I've had a bit of an on-again-off-again relationship with Belgian stout over the years. The much-loved Hercule was tough going for me, while Leroy ranks among the worst beers I've ever had the misfortune to have put in front of me. De La Senne's Stouterik is an excellent exception, but only achieves this by de-Belging itself, being light, simple and clean. So I wasn't sure which way the dice would fall when it came to De Dochter van de Korenaar's Charbon: at 7% ABV, smoked, and including vanilla, clean and simple were definitely not on the agenda.
It pours densely black with a rocky ivory head which dissipates quickly. The first thing that struck me is the intensely creamy texture, full and silky, with barely a prickle from the carbonation. Picking out the separate elements, the smoke is dry and a little burnt tasting. The vanilla is barely discernible, a mild wisp of it which could pass for the effect of understated barrel aging. The overall impression is of a well integrated, approachable extra stout with a spot-on roasty aroma and the appropriate level of vegetal bitterness. The smoky vanilla bells and whistles are near enough an irrelevance.
Not particularly Belgian, but in stout that may be a good thing.