"if I made a beer of the quality of the blonde," wrote one homebrewer "I would not feel guilty in the least pouring it down the sink". He was talking about Artisan Brasseur Blonde, currently gracing the shelves of Aldi. It's from the makers of the Ch'ti range which, again, didn't fill me with confidence. Expecting something pale and wheaty I was surprised by how dark it was: very much strawberry blonde, i.e. orange. There's quite a good body to it: heavy but not sticky; carbonated but not gassy. There's not a whole lot by way of flavour: it's mostly quite dry, but not the ghastly ashen dryness so common among French wheat beers. There's just a hint of the fruitiness of a Flemish golden ale too. I'm thinking of it as a toned-down Duvel, or possibly an unsticky Leffe Blonde. Either way it's pretty inoffensive and, served cold in the garden, I'm rather enjoying it.
Two years ago I visited north-east France and did some extensive sampling of the beers on offer. I was particularly impressed by many of the amber beers brewed there, so while I wasn't expecting amazing things from Artisan Brasseur Ambrée, I had hoped it would at least be better than the blonde. Sadly no. There's a solid body all right, but basically no aroma. Light caramel notes hang around in the flavour, but really not much else. There's even a hint of wheaty dryness which has absolutely no place in a beer like this. Bizarrely, this has even less going for it than its paler brother.
It's not all bad news, however. Another homebrewer I know will be getting two handy 65cl swingtops.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
1 week ago