18 November 2010

From high in the Belgian mountains

I'm so far behind on my American beer ticking it's just not funny. Not that there's anything funny about ticking, you understand: like serial killers we do it because we have to. It's a while since I've seen anything from Denver's Great Divide, but they're back on Irish shelves now with their Belgian style pale ale Belgica.

It's a style I have a lot of time for. You get the weight of a strong and sweet Belgian ale, a softness and gentle spice from the yeast and then some serious fun with the citric high-alpha hops. There are loads of examples from both Belgium and the US and they all emphasise different parts of the formula, so finding a new one is always interesting.

Alas, Belgica doesn't deliver where it counts. It's incredibly sweet, with a sticky, sickly aroma and a bitter sugary flavour. The C-hops have made it taste like orange barley sugar sweets. Cheap artificial ones. There's no proper malt backbone behind all this sweetness and fruit: a catastrophic oversight in a 7.2% ABV beer.

I should point out in its defence that the missus and I were tasting this alongside Flying Dog's Raging Bitch. I hoped it would be a fair comparison but it's really not. Raging Bitch remains the Belgianised American pale ale to beat.


  1. I've had this one a few times and have never thought of it as being sweet. I wonder if your bottle is older and more malt pronounced, or perhaps we have differing pallets.
    Brewing beer's with C type hops and belgian POF type yeast is a very fine line to walk. If it finish's dry than the yeast tends to clash with the hops, if it finish's medium bodied than the fruit notes from the yeast seem to work with the C hops, yet you run the risk of the beer seeming too full bodiedand sweet. It will be fun to see Pro brewers perfect this type of beer.
    The best Belgian/American type beer that I've had recently is Little Somethin Wild by Lagunitas. I would love to see your review of this beer if you can get it.

  2. I'll keep an eye out for it, Paul, though we don't get Lagunitas around here.

  3. I should be able to pick up a Little Sumpin Wild tomorrow...

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  5. A couple more Belgian/American beers worth to mention are Stone Cali-Belgique and Unibroue La Fin du Monde, although the latter will qualify as a Belgian/Canadian one :-)

  6. Fin du Monde is lovely; I reviewed it back here. While we're naming names, I think Houblon Choffe is an excellent example of the genre -- much better than most of the Belgian efforts.

  7. Yes, Houblon Chouffe is probably the best rendition of the now called "Belgian IPA" style, alongside with De Ranke XX Bitter and 3 Fourquets Lupulus (is this one a Tripel?? Who cares... :-)

    Lupulus is brewed by Pierre Gobron, an ex-Achouffe brewer so you might find some resemblances with Houblon.

  8. ciaran765:06 pm

    I thought it was a bit sweet for my liking also. When I first tasted it I immediately thought Belgian but then a hint of hops came through. Not the worst beer but not my style.

  9. Get some Raging Bitch to see how it should be done.