Tag Archives: St Nicholas

#142 – Pere Noel

#142 - Pere Noel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7 %

The political situation in Belgium is often centred around the cultural and regional differences between French and Flemish speaking areas. No more abstract an example of the dichotomy exists perhaps than in the celebration of Christmas.

Flemish speaking Belgians get visited by St. Nicholas at Christmas time, whereas the French speaking Belgians get their presents from Pere Noel (Father Christmas to the English) – a simplistic view but something I still found truly astonishing. While St. Nicholas is celebrated for giving gifts to children on the 6th December, Pere Noel visits on the morning of the 25th December. I tried to get interviews with both for the research on this beer, but have thus far been unable to get any meaningful comment. For the time being I will leave St. Nicholas to his busy list-making duties, as he must be beginning to get inundated with requests, and concentrate on the man after which this latest beer is named.

Pere Noel does of course only leave goodies (usually sweets and chocolate) for those children that are good; for those that have been naughty, it’s usually a selection of wooden sticks. (Whether it would be safe to assume most hockey players from Belgium endured wayward childhoods is something for another discussion!).  The children traditionally leave their shoes by the fireplace, filled up with carrots and other exciting treats for Gui (translates as Mistletoe), who is Pere Noel’s donkey. This would explain perhaps why the Pere Noel in France and Belgium is far slimmer than the one I used to see as a child creeping up the stairs with a face full of mince pies.

As for the beer, this was a slight variation on the Christmas theme; where most festive brews tend to be dark and spicy, this was immediately amber blond on the pour. It was still thick and full of spice, but also had the hoppiness and complexity that you would expect from De Ranke. It was also quite dry and surprisingly strong for the relatively low 7% ABV. If I got a crate full of this for Christmas this year, I can’t say I would be disappointed.

1 Comment

Filed under 8, Belgian Ale, Christmas Beer, De Ranke

#23 – Cookie Beer

#23 - Cookie Beer

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Ecaussinnes make the unusual Cookie Beer with speculoos – a type of brown shortcrust biscuit made with traditional christmas spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Whatever were they thinking?

The biscuits are generally native to Belgium and the Netherlands, and are traditionally baked for St Nicholas’ Eve – December the 5th or 6th depending on whether you live in the Netherlands or in Belgium. It is fair to say the Belgian varieties tend to be less spicy, but they are extremely popular all year round, and are awash in many beer supermarkets throughout the country.

The name probably comes from the Latin speculum, which translates as mirror, and reflects the images which are etched in bas-relief onto a stamp and then the face of the biscuit. The most famous place in Belgium for speculoos is Hasselt which has a strong history and association with different varieties. I have indeed tried the biscuits and urge anyone to stick to these instead of trying this beer. It was actually so bad, that I opted not to finish it.

This was a bad idea for a beer. What next, Garlic beer in France? Chorizo beer in Spain? It looked ok on pouring – nice and thick and a sweet sweet smell. There was a fair amount of sediment, obvious from the late brown mottling on top, but the flavour started bad and simply got worse. I left at least half in the glass. Neither beer nor cookies – just shit !

1 Comment

Filed under 2, Belgian Strong Ale, Ecaussinnes