Tag Archives: swing top

#77 – Hopus

#77 - Hopus

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

Hopus is a beer that has everything to do with hops. Many breweries attempt to offer a varied range of beer styles, and it is common nowadays to include highly hopped beers in that range. In fact, already being 77 beers in to the journey, it is fairly surprising we haven’t really spoken about hops as yet, as they have been integral to the beer making industry for over 700 years.

Their primary uses in brewing are that of a flavouring agent, and an antibiotic against less desirable micro-organisms than the specific type of yeast selected, and it is probably worth dealing with the science before going any further. Hops are most often dried before use in an oast house or similar facility, which goes to work on the resins within the plant. These resins contain two types of very useful acids – alpha and beta. The alpha acids contain a mild antibiotic effect against harmful bacteria and as already mentioned help to propagate the yeast used. These acids tend to also give the beer its bitter flavour. The beta acids do not tend to add to the flavour of the beer, but through their addition to the wort can give the beer wonderful aromas. The brewers choice of end product will largely determine exactly what type of hops to use in the brewing. The former are generally known as ‘bittering’ hops while the latter are known as ‘aroma hops’.

This degree of bitterness imparted from the hops depends on the extent to which alpha acids are isomerized during boiling, and they tend to be measured in International Bitterness Units (IBUs)*. Many European hop varieties tend to be ‘aroma’ hops, whereas the newer American types, are often ‘bittering’ hops. Bittering hops tend to be used for about 60-90 minutes of the brewing process, whereas aroma hops are often only used at the very end of the process. This normally occurs within the last five to ten minutes of the boil. Often, and this is very evident in Orval (#37), the hops are added after fermentation cold to the wort, which gives a very sharp hop flavour, and is usually known as ‘dry-hopping’.

There is plenty more to discuss on hops, but I shall go into that as and when the opportunity arises. This leaves me time to discuss the Hopus. Another beer poured from the rare swing-top bottle and one that exploded into the glass with a wholesome russet colour and a majestic head. The Hopus was certainly a sipper, which in fact lasted a whole episode of Match of the Day 2, and the flavour stayed true to the end. Nothing special, but certainly worth the trouble.

* For a more detailed discussion of IBUs, see Urthel Hop-It (#150).

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Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Lefebvre

#75 – Hercule Stout

#75 - Hercule Stout

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

Stout. It doesn’t sound quintessentially Belgian, although the Brasserie Ellezelloise actually define the beer as ‘Belgian Stout’, and there certainly aren’t many of them. I’ll save these discussions for later as there are plenty of stouts around in the low countries these days, but clearly I can’t leave this beer without talking about its namesake – Monsieur Hercule Poirot.

Agatha Christie was not much of a beer lover by all accounts, but Philippe Gerard, the Master Brewer at Ellezelloise has cleverly picked up on the fact that Monsieur Poirot was most likely born just down the road. There isn’t a great deal of evidence in the actual books themselves as to the heritage of Hercule, and it has been left to fans to pick up and solve the case. In 33 novels and 51 short stories between 1920 and 1975 only one book, the watery ‘Taken in the Flood’ pays reference to his family, suggesting he was born as an orphan and raised by nuns. How very Belgian. ‘The Big Four’ goes on to refer to the town of Spa in the Ardennes as a setting for his life, and Christie has since revealed that nearby Ellezelloise was the small village she imagined her famous character living and working.

The ageless detective is one of Belgium’s most well known individuals, which is slightly damning when you consider that both TinTin and Poirot aren’t even real, however what the Belgians may lack in superstars, they clearly make up for in their beer and beer culture. Here a small farmhouse in the middle of nowhere has not only created a beer based on a legend, but nurtured a stout that many conclude to be one of the best in the world. It is this which makes Belgium special, and unless you begin to get out there and find out for yourself you can easily miss the pulse which throbs beneath this wonderful country.

The Hercule Stout is not my ideal drink, but I couldn’t help but enjoy the experience. From the swing-top bottle with the porcelain stopper, to the taste of spruce (well according to the brewers it does. Our long deceased family dog was the only living thing I knew who devoured Christmas trees!). My clothes and soft furnishings have had some bad experiences with swing-top bottles (#28, #54) and I was prepared for this one over the kitchen sink. It merely popped and just a wisp of smoky vapour escaped. It could almost have contained a genie. The smell was genuinely mysterious just like its benefactor, and the flavour dark, sweet, bitter and very malty. I had always known stout as Guinness, and it’s fair to say this was nothing like it really. Drink this and grow your little grey cells !

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Filed under 7, Ellezelloise, Imperial Stout

#54 – Bon Secours Myrtille

#54 - Bon Secours Myrtille

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7 %

While shopping for groceries in a small supermarket in Diekirch in Luxembourg, I spotted the Bon Secours Myrtille at a reassuringly tempting price. This looked interesting I thought, and so added it to the trolley. If anyone else is similarly tempted to do the same, then please read further and ensure you leave this aberration on the shelf.

I was convinced that the Myrtille I was drinking was made of blueberries but in actual fact it is a bilberry beer, with a dash of raspberries. Bilberries are similar to blueberries but there are a number of sizeable differences. Firstly, although similar in taste, bilberries are actually smaller than blueberries, and are generally darker in colour – appearing more black than blue. The pulp of the bilberry is also a reddy purple hue, as opposed to the light green interior of the blueberry. They also grow in single or paired berries on bushes as opposed to the clusters of blueberries. Should you be interested in creating your own bilberry myrtille beer, you will no doubt now be at a distinct advantage, although finding them will not be easy. They are particularly difficult to grow and are therefore rarely cultivated. Also, they are much softer than the blueberry and therefore tend not to travel well. Good gourmet stores on the continent might well stock bilberries, but you will likely be charged up to 25 Euros per pound. It is a mystery to me that a) somebody therefore decided to brew a bilberry beer, and that b) they managed to make such a horses arse of it.

There may be something working in its favour however, in that the world of science has tended to find that bilberries may aid certain eye disorders. It was a common myth during World War II, that RAF pilots would consume bilberry jam in an attempt to sharpen their visual acuity before flying missions. Perhaps we should be thankful that pilots chose to digest jam rather than 7% fruit beers, or the course of European history may have chartered a completely different and more unsavoury path.

Talking of unsavoury, back to my tasting. Yet again, I fell foul of a Bon Secours swing-top bottle (#28) – the last one killed my Orval glass, this one soiled my ‘Good Beer Guide to Belgium’ a grotty shade of blue. I had already knocked a point off! The colour, when I eventually decanted the remaining two-thirds into my glass, was impressive with a deep bluey purple staring back at me. It smelt reasonable as well with deep summer fruits hitting my nose, but then I tried it. Certainly I have had more impressive alcopops. This tasted neither of beer or blueberries (as I expected it to), moreover it was just a glass full of foul tasting crap. How this can be described as a beer is remarkable, and contrary to the belief that bilberries can cure eye disorders, is that almost certainly when brewed like this, the side effects will be acute stomach disorders !

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Filed under 3, Caulier, Fruit Beer

#32 – Boerinneken

#32 - Boerinneken

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9.5 %

Boerinneken is brewed by de Proef brewery for the Den Ouden Advocaat cooperative, who own the actual recipe for this and its brother beer, Boerken. Danny Pieters, the director at Den Ouden Advocaat since its inception in 1995, explained that the ethos behind the company is the link to the past. Their range of artisanal products such as advocaat (egg-nog type liquer), pralines and honey bring to the customer tastes of vintage Belgium. The beers are produced in a swing-top bottle, again to echo the sentiments that this is how it would have been done in the good old days.

The concept of ‘in the past’ sits very much in the titling and labelling of the beer. Boerinneken in Flemish, means ‘the farmers wife’, and the print on the label-less bottle clearly shows an old lady at work on the farm. Similarly the brother beer, Boerken, shows a ‘farmer’ on the label. Pieters was keen to stress that the tradition of farmers in Belgium is a distant one these days, and the co-operative is proud to continue to produce beers and produce that truly reflect the past. The beers also reflect well the relationship between Danny and his wife Marianne who both run the project together.

The Boerinneken is a hoppy blonde with plenty of punch although much less than the Bon Secours Brune (#28) from the swing-top. The head was an immense froth, with a fine smelling cloudy amber nectar underneath. The flavour had real bite which stayed until the final swig. It’s hard to put your finger on the exact flavour but certainly some citrus there somewhere. I’d have the farmers wife round for dinner again.

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Filed under 8, Abbey Tripel, de Proef