25 December 2014

Christmas with the Belgians

Merry Christmas! I hope Santa brought you everything you wanted. Or at least what you deserved. Some seasonal beers from Belgium today.

First up is Hibernatus, from the makers of Lupulus. No style is offered other than Bière d'Hiver, and at 9% ABV and an opaque black, I'll accept that. There's lots of burnt toast, tart damsons and sticky treacle in the flavour, not the heavy comforting sweetness I had been expecting. It does have a warmth, but it's a bitter sort, not really warming as such. If you want your winter beer to be all spiced and cosy this isn't the one for you. But if you like a bit more edge to proceedings, a spikier sort of Christmas, then Hibernatus is the way to go. I imagine Brouwerij van Klomp makes something similar each year.

And because I don't believe that seasonal beers should be limited to specific seasons, Boskeun, an Easter beer by De Dolle. It took a few goes at pouring: not a gusher but it was very keen to build big pillows of foam over the hazy golden body. There's no mistaking the 10% ABV from its hot honey flavour, given extra welly by a peppery piquancy from the yeast. I get burst of cloves and candy canes as well, so very little would stop them from dressing the bunny on the label as Santa Claus and calling it a Christmas beer. Anyway, Happy Easter!

Sticking with the same brewery, their Oerbier Special Reserva 2010 is one I've been saving for a special occasion. This'll do. It's a murky brown-ish red ale, claiming 13% ABV on the label and quite possibly a bit more after several years of hanging around in my attic. There's a punchy woody Rodenbach-esque sourness from the aroma, with added autolytic umami notes beneath it and a ghost of what used to be sweet summer fruit. It's not quite as complex to taste: sour at the front and then fading away on dark liquorice, roasted grain and a distinct Burgundy vinousness. The light texture is the best bit, keeping this as refreshing as a kir royale. Special indeed.

Something big, dark and strong to finish: Malheur's Novice Black Tripel, though it is the weakest of the set at a mere 8.5% ABV. Held up to the light it's a translucent brown rather than black, though the off-white head could have been transplanted from a daycent pint of stout. And it pulls the very clever trick of the best black IPAs of tasting exactly like the purported style. In this case there's all the heady ecclesiastical spice and smooth honey and candy of quality golden tripel, with maybe just a dash of liquorice or tar as a nod to the colour. Amazingly, despite appearances, it's incredibly clean, each flavour vibrant and distinct. The end result is very drinkable; perhaps even a little too casual for a special winter occasion.

Nevertheless, trooper that I am I'll be keeping the Belgian theme going later with a bottle of Chimay Bleu as usual with my turkey, a 2011 vintage this year. Have a good one and see you next week for, amongst other things, my 2014 Golden Pints. That's when we really find out who's been naughty and nice all year.

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