Tag Archives: Tarsus

#188 – Gaspar

#188 - Gaspar

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Gaspar is one of the three Christmas beers produced by Alvinne to celebrate the Epiphany. See my review on Balthazar (#163) for the background. Whereas the previous report concentrated on the swarthy King of Sheba, this one looks more closely at he who was claimed to be the King Of Tarsus.

As with all the three wise men though, there is actually very little evidence to support exactly who they were or where they came from. Even the gifts they purportedly brought to the crib of Jesus are stuff of legend. Stories throughout history have called them Kings, wise-men or Magi – the truth is nobody really knows anything other than at the birth of Jesus there was a visitation of men from the East who bore gifts. Nobody can say for sure there were three or that all three brought a different gift other than that gold, frankincense and myrrh were presented.

With regards to Gaspar, Jaspar or Caspar as I knew him at school, legend has it that he was a white-bearded king from the land of Tarsus (now in modern day Turkey). Others say he was the Indo-Parthian king called Gondophares, whom interestingly the name of the Afghan city of Kandahar is said to be derived from. Bible historian Chuck Missler also refers to an Armenian tradition which locates Gaspar from India. Whoever he was, or wherever he came from, tradition has dictated that he brought gold as his gift. Some have said this was to represent the spirit of the new born baby, others have suggested the gold was testimony that Jesus was born a king.

Whoever he was, or wherever he came from, at least he brought gold and not this beer. The whole course of history could have been changed in an instant had the Alvinne Gaspar exploded all over the son of God, as it did over me. Sometimes you forget that beers have a life of their own, and I never seem to learn my lesson. Twenty minutes later in a new set of clothes and with little more than two-thirds of a beer left I started again and to be honest wished I hadn’t. This was foul. I’m largely a big fan of the Alvinne picobrewery, and do not wish to cast aspersions so for now I will just suggest this was a one-off bad brew. Lots of likeminded souls rate the Gaspar and its 115 IBUS, so perhaps whatever it was that caused the nuclear reaction in the bottle was probably the same thing that made this beer taste of stale camel urine.

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Filed under 1, Alvinne, Belgian Strong Ale, Camel, Christmas Beer

#163 – Balthazar

#163 - Balthazar

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

Balthazar is one of three Christmas beers produced by the Picobrouwerij Alvinne. They are labelled as the Epiphany beers, which toast the pre-Christmas holiday of Epiphany which is popular in Belgium. Epiphany is also known in the Christian calendar as Three Kings Day, which is customary to be the Sunday which falls between 2 and 8 January.

Anybody who was dressed up at primary school as a shepherd will probably remember they spent the whole Christmas play wishing they were one of the Three Kings or at least Joseph! The feast day of Epiphany, certainly in Belgium, commemorates the visitation of the Magi, or Three Kings to the birthplace of Baby Jesus. Balthazar was the dark swarthy third King of Sheba in the story, or at least in the modern accounts of the story which were first documented in about 9 A.D. The legend has it that Gaspar (#188), the white-bearded King of Tarsus brought gold for Jesus, that Melchior, the aging King of Arabia brought Frankincense, and Balthazar came with myrrh. Each of the three above are all Christmas beers from Alvinne.

Balthazar derives from the Phoenician language, and generally is thought to mean “Baal protects the King”, which is apt when considered in terms of the Nativity story. However Balthazar also has other meanings. Some more recent conspiracy theories have suggested the link between the demon Balthazar who was committed by the Demon King Seth to rot in the Fires of Hell for eternity. The thought that the King of Sheba may have also been an incarnation of Satan is a sobering one, but could explain the portent of his impending doom. The Myrrh after all according to legend was saved for the burial of Jesus.

More merrily, and back of course on to our favourite subject, any learned wine or beer scholar will know that a Balthazar is also 12 litre champagne or wine bottle. I’m not sure any beers have ever been packaged in a Balthazar, but if they have then that’s going straight on my Christmas list for Santa. The Balthazar I was drinking tonight however came rather disappointingly in just a third of a litre bottle. It was fairly interesting however, being unsurprisingly dark and full of eastern spice – Balthazar is brewed with four special malts, dark candies and coriander, cardamom and ginger. The result was a unique beer, that was fairly pleasant to drink, but which by the end was perhaps just a bit too quirky to be truly remarkable. This was certainly not an Epiphany for me !

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Filed under 7, Alvinne, Belgian Strong Ale, Christmas Beer

#143 – St Paul Special

#143 - St Paul Special

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 5.5 %

St. Paul has done rather well for himself in the modern world, honoured by London’s stand-out Cathedral, and the biggest city in Minnesota, USA. He would probably be most impressed however to have had a range of Belgian beers named after him; something to which even I still aspire.

St. Paul though is most famously renowned in the teachings of the Bible. He was the main protagonist of the book Acts, and is credited with writing an astonishing 13 books of the 27 in the New Testament. The story in Acts, tells of a man who while living as a diaspora Jew in Tarsus (modern day Turkey) rejected the teachings of Jesus, claiming that nobody suffering the indignity of crucifixion could ever be the Messiah and son of God. Something happened though on the road to Damascus which turned Paul’s head towards Jesus, and he spent the rest of his life turning the words of Jesus from what was then a small sect of Judaism into what most of us now know as the modern worldwide faith of Christianity.

Paul spent the rest of his life on the road, preaching as a missionary and spreading the word of Christ. He undertook three main journeys which took him around Turkey and the Middle East, and eventually to Rome where he would eventually lose his life, beheaded after two years’ incarceration in chains.

Let’s not get carried away here though; while St. Paul is clearly a very important historical character, he was never really famous for beer, and the beers for which he is known are not exactly impressive. While the bottles are uniquely shaped, the contents are distinctly average. The St. Paul Special was weirdly herbal, and extremely dark but nothing your discerning Belgian beer drinker would ever go looking for. Even though these beers are no longer actually brewed by Sterkens (for the story see St. Paul Double #177), I am not particularly worried about seeking out the remainder of the range. It will take more than this to convert me!

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Filed under 6, Belgian Ale, Schelde