Tuesday, 21 May 2013

#150: Westmalle Dubbel

Another Belgian was on my to-do list, especially considering it's one of the last remaining Trappists I've yet to try. I've had Westmalle's Tripel before, so it was time to give their Dubbel a spin.

Like all Dubbels, it pours a dark red/brown colour, with a small head that dissipates fairly quickly. Unlike all other Dubbels (in my experience), there's a strong yeasty, bready, banana smell at first. When you dig in you'll likely find some dark fruit and toffee malt, but really it's the lighter, brighter, almost floral aroma that dominates. The taste returns to more familiar malty, fruity territory though, but with a light bitterness and a warming spiciness to the finish really livening it up. 
It's tasty, but perhaps not as satisfying or richly textured as others of the style. I'd recommend it to try, by I think I'll fare better with the Rochefort 8 I have on standby.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

#149: Only for the Brave

This bottle of Courage's Imperial Russian Stout has been sitting in the cupboard since I bought it in Sneem in January, and after much deliberation, I decided to finally try it before committing it to an ageing process.

The pitch black pour and rocky tan head releases an an aroma fronted by fruity hops, before revealing a thick malty biscuit, chocolate, caramel and marzipan character underneath. It smells good, very good. it's beautiful on the palate, with a similar balance that delivers sweet toffee, roasted coffee, liquorice and a bitter finish in equal measures. However, what really drives the beer is it's amazing drinkability. It's full bodied and incredibly smooth, making it an extremely satisfying Imperial Stout.

I'd certainly recommend it.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

#148: Hopus

The third Belgian I'd picked up over the last week was another supposedly hoppy Belgian, this time Lefebvre's Hopus.

After the label promised a strong and bitter beer, the aroma instead suggested the zest and spiciness of an ordinary Tripel. The strength of the beer was typified by it's candied sugar sweetness, with notes of clove and citrus making brief appearances around the palate, before being utterly smothered by a sticky, syrupy caramel malt finish.

It's by all means drinkable, but Hopus is nothing special.

And now, to celebrate the start of the holiday with another Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.

Friday, 10 May 2013

#147: Sour Grapes

The second of my Belgian beers for this final week of pressure is a new one to me, and the first of a new style. 
The style is Flemish Sour Red/Brown Ale. 
The beer is Rodenbach Grand Cru.
I was apprehensive.

It pours a muddy murky brown colour, though there didn't seem to be any yeast sediment in the glass. The aroma is at first musty apple cider, with a sharp sour note following. Many people seem to think of Balsamic vinegar here, and I see what they mean. Cherries and red berries join the apple on the nose, while the malt character is just about present underneath. The taste is more or less the same, with sour apple and a funky yeasty flavour dominating the palate, with a shadow of the fruit bouquet appearing to balance the experience. There are no bad flavours, but the sourness of the beer is very powerful, and to the uninitiated (me), it can be just a bit too much.

Hopefully, my exploration of lambics will go better than this. 
Still, worth a look at least.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

#146: Tripel Ace

With the final week of college just underway, many hours are being spent at the desk in the final flurry of work before summer. To aid the process and nurse the work into fruition, I have a small selection of Belgians, on top of a much appreciated six-pack of Howling Gale Ale in the fridge.

One of those Belgians is this year's Duvel Tripel Hop, where Sorachi Ace is the star of the show. It's my first time trying the beer and the hop, so I was surprised by the power of the herbal aroma. It's got bucketloads of lemongrass and clove with the soft sweetness of plain ol' Duvel discernible underneath. The opening flavour is the malty, grainy sweetness you might recognise, before it turns to citrus and spice notes in the finish. Grassy, dry, and not a single trace of the 9.5% alcohol, this is not like any beer I've ever tried. Hopefully I can get my hands on another bottle of this.

You should try too.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

#145: Escape to Chimay

While it may not represent college exams in the traditional sense, the April-May period in an art college does pile on the pressure, with assessments looming and students still trying to conjure up something worthwhile from thin air. It also restricts the amount of time a person has to themselves without worrying about art or work. For me, this means a hit to any adventurous beer drinking, so any escape is welcome.

This time, the escape isn't particularly adventurous, but still incredibly enjoyable. It's Chimay Grande Réserve, and it's just about a year old. It pours a dark ruby red that's relatively clear without the yeast, and gives off banana, dark fruit and malty notes on the aroma. It's raisiny, figgy, and even has suggestions of spice or spiced rum. On the palate, dark fruit is to the fore too, with notes of green apple and a chocolate toffee backbone. The finish brings with it a touch of alcohol heat, understandable for it's 9% ABV, and the syrupy, sticky sweetness stays in the mouth for a long while after each sip. 

Chimay is a brand that's accessible to just about anybody, and at a decent price too. This, combined with the fact that the Grande Réserve ages well, makes it perfect candidate for cellaring. That being said, enjoy it fresh and you probably won't be disappointed either.