Tag Archives: hop

#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

#150 – Urthel Hop-It

#150 - Urthel Hop-It

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9.5 %

The Urthel Hop-It was born around 2005 when Hildegard van Ostaden (#101) returned inspired from a beer festival in the USA which was devoted to high quality super-hopped beers. In fact in many quarters today, the Urthel Hop-It is considered to be about as hoppy as a Belgian beer can get – even more than the XX Bitter (#131).

This assumption is based on the concept of the IBU (International Bitterness Unit), which I first introduced when drinking the Hopus (#77). This is a scientific analysis of the bitterness of a beer, and the Urthel Hop-It comes out at a rumbustious 180 IBUs. Simplisticly, the IBU is calculated by determining the ratio of isomerized alpha acid to every one litre of beer. For every milligram, one IBU is assigned. Thus for the Urthel Hop-It, there are 180 milligrams of alpha acids, which is a fair bit more than the XX Bitter. People tend to say this beer isn’t quite as bitter tasting as the XX, but that is more to do with the balance and blend, than the IBU rating. Often a beer with plenty of malt can have the same IBU as a pale ale, but taste far less bitter due to the balancing. Many consider the threshold for common decency to be at 100 IBUs, and so when beers end up nearer the 200 mark, the brewery have to work hard to ensure it is palatable.

The IBU can be very accurately measured in a scientific laboratory, but of course this is rarely done. Mostly, brewers apply a set of criteria to estimate the potential IBUs of the beer. The key is to efficiently estimate the utilisation of the alpha acids, and there are three main methods of calculation used. These are the Rager, Tinseth and Garetz methods, and each approaches it in a slightly different way. If I get a chance I will try and go into more detail the next time I find a highly hopped beer on my table.

Anyway, onto the tasting. I can officially confirm that this may be 180 IBUs, but it wasn’t as cheek-creakily bitter as the XX Bitter. It was certainly very hoppy and full of warm spicy goodness, but in a way that left you exploring other strange things going off on the palate. If I hadn’t just eaten a four course meal I would have considered it perfect as an accompaniment to a gastronomical meal. I actually found myself wedged into a tiny area of Brugs Beertje, the famous Bruges beer bar. Where better to sit with like-minded beer fans and celebrate the 150th beer of my journey? The best testimony I can give to this beer, is that one of the Northern ramblers I met on the table next to me was so impressed with my comments, that he promptly ordered one.

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Filed under 8, Belgian Strong Ale, de Koningshoeven

#91 – Cuvée des Trolls

#91 - Cuvée des Trolls

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 7 %

The Cuvée des Trolls is a curious beer which has completely marketed itself around the legend of the troll. Quite what this infatuation with trolls and beer is remains a bit of a mystery, but it is interesting anyway to depart from monasteries and breweries for a short while.

The Cuvée des Trolls website goes into a fair amount of detail with regards to the legend of the troll, and you can make up your own mind whether the small hop-helmeted little bugger on the label fits your imagination or not. My view, having travelled in Scandinavia for a while is more aligned to a two to three metre lumbering beast with a big nose and plenty of hair. It is said that the Troll originated here from Norse mythology, although many in Sweden and Norway will argue that they really do exist. The discovery of rock formations known as Krägntrolls is regularly said to confirm their enigmatic presence.

I once spent a fairly atmospheric afternoon in the dimming sun on the island of Öland off the coast of Sweden, traipsing alone through the Troll’s Forest at the northern tip. The trees were gnarled, the canopies formed macabre illusions and almost every whorl on every tree seemed to portray a monstrous façade. To be honest I was pretty relieved to emerge the other side.

The troll has been a regular part of folklore and fiction. The Moomins remain perhaps the most famous representation of a bohemian family of trolls from Finland, but anybody who has read the Harry Potter books, or The Hobbit will recall the presence of trolls.

Many Scandinavians suggest that the average human being will never see a troll as they live underground and prefer to be in the dark. In that sense of course I am beginning to see why a troll might be compared to a good beer, of which the Cuvée des Trolls could be labelled. It was first brewed in September 2000 in the Brasserie ‘Le Brasse Temps’ in Louvain-la-Neuve where it is still brewed and served unfiltered. My first taste of the beer however was from the bottle where it is brewed at Dubuisson in Pipaix and is completely filtered. The rest remains common however, with a generous handful of orange peel added to the wort to give the beer its fresh scented taste.

I didn’t really pick up the citrus flavour and thought it tasted more of honey than anything else. It was however pretty impressive, sinking very silkily down my throat on a cold night. It is probably too small at 250 ml to warrant regular buying, but I am sure there is a two litre one somewhere lurking under a rock in the forest waiting to be found.

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Filed under 8, Belgian Strong Ale, Dubuisson