16 October 2011

Festival ethics

Cheeky Belgians! Struise were the only one of the twelve breweries at Borefts to be asking for more than one token for some beers. Though the range was prodigious -- far more than advertised in the programme -- our party was generally a bit circumspect about the whole thing and only took a few punts on Struise offerings. One was Tsjeeses Reserva, an oak-aged tripel. Not a whole lot of oak in evidence in this 10% ABV dark orange number, and the tripel elements are quite toned down too: sweaty apricots, a touch of honey. Worst of all, a big thick layer of foam. For two tokens you could at least have taken it to the top.

Black Damnation VII was also on the roster. Not a super-strong imperial stout like the others in the series, but a mild: some light chocolate notes and a bit of a nasty oxidised off-flavour: the sort of thing that's hard to hide in a 2% ABV beer. Yes, this one was just one token. KB Max was rather better: a light (though 8% ABV) and tasty blonde ale, and again just the one token, I think.

And then we move on to the silly name department. First up: Shark Pants. If that doesn't immediately interest you, its billing as a 288 IBU imperial IPA is probably supposed to. Lots of hop haze in here and not much by way of fizz. Actually, not much by way of bitterness either, just some pleasant citrus balanced by light tannins. Yet another beer that shows IBUs aren't a measure of anything meaningful.

Finally, stupidest name award goes to Struise's Supreme Hoppy Intensive Taste. That's right folks: it's SHIT. Haha! No seriously, that'll be two tokens please. Not in the programme so I've no idea what it's supposed to be or what it's made from, but it's quite sour and bretty, with some disinfectant phenols and the dark sugars of cheap cola. Of hops there's just a brushing and some interesting spiciness, but overall nothing to get excited about.

For the extra tokens these should have been the best beers in the world. But they weren't. We rinse our glasses and move on.

Dutch brewery Sint Christoffel had an unobtrusive stand in the back room of the windmill. Some interesting recipes, including a Wet-Hopped Wijs. Dry-hopped with wet hops, in fact. Suitably pale orange for a witbier, the hops do get a bit lost under the wheaty, worty malt, just arriving at the very end to add a mild grassiness. Perhaps I would have had better luck with the dry-dry-hopped version, but I didn't get round to it.

Winterse Christoffel Bok was a fantastic example of the Dutch bock style: dark red-brown and giving off heady alcohol vapours with a flavour profile full of bourbon biscuits and raisins. Thick and beautifully warming. There was also a touch of the bock about XXV, Christoffel's barley wine: loads of caramel and toffee plus a tiny hint of saccharine. But also bucketloads of spicy herbal hops. Cracking stuff.

If you've been keeping count you'll have noticed that's eleven breweries, so just one left. In the corner beside Närke was Loverbeer, a Piedmontese operation specialising in big, sour ales. D'Uvabeer was the first I went for, a grape lambic. It's actually not all that sour, and the sweet and juicy Freisa grape shines through beautifully, enhanced by a whiff of summery perfume.While D'Uvabeer is all red grape, Madamin, though grape-free, reminds me more of the white: bright amber, mildly tart but quite dry and fruity too. Perfect summer beers, both.

BeerBera is brewed with classic Piedmontese Barbera grapes and tastes to me quite like a kriek, having a pronounced sour cherry flavour but also some lovely earthy brett notes. Meanwhile BeerBrugna claims "high acidity" but, while tart, is wonderfully smooth and very drinkable. Plums are the added ingredient here. And of course you have to bring an imperial stout to the party, and LoverBeer brought Papessa, a beer which blends lovely toasted dark grain flavours with sweet dark fruits: dates in particular. Just a sour edge reminds you of the house signature style.

And that's the end of the festival. If you fancy the idea of sipping teeny glasses of powerhouse beers from some of Europe's élite craft breweries in convivial surroundings, then Borefts is where it's at.