Belgian

St. Bernadus Christmas Ale

Beer: Christmas Ale
Brewery:
 Brouwerij St. Bernadus
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
ABV: 10.0%

bern

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Opaque, dark brown body with a seriously massive beige head that looks like meringue. There are huge bubbles trapped inside this dense head, and I swear, the head twinkles with sparkles.

Smell: It smells slightly ester and apple-y. There’s also an underlying metallic note.

Flavor: This is one malty Belgian. We have some of the usual Belgian flavors–raisins, molasses, figs–spiked with a melange of holiday spices

Feel: Medium, creamy body with awesome carbonation.

Concluding Remark: St. Bernadus offers a Christmas Ale that is malty, sweet, and just a little bit spicy. This is one of those beers that stick to your ribs, and to your lips. St. Bernadus takes their near perfect Quadrupel, and adds some some additional ingredients (mint?). As the beer sits, more and more different delectable dessert flavors come forth. All in one sip, I get some sticky toffee pudding, stewed fruits, tres leches cake, banana bread, licorice candy, and molasses cookies. While it is the holiday season, and sharing is an appropriate gesture this time of year, I recommend sneaking off with this for 20 minutes mid-holiday party. Even for the most un-spirited, you’ll come back with a little pep/drunken stupor in your step.

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Categories: Belgian, Holiday | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Brasserie Dubuisson Scaldis Noel

Beer: Scaldis Noel
Brewery:
 Brasserie Dubuisson
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 12.0%

scaldis

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Deep amber body with a garnet tinge and a frothy, bubbly beige head that leaves an intricate lacing on the glass.

Smell: This beer smells like the deliriously overwhelming comfort one feels when walking into a bakery filled with freshly baked cakes, breads, pastries…yeah. The prominent aromas are caramelized sugar, heavy cream, and caramel.

Flavor: Like the smell, it tastes like biting into a fresh pastry oozing with some sort of sweet pudding goodness. The lingering flavor is brown sugar. There isn’t any of that overripe, raisin fruitiness that is typical of Belgian Strong Ales.

Feel: Medium, buttery body with awesome carbonation. There’s nearly no heat from the alcohol.

Concluding Remark: Brought to us from Brasserie Dubuisson of Belgium, Scaldis Noel is hands down the best holiday ale I have had the pleasure of consuming while listening to Gene Autry Christmas songs. It doesn’t employ any of those insta-holiday ale shortcuts that nearly all other seasonal beers do, such as adding a pine flavor with juniper berries or a mulled wine taste with cloves and allspice. Instead, Scaldis Noel is a sublimely balanced beer that tastes like dessert without that annoying cloyingly sweetness that plagues many supremely alcoholic brews. In the spirit of the season, I shared this with my household and all parties agree that this beer is so insanely delicious that we would all rate it a “5” even if it was only 5% ABV. The fact that it’s nearly triple that makes this one of the best beers of the year and/or EVER.

Categories: Belgian, Holiday | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Fegley’s Rude Elf’s Reserve

Beer: Rude Elf’s Reserve
Brewery:
 Allentown Brew Works
Style: Spiced Ale
ABV: 10.5%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

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Sight: Clear, bright amber body with a wee head that vanishes right quick.

Smell: It initially smells like WHOA THIS IS COUGH SYRUP and maraschino cherries. Then come those holidays spices…espeically prominent are cloves, allspice, and cinnamon.

Flavor: If this isn’t the sweetness beer I’ve ever tried….There are a ton of flavors tangled up in this beer, including but not limited to sweet maraschino cherry, raisin, plum, and loads of white sugar. There is also a typical “Belgian-y” flavor (bananas/cloves) from the Candi sugar and Belgian yeasts.

Feel: Thin, syrupy body with medium carbonation. There’s a noticeable heat from the insane ABV.

Concluding Remark: I’ll be honest, I opened up Fegley’s Rude Elf Reserve not to channel some holiday spirit, but to function as a night cap. At 10.5%, I had little doubt that after a long day of work, this Rude Elf would knock me unconscious. And it did! Thanks, Elf. As far as holiday cheer goes, the spices are somewhat subdued. Instead, Rude Elf tastes like an average Belgian Ale, with an extra serving or two of sugar that renders the beer cloyingly sweet.  If this was any less alcoholic, I would have given it a lower rating because it’s a slightly below average Belgian and a slightly underwhelming holiday beer. But, that’s not the reality in which this beer exists. It’s 10.5%, and that has to count for something or this isn’t The Year in Beer.

Categories: Belgian, Holiday, Spiced Ale | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Brasserie d’Achouffe N’ice Chouffe

Beer: N’Ice Chouffe
Brewery: Brasserie d’Achouffe
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 10.0%

chouffe2

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

beeruse-copy

Sight: Pitch brown body with a ruby tinge. It has a huge white head with high retention.

Smell: Admittedly unhelpful, it has a robust “beer” smell, like that of a Pilsner. It also smells like “sparkling,” as in sparkling apple cider without the apple cider-ness. There’s also a bit of orange peel and grape juice.

Flavor: Surprisingly prevalent coppery, metallic taste. Other than that, it’s a pretty mellow beer, defined by sweet malt and fruit flavors, a mild herbal hop flavor, and some caramel and brown sugar notes.

Feel: Thin, oily body with medium carbonation.

Concluding Remark: I don’t think I’ve ever described a beer this way before, but  N’Ice Chouffe is quite a quiet beer. The myriad flavors in this winter Chouffe are subtle. The special ingredients are thyme and curaçao peel, which are detectable but not overpowering.  While it doesn’t reek of holiday (i.e., spices and spruces), perhaps this is what a Belgian Christmas tastes like?  As it’s name implies, N’Ice Chouffe is a nice beer. I have nothing negative to say about its existence. That being said, it is pretty unmemorable. I wouldn’t call it a quintessential holiday ale, but I would be more than happy to drink it on someone else’s dime (@ $12/bottle).

funny elf

This is a Keebler Elf-approved beer.

Categories: Belgian, Holiday | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Tröegs Mad Elf

Beer: Mad Elf
Brewery: Tröegs Brewing Company
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 11.0%

madelf

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

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Sight: Clear dark ruby body with no head. Little bubbles gather at the edge of the glass, though.

Smell: It smells like a Belgian Tripel: bananas, bandaids, cloves. With immense loads of honey and brown sugar.

Flavor: As I remember, Mad Elf is a syrupy punch in the mouth. It tastes like a combination between a Belgian Tripel and a Weizenbock–the latter evoked due to a similar fruity/estery flavor resulting from this guy’s insanely high ABV (11%). Prominent flavors are bananas, cherries, raisins, and brown sugar. It kind of tastes like a cherry danish, if I had to make a food comparison.

Feel: Thin but supremely carbonated–a godsend given the nature of this beer. It feels like vodka going down the back of my throat.

Concluding Remark: What can I say about Mad Elf other than this beer is exactly what a Mad Elf would drink…and then he would immediately overdose. It has one of the highest ABVs of the holiday season, making it a staple in many holiday shopping lists. The Mad Elf is a Strong Belgian Dark Ale. The Belgian character (i.e., the banana and clove flavors) is achieved from the use of a Belgian yeast. Tröegs puts on a twist on a European classic by adding Pennsylvania Honey West Coast cherries–a whole lot of them. The result is a sweet, fruity dark ale. Is it the most perfect beer of all time? No. But it’s surprisingly easy to drink given the high ABV and is guaranteed to give you some sort of spirit–holiday or not. As you keep drinking you become more and more infected but the Mad Elf Syndrome and you begin to care little about the nuances of beer…………………………..

As Troegs says, this beer will “warm your heart [literally] and enlighten your tongue.” It will also warm your brain and blood. The bottom line is is that if you can handle a little bit of sweet in your life, this is a perfect holiday beer. If you can’t, you might want to go looking elsewhere, and actually, avoid holiday beers and celebrations altogether.

funny elf

This is a Keebler Elf-approved beer.

Categories: Belgian, Holiday | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Mc Chouffe Artisanal Belgian Brown Ale

mc_chouffe_round

Beer: Mc Chouffe
Brewery: Brasserie d’Achouffe
Style: Brown Ale
ABV: 8.0%

chouffe

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Cloudy, dark garnet body with a thick, fluffy white head.

Smell: Oh, how I welcome the return of the Belgian Ale. It smells like sweet and tangy phenols (Belgian yeast) with a light malt aroma. There are also notes of apple and metal.

Flavor: Whoa. Just whoa. This literally tastes like walking into a candy store. It reminds me of Sour Patch Kids, that really syrupy sweet fake watermelon flavor, Skittles, and an ice cream sundae with caramel sauce. And a milk chocolate bar with cayenne pepper. Time for lunch…

Feel: Thin with full, effervescent carbonation. I know that’s a weird way of describing carbonation, but it feels like drinking an alcoholic cloud. Don’t believe me? You’ll just have to try it.

Concluding Remark: I’ll start with the caveat that Brasserie D’Achouffe’s Artisinal Brown Ale is a complete singularity. It doesn’t fall into any of the categories of Brown Ale we’ve explored, or even mentioned. I know we referenced that Belgian Brown Ales exist, but we were talking about the traditional Flemish Ould Bruins–a funky, almost sour ale. This? This is a unique hybrid of the Belgian Strong Ale and…a Scotch Ale.

The McChouffe is not a product of a collaboration with McDonald’s–no, it is what the brewers at D’Achouffe call a beer “inspired by the tale of a Scottish Chouffe who along with his Belgian friend created an eccentric “new style” Scottish Ale/Abbey Ale.” While we have not covered Scotch Ales (yet!), I will say that they are known for their caramel and malty flavors (to make a vast overgeneralization). One thing Belgian Ales are NOT known for are caramel flavors, and depending on the style, a heavy malt note. So when examining the two styles that went into the McChouffe, this is quite an accurate result of what a Scotch Ale and Abbey Ale would taste like. Kudos, McChouffe! However, this is NOT a Brown Ale–only by name.

While certainly a bewildering concoction, it’s not a perfect brew. The flavors are really all over the place and it just leaves me with a generic, dare I say boring, sweet flavor. In order to be a successful Scotch-Benelux hybrid, McChouffe should search for some roasted malts. While a valiant effort, I guess this little Chouffe just got too tired on his trek across the ocean to Scotland to create a magical beer.

Categories: Belgian, Brown Ale | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Samuel Adams Thirteenth Hour

Beer:  Thirteenth Hour
Brewery: Samuel Adams
Style: Belgian-Style Stout
ABV: 9.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Primary Consumer: Ally

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Dark cola color.  1/2-inch tan head that quickly recedes to nothing.  Tiny carbonation bubbles that linger around the edges of the glass.

Scent: Very mild aroma.  Sour fruit notes, with perhaps some chocolate and oak in there.

Flavor:  Spice, particularly pepper, and chocolate.  The sourness and oak also come through, as well as a distinct alcohol taste.

Feel:  Medium, crisp mouthfeel.  Moderate-to-high carbonation.

The Thirteenth Hour Belgian-Style Stout is part of Samuel Adams’s special “Barrel Room Collection” and is blended with Sam’s Kosmic Mother Funk, an ale that’s been aged in oak for up to a year.  This, in combination with malts, chocolate, and coffee flavorings, makes for an interesting brew.  There is an emphasis on the spice in the flavor profile, as well as a sourness from the Kosmic Mother Funk, and the crispness of the mouthfeel is strong, perhaps overwhelmingly so.  But, as the beer rests, it mellows and lends itself to a unique but balanced drinking experience.

Concluding remarks: Not a bad offering from a brewery that’s known for just cooking up the standards.  Worth a try if you’re a Belgian fan.

Categories: Belgian, Stout | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Allagash Black

Beer:  Allagash Black
Brewery: Allagash Brewing Company
Style: Belgian-style Stout
ABV: 7.5%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pint glass
Primary Consumer: Ally
Consumption Companion: a friend who wishes to go simply by the moniker Mr. X

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Just a bit deeper than a glass of root beer…not wholly opaque…really, just not as black as one would expect the Allagash Black to be.  Lots of soda-y carbonation bubbles, and a thick, creamy, mocha head that recedes pretty quickly.  (As Mr. X remarked, it’s a show-er, not a grow-er.)

Scent: Malts and molasses, with hints of chocolate and vanilla.  It also strangely reminded me more of what a lager would smell like.  (More strangely, Mr. X remarked that it smells “like a brick street.”  I have no idea what that means.)

Flavor:  In general, like bad espresso or strong coffee + seltzer.  Notes of mild bitter baking chocolate at first, with a general bitter endnote.  Reminiscent of cream soda, minus the pleasant creaminess.

Feel:  Medium-to-high carbonation.  On the thin side, with a crisp, dry finish.

Upon drinking this Allagash offering, both Mr. X and I questioned, what’s so Belgian about the Allagash Black Belgian-Style Stout?  Yes, it’s brewed using dark caramelized candi sugar (candi sugar being a staple of Belgian beers), but the flavor reminded me of some of the lower quality Porters sampled back in January–the key defining feature being the flavor of seltzer.  This soda-y carbonation overpowers any real enjoyment of the beer’s flavors; and unfortunately, as it rested, the only real flavor that came through was the bitterness.

Allagash does suggest that the beer reaches its ideal form after one year, but unfortunately, we couldn’t wait that long, and our lack of patience was clearly not rewarded.

Concluding remarks: Disappointing.  I swear I’m not a racist…but I’ll stick with the Allagash White.

Categories: Belgian, Stout | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Full Sail Sanctuary Dubbel

Beer:  Sanctuary Dubbel
Brewery: Full Sail Brewing Company
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 7.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s kitchen
Primary Consumer(s): Ally & Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Opaque, deep red-tinged amber.  1/4-inch off-white head that dissolves quickly.

Scent: Really, it had no discernible scent.  Perhaps a very faint malt, but we’re grasping for anything here.

Flavor: Like a generic amber ale, with notes of wet wood chips, tart citrus (like grapefruit, or the zest of an orange), and some caramel.

Feel: On the thin side.  Low carbonation.

Concluding remarks: Oregon’s Full Sail introduced their Sanctuary Abbey-style Dubbel as part of the Brewmaster Reserve line, their rotating selection of creative brews meant to showcase the brewer’s art.  But, alas, this is a hackneyed imitation of the Real Thing. It wasn’t bad, per se, but we’ll fork over the extra dollar for authenticity.

(Granted, this was the third Belgian tried in a row on a very happy beer-filled night, so perhaps our tastebuds were a tad bit overloaded by then.  However, alcohol is supposed to taste better as the night goes on, yes?  That’s why everyone at that wedding was so shocked when Jesus served the good wine last?  Because everyone was already drunk and didn’t care?  Ally’s Catholic school education proves that this Full Sail Dubbel shouldn’t have tasted as dull as it did.)

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Gordon Biersch This Monk’s Gone to Heaven

Beer:  This Monk’s Gone to Heaven
Brewery: Gordon Biersch
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 6.2%


Serving Style: Draft (Cask)
Glassware: Snifter
Drinking Establishment: Churchkey, DC
Primary Consumer: Kerensa
Consumption Companions: A DC resident

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Dark honey colored body with a very bright white head that disappears into nothingness instantly.

Scent: For a Dubbel, it’s oddly phenolic. Also, it smells like overripe red delicious apples and aging pears.

Flavor: Wait, is this a Tripel? I’m confused. This has the iconic banana clove taste that is ubiquitous in Tripels. But as I drink it, I do detect a little hazelnut in there, too.

Feel: Like all cask ales, this is flat and creamy.

Concluding remarks: This has the color of a Dubbel, but the taste of a Tripel. However, it’s local (Gordon Biersch is based in DC), served cask-style, AND REFERENCES A PIXIES ALBUM… so props, but I wouldn’t have it again.

Categories: Belgian | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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