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Fantôme Printemps

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Every once in a while some respected craft brewer will mention that they enjoy the occasional Miller High Life or something, and everyone loses their shit. In reality, there is something amazing about what the macro brewers do, and it's called consistency. These companies make a gajillion gallons of beer in dozens of facilities worldwide, and yet their resulting product is remarkably, almost mind-bogglingly consistent. The technical achievement, logistics, and efficiency that goes into making these beers is actually very impressive. They even go so far as to cryogenically freeze cans of beer to compare over long periods of time.

Craft brewers are often less consistent, for a variety of reasons. In most cases, this is well known and planned for, like IPAs with best-by dates that aren't that far off or bottle conditioned beers that are actually meant to evolve over time. Intense and fresh flavors are difficult to maintain any sort of consistency with, if only because you can't control what the consumer does with your beer. I suspect one of the reasons that hyped IPAs remain so highly rated is that they are almost always consumed very fresh. So I do think that Heady Topper is pretty consistent, but if it was the sort of beer that lingered on shelves for several months, I don't think it would have quite the consistency in the public's eye (incidentally, I have had an old can of Heady, and while it is still quite good, it's nowhere near the fresh Heady).

Enter Fantôme, a brewery that doesn't even pretend that their beers will be consistent. They have a regular range of saisons, but Dany Prignon is known to change up the recipes from year to year. Then you add in the fact that he's also working with wild yeasts, which are notoriously difficult to control. This leads to tremendous variation in bottles of Fantôme, sometimes even bottles from the same batch.

In 2013, there was a distressing trend of wild yeast gone smokey. I picked up on just how different this was from the Fantômes of yore, but found even these Smoketôme batches to be inconsistent. I had one that had a light, almost pleasant smoke character that complemented more traditional Belgian yeast character, and then I had one that tasted mostly like burnt rubber. In years past, Fantôme had a distinctly tart, lemony character. Lately, it's been more traditional saison, with a more earthy Brett character. I'm sure there are many people who feel burned by the inconsistency, who wonder if they got a bad bottle, but are hesitant to shell out more cash for an unpredictable experience. It's an understandable sentiment, but then, this unpredictability, this inconsistency is actually what makes Fantôme so intriguing to me. I value consistency as much as the next guy, but sometimes you want something surprising. I find Fantôme's wildly diverging beers to be charming for precisely this reason. Not every brewery should aspire to this sort of inconsistency, but Fantôme is not every brewery. This might not be a popular sentiment, but by all means, leave more on the shelf for me.

Here we have the Printemps, actually a seasonal Spring release whose recipe has changed considerably over the years. Fortunately, gone are the days of the Smoketôme, so fear not, the Ghosts are back:

Fantome Printemps

Fantôme Saison D'Erezée Printemps - Pours a golden orange color with a finger of fluffy white head that sticks around for quite a while. Smells strongly of Italian herbs, Oregano and Basil, along with that distinct musty funk character. In general, it kinda smells like pizza. The taste definitely displays more in the way of funk, musty and earthy, with that Italian Herb character coming through strong as well. It has some more typical fruity, spicy saison character lingering in the background, but that Italian herb, savory pizza character is what is really doing its thing here. Mouthfeel is very well carbonated, medium bodied, a little spicy, a bit harsh. Overall, a fascinating spiced saison, light funk, complex, interesting. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 10/10/14. lot aj 13 best before end 2018.

Perhaps because of the Smoketôme debacle, I am seeing Fantôme around more often these days. It's still a rarity, but there is at least a chance to snag some every now and then, if you have your PKE meters running, that is.

Various and Sundry

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Astute readers will note that the grand majority of reviews here are for beers that I drink at home. This is not to say that I don't visit any local drinking establishments, just that I'm usually with other people and I don't want to be that dork who ignores his friends to write obsessive tasting notes. However, I do take my fair share of pictures and maybe check in to Untappd or somesuch. So I do have a fair amount of beer porn in my picture repository that doesn't really see the light of day. Until now! Enjoy these pictures and muddled recounting of various and sundry beers I've had recently, including a rather epic Birthday lineup. In fact, let's start there. It all started, naturally, at Tired Hands:

Tired Hands Cant Keep Up 8

Tired Hands is a small but very popular operation, so every once in a while, especially on weekends, they sell through more beer than is ready. At that point, Jean dips into the cellar and blends up a stopgap, often using some proportion of barrel aged awesome. The resulting beers are called Can't Keep Up, and this was the 8th installment in the series, made with beer from one of Christian Zellersfield's barrels (if he really exists). And my oh my, it was spectacular. Perhaps not quite Parageusia levels awesome, but for a beer that was whipped together under duress, it was rather spectacular. Speaking of spectacular, the other highlight of Tired Hands that day was a Citra IPA called Psychic Facelift. It turns out that I'd already visited Tired Hands earlier in the week and loved this, indeed, I even housed a growler of the stuff.

Tired Hands Psychic Facelift

It seems like Tired Hands always has great IPAs on tap, but this wan was exceptional even for them. Huge, juicy citrus character, absolutely quaffable stuff. Just superb. It's rare that I drink the same beer more than twice in short succession these days, and I think I had about 2 liters in the course of a couple days (I totally should have filled the larger growler, but hindsight is 20/20). Anywho, after some time there, we headed over to Teresa's Cafe (a few miles down the road) for some more substantial food and, of course, great beer. I had a Pliny the Elder, because how can you ignore that when it's on tap? Then my friends proved adventurous and generous, and we went in on a bottle of Cantillon Iris:

Cantillon Iris

It was fantastic, great balance between funk, sourness, and oak, really beautiful beer. And you can't beat the full pomp and circumstance, what with the proper glassware and pouring basket thingy... I had a few other beers, and they were all good, but I had a great birthday.

Some more random beer porn:

Double Sunshine

I guess I could have put up some Double Sunshine for trade, but I just couldn't handle having these in my fridge. I had to drink them.

Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA Citra

It's no Double Sunshine, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA (Citra). I usually don't enjoy IPAs when they get into the 10% ABV range, but this was extremely well balanced between sweet and bitter, and it had that great Citra hop character, tropical fruits, floral notes, and even a bit of herbal goodness. I've always enjoyed Citra-based beers, but I think I'm starting to really crave the stuff, which is going to be dangerous.

Bulldog Top Banana

This was from a long time ago, but it was another surprise, ordered totally at random one night. It's Bullfrog Top Banana, and it was a really solid saison made with bananas. I know that sounds a bit gimmicky and it's not one of those crazy funkified saisons either, but the banana fit seamlessly into their standard saison yeast profile, and it was an absolutely refreshing and tasty brew. Worth checking out if you see it. I should checkout this PA brewery sometime, perhaps go to a bottle release or something. Time will tell.

And that just about covers it. I hope you've enjoyed this rather lame stroll down beer lane. Until next time!

Duvel Distilled

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While beer is obviously my main squeeze, I do like to dip my toes into other realms of boozy glory. I'm far from an expert in these other worlds, but that's part of the fun, and it turns out that there are a lot of intersections between beer and other libations. Witness my near obsession with beer aged in wine or spirits barrels. But there are other intersections beyond that... one of which is distilled beer.

I read a fair amount of beer blogs, but I also check in on a fair amount of whiskey bloggers. One of my favorites is Sku's Recent Eats, and as it turns out, he has a penchant for distilled beer. This has always intrigued me, so when I saw his recent post on Duvel Distilled, I commented that I'd love to try the beer and the distilled version together, just as an experiment. Well it turns out that the fine gentleman who sent Sku his samples saw my post and arranged to send me some samples as well. A month later, and I get to partake in that experiment. Many thanks to Dimitri for sending me this sample (and a few others, which I'm sure I'll post about at some point as well).

I've had a somewhat rocky relationship with Duvel in the past. I was distinctly unimpressed the first few times I had it, but I've had it twice in the past year and in both cases, it turned my head. Perhaps I had gotten bad bottles before. Whatever you may think of this, Duvel is generally known as the quintessential ur-example of a Belgian Strong Pale Ale (this is a pretty generalized category, but that's Belgian beer for you).

I'm no expert on this aspect, but as fodder for distillation, Duvel doesn't seem particularly well suited. It's mostly pale barley malt and very lightly hopped with mild European hops (i.e. very little inherent flavor from those ingredients). Instead, Duvel gets its distinct character almost entirely from the Belgian yeast - huge fruity esters and spicy phenols, with a high attenuation (resulting in a highly carbonated, dry beer). So what we have here is distilled Duvel that is then aged for six years in bourbon and sherry barrels. It's apparently somewhat rare and highly sought after, so it seems extra thanks should be sent Dimitri's way.

I know from reading Sku's posts that heavily hopped beers retain their hoppy character in the finished product. So the question is whether or not Duvel's yeast character will survive the distillation and aging process. Alas, it appears the answer is "not really".

Duvel and Duvel Distilled
(Click for bigger image)

Duvel - Pours a slightly hazy straw yellow color with several fingers of fluffy white head. Smells fantastic, primarily a Belgian yeast joint with huge fruity esters and spicy clove in the nose. The taste follows the nose with big spicy yeast notes, clove and the like, with some fruitiness peeking through. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, but light bodied and dry, making it a good match for food. Overall, definitely better than my first few tastes, and clearly a classic Belgian Strong Pale. I keep upgrading this every time I have a bottle, and so we're up to a B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/6/14.

Duvel Distilled - Pours a very, very light yellow color. The nose smells pretty bland, definitely light on the fruity malt presence and heavy on the booze. I get none of the great fruity or spicy notes of the beer in the nose at all. It feels like that generic booze I first sampled as a teenager (not an entirely unpleasant memory, but then, not a particularly trustworthy one either). The taste doesn't change all that much, lots of general alcohol flavor, some grainy malt presence, but that's about it. None of the fruit or spice from the beer, nor any real discernible barrel character either (Sku's comment: "It's hard to believe this was aged in six years unless it was in seventh fill barrels or something like that."). Mouthfeel is actually pretty harsh and boozy, almost rougher than that 60%+ single barrel Four Roses stuff I got a hold of recently. Perhaps that's a bit unfair, but at least the Four Roses has some semblance of balance or at least an intensity of flavor that matches the booze level. Here, the balance is off... Overall, this is a bit of a disappointment. There's no way I'd peg this as being related to the beer at all, and even as a spirit in itself, it feels like a young, unrefined potion. There's nothing inhernently wrong with it, and it's certainly drinkable, but it's not something I'd recommend seeking out. This apparently has a cult following and fetches high prices on the secondary market, but I'm not entirely sure why... C

Spirit Nerd Details: 40% ABV bottled (sample size). Drank out of a glencairn glass on 8/6/14. 2013 vintage (I think?)

Despite not being in love with the actual Duvel Distilled product, I have to thank Dimitri yet again for the opportunity, as I love exploring these intersections between my potion of choice and the rest of the booze world. I felt a little bad about this until I realized that both Sku and Dimitri mentioned that they weren't the biggest fans of this stuff either...

Now if I can just get ahold of some of that Charbay whisky (distilled from Bear Republic's excellent flagship Racer 5 IPA), things might turn around. And some day, I really want to try New Holland's Beer Barrel Bourbon (which is bourbon finished on a third use barrel, with the first use being Bourbon and the second use being New Holland's Dragon's Milk Imperial Stout).

De Cam Oude Lambiek

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In the swanky world of lambic, brewers like Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen seem to get the grand majority of attention, but fine folks over at De Cam put out some decent stuff as well. Alas, I think this particular beer fell victim to one of my pet peeves: carbonation. Namely, this has very little in the way of carbonation, and while it has that very promising 3 years in a barrel, the unblended nature means that it doesn't quite live up to the expectations set by the likes of Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen. Of course, both of those breweries have janky uncarbonated and unblended versions of their beer too, so perhaps I shouldn't be too judgmental here, but this was still a bit of a disappointment for me.

De Cam Oude Lambiek

De Cam Oude Lambiek - Pours a golden color with visible carbonation but minimal head. The smell has a very nice funk to it, earthy, sour, fruity, almost vinious aromas, maybe a bit of oak and vanilla too. Taste is surprisingly tame, fruity but not super sour, almost like a sort of white grapejuice. There is a hint of sourness and some other funky notes, like earth or barnyard stuff, especially in the finish. Mouthfeel is light but almost flat, very little in the way of carbonation (and you know how I am with carbonation (and if you don't - I like my beers, especially sours like this, to have ample carbonation)), not super acidic or sour. Overall, this has some nice elements but is still a big disappointment. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a Cantillon lambic glass on 6/28/14.

So I'm assuming this is the equivalent of something like Doesjel or Bruocsella, so I can't quite hold this against De Cam, even if this does not make a particularly good first impression (especially considering the price), but I'd totally be willing to try the "regular" Oude Geuze De Cam, which seems like it plays in the same territory as the big boys... but then, I need to actually find a bottle of that stuff, which may be difficult...

Philly Beer Week Recap

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As per usual, I did not have my act together for this year's Philly Beer Week, and thus only went to a few events. For whatever reason, this week always seems to sneak up on me and I'm always caught unprepared. I'm the worst. That being said, I did manage to snag a few pretty interesting beers, so here's a quick recap. First stop was the venerable Philly institution Monk's Cafe:

Monks Cafe

The event was all about collaborations, most of which involved Monk's very own Tom Peters... First up was the next entry in the whole PNC collaboration series (last year's collaboration yielded Firestone Walker PNC, a most spectacular beer). This release comes to us from Maine's Allagash brewing, and this beer actually began its journey over four years ago ("Brewed in April 2010 & racked into oak barrels on May 25, 2010"). In a nice touch, the little beer menu actually included details of each barrel (including a couple that were marked as "DO NOT USE", heh). Click for a larger version:

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator Barrel Details

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator - Dark pour, fluffy tan head... darker than I was expecting, but when you look at the barrel details, that makes sense. Smells oaky, almost chocolaty and very sour, I can almost feel the sourness in my jaw (and I haven't even tasted it yet). Taste is bracingly sour, tart puckering fruit with some dark, chocolaty notes, almost a chocolate covered cherry feel. Mouthfeel is surprisingly full, not like a chewy stout but very big for a sour, which is an interesting feel. Extremely acidic, biting, but still nice... Overall, this is a really interesting, complex, unique, and very sour beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

So after that, I sampled a few other brews, including another small glass of Firestone's PNC stout (still exceptional, no change from my initial review):

Dock Street Trappiste Style Pale Ale - Inspired by Orval, this is obviously not a clone or anything, but it's nice. It's got a very dry feel, lots of peppery yeast notes, and some earthy funk in the finish. It's a fine beer, but not quite lighting the world on fire. I heard that this beer was actually made for last year's PBW, so perhaps it was better fresh? Not that it's terrible now or anything... B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Dilewyns Philly Tripel - This is the official Philly Beer Week Collaboration orchestrated by Tom Peters, where one local brewer travels to Belgium to collaborate with a brewery there. This year it was Justin Low from Dock Street who went and collaborated with Anne Catherine Dilewyns from the relatively young Dilewyns brewery (they make Vicaris labeled beers) in Belgium. The result is a relatively straightforward tripel, with some small twists. Pale colored, sticky sweet, lots of honey flavor and fruity esters, less in the way of Belgian yeast spice. This is perhaps not my preferred take on the style, but it's nice. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

De Molen Rook and Leer

De Molen Rook & Leer - The weirdest, most unique beer of the night, I've never had anything like this before. So get this, we've got an Imperial Smoked Porter base that was aged in whiskey barrels with brettanomyces and Rodenbach yeast. Oh, and it clocks in at 11.5% ABV. Um, yeah, ok. The more amazing thing: It actually works. Neither the smoke nor the sourness dominates, leading to an extremely complex beer. Usually high ABV sours don't work so well for me, but this one is just very well balanced. It's certainly odd, and I think the fact that this was originally brewed in 2011 has helped the flavors mesh together (and perhaps even mellow out some). It's a weird beer to rate, but I'll give it a A-, but maybe I was a bit far gone at this point.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

By this time, I was doing pretty well, so I slowed down a bit, got a table with some friends and ate some dinner. I did have a glass of Pliny the Elder, which was great as always, though I'm starting to see where the contrarians are coming. Naturally, I had some mussels, and as usual, they were fantastic. We also got a plate of Frog's Legs, which were basically a lot like chicken wings (I've had Frog's Legs before, but never like this).

At this point, we took our leave of Monk's and headed over to the Good Dog Bar & Restaurant, which is a great little place about a block over from Monk's. Well worth a visit if you're ever in Philly, and they also have great food (I'm pretty sure they've been featured on one of them Food Network shows at some point). They were having a Firestone Walker event and included this rarity, which I assumed would never make its way out East:

Firestone Walker Helldorado

Firestone Walker Helldorado - So you know how Firestone does that Anniversary blend where they invite a bunch of local winemakers to their brewery and set them loose on a bunch of barrel aged beers? Many of the component brews are available in bottled form, but most seem to be relative rarities, and Helldorado is one of those. I was shocked to see it at this event and immediately got myself a glass of the stuff. Alas, this is perhaps not my favorite style. It's described as Blonde Barleywine brewed with Honey, and boy can you really tell. It's extremely sticky sweet, with that honey coming through strong. It's supposed to be brewed with El Dorado hops, but I get almost no hop character out of this, so I'm guessing it was a light touch (or just used to balance out that intense sweetness). It's definitely a big, boozy bomb of a beer, and it's got a full body. However, something about the way light colored beers react in bourbon barrels is just not as exciting to me as when you get a darker base beer (the picture above makes Helldorado look darker than it was, though it wasn't super pale either). I mean, it's good, I'm really happy I got to try it, and everyone else who had it seemed to love it, so maybe this is just me, but I'll leave it at a B+ and go from there.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Lil' Opal - Now this, on the other hand, was way better than I was expecting. It's a toned down ("lil'") saison that's been aged in barrels with Brett and blended with various vintages, and it's fantastic. Granted, this is right up my alley, but I really loved this beer, a great funky saison, fruity, earthy, spicy, almost quaffable (even at this point in the night). It was a refreshing beer to have right after Helldorado, and it totally stood up to those intense flavors as well. Obviously, I was a little far gone at this point, so I'll conservatively rate it an A-, but I need to find me some more of this someday.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Agrestic Ale - Firestone has always been known for barrel fermenting and barrel aging, but they always stuck to non-wild styles, and they apparently greatly feared infections and the like. But when they opened up a completely separate facility, that allowed them to play with all sorts of sour bugs, and we're starting to get the fruits of that labor now (Lil' Opal also came out of that program). This was a really nice, light bodied sour, it reminded me a little of brighter Crooked Stave Origins. Again, I was a little far gone at this point in the night, but I really enjoyed this. I'll give it a B+, but I'd really like to try it again sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Phew, it's a very good thing I was taking the train home, and while the above does seem like a lot of beer, it was spread out over quite a long time. Again, I need to better prepare for Philly Beer Week next year, so we'll see what happens. That's all for now. Stay tuned for Beer Club tomorrow! (No post on Thursday though, as I didn't really drink much else this past weekend, for obvious reasons!)

February Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a gathering of beer minded individuals from my work who get together about once a month at a local BYOB for good company and libations. As per usual, a good turnout, with a good representation from the core team, but also some very welcome new faces. About half of us are, at this point, avid homebrewers, so discussion veered into a rather nerdy realm from time to time, but that's all good, and there was also a nice contingent of non-beer drinking peeps who were bemused by our nerdery, but steered the discussion other ways as well. Good times had by all.

February Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, initial thoughts on each beer are captured below. As you might guess, conditions here are not ideal, nor did I always drink a full portion, so take this with a gigantic grain of salt if you dare. Or not. I am pretty awesome, so I'm sure these inchoate notes are all you'll really need. In order of drinking (not necessarily in order pictured):

  • Heavy Seas Gold Ale - A pretty basic Blonde Ale, comparable to most macro slop, but a step above such extremes. B-
  • Kaedrôme Saison - This is drinking well, though it still has not carbonated as well as I'd have liked. I don't know if this is because the yeast is just so old and overstressed or if it's because it's been so cold lately and my cellar is just so cold that it's taking the beer a while to condition. Whatever the case, the flavors are at the right place, and there is enough carbonation to make it drinkable, it's just that I wish there were more. B
  • New Belgium Lips Of Faith - Coconut Curry Hefeweizen - Holy curry, Batman! At first, the curry seemed to overpower everything else, but as I drank and as it warmed (we had some of this later in the evening as well), the coconut and hefeweizen notes came out a bit more. Its a very interesting, weird beer, but I don't think it's quite the right combination of flavors for beer. C+
  • Stone Matt's Burning Rosids - I think you all know how much I love me some saisons, even weird, incoherent takes on the style, but this one seemed to be filled with a sorta burnt rubber band aid flavor that overpowered everything else. Perhaps not totally undrinkable, but I'm really, really happy I only tried a smallish sample of the stuff. D
  • Green Jack Rippa - I've seen this around and been curious about an "English Triple" beer, and it was an interesting beer, though it came off as being incredibly boozy, which is a bit odd for an 8.5% beer. To be sure, that's not a whimpy ABV, but it's also not something I'd expect to be quite so powerfully boozy. It had a nice malt backbone too, but not enough to stand up to the booze. C+
  • Ken's Homebrewed ESB - A light take on the style, though perhaps it just seemed that way because we had this after the boozy bomb previously mentioned. Still, very easy drinking stuff, malt forward but quaffable. B
  • Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale - Now, this beer club group occasionally visits an authentic (at least, to us Yanks, it seems so) British pub called The Whip Tavern. They have this rather spectacular dessert called Sticky Toffee Pudding, so hopes were somewhat high for this beer. To be sure, I was tempering my expectations by the fact that a lot of English ales, even stuff like this that is flavored with adjuncts, come off with hints of diacetyl, but in this case, my fears were unfounded. It's nowhere near as good as the actual dessert, but it had a really nice toffee/caramel character that worked really well for the beer. B
  • Chimay Tripel (White) - A beer I've obviously had many times before, and it's just as good as ever, though I seem to have veered away from a lot of the Belgian styles that initially hooked me on good beer. Still, this is a nice one. I'd probably downgrade to a B+, but it's still very nice.
  • Starr Hill Psycho Kilter - A nice take on the Scotch Ale style, certainly not a top tier effort, but a nice, malt forward, relatively low carbed beer that doesn't quite bely its relatively high 9.3% strength. B
  • Kaedrin Bomb and Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked Version) - This is the version of my RIS homebrew that was aged on bourbon soaked oak cubes. In this version, the charred oak really comes through strong. Not a ton of bourbon, though it is there. The charred oak is pretty strong at this point, which makes me think that perhaps I should have soaked the oak cubes in bourbon for longer than the 1-2 weeks I employed. Still, this turned out well, though the blended version seems to be the best version. B+
  • Lost Abbey The Angel's Share (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - A beer I've had and reviewed before. It is still pretty fantastic stuff. A-
  • Deschutes Jubelale - Another beer I've had a few times this year, and it's a nice winter warmer style beer, malt forward with lots of spice, quite enjoyable (and surprisingly did not suffer from a no doubt beleaguered palate at this point in the night). B
And that just about covers it. Already looking forward to the March beer club, where I'll be able to share some Fat Weekend IPA...

Drie Fonteinen Zwet.be

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Drie Fonteinen is one of the powerhouse lambic breweries, so this beer is something of a curiosity. It seems that famed master-blender Armand Debelder saw fit to branch out and try something only tangentially related to lambic. This is basically an English style porter beer that is brewed with wild yeast cultured from lambic casks. If this sounds like some sort of blasphemous experiment, well, it's not. Porter didn't always resemble what it does now.

I'll leave the history to those who know better than I, but suffice to say that descriptions of 19th century porter tended to use words like: sour, tart, astringent, and acid. As Martyn Cornell notes in the linked post, these are not words you will find in the descriptions of porter in the latest Brewers Association beer style guidelines. To greatly simplify the possible reasons for this tartness, it seems to be attributable to both age and wild yeast infection (the combination of which are a virtuous circle, as wild yeasts do their thing over very large amounts of time).

So basically, this beer isn't the lunacy that it might initially sound like. Indeed, I've seen various other breweries take on this concept of sour porter as well, though I can't really speak to historical accuracy for any of these beers. But forget about historical accuracy, do these suckers taste good? Let's give it a shot, eh?

Drie Fonteinen Zwet.be

Drie Fonteinen Zwet.be - Pours a dark brown color with a couple fingers of tan head that leave plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells very much like a porter, lots of roast and toast, but also a sweetness or fluffiness that indicates something less intense. Taste features a nice, light roast and toast, as befitting a porter, but the finish has a slight tweak to it that lightens things up a tad. It's not quite sour or really all that tart, but perhaps in that direction. Mouthfeel starts off full bodied and highly carbonated, but that sorta yields to a gentler feeling towards the finish. Again, it's not sour and won't cut up your gums like an American Wild Ale, but there might be an ever so slight hint of acidity. Overall, a solid, interesting take on a porter, though not quite as "wild" as I thought. That being said, I'd rather have this than most other porters (admittedly, they're not my style, but still). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (11.7 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/17/14.

I'd be curious to see if the wild elements come out more over time, so if I find me another bottle, I might just stash it away for just such an experiment. That being said, I'd probably rather have me some Drie Fonteinen lambics if they could be had...

Oude Quetsche Tilquin

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Once upon a time, Gueuzerie Tilquin made a believer out of me when it came to sour beers. Before Tilquin Oude Gueuze, I was like those scared apes at the beginning of 2001, cautiously approaching the sour beer monolith and giving it a tap every now and again. Throw a bottle in the air, smash cut to the space age, and now I'm rubbing vinegar on my gums in between sour beers just to keep things interesting.

Given the near impossibility of finding Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen on the shelf these days, it's amazing to me that Tilquin is out there for the taking. I almost don't want to speak so highly of them for fear that these wonderful beers will disappear forever. The thrill of the hunt is all well and good, but it can get old after a while. It's nice to pop over to State Line Liquors every now and again and see a "new" (I believe this came out last year) Tilquin beer like this one and just pick it up. But this is legit lambic, and I'd actually hold the Gueuze up above the standard Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen offerings (the non-standard ones, on the other hand, are another story, but that's still saying a lot). I originally graded the Gueuze an A-, but I've had it a couple times since then and I'd give it a firm upgrade to straight A territory.

This particular expression is a blend of 1 and 2 year old oak aged lambics that are then put in a stainless steel tank with "destoned fresh purple plums" for an additional 4 months (the sugars from the plums are fermented and mixed with the standard lambic). Color me intrigued:

Oude Quetsche Tilquin

Oude Quetsche Tilquin à L'Ancienne - Pours a golden orange color with a sorta pinkish hue and a finger of white head. Smells deeply of funk and oak, earthy, fruity, with the sour twang tickling in the nose. Taste starts out sweet with tart fruit, some earthy character picking up in the middle along with a dollop of oak, followed by an intense sourness that charges through the finish. I don't know that I'd pick out plums here, but it's clearly fruited, and it's a very well balanced melding of the standard Tilquin with a more fruity character. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and crisp, with some tannic oak, plenty of acidity and some puckering, especially towards the finish. Overall, this is fantastic. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/14/13. Best before: 29/01/2023.

So very good. The only Tilquin I've not yet had is the draft version, which is a slightly younger lambic with a lower ABV. I'll have to jump on that the next time I see it...

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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