Posts Tagged With: Abbey

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.

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Categories: Belgian, Brown Ale | Tags: , , , , | 1 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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St. Bernardus Abt 12

Beer:  St. Bernardus Abt 12 Abbey Ale
Brewery: Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
Style: Quadrupel
ABV: 10.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s kitchen
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Dark garnet, near black body with a beige one-inch head that quickly wanes to a near nonexistent head that leaves a trace of lacing on the edge.

Scent: Rich roasted malts and overtones of tart cherries and plums.

Flavor: I know heaven isn’t technically a flavor. But. Wow. The flavor profile is that of heaven. The complexity is balanced with heaven. The first note is heaven, and the back is heaven. Heaven! (Okay, fine–molasses, caramel, raisins, and plums….from heaven.)

Feel: Medium, smooth mouthfeel with lively carbonation. And heaven.

The booze note in this is shockingly nonexistent for 10.0% (translation: drinking one of these beers is the equivalent of drinking 3 Amstel Lights or 2 Boston Lagers). I can’t explain it, but this is my perfect beer. Well, I’ll try to explain it. It tastes like all of the good beers I have ever had in my life in one beer. Not in the card game Kings kind of way (i.e. pouring a little bit of everyone’s drink into one glass, ahem, plastic cup, and making one unfortunate soul drink the warm elixir at the end of the game). Like, in the, this is the perfectly crafted beer kind of way…in the I never thought I could find everything I am looking for in one beer kind of way. With an ABV tag of 10%. I know I need to thank this guy:

Bernie.

Concluding remarks: St. Bernardus has been brewing perfection since 1946. They describe the Abt 12 as “the absolute top quality in the hierarchy of the St. Bernardus beers…the showpiece of the brewery.” I have no idea what malts St. Bernardus uses, but I want to swim in a pond, nay, ocean of them. For eternity. I could go on about the nuances, but I have to reiterate, this is one of the best beers I have had in my life. PLEASE TAKE MY WORD FOR IT AND GO GET ONE RIGHT NOW. OR TOMORROW. If you don’t put this in your Top 10, I will reimburse you for your purchase. Seriously, you can track me down and get your cash. OR you can track me down and give me the BIGGEST HIGH FIVE EVER because this will likely be one of the best beers you ever have. And, if not of all beers, then ABSOLUTELY the best Quadrupel on the face of this earth. Well, BeerAdvocate rates it number 3, after Westvletern 12 (which is nearly impossible to try outside of Belgium) and the Rochefort 10.

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

Affligem Dubbel

Beer:  Abbey Dubbel
Brewery: Affligem
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: Slighty cloudy; dark honey-amber color. 1-inch creamy tan head.

Scent: Typical Belgian sweet-citrus scent.  Slightly malty.

Flavor: Initially, a roasted maltiness, which leads to an almost seltzer-y taste (probably a result of the carbonation), ending with caramel notes.

Feel: Thin-to-medium mouthfeel.  Moderate-to-high carbonation.

An Abbey-style Dubbel straight outta Belgium, Affligem’s offering is unfortunately on the bland side.  It’s easy to drink, but in the same way that a Yuengling or a Sam Adams is easy to drink.  And like a Yuengling or a Sam, it’s on the cheaper side, at least as far as actually-made-in-Belgium Belgians go (~$7).  Of course, keep in mind that this is Belgium’s equivalent of a Yuengling–so although we’re giving it 2 1/2 Pint Glasses, it’s 2 1/2 for an actual Belgian; but compared with other beers in general, it’s not so bad, really.

Concluding remarks: A fine drink, but not too dynamic.  If you can, just pay the two extra dollars and go for a Chimay.

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Sly Fox Ichor (Quad)

Beer:  Ichor
Brewery: Sly Fox Brewing Company
Style: Quad
ABV: 10.0%

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

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Very dark amber, almost like a Porter, or root beer, or good quality maple syrup.  Perhaps even a tinge of purple?  Almost nonexistent head.

Scent: Like that of bread pudding–sweet, baked raisins and apple-cinnamon.  A note of wet wood, and a hint of hops/metallic aroma.

Flavor: Like Manischewitz–no, Mad Dog 20/20 Red Grape Wine.  Okay, so obviously it tastes like grapes.  Fermented grapes.  Dried grapes.  All kinds of grapes.  And figs!  And perhaps even a bit of licorice, but not in an off-putting way.  Yeah, there’s a lot going on in the flavor department.

Feel: Thin, watery body; super light carbonation.

This Abbey-style Quad from Pennsylvania brewers Sly Fox packs a punch of flavor.  It’s brewed with German Pils, roast malts, and Belgian candi sugar, and it’s hopped with German Tradition hops.  Despite this flavor bonanza, however, nothing really stood out for us to say about it; so it came down to the simple question of would we buy it again.  The answer?  No.  Was it awful?  No, it wasn’t; but based on our research thus far, the American Belgian-knock-offs have left us unimpressed, and Ichor unfortunately perpetuates our unimpressedness.  It did leave us feeling tipsy, though–that much we’ll say.

Something to note: Sly Fox does mention that Ichor will improve with careful aging, so if you’re willing to figure out what “careful aging” means, you might have a better-tasting beer on your hands.

Concluding remarks: Kerensa says it’s a 2 1/2 Pint Glass Beer; Ally says it’s a 3 1/2.  So, we’re calling it average and giving it a 3.

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

Belgian Ales: the 1, 2, 3s of the 2, 3, 4s

And so…onto the next month! And what better way to celebrate the month of February than with the sweet, sweet ales of the small but mighty country of Belgium?  (We’ll let the whole government-falling-apart thing slide because of their contributions to the beer world).  Surely we could write a dissertation on the history of all beer in Belgium (and surely it has been done by some genius and/or ambitious fool). But, instead of trying to tackle all of the outstanding libations Belgium has to offer, we are going to explore the 1, 2, 3s of the 2 (Dubbels), 3 (Tripels), 4s (Quads). And while we acknowledge that even this is a fool’s mission, we will do our best to paint a picture of the style, nuances, and best (and possibly worst) of these Belgian–and wannabe Belgian–ales.

But first! A brief explanation about the (non) separation of church and beer unique to Belgium. (And the Netherlands, in one instance.)

Some of the most popular and delicious Belgian beers are produced by Trappist monks (god bless their souls). The modern day Trappists (or Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance) are a Roman Catholic order of “cloistered contemplative monks” that was founded in the 1660s as a reaction to the relaxation of monastic practices. Trappist monks follow the Rules of St. Benedict, one of which states, “for then are they monks in truth, if they live by the work of their hands.” Thus, Trappist monks make a number of sellable goods, including cheese, coffins, and yes, BEER!

There are 174 Trappist monasteries in the world; seven of them brew beer (six of which are in Belgium!). Trappist ales are recognized to be some of the most delicious in the world. Thus, many other monasteries and secular breweries have imitated the various Trappist styles. The International Trappist Association was founded in 1997 in order to distinguish authentic Trappist beers from the poseurs–look out for their official “Authentic Trappist Product” insignia.

As the Trappists separated their beer production from other monasteries and breweries, the other monasteries wanted to separate themselves from their secular counterparts. Thus, the Union of Belgian Breweries introduced the “Certified Belgian Abbey Ale” label, qualifications for which are that the beer must either be produced in a monastery, or the brewery must donate some percent of proceeds to a monastery.  Who knew beer could be so holy and righteous?

(Credit: The Guardian.)

 

The History of the 2

The Dubbel was brought to us for mass consumption by the kind Belgian Trappist Monks of Westmalle Abbey in 1856, allegedly. While the Abbey had been brewing beer twenty years prior, it was just a weak ol’ witbier.  (Think Hoegarden, but better.) These Monks decided that this low-alcohol-by-volume brew was not getting them toasted fast enough (it’s cold in those old Medieval monasteries, from what we hear), and thus, they decided to brew a stronger version; and it became progressively stronger as the years went on–because, really, why not?

The popularity of the Dubbel was undeniable. It was so popular, in fact, that other monasteries copied the recipe in order for their monks to also enjoy the strong brew also. Even further, the secular community was intrigued: by the late 1800s, this style was being imitated by brewers all across the Western world. The style became increasingly popular after World War II, and was dubbed the “Dubbel” by a number of breweries, part as marketing strategy, part as a way to indicate its strength.

The History of the 3

The history of Tripel also has it roots at the Westmalle Abbey. (Someone was doing something right over there!) While the style has been around for quite some time–Westmalle had released a strong blonde ale in the 1930s–it wasn’t until 1956 that the Abbey named this strong pale ale the “Tripel.” And much like the history of the Dubbel, the style and name caught on: In 1987, Koningshoeven in the Netherlands (another Trappist brewery) released  La Trappe Tripel. The style has took the secular Western world by storm post-war, and an imitation style can be found at many non-Trappist, non-Belgian breweries.

The History of the 4

Remember Koningshoeven Brewery? They are the only Trappist abbey that brews beer outside of Belgium. And they also were the only abbey that had the balls to produce La Trappe Quadrupel, a much stronger Tripel, which appeared on the market in 1991.  So even though Netherlands lost in the last World Cup, they still have a pretty kick-ass claim to fame: being the originators of the Quad.

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What to expect from the sight, scent, flavor, and feel of a 2:

As mentioned, the name “Dubbel” is derived from the fact that these brews require twice the grain as a “regular” beer, thus making them a stronger beer. Beneath a large, dense, creamy off-white head you’ll find the Dubbel’s ruby-tinged dark amber coloration, which comes from the use of dark candi sugar rather than dark roasted malts. The candi sugar, which is a Belgian sugar commonly used in brewing because it boosts the alcohol content of the beer without adding extra body, provides the sweet aromas and flavors of raisins, chocolate, or caramel. Notes of earthy qualities, such as herbs, plums, bananas, apples, spices, and black pepper, can also be found in a Dubbel. Because a relatively low amount of hops is used, the Dubbel usually has a malty sweetness, but tends to have a dry finish.  The best Dubbels are bottle-conditioned (which means the beer is unfiltered to allow for final conditioning to occur in the bottle), and this gives them a strong amount of carbonation to complement their medium-to-full body. Although you might not know it from the taste, the alcohol by volume of the mighty Dubbel is on the higher side, typically ranging from 6% to 7.5%.  Like all three of the Belgians we’ll be exploring, the Dubbel is best served at around 45-55°F in a chalice, tulip, snifter, or goblet.

USE THIS!

What to expect from the sight, scent, flavor, and feel of a 3:

If a Dubbel derives its name from using twice the grain as a typical beer, we can presume (and be correct in our presumption) that the Tripel gets its name from requiring three times the amount of grain.  The Tripel is deep yellow to golden in color–a shade or two darker than your average Pilsner–with a dense, creamy white head that usually leaves lacing on the glass. The aroma can be spicy, floral, and fruity (like an orange, or a banana), and the flavor can be lightly sweet and lightly malty, with a low-to-moderate hop bitterness that comes through mostly as a spicy or herbal quality–so all in all, pretty darn complex. Despite having an alcohol by volume of 7% to 10%, a good Tripel should not taste like one glass of it is going to get you tipsy, even though it probably will.  Despite its get-you-drunk quality, however, the Tripel should be medium-to-light-bodied, which is achieved at the brewery by adding that lovely Belgian candi sugar to the brew kettle.

What to expect from the sight, scent, flavor, and feel of a 4:

The Quadrupel, which we can correctly assume is stronger and bolder than the Dubbel and Tripel, is typically a dark brown-garnet red brew with a thick, fluffy, tan-colored head that you’d want to curl up in on a cold winter’s night.  The aroma is that of lightly roasted malts and fruitiness, with a tinge of caramel.  Again, candi sugar is added to increase the alcohol content, and as a result, the Quad is a medium- to full-bodied brew.  Its complex flavor is that of rich malty sweetness and dried fruits (like raisins and plums), with the occasional slight spiciness; no hoppy bitterness here.  Typically, traditional Trappist versions of the Quad are on the drier side, while Abbey styles tend to be sweeter.  Either way, the all-powered Quad is going to run you into the 8% to 11% alcohol-by-volume range.

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And with that…time for a four-week trip to Belgium via our beer-traveling machine.

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

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