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Lambic in general, and Gueuze in particular, have slowly but steadily taken up more of my allotted drinking cycles. Channeling my inner-wonk, nothing beats the harmony, complexity, and balance involved in the traditional three vintage blend of spontaneously fermented beer that marks Gueuze. I suppose this sounds like marketing fluff or just plain wanking, but who cares, Gueuze is probably awesomer than you are. I mean, not you, the other readers. Wink wink, nudge nudge. As producers go, the conventional wisdom is that Cantillon is well known for their fruited lambics, but Drie Fonteinen is most famous for their Gueuze blends (not to belittle their other offerings, nor other lambic producers, who all have their strengths, and what the hell, conventional wisdom can go pound sand, but I digress - the point is that Drie is great at blending.)

After Drie Fonteinen recovered from their "Thermostat Incident", they actually managed to rev up a new production facility, and a few years later, the first vintages of their Gueuze were ready for blending. Of course, their OG standard is wonderful, but since they were finally self-sufficient again, Armand Debelder decided to blend up a special batch in honor of his father, Gaston. This beer consists only of lambic brewed by 3 Fonteinen, and this post will actually cover two batches. One, with the old label, was one of the earlier 2015 batches, and I shared that with a bunch of friends recently (so didn't take detailed notes, but I'll give some background on why I was sharing such a bottle and whatever thoughts I can muster below). The other is a newer 2017 release, and has the new, swanky silkscreen label with stickers, which I was able to write tasting notes for. Because you all love those, right? Right. The label sez that this is "blended from lambics aged and matured on 4 different barrels, originating from wort of 7 different brews. The old lambic was brewed with slightly darker malts and was destined for another Straffe Winter (but we actually forgot about it...)" (Straffe Winter is a Faro that they have still only released once, in case you were wondering.) Ok, enough wanking, let's get to it.

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand and Gaston

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand & Gaston (2017) - Pours a dark golden orange color with a couple fingers of fluffy, bubbly head. Smells fantastic, deep, earthy funk, oak, plenty of fruity esters. Taste hits the fruity ester notes more than the nose, but that earthy funk provides some good complexity in the background and the oak leavens things well. A well balanced sourness emerges in the middle and lasts through the finish. It's delicious. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, medium bodied, with a moderate and well balanced acidity. Overall, this is one spectacular, well balanced, complex geuze. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5.3% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 2/9/18. Bottling Date: 01/25/17. Best Before: 10/26/37. Blend n° 17 - Season 16-17.

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand and Gaston 2015

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand & Gaston (2015) - I hate the sport of basketball. However, I do make one exception, and that is Villanova basketball, which I have watched with some regularity since I graced that fine university, jeeze, over twenty years ago? Anyway, two years ago, Villanova won the NCAA championship and my friend and fellow VU alum Rich brought a BCBS Vanilla Rye to a share the night after we won. It was a spectacular beer; age had treated it very well and I'd go so far as to say it's one of the few beers I've had where age has actually improved the beer. Anyway, a few weeks ago, Villanova won their second NCAA championship in 3 years (and third overall), and Rich and I immediately started putting together a share where we'd dig out something great from our cellars. He brought a spectacular bottle of ADWTD, and I brought this beauty: the first vintage of Armand and Gaston. This consists of some of the first lambic brewed on their new system in 2013, and according to the bottle logs, it's the second 750 ml bottling (both in October of 2015), and there were approximately 3,800 bottles in this batch (there was an additional 375 ml bottling and a thusfar unreleased 1.5 l bottling that is aging in the 3F cellars).

Opening the bottle resulted in some mild gushing (cork basically popped out on its own), but fortunately, not too much of our precious juice was lost. And yes, my impression was that this was somehow even better than the 2017 vintage I just praised to high heaven above. Super funky, but it didn't quite veer into extra-pungent blue-cheese territory that is fascinating for sure, but not quite as nice as this. Earthy, fruity, tart but not overly acidic, highly carbed and effervescent, great balance,depth, and complexity, I could have easily rocked the entire bottle by myself, but I was glad I shared it with some friends who could appreciate its charms. Again, I didn't really take any notes, but it was great. I'll give it an A too, and this is definitely the sort of thing to seek out.

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a wine glass on 4/12/18. Bottling Date: 2015, October 20. Best Before: 2035, October 26th.

I love the Best Before date on the bottle. Not just 20 years, but 20 years and 6 days. A minute longer and it'll spoil. Anywho, both vintages were phenomenal. Seek this out. It may be pricey, but it's worth a stretch. But my priorities are way out of whack, so you do you.

Boon / Mikkeller Oude Geuze

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The second lambic collaboration between Boon and Mikkeller (the first being their Bone Dry, a sorta older sister beer to Black Label (which always annoys me because despite being delicious, the bottle does not actually have a black label on it... but I digress)), this iteration focuses on a blend that is primarily comprised of lambic from a foeder that had previously contained Calvados (apple brandy, for the uninitiated). No indication which foeder or how old that particular foeder is, but it's got the traditional Geuze blend of 1-3 year old lambics, which is certainly good enough for this beer dork. Let's dive in:

Boon Mikkeller Oude Geuze

Boon / Mikkeller Oude Geuze - Pours a yellowish golden color with a solid finger of bubbly but dense head with good retention. Smells great, lots of earthy funk, something a little fruity playing around the edges (of my nose? Yeah, something like that.) Taste is has a lighter earthy funk to it, definitely some fruity twang (if I'm looking for it, maybe, maybe some Calvados green apple kinda character), a little sourness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, very dry, moderate acidity, pretty easy going. Overall, it's good, but I don't know that the Calvados character comes through in a particularly strong, identifiable way. Still a worthwhile experiment and a nice twist. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/1/17. Best before: 22/11/2036.

Boon seems to be riding that novelty wave by putting out lots of variants and different releases, but one thing that is different about them: They seem to be generally available. You have to hunt them out a little, as most stores seem to focus on the US boom these days (and who can blame them), but if you want these suckers, you can usually find a way... Moar Boon incoming soon (I picked up that set of four different Vat variants, which should be interesting)... and maybe even lambic from another producer. Stay tuned.

Boon Vat 109 Mono Blend

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For anything that is primarily blended, there's this instinct to see what individual components would taste like. You see this a lot in whiskey, but there are plenty of other applications as well. Take this series of Mono Blends from Boon. Each is primarily composed of lambic from a single foeder (blended with a very small amount of young lambic for bottle conditioning purposes), and this is the third one that I've had. Unfortunately, I've had them over the course of 2-3 years, so this isn't exactly a side-by-side comparison, but I feel like all three have been somewhat distinct.

Vat 77 was very earthy with a big kick of minerality. Vat 79 was noticeably more fruity and tart, though it still retained that mineral character that I seem to get out of all of Boon's lambic. Now we've got Vat 109, a 9000 liter cask built over a hundred years ago (approx 1910 timeframe) and originally made to be used in beer production. That being said, it was used to age Cognac starting in 1935 up until Boon got their hands on it in 2009. This particular batch was brewed in 2014 and released in 2016, only showing up on my local shelves recently (at least, that I saw). With acknowledgement to the infamously unreliable nature of memory, I'd put this somewhere on the continuum between Vat 77's earthy minerality and Vat 79's more fruity character, though all have what I'm coming to recognize as Boon's trademark character.

Boon Vat 109 Mono Blend

Boon Oude Geuze A L'Ancienne Vat 109 Mono Blend - Pours a hazy golden color with a couple fingers of fluffy, fizzy head that manages to stick around for a bit. Smells great, lots of earthiness, that trademark Boon minerality, and something brighter, fruitier in the background. Taste hits that mineral character pretty hard, lots of earthy funk, with a touch of sourness and fruit only really emerging in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, lowish acidity. Overall, this is another solid offering from the Mono Blend line, maybe not quite as great as 79, but still damn good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.25% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a geuze tumbler on 11/4/17. Best Before 04/19/2025. Batch #: 71312.

I have some extra bottles of Vat 79 and now 109, so maybe one day I'll be able to do a better, side by side comparison (perhaps we can wait until we get some additional batches out there), which would be entirely more reliable than drinking these suckers months/years apart and trying to discern the differences that way.

Fantôme Boo

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A travelling friend recently procured a bottle of this Fantôme pumpkin saison for me, so I saved it for Halloween. Near as I can tell, this was a one-off brew from the 2012-2013 timeframe (just before the Smoketôme era), which indicates that there are some areas in this country that get lots of Fantôme that just sits on shelves. What is wrong with you people?

Anyways, these bottles had a reputation as being gushers such that, if you turned them upside down whilst opening, they could propel you into low earth orbit. Um, anyway, this sort of thing usually makes for a poor experience (and perhaps explains their current availability five years later) and I can confirm that when this happened with a different bottle a little while ago, it was pretty much a lost cause. Fortunately, my bottle of Boo did not have this problem (and unfortunately, I still haven't visited space). This could be the extra few years talking, but it could also be Fantôme's infamous lack of consistency manifesting. Whatever the case, it was a nice, spooky choice for Halloween night:

Fantôme Boo

Fantôme Boo - Pours a murky, moderately dark orange color with half a finger of white head. Smells sweet, a little spice, and that trademark Tôme funk. Taste has some saison spice to it, lots of earth and funk, all somewhat muted by age. As it warmed up, the spice began to feel more peppery, even a hint of spicy hotness (as opposed to spicy clove or cinnamon or something, which is not here). Mouthfeel is sharply carbonated, medium bodied, and it's got some spicy heat. Overall, this is a minor ghost, a little long in the tooth, but an interesting spin. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/31/17.

In fairness, I was coming down with a bit of a cold at the time, so perhaps I wasn't in the best condition for a true evaluation. Also, my deprivation chamber was on the fritz, so I was just sitting on my couch watching horror movies (Halloween and Trick r Treat, in accordance with tradition), which also matters. I'm the worst. Anyway, Fantôme is always an interesting drink and I'm sure it won't be long before we tackle another offering...

Fantôme Duo

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There are many varieties of Fantôme, but it's always rough trying to figure out what makes each one different. Sometimes the addition is obvious or well known, but most of the time you're just left with the label's cryptic "Belgian Ale brewed with spices" (and occasionally additional "herbs"). The ghost never reveals its secrets! But sometimes you can get an inkling.

First up is this collaboration with Beancurdturtle Brewing's Daniel Fernandez, a beer consultant who collaborates with breweries and helps design and brew beers. Based in California, he seems to spend a lot of time working with European brewers like Fantôme. Ghost Turtle (this feels like a reference to something) is a typical Belgian ale brewed with spices and herbs, but when one fateful knower speculated Anise, he was shot down and told that the beer used: "No anise. Three flowers, a few herbs, and wildflower honey." Still a little nebulous, but better than nothing:

Fantome Ghost Turtle

Fantôme Ghost Turtle - Pours a golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head that has good retention and leaves a bit of lacing as I drink. Smells great, lots of sweet, candied fruit, and that trademark tôme funk. Taste hits the saison spice notes harder than the fruity esters, with earthy funk doing its thing in the middle to finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, decent carbonation, pretty easy going. Overall, it's a solid little tôme! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/9/17.

Next up is Vertignasse, which again lists unspecified spices and herbs, but a little digging reveals that the green color (which was not quite as vivid in my bottle as some pictures I've seen) at least partially derives from spinach juice (ew? Thankfully this doesn't come off as being vegetal.) Some have also specified that this is a variant of Fantôme's Blanche, a wheat beer that hasn't been made in a while, but which makes sense (this does feel very much like a Belgian Wit). Ultimately not as good as their other Green offering (Magic Ghost), but hey, it ain't easy being green:

Fantôme Vertignasse

Fantôme Vertignasse - Pours a pale, yellowish green color with a finger of white head. Smells mostly of the famed and unspecified spices, but I'll hazard a guess of coriander and cloves, some of which no doubt comes from the yeast, which only bears a hint of funk. Taste is sweet and spicy, that coriander and cloves come through here too, but there's something fruity and juicy here too. It's a good mixture of flavors. Mouthfeel is a little light on the carbonation, but in a way that works, light bodied but not something you necessarily want to chug. Overall, a nice, complex, and light saison that is unique, which is saying something from this brewery. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/16/17.

So there you have it, two new Tômes that have at least partially been explained. But one can never be truly sure what a Ghost consists of... As Dany likes to say: Secrets, secrets. Up next on the Tôme front is the new batch of Été (which, as I understand it, is drastically different than the last one I managed to procure) and a Ghost I'm going to save for Kaedrin's annual Six Weeks of Halloween marathon!

Boon Vat 79 Mono Blend

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Another entry in Boon's Mono Blend series, kinda like a singe barrel offering, only it's got a touch of young lambic blended in for bottle conditioning. Still, it's an interesting series of beers. Vat 77 consisted of 2 year old lambic and was very earthy and minerally, but here we have Vat 79. It's the oldest foeder at the brewery, dating back to 1883. In addition, according to the brewery:

So old that we do not know. The oak comes from oak trees that are almost 250 years old, which means your lambic is matured with trees planted between 1670 and 1680.
Sploosh. Rumor has it that Vat 79 is mostly used as a component for the Mariage Parfait blends (which are mostly 3 year old lambic).

An anecdote from an old brewery webpage: An American lady that tasted lambic from the No. 79 cask said it was "Boon to be Wild". Well that sounds good to me, let's dive in:

Boon Vat 79 Mono Blend

Boon Oude Geuze A L'Ancienne Vat 79 Mono Blend - Pours a slightly hazy golden color with a finger of white head that has good retention. Smells nice and earthy, funk, that trademark Boon minerality, something a little fruity lurking in the background. Taste hits with sweet, fruity notes up front, followed by funky earth and minerality, finishing with oak and tart fruit. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, highly carbonated, moderately dry, medium acidity, a nice oaky character to the mouthfeel too. Overall, this is one damn fine geuze, better than Vat 77 for sure, and stacks up favorably against the competition. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.8% (back label) or 9% (front label) ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked). Drank out of a geuze tumbler on 4/29/16. Batch #62203. Best Before 12/17/2034. Brewed on the 19th and 20th of 2011. Bottled 17th Dec 2014. Released April 2016.

There have been two other Mono Blends released, Vat 44 and Vat 109, but I have yet to see those around just yet. I will most certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for those...

Fantôme Strange Ghost

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Explicitly calling this "Strange" may seem a bit oxymoronic. I mean, we are talking about Fantôme here, right? But even among Fantôme's eclectic fare, this beer does indeed stand out. That's a bold statement, to be sure, but one the beer lives up to. As per usual, what sets this apart is difficult to determine (the official description just sez that it's brewed with "spices and herbs") and judging from reviews, it seems like this most recent release is different from previous releases (which supposedly had a more minty, herbal component). It's labeled a saison because lol, style doesn't matter when it comes to something like this, might as well call it saison:

Fantôme Strange Ghost

Fantôme Strange Ghost - Pours a deep, rusty amber color with a finger or two of fluffy, off-white head. Smells sweet and spicy, maybe some fruit zest, hints of that characteristic Tome funk. Taste hits that spice pretty hard, not really sure what it is actually, but it's tasty. Some darker malt presence, though again, it defies precise identification. It gets a bit of tart fruit juice and funk towards the middle and finishes with a tangy, not-quite-sour bite. (Update: I saw someone mention tamarind in reference to this beer, and that feels kinda right for part of the taste, but who knows? It's not like I have tamarind all the time, so I'll just leave this as an aside written after the original tasting notes.) Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, light acidity. Overall, it is indeed strange (even for a Tôme) and it took me a while to wrap my head around it, but it's quite pleasant. A- or B+. Take your pick. I don't even know anymore.

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/4/17. Vintage: 2016.

I love digging into new Tômes. Always a pleasure. I don't have anything new in the immediate pipeline, but I'm always on the lookout for different releases.

Oude Mûre Tilquin à L'ancienne

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Tilquin was the beer that made a believer out of me. Ever since that first fateful Tilquin Gueuze, my regard for lambic (and sours in general) has only increased. At the time, you could reliably find bottles of Tilquin out and about, but these days, they seem to have gone the way of Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen. You can still find them on occasion, but they don't normally sit on shelves for very long. Not bad for a Gueuzerie that only opened their doors in 2011.

Since the beginning, they had a fruited variant made with plums, but that offering didn't make its way to the US until a larger batch was produced in 2013, whereupon beer dorks like myself declared it a success. (Funny, at the time, I marveled that this stuff was still available on shelves...)

Now we have a second fruited variant, this time using German "Lock Ness" (aka Rubus fruticosus) blackberries (aka Mûre in French) and blending with small amounts of 2 and 3 year old lambic. I always knew I wanted Mûre Tilquin:

Oude Mûre Tilquin à L'ancienne

Oude Mûre Tilquin à L'ancienne - Pours an orange crimson color with half a finger of white head (maybe some pink tonez). Smells very funky, earthy, a little unidentifiable but tart fruit. Taste starts off sweet, hits some earthy funk notes in the middle, then moves into jammy tart fruit territory (not obviously blackberries, but something clearly there) with a sour kick. As it warms, it feels a bit richer and the oak comes out a bit more. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, well carbonated, moderate acidity. Overall, this is great, complex, jammy, stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a charente glass on 1/27/17. Best by: 05/01/2026.

Excellent stuff, as you would expect. Up next on the Tilquin front is a Pinot Noir variant that should be making its way to the US in 2017. Fingers crossed that Kaedrin's beer acquisition team stays on top of it.

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

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