a well known tale in France, and has even been the inspiration for a novel by Toshiyuki Horie, who brings the tragic story to a conclusion in Normandy. Bears are rare in Normandy, so Horie uses two friends, one a Frenchman, the other a Japanese translator.

I had been looking forward to drinking this strong honey beer for some time. What a complete disappointment to discover that the beer so romantically named, ended up as tragic as the tale on which it was based. I have never drunk the urine of a bear before (strangely) however if somebody had told me they had mixed bear piss with honey I wouldn’t have disbelieved them. It was foul. The one saving grace I suppose was that at least it did taste somewhat of honey. I couldn’t even finish it, which is just as well as I probably saved the bear from another deeply distressing manslaughter trial !

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Filed under 3, Bear, Belgian Strong Ale, Silenrieux

#82 – Boskeun

#82 - Boskeun

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 10 %

De Dolle Brouwers literally means ‘the mad brothers’, and if you have ever called in on the brewery premises and looked about you will probably understand why. There were originally three Herteleer brothers, Kris, Jo and Ward, who purchased the brewery premises in 1980 after they won a local beer brewing competition. Kris is the master brewer and can normally be spotted in a mad company jacket serving at the ramshackle bar. Ward is almost the silent partner, but has become more involved in recent years, and Jo is the brother for whom Boskeun is named. Boskeun literally translates as the Hare of the Wood, which is the image that can be seen on the label and all over my website for that matter. When the brothers were younger, Jo was injured in some kind of play fight, ending up with a scar above his lip. The other boys teased him about this ‘hare-lip’ (keun) and thus the name stuck.

Jo Herteleer was fairly active in the brewery, and tended to prefer brewing the blonder beers. Wanderlust eventually got the better of him however, and he found himself heading off to South America where again he continued to brew the odd beer. Boskeun would be the last beer however that he would brew in Belgium. Jo still lives and works in South America undertaking a variation of useful roles in governmental and non-governmental co-operations, and most recently working on a number of health projects in Quito, Ecuador.

The beer itself simply blew me away. It certainly wasn’t the most attractive 330 ml I would ever drink, with about an inch deep of rich meaty sediment – I almost had to repour it through a strainer but that would probably have ended up detracting from the experience. It was a pale brown colour, but rich in legs, and smelling remarkably like a warm caramel covered apple pie. This beer was a dessert in itself. As an Easter brew (the clue is the rabbit), it is brewed with Mauritian cane sugar, and Mexican honey in the mash, and you definitely knew it. It was extremely sweet, but also remarkably delicious. I have since tried to get hold of other bottles but with not much luck. As an Easter beer it is only really available the two months before Easter, and even then can be removed up to two weeks before. The brewery recommend calling them before to reserve it. Other distributors do stock it, but like I say nothing is guaranteed. If you see it BUY IT !

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Filed under 9, Belgian Strong Ale, De Dolle Brouwers, Hare

#48 – Barbar Winter Bok

#48 - Barbar Winter Bok

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

This was the last chance for a Barbar beer to redeem itself in my eyes – the darker version which is marketed as a brown ale that also contains 2.5% honey. The label suggests that the warrior needs to rest in winter as well, and that Lefebvre has produced a beer available in the dark months from October to February. How thoughtful of them!

At least this gives us an insight into the naming of the beer, and it is clear that Barbar refers to the warrior, or the barbarian. The general definition of a barbarian is that of an uncivilised person or a cruel savage person with a penchance for warmongering. Whatever the final definition it would seem the etymology originally came from the Greek for ‘not-Greek’, and the structure of ‘bar-bar’ as an onomatopoeic representation of a language not clearly understood ie ‘blah blah’, may hint at how the saying “well, its all Greek to me?” came about.

The label clearly defines Lefebvre’s view of what a barbarian warrior might look like, but it is fair to look back in the history of the Middle Ages and associate beer with what could loosely be termed as barbarians. Once wine became imported from the Mediterranean, beer took something of a back seat, as a cheap and readily available drink. This is no different probably now if one considers the comparison between a wine bar/bistro and a pub. I would argue that Belgian beers are definitely bridging the gap for those that want something just that little bit classier or tastier, although I would suggest that Barbar Winter Bok isn’t there yet.

This was the latter beer to celebrate the start of my prolonged period of annual leave . Relaxation of this nature however deserved a better beer. The final Barbar for me, and really can’t see what all the fuss is about. The pour promised much with an ebony gush and a thickset head that looked too good to be true. There were certainly deep and dark flavours in this beer, and it was better than the honey blonde (#19), but it just lacked authenticity – being largely synthetic in its genetics. I could have scored it higher but felt let down by Lefebvre on the brand. There are plenty of dark beers around with plenty more bite than this. More Librarian than Barbarian !

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Filed under 6, Dunkler Bock, Lefebvre

#19 – Barbar Belgian Honey Ale

# 19 - Barbar

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

This beer was probably the first Belgian beer I ever drunk back in 2000, when I was travelling through the lowlands while supporting England during the European Football Championships. I was actually driving at the time, and felt safe having a quick half. I wondered why I was half cut getting back in the car, and it was then I learnt that Belgian beer is not to be messed with.

I think the main reason I chose it back then on that warm summers day was that it said on the menu that it contained honey. I had a sweet tooth so it made perfect sense. How wrong I was. If you consider that beer dates back to the Egyptians and Sumerians (#1), then honey beer is quite simply Neolithic. Essentially ‘mead’ – as it translates from the term honey in many languages – is fermented honey and water, and was actually discovered by accident. During the harvests of the Middle Ages, honey was raided from beehives and preserved for its properties as a sweetener and other uses, in large vats of boiling water. Once the liquid cooled, and the slabs of honey removed, a sweet mixture remained that had naturally fermented with the yeasts in the air. This became the drink of the workers, and after a long hard day, men would dunk their cups in the vats and drink and be merry. Of course, honey was more expensive than naturally grown cereals, and so mead eventually declined in popularity, but its place in the history of beer is clearly evident and is now often drunk on special occasions.

Barbar disappointed me intensely. He barely smelled of anything on popping and there was little or no carbonation. I kept waiting for the taste of honey, that really just didn’t come. Barbar was smooth and the strength was well-hidden, but that was really just it. Next time – show me the honey !

(Post-Script) – I had hoped that the Barbar Winter Bok (#48) might have redeemed the Honey Ale, but alas it also fell short!

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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Lefebvre