09 May 2018

Taproom fashion

L'Ermitage Nano Brasserie opened in Brussels last autumn. It's in Anderlecht, just around the corner from the more-established Cantillon. And while the latter is a living fossil, preserving equipment and methods that have died out completely in the city, L'Ermitage is the height of modernity, a converted light industrial space with bright coloured murals and furniture made from hacked up packing crates. It could be in Brooklyn, Bermondsey or Barcelona -- the generic taproom chic.

Dr. John and I popped in on a Friday evening, raising the average age of the clientele considerably by doing so. In the interests of sampling efficiency I ordered a flight. That began with Soleil Session, a white IPA. It started well, with a bright fresh pineapple aroma, but went rapidly downhill on tasting, coming out dreggy and unfinished-tasting. Behind the yeast there's a strong -- harsh even -- hop bitterness that's shocking at first but you get used to it. When it settles down there are still no real redeeming features in this slipshod mess. Not a good start.

A pale ale was next, a bit of a thumper at 6.4% ABV, brewed with added green tea and jasmine, going by the grand title of Théorème de L’Empereur. The grandeur is cut short and I think the guy writing my notes was losing patience already as he's just written "plasticky and unpleasant". Perhaps that's all you need to know. Consider yourselves warned.

Surely they'll get the porter right, I thought. You can't go wrong with a porter, especially a big strong one like Noire du Midi at 6.9% ABV. It looked every inch of it too: a dense obsidian topped with tan foam and giving off a powerful waft of strong coffee. No doublecross this time, it really tastes of coffee, and the umami buzz in the background indicates it definitely hasn't been put on tap too young; quite the opposite. I liked its oily texture as well as the coffee roast flavour. While not the greatest beer of its type, it was a relief to find a good one.

Another white IPA followed, onwards and upwards. Chute Libre was brewed as a collaboration with Swiss brewery La Nébuleuse. It's 6.4% ABV and a happy hazy witbier yellow with a lovely orange juice aroma. There's an absolutely perfect blend of its wit and IPA aspects in the flavour, at once piney and dank while also spicy and fruity, and above all clean, and perfectly refreshing with it. An exemplary expression of the style.

How was John getting on? Well he seemed happy with his choices. I was more dubious when I tasted them, however. Lanterne Pale Ale (left) was another dreggy one: overly hot and with too much savoury caraway. It's not actively unpleasant but was just too raw and unfinished to be enjoyable, I thought.

Laboritoire D'Alchimie 2 (right) is described as a New World Pilsner. That suggests to me some element of fruit, be it bitter citrus or sweet tropicality. But this tasted pretty much like a normal central European pils, mixing up grass, celery and dry chalky soda in a clear golden package. It's light to the point of watery and just not very interesting, beyond the intriguing mystique of the name.

So that's L'Ermitage. Maybe they're still getting their act together and more of the beer will be more polished next time. At least there's somewhere to go after the bar at Cantillon closes each day.

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