In the mood for a strong dark beer, Bucky bought a bottle of Nostradamus Extra Strong Brown Ale by Brasserie Caracole. Nostradamus came in a brown 330 ml bottle with a best before date of September 13, 2014, and was a healthy 9.0% alcohol by volume.
Brasserie La Caracole is an artisanal brewer located in the small village of Falmignoul, Province of Namur, Wallonia in southern Belgium, close to the French border. Their portfolio consists of four stock ales: Caracole, Nostradamus, Saxo and Troublette. All of these are bottle conditioned (secondary fermentation with yeast in the bottle), unfiltered and unpasteurized. Note the snail shell artwork on the bottle's label, which apparently is a recurring theme on the company's beers, with "Caracole" being the word for snail in the local Namurois dialect.
Nostradamus poured a hazy mahogany colour with hints of orange around the edges of the glass, and even through the slight haze plenty of fine, champagne-like bubbles were visible. Pouring produced about 2" of very long lasting beige coloured head that eventually faded to a 1/8" layer of foam that left some attractive lacing down the glass. This is a good looking beer! Its aroma was fairly subdued, with sweet dark malts dominating a mix of dark fruits and alcohol. The flavour is complex, starting with the sweet dark malts, followed by chocolate, cherries and molasses, a warming alcohol presence, finishing with a very mild bitterness. A fleeting aftertaste lingers that is both sweet and slightly bitter. Nostradamus had a creamy mouthfeel and I would describe it as medium bodied, with a fairly active carbonation that works well.
Overall, I'll have to try another one of these to try and pin down the additional fruit flavours that I strongly suspect are in the mix. At $3.40 per 330 ml bottle Nostradamus is a bit pricey, but not outrageously so.
Affligem Abbey is located on the border between the provinces of Flemish Brabant and East Flanders in Belgium. According to the brewery's website, the abbey was built in 1074 after six pillaging knights established themselves there to adopt the monastic life of the Benedictines. Over the centuries, the abbey has had to survive successive wars of independence, religion, and the French Revolution, obliging the monks to flee several times. Each time, however, they returned to Affligem and since the Second World War the abbey has found some stability. Until the French Revolution, brewing at the abbey was undertaken by lay staff who were paid for their labour, until the monks decided to brew for themselves. During the First World War, the German's requisitioned the copper vats and the brewery had to close its doors until new vats were obtained in 1920. In 1970, the current Affligem Brewery was entrusted with the mission of brewing the abbey beer according to its Formula Antiqua Renovata: an authentic recipe developed for modern brewing.
Having been told good things about Belgian Tripels generally, I picked up a 330 ml bottle of Affligem Tripel ("AT") from the LCBO stamped with a best before date of October 12, 2013. AT was a gold medal winner in the "Belgian Style Triple" category in 1996, 2004 and 2008. The beer is 9.5% alcohol by volume.
The beer poured a slightly hazy golden/amber colour, much more golden when held up to the light, with lots of visible carbonation. Pouring produced 1.5" of fluffy white head shaped like the top of a snow cone, which lasted for roughly 5 minutes before fading to a foamy collar and thin cap, leaving plenty of lacing and some spotting down the glass. Disappointment early on though...AT had a dominant metallic smell through the first half of the glass which overpowered all else. When the metallic smell eventually faded, yeast, alcohol, and apple were detectable. Sadly the flavour was also metal dominated through the first half of the glass. After this faded AT started off with a sweet flavour, followed by distinct apple, yeast and alcohol tastes. The beer had a crisp mouthfeel from its relatively strong carbonation, with a dry, very slightly bitter finish. I would describe the beer as light to medium bodied. Once the strong, offending metallic smell and taste disappeared this was quite an enjoyable beer, but overall the strong metallic elements at the beginning ruined the experience for me. AT is fairly pricey at $3.00 per 330 ml bottle.
Having heard much praise of this beer, Bucky picked up a bottle of Westmalle Trappist Tripel ("WTT") from his local LCBO with a best before date of June 10, 2013. WTT was a very healthy 9.5% alcohol by volume and came in a brown, 330 ml bottle. Despite my belief that 330 ml bottles are a tool of Satan and the thin end of the wedge, I made sure to keep an open mind. The big, gaudy white sticker applied to the front of the bottle was not a good visual, though.
Westmalle Abbey in Belgium became a Trappist abbey on April 22, 1836, and that same year, abbot Martinus Dom started construction of a small brewery. On December 10,1836 the brewery served its first batch of Trappist beer for the monks' lunch. For many years the abbey brewed solely for its own needs, but in 1856 began to sell some beer at its gate. Demand increased until the brewery needed to expand in 1865 and 1897. In 1921, the monks decided to sell their beer to the beer trade, further increasing sales. In the early ‘30s, a new brewing hall, yeast room and workshop came into use. The bottling plant was modernized in 1956, and in 1968 the abbey obtained its own water treatment plant. In 1991, it invested in a computer-controlled brewing hall, being happy to adopt new technologies that improved the quality of its beer. For almost 170 years, the brewery has only used pure ingredients: water, malt, hops, sugar and yeast, to produce all natural beers. The Tripel style was first brewed in Westmalle Abbey in 1934, and the current formula has stayed essentially unchanged since 1956.
Now to the beer itself. WTT poured a hazy orange/yellow colour, taking on more of a light yellow hue when backlit, with plenty of visible carbonation despite its haziness. Pouring produced approximately 1" of long-lived fluffy white head, that eventually faded to a 1/8" cap which lasted all the way down the glass, leaving a fair bit of lacing. Its aroma was dominated by alcohol, which became all the more dominant as the beer warmed. Yeast, light fruits and spice notes were also detectable, but couldn't be individually identified (at least not by me) over the alcohol. In terms of taste the booze again dominated, with yeast, and hints of orange and lemon discernable. I'm sure that there are other fruit and spice tastes involved, but they are fighting the alcohol for recognition. WTT finishes with a mild but distinct bitterness, that lingers for a while as an aftertaste. Its carbonation is fairly active, and contributes to a light, but creamy, mouthfeel. Although a very solid and enjoyable brew, the strong alcohol aroma and flavour tends to mask some of the more subtle characteristics of the beer. Also, at $3.75 per 330 ml bottle, I would have to say that WTT is overpriced.
Continuing his quest for the ultimate beer, Bucky picked up a bottle of Chimay Peres Trappistes Triple (aka Chimay White Cap). Chimay White Cap ("CWC") is an authentic trappist ale, ie. brewed within the walls of an existing trappist monastery under the control of the trappist community. Since 1862 the monks of Scourmont Abbey in Chimay, Belgium have been providing for their needs, and those of their charitable foundations by producing beers and cheeses that have met with considerable acclaim.
CWC is 8.0% alcohol by volume and came in a brown, 330 ml bottle, with a best before date of December 2015 on the reverse label. CWA poured a slightly hazy, golden/apricot colour with a large, fluffy white head that lasted for several minutes before fading to a collar of foam and thin film, leaving minimal lacing and spotting down the glass. Plenty of fast rising bubbles were visible through the haze, together with a fair bit of particulate matter in the bottom of my glass. Its aroma was primarily of light fruits including apples, with an underlying spiciness. The taste began with a light fruit sweetness, transitioned to a mild spiciness, and finished with a distinct bitterness which lingered for a few seconds as an aftertaste. Overall, a nice balance to the flavours, with the 8.0% alcohol barely noticeable. CWC had an active carbonation that stopped short of prickly, and I would describe the beer as light to medium bodied. Probably the best of the Belgian Triples that I've tried to date, and at $2.80 per 330 ml bottle is fairly priced.
Chimay Première (aka Chimay Red) was the first beer brewed at the Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey by the Trappist fathers in 1862. Its current recipe was crafted by Father Théodore when he recreated the brewery after World War II. He was directly inspired by the original recipes from the beginnings of the brewery.
Following the brewer's suggestion, I served Chimay Red slightly chilled. The beer came in a brown 750 ml, corked and caged bottle, with a best before date of what looks like November 2017 printed on the reverse label. The beer was 7.0% alcohol by volume.
Uncorking Chimay Red produced a nice pop with some smoke coming out the top of the bottle. The beer poured an opaque dark orange/brown colour with hints of ruby red, and an expansive orange-tinged beige head. Even a gentle pour produced 2" of head that lasted for about 3 minutes before fading to a collar of foam and thin film, oddly, leaving no spotting or lacing down the glass.
There is quite a bit going on with the aroma, and I can pick out citrus, pepper and yeast. Its flavour is dominated by the pepper, with some juicy orange citrus becoming more noticeable as the beer warmed. The beer had a slightly bitter finish, and a short-lived bitter/peppery aftertaste. Chimay Red had a fine champagne-like carbonation that was occasionally a bit prickly on the back of the throat, and I would describe the beer as light to medium bodied. Though I'd be tempted to mellow the carbonation level, overall, this is a respectable sipping beer, and quite reasonably priced at $6.35 per 750 ml bottle. The 7% alcohol is very well hidden. I think I'll try putting a bottle of Chimay Red in the cellar for a year and see what happens.
Looking for an entry level (ie. flavoured) lambic beer, Bucky spotted a bottle of Mort Subite Kriek Lambic ("MSK") on the shelves of his local liquor store. A Lambic is a type of beer brewed traditionally in the Pajottenland region of Belgium (southwest of Brussels) and in Brussels itself. Unlike conventional beers, which are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeasts, lambic beer is produced by spontaneous fermentation: it is exposed to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Senne valley, in which Brussels lies. It is this unusual process which gives the beer its distinctive flavours. A Kriek Lambic is a cherry-infused lambic beer.
Mort Subite is the brand name for a number of lambic beers brewed by the Belgian brewery De Keersmaeker. The beers take their name from a café in Brussels, À La Mort Subite. Mort subite means "sudden death" in French, but can also be used to refer to the final throw in a game of dice.
MSK came in a green 375 ml bottle with a best before date of April 2014 punched into the side of the label. It was 4.5% alcohol by volume. MSK poured a fairly clear peach-tinged red colour, with about 1.5" of pale pinkish head that lasted for 5-6 minutes before retreating to a thin cap and collar of foam, leaving lots of attractive lacing down the far side of the glass. Its aroma was cherry juice...pure and simple. The flavour began with sweet cherries, followed by tart cherries and a mild vinegary sourness which lingered for a few seconds as an aftertaste. The sweet and sour gave the beer a nice balance. This is basically the least beer-like beer that I have ever tried..the flavour and spritzy carbonation made it seem much more like a cooler. Lots of fruit and sweetness here, with only an underlying lambic presence. I would describe Mort Subite as fairly light bodied, and at $3.70 per bottle the price was not unreasonable. Overall, a worthwhile experience, and good enough that I'd like to try a more pure lambic variety.
Brouwerij Bockor nv is located in Bellegem, West Flanders in Belgium, within a stone's throw of the French border. Its origins date back to May 1892 when it produced its first barrels of "Ouden Tripel", and the brewery has been continuously family owned ever since.
Looking to try an unflavoured lambic for the first time, Bucky spotted a bottle of the brewery's Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge ("CJR"). CJR is a Flemish Sour Ale, spontaneously fermented (ie. exposed to wild yeast) and barrel-aged for at least 18 months. The beer is cooled overnight in a large, shallow metal vessel called a coolship and then fermented and aged in large oak foudres which are made in France and assembled on-site at Bockor. CJR came in a brown 330 ml bottle, with a best before date of June 2, 2015, and was 5.5% alcohol by volume.
CJR poured a deep ruby/purple colour with a thin, off-white head that quickly faded into a small collar of foam, leaving some minor spotting and lacing down the glass. Its aroma jumps right out of the bottle at you...black current cordial, wine and sour vinegar, even though none of these things have been added to the beer. Amazing what aromas and flavours the Belgians can generate with their choice of yeasts, grains and hops! The beer's flavour is as intense as its aroma, starting with sweet black current juice which quickly gives way to tart, dark fruits, with a big blast of vinous, vinegary sourness a couple of seconds later. The aftertaste is a long-lasting, acidic/sour flavour that takes a bit of getting used to if you've never tried a lambic beer before. The mouthfeel is quite thick and sticky for a beer with a 5.5% ABV, and its carbonation is dead on...strong enough to play up the juiciness of the fruit flavours without being prickly. Definitely a sipping or dessert beer with its strong sour element.
In summary, a very tasty beer with a good mix of the sweet and sour, though not everyone's cup of tea with its strong, long-lived sour aftertaste. Hats off to the LCBO though, for taking a chance on selling this unusual style of beer. CJR is quite reasonably priced at $3.30 per 330 ml bottle, and I'd recommend giving it a try if you're looking for a style that's out of the ordinary.
Having experienced several decent but uninspiring beers in a row, Bucky was hoping to break this streak with a bottle of St. Feuillien's Grand Cru. Grand Cru came in a brown 330 ml bottle with a best before date of October 28, 2014 printed on the label, and was 9.5% alcohol by volume.
Brasserie St. Fueillien is located at Rue d'Houdeng 20 - 7070 Le Rouelx in Belgium, and dates back to 1873. The history of the Abbey itself go back much further. According to the brewery's website, in the 7th century, an Irish monk by the name of Feuillien came to the Continent to preach the Gospel. Unfortunately, in 655, while travelling through the charcoal forest, across the territory of what is now the town of Le Roeulx, Feuillien was martyred and beheaded. On the site of his martyrdom, Feuillien's disciples erected a chapel which, in 1125 became the Abbey of Prémontrés, but later became known as the Abbaye St-Feuillien du Roeulx. The Abbey prospered until the French Revolution during which it was condemned by the revolutionaries.
Now for the beer itself. Grand Cru poured a cloudy yellow/gold colour with plenty of small, fast rising bubbles visible through the haze. Pouring produced about 1.5" of meringue-like pure white head that seemed to last forever, leaving behind considerable lacing and spotting as it gradually receded. Its aroma was of lemon and candy sugar, which combined to give Grand Cru the smell of a lemon pavlova...very nice so far. The taste was BIG on candy sugar with lemon citrus...one of the sweetest beers that I've ever sampled, but was prevented from becoming overly sweet by a mildly bitter finish. None of the spiciness that I would usually associate with a bottle conditioned Belgian beer here, or at least if it was there it was simply overpowered by the initial candy sugar sweetness. As the beer warms, its 9.5% alcohol level becomes a little more evident in the taste. Carbonation is medium/high which complements the beer well, and I would describe Grand Cru as medium bodied. The streak of mediocrity has been broken! This is an enjoyable beer, but perhaps a bit pricey relative to its competition at $3.50 per 330 ml bottle.
Trying to break a streak of mediocre imported beers, Bucky turned to Brouwerij Martens in Belgium and their Berthold Keller Premium Lager ("BKP"). BKP came in a 500 ml can with a best before date of May 10, 2014 printed on the bottom, and was 5.0% alcohol by volume.
BKP poured a clear, bright yellow/gold colour with plenty of visible carbonation bubbles. Pouring produced about 1" of creamy white head that lasted for about 3 minutes before dying down to a uniform cap of foam, which left quite a bit of lacing down the glass. Its aroma was mainly of sweet light malts, with a touch of hops and iron. The beer's taste began with sweet light malts, which gave way to a metallic off-taste and just enough hops to balance out the initial sweetness. Luckily both the smell and taste of iron disappeared after I let the beer sit for a few minutes. BKP's carbonation level was average for the style, with a creamy mouthfeel from the foamy cap fighting the beer's light body. There was little to no aftertaste and a clean finish once I made it past the first couple of iron-tinged mouthfuls. BKP sells for $2.00 per 500 ml can, and seems targeted toward the lower end of the European import market. Overall, once the iron off-taste and aroma disappeared, we are left with a passable but uninspiring European lager.
The last of Chimay's publicly available beers, Bucky picked up a 330 ml bottle of Chimay Extra Strong Ale (aka Chimay Blue). Chimay Blue was a respectable 9.0% alcohol by volume, with a best before date of November 2018 printed on the reverse label.
Chimay Blue poured a deep chestnut brown colour with about 1.5” of fluffy tan coloured head with excellent retention. The head eventually reduced to a 1/4” foam cap that was present all during drinking, leaving some modest spotting down the glass. Plenty of streaming carbonation bubbles could be seen just below the foam. Aromas of plum, pepper, caramel and alcohol were all detectable. All of these aromas came through in the taste, beginning with the plum, transitioning to a caramel malt sweetness which was taken away by a mild pepper spiciness which lingered as an aftertaste. All through the beer, a warming alcohol taste was present. Nicely balanced with the tastes complimenting each other rather than fighting for dominance. The beer had a creamy mouthfeel from the ever present foam, and was medium bodied with a low level of carbonation. This is easily my favourite of Chimay's beers and a first rate strong ale. I'll have to pick up some more to find out if it gets even better after cellared for a couple of years. Chimay Blue sells for $3.25 per 330 ml bottle.
Orval Brewery is a Belgian Trappist brewery located within the walls of the Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval in the Gaume region of Belgium. It produces two beers, Orval and Petite Orval . T he brewery was created in 1931 to finance the reconstruction works of Orval. It has hired lay workers from the outset, including the master brewer, Pappenheimer, who invented the recipe. The brewer's commercial policy is adapted to the values of the monastic community, with income from royalties generated from the brand name going to social welfare works and the maintenance of the buildings.
On this occasion, Bucky sampled a 330 ml bottle of their Orval Trappist Strong Ale (“Orval”) with a bottling date of August 22, 2013 and a best before date of August 22, 2018. The beer was 6.9% alcohol by volume. According to the instructions on the bottle, Orval should be served at a temperature of 12-15C.
Orval poured a murky orange/brown colour with plenty of visible carbonation bubbles despite the murkiness. Pouring produced a monster fluffy white head that protruded up above the rim of the glass like a snow cone. The head was very long lasting, but eventually shrank unevenly to a ¼” cap, leaving behind thick sheets of sticky lacing…beautiful to behold! Its aroma was of candy sugar, orange peel and spice. The taste began with a candy sugar sweetness, giving way to orange peel and a fairly strong spiciness, with a mildly bitter finish. The spiciness lingered on as an aftertaste, and for me overstayed its welcome. As the beer warmed, the alcohol became more noticeable which worked well with the orange peel taste. Orval had a fairly active carbonation strong enough to tingle on the tongue, with a dry mouth feel. While I could do without the distinct spicy aftertaste this is a very solid beer, and sells for $3.60 per 330 ml bottle in Ontario.
Having seen the name somewhere on a list of the world's highest ranked beers, Bucky couldn't pass up a corked and caged 750 ml bottle of St. Bernardus Abt 12, adorned with a smiling monk. Abt 12 is 10.0% alcohol by volume and brewed by Sint Bernardus Brouwerij in Watou, Belgium. At 10% alcohol and 750 ml, this bottle is meant for sharing.
Abt 12 poured a deep, murky chestnut brown colour topped by 1" of bubbly beige head. The foam receded within a couple of minutes leaving behind some modest lacing as it reduced itself to a thin film. The aroma was of dark fruits including plum, with distinct spicy and yeasty notes, and the alcohol content surprisingly well hidden. Its taste was a combination of plum, spice, and yeast, with the alcohol becoming more noticeable as the beer warmed...but not in a negative way. The beer was nicely balanced between the sweet and bitter with both lingering for a few seconds as an aftertaste. Leaning toward the heavier side of medium bodied, Abt 12 had the active carbonation typical of a bottle conditioned beer. Full flavoured and well balanced, my only complaint would be that it's 'fully priced' at $9.45 per bottle.
While wandering the aisles of his local liquor store, Bucky spied a bottle of St. Bernardus Christmas Ale decorated with a picture of a smiling monk in a Santa hat. If it has a monk on the label, it must be worth a try, right? St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (“SBCA”) was a whopping 10% alcohol by volume with no discernable production or ‘best before' date, and came in a corked and caged 750 ml bottle.
After opening with a very loud pop, SBCA poured a murky chestnut brown colour with hints of orange and red when backlit, with plenty of visible carbonation bubbles in action constantly reinforcing the head. Pouring produced about 1.5” of off-white head (unusual for a dark beer) which seemed to last forever, leaving some attractive lacing in its wake. Its aroma was primarily of sweet caramel, with distinct notes of yeast, black licorice and candi sugar. The taste was of sweet caramel up front, followed by a combination of confectioner's sugar, black licorice, yeast and cloves, overall reminding me of Mom's Christmas pudding. Very little hop presence here, but this is a Christmas beer after all. The beer's high alcohol content is extremely well masked. SBCA had an active carbonation level that makes the beer feel like it's evaporating off the tongue, and a creamy mouth feel from the ever-lasting head. If the LCBO permits us access to this beer again next year, Bucky will be picking up more than the one bottle he purchased this time. Selling for $7.95 per 750 ml bottle at the time of writing, for Bucky's money, this is a tastier brew than St. Bernardus' Abt 12.
Founded in 1865 as Sint-Jozef Brewery and renamed Brewery Van Honsebrouck in 1953, the modern production facility is located in Ingelmunster, Belgium . For his first sample of Brewery Van Honsebrouck's wares, Bucky selected a 330 ml bottle of their Kasteel Donker which was 11.0% alcohol by volume. No danger of this beer going bad since its best before date is November 2018, over 4 years in the future.
An opaque, very deep chestnut brown colour with ruby highlights when backlit, Kasteel Donker produced about ½” of tan coloured head which lasted for several minutes before retreating to a thin cap of foam in Bucky's goblet. The beer left some modest spotting and lacing down the glass. Its aroma was sweet, a combination of milk chocolate, Hershey's chocolate syrup and port, with a hint of its high alcohol content. The flavours were wonderful stuff…as if someone has taken half a bottle of port and filled the other half with thick chocolate sauce and added a pinch of brown sugar for good measure. Zero hop bitterness here, but that's not a problem. The 11% alcohol content gives the beer a pleasant, warming finish. Kasteel Donker is a very rich, full bodied beer with a silky mouth feel and tame carbonation. Normally Bucky would frown on 330 ml bottles as an evil means of giving beer consumers ‘less for more', but this beer is so rich that 330 ml is just about right. In summary, a wonderful desert beer that you have to try.
Looking for a good summer beer, Bucky selected a bottle of Gueuze Fond Tradition Lambic (“GFT”). It came in a green 375 ml bottle with a best before date of August 2022 (this is not a typo…we're talking about 8 years in the future here!) and was 5.0% alcohol by volume.
An opaque apricot colour when poured, GFT produced a thin off-white head that fizzed itself out of existence in short order. A thin collar of bubbles remained behind, trailing some modest spotting and lacing in its wake. The beer's aroma reminded me very much of champagne, but with a distinct touch of white vinegar. The taste again reminded me of champagne, with notes of white grapes, apple and white vinegar. There is quite a variety of flavours here as the beer is simultaneously sweet, sour and fruity, with a distinct saltiness felt on the lips. There is no hop bitterness here whatsoever. GFT has a dry finish and active carbonation with small champagne-like (that word keeps coming up!) bubbles, and is light bodied and refreshing. In summary, another winner from the folks at Brewery Van Honsebrouck, selling for $4.25 per 375 ml bottle in Ontario.
Located near the town of Rochefort, Belgium, inside the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy, Trappistes Rochefort has been brewing beer since 1595. As with other Trappist breweries, the beer is sold to financially support the monastery and its charitable causes. Like many strong Belgian beers, those produced at Rochefort age well and can be cellared for years while maintaining their quality. For his first Trappistes Rochefort beer, Bucky selected a 330 ml bottle of their Rochefort 8 which was 9.2% alcohol by volume. Its best before date was 4 years in the future, so no worries there.
Rochefort 8 poured a cloudy mahogany brown colour with red/orange highlights when backlit, topped by about 1.5” of pillowy, noisy, long lasting light beige head. Some attractive lacing (for some bizarre reason down the bottom half of the glass only) and excellent head retention. Its aroma was black licorice, with notes of chocolate and a brown sugar sweetness. Not a big fan of black licorice to be honest with you, but here we go with the taste test. A distinct black licorice up front with sweeter notes of caramel and brown sugar following, and a mildly spicy finish with just a touch of alcohol warmth. Quite nice, but perhaps a bit too complex to be fully appreciated by a humble beer drinker like myself who can sense some dark fruit flavours, but not identify them individually. Medium bodied with an active carbonation typical of the style, Rochefort 8 is dangerously easy drinking since its 9.2% alcohol level is well hidden. A definite sipping beer, Rochefort 8 was selling for $3.25 per 330 ml bottle at the time of review.
Not being terribly enamoured of Trappistes Rochefort 8, Bucky decided to take a flier and buy a 330 ml bottle of their Rochefort 10 extra-strong beer. Hope springs eternal! Trappistes Rochefort 10 was a healthy 11.3% alcohol by volume with a ‘best before' date of May 14, 2019 printed on the reverse label. Apparently this beer is good for about 5 years if properly stored.
Rochefort 10 poured a murky mahogany brown colour, which revealed hints of orange around the edges of the glass when backlit. The beer's visible carbonation bubbles churned around dark brown flecks of sediment from the pour. A fizzy light tan head of about 1.5” showed sprinkles of the sediment, and the head burned itself out quite quickly leaving some modest spotting down the glass. The beer's aroma was of candy sugar sweetness, spice, and just a hint of black licorice. The aroma only suggested the complexity of the beer's flavours, with candy sugar, caramel, spice and dark fruits detectable, and just the slightest touch of anise. Leaves a sweet presence on the drinker's lips. The beer had a surprisingly smooth mouth feel given its active carbonation, was leaning toward the full side of medium/full bodied and finished cleanly. A good sipping beer for the Canadian winter, and selling for $3.85 per 330 ml bottle at the time of writing.
Another entry from Brewery De Brabandere, Petrus Aged Pale (“PAP”) came in a 330 ml bottle with a ‘best before' date of December 11, 2016 and 7.3% alcohol content.
PAP poured a cloudy golden yellow colour with a thin white head that quickly resolved itself into a collar and thin film of foam. No spotting or lacing as the beer made its way down the glass. The aroma from the bottle was wonderful; light fruits mixed with a vinegar sourness and a bit of moldy funk. The taste was all about the sour, with a sharp sour vinegar start followed by musty basement, with the light green apple and vinous tastes relegated to the background. Finish is dry. A fairly spritzy carbonation suits the beer well and I would classify PAP as medium bodied. If you enjoy Belgian sours, you'll certainly like one…but perhaps not for the novice or faint of heart.
From Brewery De Brabandere in Bavikhove, Belgium via an Orlando liquor store, came Petrus Oud Bruin Ale. Oud Bruin Ale came in a 1pint 9 fl. oz bottle (curse these American size measurements!) with a ‘best before' date of October 17, 2015 and 5.5% alcohol content. Billed as a mixture of a sour oak aged ‘mother beer' with a fresh brewed sweeter beer, Bucky is intrigued by the possibilities.
Oud Bruin poured a dark chestnut brown colour with 1” of beige head that left quite a bit of attractive lacing down the glass. Its aroma was of sour vinegar, white wine/champagne and a slightly musty smell. No trace of oak. The beer's taste was sour up front with undertones of green apples, green grapes and perhaps a touch of blackberry, with a mild bitterness to the finish. Sadly, no trace of oak again. Oud Bruin had a fine carbonation and crisp mouthfeel, and I would describe it as medium bodied. Overall, a very drinkable brew, but I have to wonder…what is the point of barrel aging if you are going to dilute the aged beer with fresh to the point where no oak can be detected?
Rating: 8.05 / 10
From Brewery Van Honsebrouck in Belgium, via Ontario's government beer monopoly, comes St. Louis Premium Gueuze Lambic. 4.5% alcohol by volume in a green 375 ml bottle with a ‘best before' date of 2Q 2016.
Pours a translucent amber colour which brightens up considerably when backlit, with about 1” of bubbly white head that survives for 2 to 3 minutes, leaving behind some minor lacing and spotting. Plenty of visible carbonation bubbles. The beer's aroma is both sour and sweet with notes of green apple, white grape and white vinegar. Its flavour is sweet right out of the gate, though not a natural sort of sweetness, followed by tart green apple, lemon and white grapes with a mild sour vinegar thrown into the mix. Rather weak kneed to be honest…like a light, carbonated apple juice. St. Louis Premium Gueuze is light bodied with a crisp carbonation and thin mouthfeel. Selling for $4.45 per 375 ml bottle at the time of writing. Not an unpleasant brew, but if you're looking for a nice Gueuze, your money is best spent elsewhere.
Rating: 6.50 / 10
In the mood for a lighter summer beer and fresh from his positive experience with Goose Island's Sofie, Bucky bought a 750 ml bottle of Saison Dupont from his local liquor store. Selling for $7.75 per 750 ml bottle, the beer was 6.5% alcohol by volume, with a ‘best before' date of July 2017. Produced by Brasserie Dupont of Tourpes, Belgium, corked and caged.
Saison Dupont poured an attractive hazy peach colour with about 1” of pillowy white head that seemed to be continually regenerated by the visible carbonation bubbles beneath. The head never faded to anything less than a healthy cap of foam, leaving some modest lacing down the glass. A good looking beer, but sadly, our tale starts to go bad from here. Its aroma was a mixture of yeast, vanilla, pepper and light fruits, with infrequent (but distinct) notes of skunk. The flavour very much followed the aroma with white pepper dominating all else, and overstaying its welcome as a near-continuous aftertaste. Again, with intermittent touches of skunk. Even though I shared the bottle, I struggled through this beer with its spicy aftertaste and did not enjoy it. Light bodied with an active carbonation typical of the style, and a crisp, dry mouthfeel. For my money I'll stick with Goose Island's “Sofie” folks…assuming I can find it in Ontario at a reasonable price.
Rating: 5.75 / 10
From Brasserie D'Achouffe of Belgium, Bucky spied a 330 ml bottle of their La Chouffe Strong Beer. La Chouffe was 8.0% alcohol by volume with a ‘best before' date of February 2017 printed on the reverse label. At the time of writing, selling for $3.45 per bottle in the People's Republic of Ontario.
La Chouffe poured an opaque light apricot colour with about 1” of white head which slowly faded to a collar and thin film of foam, leaving some modest lacing down the glass as the beer level retreated. Its aroma was a pleasant mixture of sweetened lemon citrus and peppery coriander. The taste was sweet light fruits up front with lemon and sugar at the forefront, with a delayed impact moderately bitter and spicy finish. The bitter/spicy tastes lingered for a few seconds, but did not overstay their welcome, providing a good counter to the initial sweetness of the beer. Medium bodied with a champagne-like carbonation and crisp mouthfeel. Overall, a tasty and refreshing brew certainly worth a try, but be aware of its well-hidden alcohol content.
Rating: 8.50 / 10
Looking for something on the festive side for Christmas, Bucky bought a 750 ml (shocking red) bottle of Petrus Winter #9 Ale. #9 was 9.0% alcohol by volume with no visible ‘best before' or production date. It is brewed by De Brabandere in Bavikhove, Belgium.
#9 poured a beautiful orange and ruby colour with a thin, greenish-tinged beige head that faded in about one minute, though its remnants in the form of a thin collar and film left some sporadic lacing down the glass as the beer level dropped. Its aroma was of sweet caramel malts and a medley of Christmas spices. The taste was sweet caramel up front, followed by a big mix of Christmas spices…I could separately identify cinnamon and cloves, but I know there are others in the mix, with a touch of overripe banana and a very mild bitterness in the finish to moderate the overall sweetness. A warming alcohol becomes more noticeable as the beer gets closer to room temperature. #9 was medium bodied with a tingly carbonation and dry mouthfeel. Selling for $9.95 per 750 ml bottle at the time of writing. Worth a try and a pleasant enough winter warmer, but there's not enough of that special element to bring me back for more next Christmas.