19 July 2012


You don't see many beers in stoneware jars these days. Actual stoneware, that is, not the spraypaint effect that Huyghe use for Delirium Tremens and a couple of their others. These four from the Flemish Sterkens brewery were hiked back from Belgium by the missus and are the real deal: stamped earthenware, hygienically crown-capped with the swingtop left loose for resealing. If you're the abstemious type. Mine all got consumed in one sitting.

Bokrijks is a pretty straightforward Belgian blonde. There's a light haze in the glass but the flavour is clean, infused with some pleasant soft fruits: I got peaches in particular. The carbonation is on the low side, and all of its elements add up to a simple, drinkable Belgian blonde. It's 7.2% ABV so right in the middle between sticky Leffe and its many clones, and bigger, bitterer powerhouses like Duvel. It's a nice place to be.

Just a shade or two darker and a smidge stronger at 7.5% ABV we have St Sebastiaan Grand Cru. It's hazier too, and much closer to a bazillion other Belgian blonde ales. It doesn't go overboard with the yeasty spices and allows the grainy lagerish malt flavour to come through. I don't have much else to say about it: inoffensive, undistinctive, and possibly even a bit dull.

St. Sebastiaan Dark is a little better, a modest 6.9% ABV and conker-red with bags of fizz, but balanced by a heavy enough body to keep it drinkable. The nose is sweet and spicy, like mince pies. I was expecting lots of unctuous dark malt in the flavour, but the spices -- from the yeast, I assume -- win through and there's a touch of pepperiness plus some candied fruit. Smooth and satisfying, like the best strong dark ales.

Finally, another dark beer. This one is 6.5% ABV and carries the titterworthy name of Poorter. It's a porter, but on the paler end of the spectrum: more amber-brown than properly black. Like the Bokrijks it comes in a 75cl bottle and, like the Bokrijks it's not trying to show off with its flavour profile. Instead, it starts off with some gentle dark fruits in the aroma: I got figs and fat juicy raisins in particular. The first taste delivers a quick burst of sweet perfume but this fades quickly to Turkish delight before disappearing altogether, leaving behind some silky milk chocolate. I could have downed well more than 75cl in quite a short space of time: the resealable top was definitely not needed.

Nothing to get too excited by in this lot: the blondes are workmanlike; the darker ones subtly complex. Not a bad place to be considering some of the messes that pass for beer from small Belgian breweries.