Brugse Zot Dubbel (7.5%, 33 cl)

Ahh it’s been way too long since I have reviewed a Beer. Wow, it’s almost a year back! Sure Whisky takes up a large part of my life (when talking about booze that is), but I sure do enjoy other drinks as well. I really have to do more with Beers and Rum and I have to say other drinks are also in the pipeline. Lets get back to basics (for me) and review a Beer from the number one Beer country in the world: Belgium! This time we’ll have a look at Brugse Zot Dubbel. Brugge is a really beautiful town in Flanders, Belgium. Highly recommended if you haven’t visited yet. Get yourself a Vlaamse Stoverij (Beef stew) with any great brown Beer, and you’ll be king for the evening! Brugse zot (Jester from Brugge) is a Brown Beer brewed by Brouwery De Halve Maan.

Brugse Zot DubbelColor: Red brown, mahogany with a lot of Cappuccino foam.

Nose: Fresh air and hints of citrus. Quite a yeasty, yet clean smell carried by carbon dioxide. Creamy winey honey, but all the way through it keeps its acidic freshness. Candy Sugar and only a hint of mustiness or cold dishwater. No sign of anything burnt.

Taste: Quite a lot of bitterness at first. It tones down a bit for the (lighter) body but returns and stays behind on the tongue for the warming finish, which must come from Saaz hops. Brown sugar candy and muscovado sugar, but having said that it’s absolutely not a sweet Beer. Here also that typical hint of fruity acidity. Slightly burnt sugar and a hint of vegetal and dry licorice. The unexpected fruitiness comes even better to the fore when the Beer is drunk with big gulps and chewed.

This Beer is known for its usage of six different malts for a complex aroma, but tasting this Beer now (at the right temperature of 8 C) it doesn’t seem too complex. When reading the list of malts and the usage of hops this also tastes like a beer that has been designed to be like this. It works well. Its all right by itself but probably even better with a Flemish stew as mentioned above (also made with brown Beer).

Points: 78


Piraat (9%, 33 cl, overaged)

Cleaning out the closetCleaning out the closet, I found some (but not a lot) Beers well beyond their best before dates. Most can be, and should be aged like most Trappist and some Abbey beers. This Piraat (Pirate) is a heavy blonde beer with refermentation in the bottle, isn’t one of them though. Yesterday I poured two beers into the sink, clear examples that you shouldn’t age everything. Those two were Kasteel Blond 11 and Abdij van ‘t Park Blond.

Out of that old batch comes this Piraat, and with this one I’ll take the plunge. Please don’t compare it with a freshly brewed Piraat, because the extra ageing does a lot for taste and smell. Treat this review as an experiment after which you can decide if you want to age a Beer like this. By the way, best before date on this bottle is 12/02/2010! How did that happen?

Piraat is brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge, from Ertvelde Belgium, which also makes Augustijn and Gulden Draak, but also Bornem Dubbel, Celis White, Leute Bokbier and Sparta Pils.

PiraatColor: Orange gold with, not a lot of, off-white foam.

Nose: Very murky, canals in the rain. Dust and lots of esters. Burnt sugar and heated orange skins, and that’s all the fruit that can be had from this nose. Not extremely pleasant, but not bad as well. Lets try a sip.

Taste: Heavy in alcohol, and the first sip is needed to was the smell away. Good warming qualities, and nice depth. The murkiness of the nose, and that has probably a lot to do with the yeast depot, shows its head in the taste too. This beer starts well, refreshing, hints of sweet banana and heavy on the alcohol. Aged alcohol, although there is no such thing. The middle is deeper due to the murky yeast and the finish has candied yellow fruits, combined with a little bit of bitterness.

First of all, before tasting this beer I didn’t think I should score it. Usually Blonde Beers that are aged too long are usually destroyed or undrinkable. This one however seems to have survived due to sheer quality? Still it has a depth to it I can’t imagine is there from the start. I can only compare this to a fresh bottle when the opportunity presents itself. For the time being, this Piraat is still a nice Beer, and therefore I’ll give it a score (but don’t take this score too seriously), since I feel a freshly bought Piraat will perform differently.

Conclusion, would I advise you to age this Beer? Most definitely not. This Beer was never intended for ageing. It probably didn’t get better after ageing, nor is it a style of beer that should be aged to boot. But, the Beer didn’t fold, it’s still drinkable and nice, where fellow Beers had to be poured down the drain, and that’s an accomplishment.

Points: 80

Grimbergen Goud 8º (8%, 33 cl)

Grimbergen Goud 8º, together with Grimbergen Optimo Bruno are the specialities in the range of Grimbergen Beers. The other beers in the Grimbergen range are the usual suspects in Abbey Beers: Blond, Dubbel & Tripel. Recently I already reviewed Grimbergen Optimo Bruno, so I’m happy to review this Grimbergen Goud 8º to complete (already) the Grimbergen Specialties. Goud 8º is a strong Blonde Beer that has an additional fermentation in the bottle, also some aromatic hops are used.

Color: Orange Gold with light yellow to white foam.

Nose: Light and fresh. Yeast, as in white bread. The nose has a summery feel to it. Also some hops, but not a lot. Dust and unlit cigarette tobacco.

Taste: Well, this tastes like a Tripel really. Fresh with slightly warming alcohol. Nice and unpretentious. Hints of esters, dried apricots and orange skin. It’s a bit of a shame, this does not continue into the finish. The finish itself is a bit sour and light. This does have a small hint of cannabis on the taste though! Although the brand is owned by Heineken, the beer does not come from Amsterdam. It is unknown how the Cannabis got into the mix 😉

Not a lot to add about this Grimbergen really. It’s not bad at all. A nice beer to drink outside or by the waterside and see people go by and enjoy. Nice Belgian Beer.

Points: 82

Special Roman (5.5%, 25 cl)

Special Roman is made by Brouwerij Roman from Mater, Belgium. Mater is in the Oudenaarde municipality, a region where Flemish Brown Beer is made. Brouwerij Roman was founded in 1545 as a farm brewery and inn, and has an impressive portfolio of beers. Amongst others the Ename Abbey Beers are made here as well as Sloeber and the Adriaen Brouwer Beers. In the list of products Special Roman is absent, but the page about Special Roman does still exist. Maybe it’s discontinued?

Color: Dark Brown, coffee-colored foam.

Nose: Murky, dark but also fresh. Candied Sugar, putty and hints of acidity.

Taste: Candied Sugar and unexpectedly only lightly acidic. Maybe some acidity fell victim to the additional ageing? Likeable. Malty (roasted) and hints of burnt sugar. Definitively some hops are in the mix. Not a lot of yeast is noticeable. It seems light and the finish is short. Nice stuff nevertheless. Elegant and perfumy and half-sweet. The sweetness isn’t dominant at all.

This beer is less acidic than other Flemish Brown Beers due to the use of hops. It is a top fermenting beer, and this example was aged 10 months past it’s best before date, and it aged well. 8ºC is the advised drinking temperature.

Points: 83

Grottenbier Bruin (6.5%, 33 cl)

Pierre CelisThere are a few “rock-stars” amongst the Belgian brewers and one of them surely is Pierre Celis, who unfortunately is no longer with us (1925-2011). Pierre Celis was born and lived in Hoegaarden, famous for its white beer. As Pierre saw the his beloved white beer disappear in 1955, he decided in 1966, to remake the white beer under his own name. His uninsured brewery burned down in 1980, after which he reopened his brewery in Austin, Texas, USA.

GrottenbierAfter he sold his brewery to the Michigan Brewing Company, Pierre returned to Belgium to add a new notch on his stick. He developed a dark Belgian Beer to age in caves. Grottenbier roughly translates into Cave-Beer. Pierre favored caves for their constant temperature in which the beer could mature. At first the caves of Folx-les-Caves were used, but soon the Enterprise was transferred to the marl-caves of Kanne.

Since 2001 the beer is made by the St. Bernardus brewery (in Watou, Belgium). The beer is then cave-aged 42 meters under the ground, at a constant temperature of 11ºC. The bottles are regularly rotated, the same as Champagne.

Color: Orange-brown.

Nose: Fresh and acidic. Citrussy, yeast and hops. Caramel and some kind spice. But then dish water, with some added lavender. Quite strange if I may say so.

Taste: Vitamin C. Some lemon a pretty acidic. Little hints of burnt Sugar, that makes the beer quite bitter. Leafy. lacks balance. Not soapy on the palate, but it has soapy texture. Leaves quite a sour and stale impression. The warmer the beer gets, the more bitter it grows, and less entertaining it becomes.

It is something in between. It’s quite bitter and it has Lambic like acidity. I feel this beer doesn’t quite know what it is. It has the refreshing acidity, but also some burnt Sugar bitterness and hops. Don’t drink this too cold. 10ºC and up. It gives off more aromatics and shows more character. It ages well (I aged this for an additional 10 months), but this beer just isn’t for me. Still I do recognize this is a beer of quality.

Points: 75

St-Feuillien Blonde (7.5%, 33 cl)

This time a top-fermented Abbey beer made by Brasserie St-Feuillien (recently also called Brasserie Feuillien and/or Brasserie Roeulx). It’s history can be traced back to 1873 to the Friart Family, but the name, and the history behind it is much older. In the seventh century AD an Irish monk named Foillan (Faelan) passed through Le Roeulx to preach the gospel, but before he could do that he abused and finally beheaded by highwaymen. Right there where this happened, a chapel was built in his name (twelfth century AD). The chapel was eventually extended into an abbey, and as good Belgian monks do, they brew a great Beer on site…

Those of you who regularly read my Beer reviews know I like to age my Belgian Beers. Most Trappist and Abbey beers (top-fermented) usually get better with extra ageing, but not all. Some do get better, but become dirty, with sometimes a lot of unpleasant looking yeasty flakes floating in the Beer. This St-Feuillien Blonde was aged for an extra three years (quite unusual for a Blonde, even an Abbey one). Another thing that could affect the beer is the extremely hot day we’re having. (33° C), also quite unusual for this country.

Color: Brown Gold with very fine caramel colored fine cream.

Nose: Right out of the gate, unexpectedly fresh and citrussy. orange skin and brown candied sugar. After a while this beer turns. The fresh smelling start most definitely wears off and changes into a sweet-smelling kind of funkiness like cold dish water! Absolutely strange and interesting. I guess the turn comes from the yeast warming up, and there is quite a lot of yeast floating in my glass (sets slowly).

Taste: Again fresh and syrupy. Excellent balance between the sweet, the bitter and the freshness. It’s even less acidic than expected. Very nice, lovely stuff. Very late character building bitterness comes through, with a nice fresh green spiciness to it.

Optically not pleasing with all those flakes floating around, but especially the palate is great. Probably not for ageing, but when tasting this blindfolded, I guess the extra ageing did improve this beer (and it probably changed a lot over time). I will have to try a new bottle of this Beer soon, just for comparison of course!

Points: 83

Grimbergen Optimo Bruno (10%, 33 cl)

Erkend Belgisch Abdijbier logoGrimbergen is somewhat of a (commercial) giant amongst Belgian Abbey Beers. Only Leffe sells more beer. It already was big when Scottish & Newcastle were the owners but when that company was bought by Dutch Beer Giants Heineken, well… Next question, is Grimbergen any good? At this point I don’t know, but I picked this Optimo Bruno to find out. Optimo Bruno saw the light of day in 1988 as a beer specially made for easter. Grimbergen Beers are made by Alken-Maes from Waarloos, not to far from the abbey. The top fermented Beers are made L’Union in Jumet. (Top fermenting means that the yeast lies on top of the wort). Last but not least, the beer did not receive post fermentation in the bottle, so even extended ageing (2 years past its best before date) kept this beer “clean” and there is no deposit.

The order of the Premonstratensians (White Canons) was founded in 1120 by Saint Norbert. Saint Norbert also founded the Abbey of Grimbergen, and in that way the abbey is quite unique. In its history, the abbey was ruined four times! But every time the abbey was rebuilt, therefore the label of the beer has a Fenix on it and the credo: ‘Ardet Nec Consumitur’ (Burnt but not consumed).

Grimbergen Optimo BrunoColor: Brown, a little bit of cream-colored foam.

Nose: Fresh and acidic. Candied sugar. Yeasty and absolutely murky! Not the nicest smelling beer around. Funky stuff, but not off-putting.

Taste: Deep and brooding. Again yeasty and some acidity. Nice warming taste. Hints of toast and burned sugar in the aftertaste. Dried plums and dates. When Belgian beer is called Belgium’s answer to wine, they probably had this in mind, or should I say, in their mouth. Very distinct beer. Quite bitter finish and especially in the aftertaste. A bitterness like this just fits the speciality this beer is. Unique stuff. Nice balance between the toasted Sugar and the acidity.

Again a well aged beer, so I can’t tell you how a fresh one tastes yet. Definitely not your every day drinker and maybe not for everyone, but when you choose the moment perfectly, you’ll know this is special. Best tasted in big gulps (again).

Points: 84

Mc Chouffe (8%, 33 cl)

Brasserie D'AchouffeIn the early eighties Pierre Gobron and Chris Bauweraerts (Brothers in law, and thus Brothers in Beer) started brewing beers as a hobby, and founded Brasserie D’Achouffe near Houffalize in 1982. Houffalize is in the Ardennes, where lots of stories are about elves (They call the leprechaun an elf).

By now, I have to admit here to a fault in my character. It’s never to late to learn, and boy did I learn here! It’s this leprechaun and the immense availability of both beers made by Brasserie D’Achouffe that made me believe this was not much of a beer. Boy I was wrong! I haven’t tried the main beer by Achouffe yet, namely La Chouffe. But I did buy once a little bottle of its dark sister Mc Chouffe also called: ‘Scotch of the Ardennes’ by the brewery, and me being very fond of my Scottish Whiskies, who am I not to try this Belgian ‘Scotch’. By the way, I Aged the example of Mc Chouffe for 16 months past its best before date, and that is a bit longer than the makers recommend. They like to see their beers aged for 3 to 12 months.

Color: Brown. Not a lot of foam, but a lot of CO2

Nose: Fresh, citrussy, but also pretty murky, like a dirty sidewalk washed clean with the first rain after a long hot summer. Yeasty and sweaty with warming alcohol.

Taste: Wow, not as deep as the color suggests, but certainly what the doctor ordered! Quite full-bodied and very tasty. The carbonation ‘effect’ makes this half-heavy beer refreshing. Candied Sugar wine. Not bad, not bad at all.

I don’t know about the ‘Scotch’, but it reminds me more of an Belgian ‘Wine’. Take care not to pour the depot into your chalice. It’s better to consume that by itself. With this extended ageing I like to do, the depot left flakes floating in the beer, and that didn’t look very nice…(but tasted great).

Points: 84 (provisional, I might have aged my bottle for too long, as mentioned by the brewers, so I’ll try Mc Chouffe again in the near future, and will try it younger).

Tongerlo Prior Tripel (9%, 33 cl)

The Tongerlo beers are brewed by brewery Haacht, and they are doing so since 1990 (when they got the rights to this Abbey beer). I’m sad to report that a few years ago, brewery Haacht, in all its infinite wisdom, have decided to delete Tongerlo Tripel. That’s a sad thing since I really liked that one. To make up for it, they replaced it with another Tripel. It’s called Tongerlo Prior Tripel and the golden-yellow label is replaced by a brooding black one. Tongerlo Prior Tripel is made with Saaz hops and, compared with the old Tripel ,a new kind of yeast. They also upped the ABV from 8% to 9%. This beer is fermented (additionally in the bottle) and the brewery advises to pour the yeast depot in your glass for a bigger and bolder flavor, but it’s also possible to leave the depot in the bottle with a small amount of beer to be consumed separately. Advised drinking temperature is 7º C.

Even this new Tripel got the chance to age for 2,5 years after it’s best before date. You may think I’m mad, but with most Belgian beers it only adds to the character, don’t worry you, won’t get sick. Breweries are obliged to put a short-term on the label, but are starting to add the bottling date. Frank Boon decided to stretch the best before date far beyond the standard three years and easily puts best before dates twenty years into the future!

Tongerlo Prior TripelColor: Orange yellow with some flakes (due to ageing). Almost white foam.

Nose: Fresh and half-yeasty. Citrus acidity. Warm lemon curd. Linen and again some yeast. Pretty straightforward.

Taste: Estery and half bitter. Orange peel. The whole is quite warming. The whole taste seems a bit toned down, but when taken in a big gulp, it becomes quite chewy and gains a lot of character. An explosion of flavor so to speak. Nice, and not overly acidic. Lemon and oranges. Very fresh at first, but that fades into a heavy, syrupy sweetness. I would call this a winter warmer. Excellent stuff by the way.

I love tripels and this one (again) fits the bill. Compared to Westmalle Tripel this has less of the orange skins and definitely is less bitter. Candied sugar sweetness. I really don’t get the point why the Original tripel was replaced with this one. Although this one is also very nice, the original tripel was (very) different and could have easily kept its place under the stars. The original Tripel was quite fresh and appealing, this Prior is more warming en deeper. It’s like night and day, like summer and winter. They got the labels right too, summery yellow and deep as night black…

Points: 85

Rodenbach Grand Cru (6%, 33 cl)

More than a year ago I reviewed the “Original” Rodenbach and concluded I wouldn’t buy that one anymore since this Rodenbach Grand Cru is so much better. Obviously I had it before. Time to write a review about the “better” Rodenbach. And as I have said before, I like to age almost all of my Belgian beers, and this one is no exception (this time). This particular bottle was aged for another year and a half (past it’s best before date). Before my additional ageing, the beer was aged at the brewery for two years (in oak) and then mixed with young beer. 2/3 old beer with 1/3 young beer.

At this point I must give off a little warning. I was in a beer shop recently and overheard some clients talking about pouring the big bottle of Rodenbach Vintage down the toilet. The big bottle should even be better than this Grand Cru, but this is a Flemish Red Brown beer, it’s acidic, so probably not for everyone…

Color: Dark red with brown foam

Nose: Fresh, with a small hint of stale beer, acidic. Sour cherries. Deep brooding yeast (not a lot of it though). Spices. With time some raisins and plum, which adds another layer of depth to the beer. Beef jerky? wow!

Taste: Yeah! Acidic, but with extreme depth. Too much to comprehend all at once. This is so much better than the original Rodenbach! Cherries in alcohol (the alcohol taste is enhanced by the extra ageing). Black cherries, and even some other red fruits from the family of berries. Definitely a favorite of mine. Extremely refreshing. One bottle is not enough. Long finish, with a lemony finish.

This beer takes ageing very well, but also warnings are given off no to age for too long. I just don’t know how long too long is. Ageing add’s  a lot of complexity. Can’t wait to try a vintage Rodenbach! I’m pretty sure I won’t be pouring that one down the toilet!

Points: 88