04 August 2008

Hanging with Bernard

The weather hasn't improved much since my last round of St Bernardus beers back in June. Not that that stopped me trying out the lighter and paler beers in the range.

St Bernardus Wit first, with its strikingly non-retro foil label. It's quite pale and yellowish, and shares the same kind of firm heavy head as the Prior 8. The texture is very prickly, generally a positive addition to the classic witbier spice. But of that spice there was very little sign. The whole taste experience was really rather watery to begin with. I'd been storing the bottle on its side in the fridge so had let it stand a while before opening, to allow the considerable sediment drop down to the bottom. Really I shouldn't have bothered: as soon as the lees went in the flavour opened up and all the great things about Belgian witbier came out. The coriander and orange peel were easily spotted and there's even a good bit of hop character to it. The result is an aftertaste of spice and honey following an up-front tart and sherbet-like citrus kick. The fingerprints of Pierre Celis, godfather of witbier, are all over this. Yet for all the complexity and rather high 5.5% ABV, it's still a very quaffable beer and didn't last long in my glass.

The monastic hierarchy series of ales bottoms out with Pater 6, pouring light brown with lots of floaty bits and that familiar cream topping. The nose is brimful of raisins, though the taste is light on fruit, with just a hint of it, dominated by a sharp and yeasty bitterness. My overall impression was of an easy-going, relatively lightweight, but very Belgian dark ale: your every-day sort of abbey beer.

Last of the bunch is the Tripel. From the bottle it's a beautiful shade of orange with a promising suggestion of spices on the nose. A bit like the Wit, I was underwhelmed with my first sip and was about to dimiss it as flavourless when the toffee arrived: big slabs of it. What I'm normally after in a tripel is summer fruits and exotic spices, but there are only traces of these in here. The end result is quite low-key, but pleasant enough. No match for any of the trappists in the tripel stakes, however.

(The complex historical relationship between the St Bernardus brewery at Watou and the nearby brewing monks of St Sixtus in Westvleteren is explained rather well by Stan Hieronymous here.)

Next on the agenda for me is the Great British Beer Festival in London tomorrow. I'm on the red-eye to Heathrow in the morning and -- what with all those wonderful-sounding strong beers to try before 5pm -- the even-redder-eye home again.


  1. St Bernardus Wit is my favourite Belgian Wit by far. An absolute best of class.

  2. Nice post!

    The Great British Beer Festival should be quite a show. Is it true that it is considered the largest Pub in the world or something?

    Wish I could make it from the States - maybe one day!

  3. I'm a big fan of St Bernardus Wit as well. Lots more going on there than with a lot of the others.