Late August found me in Amsterdam for a week, with a few day trips to Apeldoorn on the cards throughout. When I wasn't accompanying the Sober Destrier on those mostly searing hot commutes I, obviously, endeavoured to surround myself with delicious liquids.
The first of those is, almost predictably, Belgian. It's Oude Gueuze Tilquin, one of the big lambic hitters that I'd yet to indulge. I'm glad I did; opaque orange it appears, with a big beautiful white head. There's a real waxy, bitter-but-soft backing to the acidic wheaty fullness of the beer, but working and swirling the glass a little brings about plenty of farmy funk - think cowshed, hay and grist. The sourness seems to work the front and sides of the tongue and palate first before that waxed, lemon skin bitterness wades back in to offer immediate balance. Lovely stuff.
Staying with beers enjoyed on the balcony of the spacious apartment in Rembrandtpark is Jopen's Life's a Beach, a beautiful and sinkable session IPA. This drinkability lasts despite a touch of malty body that thankfully turns to clean grainy stuff allowing bright, fresh and simple grapefruit to stand alone. On such a hot day, it disappeared alarmingly fast.
As such, Oedipus' Mannenliefde saison was drafted in for support. Alas, it's got Szechuan pepper and lemongrass and turns out to be a spiced-up, minty, confected jumble that I don't understand the point of. What the hell did saison do to deserve this?
The sole American beer to appear in this post is a can of Aftermath IPA from Black Market Brewing in California, showcasing all the aromatic qualities you might expect; juice! Tropical juice! There's orange too and even a guilty pleasure streak of green rawness - a real brewday smell. On the palate it starts with a loud bang but fades pretty fast; the rich, juicy kick of marmalade and water-thin tropical juice is brief and becomes a nice, very light, fairly dry and quite bitter finish. Here at that finish is where the pith and zest of that fruit lives but ultimately it doesn't live up to the full-bodied and intense promise of the nose. And what a promise - that uncanny, powerful and unique smell of a freshly opened bag of C-hops.
No trip to the Bierkoning can be justifiably called complete without a bottle or two from De Molen, and the one I chose to open here is Counter and Attack, an IPA. Unfortunately, it's a rather dull one, and perhaps a reminder as to why De Molen's stellar reputation seems to be tied to the dark beers they produce. Despite a fresh nose there's a disconcerting fruit cordial sweetness that streaks through the entire thing, making it a particularly uninspiring glass.
Inside there was a new Dutch brewery to me, Oersoep, with Plan 9 From Outer Space. It's a cloudy, unfiltered and unpasteurised pils that proves clean, biscuity and leafy refreshment that's so easy to drink while remaining full, substantial and pillow-soft. Satisfying stuff.
From the same brewer comes Pulp Fiction, billed as a passion fruit pale ale. By pale ale, they must have meant in the Belgian sense, rather than the American, which was an initial suprise but it turned out to be a happy one. It's a tad funky, more saison or fresh Orval than anything properly wild, and there's a spritely dusting of white pepper and yeast contribution throughout. I can't find even a whispered rumour of passionfruit, or even anything like some fruit-expressive hops - this stays firmly dry, lightly bitter, slightly spicy and, despite not quite matching its billing, delicious.
The last beer to be opened in the apartment was Rodenbach Vintage 2012. Right from the first sniff, I was worried I'd gone too far down the sour path; balsamic vinegar is searingly intense at first and bounces terrifyingly off walls of thick, powdery chocolate. It is not so scary to taste, even though much of the experience is characterised by the mix of sweet and sour that elsewhere in life I avoid with an almost religious rigidity. It's acidic but soft, dampened and rounded and made beautiful by trustworthy and comforting wooden malts - think flecks of dark chocolate, vanilla and leather under a sky of overripe cherries and blackberries. Pure puckering pleasure.
That's it for take-home beer. Next up, drinking in the city.