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#99 – Oeral

#99 - Oeral

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6 %

De Dolle Oeral is still seemingly available in shops these days but appears to have been recently cast off by the brewery. A once proud beer that acted as a mother beer for the breweries experiments doesn’t even get a mention on the website these days, yet brews such as Museum Beer, De Kavijaks, Matrassebier and van de Abdij Ter Doest were all created from the original beer. I would be surprised if many of the above still exist but I am keeping my eyes open on my regular jaunts to the fatherland.

The Oeral has been created in a few label styles;  one of a yellow Oeral aeroplane flying in from space is a newer incarnation, although the version I picked up in Norfolk was one sporting a painting of shoes by the eccentric brewmaster Kris Herteleer. The Mad Brothers premises doubles up not only as a brewery and beer room, but also as a museum for the family art. Kris would label himself as both an architect and an artist, and that it is these talents which have led him to create such wonderful beers. When asked what makes a craft beer, Kris responded that it was ‘a beer which reflects the sense of beer brewing of the person who makes it, and that means that the brewer has his own opinion about how beer should be and he does it his way’. You certainly can’t argue with this after visiting the Madhouse, and tasting their range of beers – not bad considering it all started with a home brewing kit from Boots !

Sadly last month a fuel tank exploded in the brewery premises which caused extensive damage to some of the artwork and the equipment, injuring one of the employees. The production of both Oerbier and Arabier (#85) has had to be delayed.

Despite the recent rarity of the Oeral, it remains a great beer. It was a pale coloured fizzer which took at least four pours and ten minutes to finally get into my glass – but then it was definitely worth the wait. It was predominantly bitter with plenty of bite that endured to the final drop. Because the beer looked a little insipid I was perhaps expecting something a little less feisty, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and will add a few to the cellar the next time I see it.

(Post-Script) – Oeral roughly translates as ‘Ural’ in Flemish – although had yet to see the mountainous connection to the beer until I spotted this label which looks like it was shipped to Russian speaking locations.

Oeral - for the Russian market

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Filed under 8, Belgian Ale, Brewers, De Dolle Brouwers

#68 – Antiek Super 8 Blonde

#68 - Antiek Super 8 Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Deca is a fairly distinctive brewery in that it rarely brews its own beers nowadays. The facilities in the rurality of Woesten-Vleteren are regularly used but only by others. You might call it more of a brewhouse than a brewery, and the business is now known as Deca Services which more than adequately paints the picture of the current priorities of the owners.

Deca started up in 1991, taking over from the previous brewery on the premises – Isebaert. They have made a number of their own beers over the years, some of which are quite hard to pin down as to being made by themselves or recipes of others. Even research on the Antiek Super 8 Blonde was difficult. I haven’t even been able to find an identical representation of the exact label on this beer. Most beer experts have shared my frustration.

The premises at Deca are renowned for their copper kettles and the reputation that affords the complexity of flavours and textures of beers made in these receptacles. It was no surprise that the brewers De Ranke set up shop here for a number of years, and most recently since 2006, the highly regarded Struise Brothers used Deca to brew their recipes and to store the end product. Deca may go back to concentrating on their own beers now as Struise are rumoured to have finally found themselves a place to call home in Oostvleteren * – or of course they may decide to continue renting to another up and coming ambitious brewer, as there is decent money to be made. One of the main reasons breweries struggle to get going is that the costs of the kit and maintenance of brewing is so high. The result of this is an inevitable dichotomy.

On one hand it gives the genius brewers such as De Ranke and Struise Bros the opportunities to be part of the Belgian scene and get a start on the road to success. On the other, it encourages brewers to pimp their beers to the unscrupulous marketeers keen to make a fast buck out of the new wave of Belgian beers by adding splashes of juice or spice to existing beers, and making up exciting stories to sell the dream. On my road to 1000 Belgian beers, I am preparing myself for dipping my toes in more than a few of these.

The Antiek Super 8 Blonde eventually turned out to be a pretty decent brew though, and one may assume that the influence of the Struise brothers may have rubbed off on the mysterious owners. The pour was a cloudy orange amber, and the flavour quite malty and yet fruity. The tagline refers to the Golden Age of brewing, and this beer represents this well. I just wonder if I will ever see it again.

* (Post-Script) – De Struise finally did move to Oostvleteren in late 2009.

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Filed under 8, Belgian Strong Ale, Deca

#20 – Hoegaarden Grand Cru

#20 - Hoegaarden Grand Cru

Size: 330ml

ABV: 8.5 %

Hoegaarden is reknowned for it’s plain wheat beer, which is something of a shame as it is a common concern of many beer fans today, that the quality of Hoegaarden (#81) has declined since it was taken over by AB/InBev. I would rather tackle that issue another time, as in actual fact, the Hoegaarden Grand Cru, which I painstakingly selected from the bar menu of the Dovetail in Clerkenwell was a much too pleasant beer to be negative about.

I was interested in the concept of Grand Cru. What on earth are they talking about? I must admit I had only heard this term largely used by winemakers, where it generally referred to the specific growth-place of a wine, intimating a region more so than a particular vineyard. The addition of ‘Grand Cru’ is a suggestion that this beverage is indeed a special one of this variation – the ‘great growth’. The term ‘Grand Cru’ can often be associated with foods, spirits and beers, but it doesn’t hold such an obvious official meaning, in that there is no regulation of what is or isn’t a ‘great growth’ beer. Pierre Celis, who invented the Hoegaarden Grand Cru, clearly felt this was his premier beer, and even went so far to use a Grand Cru wine label as the label for his new beer. His revelation in his autobiography ended much speculation that the mansion on the cover had some particular relevance to him – it was actually just a wine label he had happened to come across.

The beer itself was fantastic. A good solid head and a creamy dense mass underneath swimming in a sea of rich sediment. It felt alive. The taste is sweet and meaty and reeling with deep inner strength. I hadn’t eaten, and didn’t need to after this. I had good company in the bar, but noted quietly to myself that this was definitely a good one to look out for when restocking the cellar. Definitely some great growth in this one!

(Post-Script) – I was so impressed with this beer that I followed it, not with food, but a Hoegaarden Forbidden Fruit (#21).

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Filed under 8, Belgian Strong Ale, Hoegaarden (InBev)