It will not come as a surprise to anybody that Duvel was my very first experience with Belgian ale, but at that time, after my very first bottle, I wasn't that impressed. This is mostly because I had no idea what the hell I was drinking - I may have used a hexagonal tumbler... Anyway, while I now appreciate Duvel, I also now know that it is very far from being the be-all and end-all of strong Belgian ales. This I learnt in Amsterdam with a little bottle of La Chouffe, and when my interest in craft beer peaked back home, I was determined to try it and it's sister again. When I saw that the Abbot's Ale House was selling two 75cl bottles of La/Mc Chouffe for €8, I got my chance to try the both of them again.
La Chouffe was up first, and this golden beauty is every bit as delicious as I'd remembered. It's well carbonated, perfectly clear, and the 3 fingers of white foam on top make it a truly gorgeous blonde. It's nose is gently malty with citrus hop hints, and light caramel sweetness. Spice and peel are hidden in there too. Caramel malt and sweetness is at the front of the tongue, and pepper makes itself known in the middle with fruit hops and spice finishing it off to make it a very tasty drink. I finished off all 750mls of the stuff in a couple of hours, as it's 8% alcohol is well masked. Nice fizz on the tongue and medium bodied.
Overall, it's a great beer. It would definitely appeal to me more than a Duvel, and I'd happily have a bottle or two of this in the house at all times, but after the recent discovery of Piraat, I can't say this would be my go-to Belgian ale. Bring on the Scotch then!
Well, the Scotch ale. Because apparently that's what Mc Chouffe is. I'm not sure how or why, other than the kilt adorning the gnome on the label, but what I do know is that it's a dark ale, and I'm usually partial to these. It comes in at the same 8% ABV as La Chouffe.
In the glass it's hazy brown with red highlights and a decent off-white head that dissipates quickly, but retains a creamy film on top. Very attractive, I must say. It delivers deep strong bread and toffee malts on the nose with a dark fruit overtone in the background. Caramel/toffee malt is the first on the tongue with a real sweet fruity follow and finish. Hints of maple syrup at the end too.
It's full bodied and interesting, but it's not going to blow anyone's hair off. That being said, neither is the La Chouffe, but both beers are well worth the try and being early entries into my Belgian craft beer education, I hold a soft spot for them. I'll be hoping to try this brewery's Houblon Chouffe and N'Ice Chouffe as soon as possible.