15 March 2012

Winter's last farewell

... for a while, anyway. I'm returning to my stash of Belgian winter ales and digging out just two more before I put them away.

First up, Wintersnood by De Verhuisbrowerij. Fact fans will be pleased by the three columns of dense text on the label giving not merely prosaic stuff like hop varieties and IBUs, but also batch size and fermentation temperatures. Beer fans will be less pleased by the humongous amount of foam it produces on even the gentlest of pours.

Eventually I got the rest of the beer out. And quite a lot of yeast sediment: thick turbid gobs of it, floating on the surface and cascading down the inside of the glass, with the garnet beer forming a backdrop. The nose is vinous and bready, suggesting a warming power much greater than 6.4% ABV might suggest.

Flavourwise it's a bit of a mess. There's a smooth and roasty chocolatey warmer in there somewhere, but it's beset by jarring sourness and yeasty funk. It's like there are three really good beers here, blended inappropriately in the same glass and all jockeying for the drinker's attention. A waste. What's next?

This guy looks altogether more suave: dark KlevereTien is the James Bond of Belgian winter ales (you can put that on the label, Hobbybrouwerij Het Nest, but I want credit). "Black and Strong" it says: the latter can't be argued with at 10% ABV, though it's more a red-brown than properly black. The head subsides quickly leaving just a ring of foam around the edge of a dark mirror surface which sparkles faintly.

Nothing really jumps out to begin with, little more aroma than a vodka martini (no I'm not letting that analogy go) but on tasting it's very much in the strong dark Belgian ale tradition, with figs, plums and similar dark fruit: think Abt 12 or Rochefort 10. It distinguishes itself with a dry roast coffee finish which adds a crisp cleanness you don't normally get in this sort of Belgian ale. They've done well here.

And with the glass empty, spring is unequivocably upon us, bringing the first of the season's Irish beer festivals. Chances are you'll find me down at George's Dock where the St. Patrick's Craft Beer Festival runs until Monday. If you fancy doing your bit to reclaim our national day from a certain foreign multinational corporation, join me there.

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