Posts tagged Belgian
Posts tagged Belgian
Westbrook Brewing Co.
Mt. Pleasant, SC
Brett & No Mices Belgian-style Pale Ale
I really do love what Brett can do to a beer, imparting a good funk but a nice, rich taste and sweetness. I also love barrel-aged beers, what with their oakiness and slight bite. And, I love Westbrook, easily South Carolina’s most adventurous brewery, which continues to crank out one awesome beer after another.
So when Westbrook puts out a Belgian-style pale ale brewed with Brett, aged in barrels for 10 months and then dry-hopped, well … I’m probably going to love it. That’s just what Brett & No Mices is, another entry in the Mt. Pleasant brewery’s barrel room series (and quite a barrel room it is).
This baby pours a murky copper orange color with about two fingers of a tight white bubbly head. There’s a really nice carbonation streaming up the edges of the glass. The lacing’s pretty weak and it’s got some mild alcohol legs to it, but it’s quite a nice looking brew.
A big Brett funk and a major oak character punches you in the nose on first whiff. There’s a touch of fruits, maybe a slight pineapple or orange. Definitely some wine characteristics, and a bit of apple and pear.
On the tip of the tongue you get a slight pinch of tartness. It’s got kind of a lighter mouthfeel and really good carbonation throughout. The funk is very prevalent on the end and the oak really shines through right at the back. I got a very mild toffee and raisin flavor toward the middle of the palate. It’s got a dry finish, which is a nice way to end it.
The nose on Brett & No Mices is more layered than the beer turns out tasting, but the taste isn’t any less delicious. The barrel aging blended with the magic of the Brett is a great mix, and all the characteristics of both are very present. Another winner.
With my honeymoon to Belgium quickly approaching - and with my wife and I being big beer geeks - we were bombarded with bottles of all shapes and sizes, with many of them coming from the country we would soon visit.
Affligem, while a solid Belgian tripel, is a bit misleading. The beer promotes itself as an abbey ale (one being brewed at a monastery) but is actually a subsidiary brand of Heineken brewed at an offsite brewery. I guess it’s kind of like Blue Moon promoting itself as an independent craft beer, yet being owned by MillerCoors. Shame.
Whatever. It’s rude not to appreciate a gift.
The beer pours a gorgeous crystal clear sunset orange. There’s a very bubbly head on top but it doesn’t last for long. The beer almost looks like a champagne with tons of carbonation streaming up the middle and sides of the glass. The lacing falls off fast but the alcohol legs stick around. It really is a gorgeous looking beer.
It’s an unmistakable classic Belgian tripel on the nose. There are big pear and banana notes with a really effervescent, bubbly smell. There’s definitely a lot of malt and sort of a muted sweetness as well.
The body is very light and crisp and there’s a huge wash of carbonation throughout the mouth. As that fades on the back, a really sweet bread and strong maltiness shines through, as do flavors of green apples, pears, bananas and a little clove. At 9.5%, you don’t get the alcohol at all. It’s got a very dry finish.
While it’s mass-produced and funded by a major European brewer, Affligem Tripel is still a pretty solid beer. It’s lighter yet rich and full-flavored, not boozy, easy to drink and easy enough to find. The best tripel I’ve ever had? Hardly, but for one that’s inexpensive and easy to find, it’s a solid choice.
Art of Darkness Belgian Strong Dark Ale
While Ommegang’s year-round offerings are all pretty great, I’ve found their limited edition beers to be some of the New York brewery’s best, and ones that put a really great twist on their Belgian-style beers.
Art of Darkness is one of the newest of those limited edition beers. According to the label, the only thing that went into brewing this nearly 9% strong ale was a variety of barley and wheat malts and some flaked oats. Seems pretty simple, but the result is magic. (Sorry, I had to stick with the Harry Potter vibe.)
The beer pours a deep, dank brown that’s more of a black toward the bottom, but there’s no light getting through. There’s barely a half finger of head that’s gone quickly. Very strong lacing and alcohol legs, as expected.
On the nose, there are these big globs of brown sugar, molasses and figs. Definitely a thick sticky sweetness to it as well. There are also those traditional Belgian notes, with a little bit of banana and clove. Only a slight booziness to it.
The taste starts off like a champagne, with big, strong carbonation on the front of the tongue. It does a good job of opening the taste buds, which is good, since Art of Darkness has a huge range of flavors to it. Plums, figs, molasses and burnt caramel are the most prevalent tastes. But what’s the most surprising is the roasted character. There’s a big coffee flavor that really lingers on the end. It is a bit boozy, but the carbonation makes it really drinkable. And for a rich beer, the mouthfeel is surprisingly light and bubbly.
I’ve heard a lot of mixed opinions about Art of Darkness, but the first word I used to describe it was “decadent.” It’s not a especially thick beer, but it’s incredibly rich and flavorful, and extremely drinkable for bordering on 9%. The coffee finish was a really surprising and welcomed touch. You get these rich, thick flavors, but instead of just sticking on the back of your throat, you get a really nice roasted note.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
URKontinent Belgian-style Dubbel
Dogfish Head keeps cranking them out, I keep drinking them up.
URKontinent is a collaboration between Dogfish and, of all people, Google, who set up a forum of sorts on their website to crowdsource ingredients to brew with. What they came up with was wattleseed from Australia; toasted amaranth, an herb from South America; green rooibos tea from Africa; myrcia gale, a flowering plant from Europe; and honey from Google’s own farms in California. It’s kind of like Pangaea - sans Antarctic water - insofar as it’s a worldly beer, and fitting for two worldly companies.
The beer pours a s lightly hazy deep brown color, kind of a murky dank-looking color. There’s a finger of head that’s gone pretty quickly, leaving behind a nice film of small bubbles. Good lacing and decent alcohol legs as well.
The smell is a class dubbel. Those big sweet plum and fig notes are really present on the nose. There are bits of coffee notes and chocolate as well. There’s a sweetness from the honey, a slight bread note and a little bit of an herbal touch as well. Interesting slight twist for a dubbel
Toward the front and middle of the mouth, it’s a classic dubbel. You get those big sweet fig, raisin and plum notes that linger nicely. But on the back end, there’s this big burst of herbs and honey. The herbal notes really shine through on the back as well. The rooibos really gives it a tea taste.
While Dogfish has the expected laundry list of ingredients, they don’t do anything too crazy with this one, much like they did with Positive Contact. They could go make something crazy and over the top, but instead they find ingredients that work well with the base style and add subtle little touches that make it really enjoyable and tasty.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Pangaea Belgian Pale Ale
And again we go back to Dogfish Head, this time for one that’s been around a while, but I’ve never gotten to try.
Pangaea is a Belgian pale ale originally designed to be a way to unite people during the holidays as one would unite the continents before they shifted into the world as we know it. And of course, with it being Dogfish, there’s nothing simple about this beer.
The beer is brewed with an ingredient taken from each contient, including: Australian crystalized ginger; Asian basmati rice; Africa muscavado sugar; South American quinoa; European yeast; North American maize; and - my favorite - water from Antarctica. Again, another mouthful of ingredients.
(Note: The particular bottle I had was bottled in 2010 and has been in my cellar for about a year. Results may vary if you find a younger batch.)
The beer pours a really nice deep orange, almost brown in color. There’s a slight haziness to it which fades as it warms. Topped with a finger of bubbly head. Not much lacing but some surprisingly strong alcohol legs.
Ginger’s the first big thing on the nose, and that’s backed with a musty sweetness and a big bread quality. The mustiness is a bit off-putting, but the honey does an interesting job of balancing it. The grains definitely give it kind of a fresh-baked bread quality. Overall, it’s a big, thick, funky and bready beer.
The honey and ginger are the first tastes that really pop on the tongue. There’s a nice medium body along with some slight carbonation. As it settles on the back, it’s as if eating a spoonful of honey. Very thick and syrupy sweetness with a bit of caramel to it. A slight hop bite as well. That big bread note is very present as it warms and pops up on the end, lingering along with the sweeter flavors. Big grain quality and big rich somewhat cloying sweetness are what’s the most noticeable.
While not one of my favorite Dogfish beers, Pangaea again sticks with the trend of who-the-hell-thought-of-this style with interesting, unique and generally tasty results. The bread characteristic and sweetness are a nice touch, and the ginger definitely adds a pop to it.
EPIC Brewing Co.
Salt Lake City, UT
Brainless on Peaches Belgian-style Golden Ale
Who knew that such great beer could come from the middle of Mormon country?
EPIC Brewing - the stateside brewery, not to be confused with one of the same name in New Zealand - lives up to its name with some pretty big beers, especially in their Exponential Series. I was hooked about a year ago after trying their Green-Apple Saison, which was a great blend of fruit flavors and solid examples of the base styles.
I had heard a lot of good things about Brainless on Cherries (review coming soon) and Brainless on Peaches, which blends EPIC’s Brainless Belgian-style golden ale with the respective fruits and then ages it in barrels. (In this case, it’s Frech Chardonnay casks.) It was hard to pick which to review first, but being a Georgia boy, I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for peaches, so I decided to spend an afternoon getting brainless.
The beer has a hazy golden orange color, exactly what you’d expect a golden ale to look like. On top was a big two-finger bubbly, and while the lacing wasn’t very strong, the alcohol legs were.
The nose didn’t do much for me. There was a bit of funkiness and some of the Belgian sweetness, but only a hint of the peaches along with kind of a musty smell from the oak. The fruit flavor was more of a sweeter jelly or jam peach smell than fresh peaches. There was definitely some booze on the nose, too.
While the smell wasn’t great, the taste was much, much better. Big cheek-stinging sourness and scrubbing carbonation throughout the mouth. The peaches have a big pop on the back but settle away fairly quickly, replaced with an oaky and sweet taste on the back. It clings to the back of your tongue. Throughout is a big Belgian yeast characteristic and a bit boozy taste. The alcohol is definitely present, but its hard to keep this one as a sipper.
While it didn’t quite blow my brain, Brainless on Peaches was still a solid beer. The sweeter Belgian characteristics was a nice contrast to the tartness of the fruit. I would have liked to see what it was like with fresh fruit instead of puree, but still, a solid fruit beer.
Terrapin Beer Co.
10th Anniversary Belgian Strong Pale Ale
This past April, Terrapin celebrated 10 years of brewing amazing beers with the release of the special anniversary ale. The Belgian strong pale ale features Euler’s Identity, a mathematical equation from Leonard Euler that is considered one of the most beautiful calculations ever devised. Also, it equals out to 10, so there you go. (Fun challenge: Drink a bottle by yourself and then go on to try and work out the equation. Alcohol and math go so well together.)
This thing was a beast of a brew. It features Chouffe yeast, coriander, two types of orange peel, chamomile and Nelson Sauvin hops, all in a smooth Belgian-style ale. Fittingly complex, given the mathematical behemoth that accompanies the bottle.
The color is a crystal clear deep yellow with no head to speak of, although there is a nice heady film on top. Accordingly, there’s no lacing, but there are so strong alcohol legs.
On the nose is a huge blast of melon. It’s a honeydew and cantaloupe bomb coupled with a great sweetness from the Belgian yeast. That also imparts a bit of a bubblegum note along with a kind of sooth, syrupy sweetness.
The mouthfeel is very smooth. There’s just a slight hop bite on the front of the tongue, followed by a really rich melon sweetness throughout. There are hints of grape, pineapple, orange and citrus, and spices. It’s a very rich, mellow beer that completely hides the alcohol.
Three Philosophers Belgian Quad
I don’t remember the first time I had Three Philosophers, but I bet two things happened when I did: 1) It knocked me on my ass, and 2) I absolutely loved it. As a longtime fan of Belgians, having a style as great as a quad blended with kriek is a great combination. The rich, dark fruit qualities of the quad are giving a light and tart sweetness from the cherry flavors. It’s definitely a sipper, but one you’ll want to savor.
The pour is a murky brown color with a redish tint. There’s a finger of head, although that dissipates to film on the top fairly quickly. Pretty good lacing brought on by the bit of lingering head and some nice strong alcohol legs from the nearly 10% ABV.
On the nose is a rich bready note with a hint of cherries to it. It’s a big, chewy breadiness mixed with those classic quad notes: figs, rasins, plums and molasses. The cherry is also very prevalent, giving it that rich sweet smell. It’s more of a black cherry smell, which blends nicely with the other dark fruits. The Belgian yeast is very noticeable and strong as well.
First thing on the tastebuds is the standard quad taste with that great hint of cherry added to it. The carbonation is very strong on the front. Caramel and toffee notes are the first thing that hit you, followed by the dark fruits. It ends with a great tart cherry flavor on the back. That strong breadiness and malt blend is also prevalent on the back. There’s a very big mouthfeel that really lingers, too.
This, to me, is a “gateway” quad. While quad’s aren’t really a hard style to get into, the more you have them, the more you appreciate their different subtleties, and this is a great way to get someone started.
BPA (Belgian-style Pale Ale)
I’ve always enjoyed Belgian-style beers. For an aspiring beer geek, something such as Hoegaarden - which was one of the earliest “craft” beers I tried - can be a gateway to other, more complex styles. When it comes to stateside, Ommegang has stood with the best of them for as long as I’ve been a fan of craft beer.
The New York-based brewery has always cranked out solid beers, from their rarer releases to the year-round offerings, which include BPA. This Cascade dry-hopped pale ale blends the crispness of a pale with the smoothness the Belgian yeast imparts on any beer it’s brewed with. Having not enjoyed a BPA in a long time - and being gifted a Ommegang sampler pack at a recent wedding shower - I figured to give it another go-around.
BPA has an opaque and hazy deep yellowish orange color. On top is a finger of a bubbly head that flattens out into a nice film that lingers on top of the beer. There’s some light lacing and alcohol legs as well.
The dry-hopping gives off a big juicy tropical fruits on the nose. There are major notes of peach, orange juice and papaya, along with some light grape and pear notes. As with Belgian-style beers, there’s a very smooth smell from the yeast and definitely a hint of esters, which impart a rich banana bread quality.
There’s much more of a bite to the taste than on the nose. The carbonation hits the front of your tongue and washes over the inside of your mouth at first. There’s kind of a dull tartness that remains on the tip of the tongue, like biting into a green apple, which I guess comes from the dry-hopping. There’s that classic tart and tangy Belgian note along with hints of grape, orange and melon on the back. Overall, there’s a dry mouthfeel and dry finish.
BPA is drier and a little more biting than other Belgian-style beers I’ve tried, yet it still has those characteristics and qualities that made me fall in love with the style in the first place. The rich body, the tartness and wealth of flavors and overall drinkability of a beer. Definitely a nice twist on the pale ale style