There's a story being told on the labels of these beers from Scheldebrouwerij but I'm damned if I know what it is. The leaf-clad cavemen look to be up to some sort of crazy scheme, in proper Belgian comicbook style. The brewery is situated in Hoogstraten in the far north of Belgium, hard by the Dutch border.
I started with the lightest of the set: Dulle Griet at a not insubstantial 6.5% ABV. A thick layer of sediment had settled in the bottom of the bottle and was shaken up with the release of pressure, giving me a glassful of reddish-brown lava lamp. The busy bubbles push out a heady aroma of cough mixture, hot chocolate and diesel, suggesting something much, much stronger. It proved to be easier drinking than I expected: light bodied and pleasantly sparkling rather than full-on fizzy. The flavour is every bit as mixed up as the aroma suggested, with black forest gateau and cinnamon tempered by a bitterer liquorice being the main act, while the ghosts of various sticky bottles at the back of the drinks cabinet float on and off stage. A wheaty cereal crispness adds a more restrained note, meanwhile. There's a certain alcohol heat, but it's not overdone. Surprisingly enjoyable, then.
Zeezuiper ("Sea Drunk"?) is a tripel and again there are worrying dark gobbets of dead yeast pouring into the glass along with the golden beer. 8% ABV and with an uncharacteristic dose of coriander it smells of honey and spice and tastes of bath salts. There's not a trace of all that alcohol, and the flavour is very cartoony: bright Jolly Rancher sweetness and floral perfume, shading towards old-lady lavender. The bath salts effect is completed by the gentle effervescence. It slips down very easy and while not delivering the honey-spice-heat effect of grown-up tripel, it's a very enjoyable beer.
Last of the set is 'n Toeback, 9.5% ABV and stylistically described, in both French and Flemish, as a "Quattro". Style trollin'. Colourwise it's not far off the foregoing, though a little more orange than gold, with the by-now customary yeast bits, of course. It's heavily textured, like trying to drink an orange barley travel sweet. There's lots of belly-filling warmth, the flavour all bitter pith, white sugar and... you know that tray of seeds of some Indian restaurants give you with the bill? That.
It's rare to find a Belgian beer that's as much fun to drink as the illustrations on the label, but I think Scheldebrouwerij may be one of those.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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