Tag Archives: belgium

BELGIAN SIX-PACK

Last month, my day job as editor of Halifax Magazine took me back to Belgium to cover events marking the centenary of the end of the First World War. And as you’d expect, I seized the opportunity to sample every local beer I could get my hands on. Belgium has more great beers per capita than any place on earth and one human couldn’t possibly sample them all, but I gave it a good try; here are my six favourite discoveries.

Cuvée Jeun’homme by Brouwerij De Leite in Ruddervoorde, Belgium

Dry-hopped with a blend of four local hops, this sour ale has a smidge of citrus bitterness and whole lot of mouth-puckering tartness. Four months ripening in oak-wine casks make it complex, full-flavoured, and easy to sip. Paired nicely with the leek soup at Café De Republiek in Brugge.

Trappist Westvleteren 12 by Brouwerij De SintSixtusabdij van Westvleteren in Westvleteren, Belgium

Trappist beers aren’t as easy to find in Belgium as you’d expect (a shopkeeper told me the monks prefer to export, to avoid competing with local brewers), so I was pleased to find this big boozy quad on tap. Rich and fruity, with roast coffee and dark-fruit notes. Paired well with the peppery beef goulash at La Poupée gastropub in Poperinge.

Hercule Stout by Brasserie des Légendes in Irchonwelz, Belgium

After a couple days of sours, saisons, and blondes, I was starting to yearn for a stout, so I was delighted to find this locally-made one on at the stylish and popular L’Excelsior in Mons: malty and dry with a hint of smoky sweetness. Accustomed as I am to American-style stouts, I kept waiting for a hop hit that never came. But that’s not a beef; this was a tasty surprise.

Queue de Charrue Blonde by Browerij Vanuxeem in CominesWarneton, Belgium

A textbook example of what has to be the most popular style in this part of the world: the strong golden ale. Sweet and crisp, with a slight hop bitterness to finish and refreshing minerality throughout. Nicely balanced.

Super 8 IPA by Browerij Haacht Brasserie in Boortmeerbeek, Belgium

This Flanders IPA gets some lukewarm reviews online and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. It starts fruity and floral, with a surprising (but pleasant) grapefruit zing; effervescent with a lively mouthfeel and a subtle hop finish. Easy to drink.

113 Ambrée by Brasserie 113 in Mons, Belgium

If you had predicted that an amber lager would be my favourite beer from this trip, I would have laughed in your face… but here we are. Hard to find even its hometown, this beer comes from a tiny Mons brewery (when I tried it, it had just five Untappd check-ins) and I had the good luck to be just sitting down at La Petite Provence as the brewer was delivering a shipment. It is, by a wide margin, the tastiest lager I’ve ever had. Rich, malty, full-bodied; nicely balanced and a genuine pleasure to drink.

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Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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Belgian Holiday

I knew it was going to be a good trip when I sat down for my first meal and asked the server to suggest a local beer. He quickly rattled off five beers with names I’d never heard of and long and elaborate pedigrees that I couldn’t follow. Then when I ordered my meal, he rescinded all those options, and told me what beer I had to have with my food.

Last week, in my day job as editor of Halifax Magazine, I visited the Flanders region of Belgium and the Arras region of France for a tour of First World War related sites. It was an amazing, moving experience (which you can read more about in the November issue of the magazine) and Europe being the civilized place it is, I tried many, many good beers. In no particular order, here are my five favourites. 

 Papegaei by Brouwerij Verstraete at Restaurant Lettenburg in Diksmuide, Belgium. Created by local gypsy brewer Adam Verstraete, this is a big boozy blonde (8% ABV) with beautifully fresh and floral hops. Verstraete uses fresh hop flowers (rather than pellets or extract) to impart the unique flavours.
 Kriek 100% Lambic by Brasserie Cantillon at Le Poechenellekelder in Brussels, Belgium. I drank so many good krieks on this trip, I could easily give you a Top 5 list featuring nothing but that style. This was the best: light body and lively carbonation, crazy cherry sourness to start, with a subtle sweet finish. Perfect after a long walking tour of Brussels.
 Page 24 Reserve Hildegarde Blonde by Brasserie Saint-Germain at L’estaminet de Lorette in Albain-Saint-Nazaire, France. I was only in France for one day, so I didn’t get to try many local beers, but I’m very grateful to the restaurateur who brought this biere de garde unbidden after seeing me wave away a waiter with Stella. Fruity nose and flavours of fresh-baked bread, with an unexpectedly sweet finish. Paired nicely with a hearty beef stew.

  

Wipers Times 14 by Brouwerij Kazematten at Het Moment in Ieper, Belgium. During the First World War, British troops in the Ypres Salient produced a magazine called The Wipers Times. In the very casements where they took shelter, a local brewery now produces this pale ale. Historical connection aside, it’s a lovely example of a Belgian PA, with floral notes, slight hops, and a nice fruity finish.

  

Liefmans Goudenband by Brouwerij Liefmans at De Fonderie in Ieper, Belgium.
Hands-down, my favourite beer from the trip. This Flanders Oud Bruin style is a beer built for aging (it spends up to a year in the cellar before even leaving the brewery). The restaurant had been aging this bottle for “three or four years.” The result? A huge hit of rhubarb and green-apple aromas, followed by a wave of mouth-puckering flavours with a bit of an oak-barrel quality. Almond and currant flavours to close. I had this with a big steak, and it was life-alteringly good.

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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    Unibroue – Blanche de Chambly

    20140622-075337-28417761.jpgUnibroue started producing Belgian-inspired craft beers in the early 1990’s in Chambly, Quebec. They grew across Canada and internationally to eventually be bought by Sleeman Brewery and then Sapporo.

    Blanche de Chmbly is their original flagship beer. A white ale (witbier) reminiscent of Abby Ales produced in Belgium, it is refermented in the bottle to give that classic cloudy, yeasty, effervescent appearance and flavour that you would expect from a fine Belgian white ale.

    What did I think?

    Appearance: Golden in colour and a bit cloudy. Nice head but not long lasting. Carbonation is apparent in the glass.

    Aroma: Funky, earthy aroma. Some fruity and yeast notes.

    Taste: The funk that was in the aroma comes through in the flavour. A bit tart and the carbonation also comes through a bit in the flavour. Somewhat mineraly and earthy. Notes of citrus and it almost wants to have some spice, but its not quite there. Palate clears quickly. As it warms there are some more yeasty ester notes of banana and fruit coming through.

    Mouthfeel: Medium to light bodied. Well carbonated which lightens it up a bit. Drying on the tongue.

    Overall: A fine Belgian styled ale. Light and refreshing, and without a long lasting flavour on the palate it begs for the next sip. Not heavy, this is a great beer after a big meal, or before.

    82/100

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    BEER MONDAY REVIEW: Lindemans Lambic Flight

    Lindemans Brewery was founded on a family run farm in 1822. By 1930 farming actives stopped due to the demands on the production of their lambic beer.

    Lindemans produces its lambic beer in a traditional manner by allowing the wild yeast and bacteria to to inoculate and ferment the wort. The beer is allowed to ferment for one to three years. This produces a beer that is tart and acidic, much like wine is. Fruit can be added to produce a fruit flavour beer.

    Kriek

    IMG_1146From the brewery: “In origin, this sweet-acid drink was obtained by adding fresh black cherries to a barrel Lambic of 6 months young. The addition of fruits provokes a new fermentation in the oak barrels. After another 8 to 12 months, only peels and stones left and the Kriek-Lambic is ready to be filtered and bottled.”

    Appearance: deep red with next to no head and crystal clear.

    Aroma: lots of cherries. Slight funk, a little earthy. No malt or hops in the aroma.

    Taste: cherries. Little tart and a bit sweet, but not too over powering. Clean and refreshing.

    Mouthfeel: light bodied with moderate to high carbonation.

    Overall: nice and refreshing, easy to drink. Well made and a nice balanced flavour. Excellent.

    80/100

     

    Frambois

    IMG_1149From the brewery: “Long before hops were common in most beers, various fruits and vegetables were used to season beers. The acidity of Lambic beers blends perfectly with raspberries. Taste: Magnificent aroma, delicate palate of raspberries with undertones of fruity acidity; elegant, sparkling clean natural taste.”

    Appearance: deep ruby red. No head at all. Can see a bit of carbonation in the glass.

    Aroma: strong raspberry aroma, not much else.

    Taste: loads and loads of raspberry. A touch of malt. No funk and a bit of tart. Balanced with the sweet.

    Mouthfeel: light bodied. Moderate carbonation.

    Overall: refreshing clean and fruity. Tasty, but maybe a bit on the artificial side (whether thats actually artificial or just a perception), but otherwise not too bad.

    76/100

     

    Faro

    IMG_1154From the brewery: “A version of Belgium’s “wild-fermented” wheat beer, which is the result of blending Lambic of “one summer” with old Lambic and chaptalized with candy sugar. Faro is an intriguing balance of wineyness and sweetness. This was probably the beer being served in Breugel’s paintings of Flemish Village Life.”

    Appearance: golden in colour. Very clear with a sight head.

    Aroma: funk is the first thing that comes through. Theres a bit of malt and a little caramelly sweetness.

    Taste: this one is sweet. Theres a bit of apricot and a little burnt sugar on a back of the tongue.

    Mouthfeel: light bodied. Sugary slickness and light carbonation.

    Overall: a bit sweet for my palette. Unique in the family of lambic beers, for sure. This would be best as a dessert beer with the sweeter flavour.

    65/100

     

    Cuvee Rene

    IMG_1155From the brewery: “Before the bottling of the Gueuze, a blend is made of 2/3 young Lambic and 1/3 old Lambic. The right ratio young/old is depending on the maturation degree (end attenuation) of each of them. The bottles, with the wild-spontaneous yeast flora, are refermented in the cellar (Method Champenoise). After 6 months the Gueuze obtains a golden color and a cidery, winey palate; reminiscent, perhaps, of dry vermouth with a more complex and natural flavour.”

    Appearance: clear and pale gold. Nice bit of carbonation and a good bit of head that fades quickly.

    Aroma: sweet summer fruit. Pears. A touch of funk. Just a hint of malt.

    Taste: a bit of tart/funk, a bit bitter (not hop bitterness, but a tart bitterness). A bit of leather. Some apple notes.

    Mouthfeel: light bodied, and a good bit of carbonation.

    Overall: not as flavourful as I was expecting. Honestly, I’m underwhelmed, but not totally disappointed with this beer. I psyched myself up and it just wasn’t what I expected, but not bad. Its a decent lambic, but not the best I’ve had.

    75/100

     

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    BEER MONDAY REVIEW: Palm – Amber Ale

    20140311-125507.jpgConsistently one of the best selling beers in Europe, Palm (Palm Speciale, as it’s know in Europe) is produced in Steenhuffle, Belgium by Palm Breweries. This is an amber ale made from English hops, French barley, and Belgian yeast.

    Appearance
    Amber in colour and crystal clear. Just a slight head that fades out pretty quickly.

    Aroma
    Aroma of malt and fruit. There is some notes of corn and a bit of earthy hops (English hop quality).

    Taste
    The taste is a bit more lager-like then I was expecting. A bit tart, sort of like apple cider. There’s a good presence of minerals coming through. Also, metallic notes and notes of leather and apple juice. Slight malt flavour.

    Mouthfeel
    Light bodied. The tartness comes though as a bit prickly on the tongue. Theres also a bit of oiliness to the mouthfeel.

    Overall
    Not exactly what I was expecting, but easy enough to drink and has many of the quality of lagers from Europe. Its a bit one-dimensional, but as an alternative to a pale lager, this would do nicely.

    70/100

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    BEER MONDAY REVIEW: Affligem – Blonde

    20140310-114950.jpgAffligem Brouwerij is an Abbey brewery in Opwijk, Belgium (think monks chanting as they brew the beer and you’d be pretty close). Founded in 1074 by Benedictine monks it is the oldest abbey in Flanders. The brewery is now 95% owned by Heineken (since 2001) which has greatly helped with export and production.

    Appearance
    Golden orange in colour. Cloudy, but no sediment to speak of. Pours with a big, fluffy, white head that lasts until the end. Pretty decent lacing as you’d expect.

    Aroma
    First thing is the sweetness in the aroma with notes of pear and apple that fades to a slightly bitter and dried fruit aroma. There’s also some malt and grass with a slight hint of alcohol. Some floral notes from the hops.

    Taste
    The taste is smooth with some spice and clove. The classic Belgian yeast flavours come through with fruity and banana notes. There are some herbal qualities with a lingering lemon peel flavour on the tongue. Slightly sweet, but a dry finish.

    Mouthfeel
    Medium mouthfeel with a good level of carbonation. Well balanced with a very slight oily finish, or possibly an impression of an oily finish coming from the lemon peel flavour.

    Overall
    Impressive. Easy drinking and balanced all around. Nothing about this beer turns me off. Would be great on a cold day as a warmer, but would be nice and refreshing on a hot summers day as well.

    88/100

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    REVIEW: Mongozo – Premium Pilsner: Gluten-free, Fairtrade, Organinc

    20140301-154245.jpgMany people avoid gluten whether it’s by choice or due to health reasons, but is this any reason to avoid good beer? Belgian brewery, Mongozo, has a line of gluten-free beers for people who are looking to stay away from gluten, but still would like to have a cold one. Their Premium Pilsner is gluten-free, but also certified fair trade and organic.

    Here’s what Mongozo’s website says:

    “Mongozo has developed a gluten-free lager, making it possible for people on a gluten-free diet to enjoy drinking beer. The brewing process for obtaining a gluten-free beer can vary, and in the case of Mongozo Premium Pilsner it involves the gluten being removed from the beer. This innovative technique ensures that the beer retains its lager flavour. A renowned laboratory checks each batch of beer brewed for the presence of gluten. The beer is then only sold if less than 10 ppm of gluten is detected and it can therefore be labelled as gluten-free. Mongozo Premium Pilsner is Certisys-certified for the use of certified-organic barley malt, rice and hops. The system of checks in place for the organic sector guarantees that products are genuinely organic. The approved label used by Mongozo is a European label issued by the Belgian Certisys inspection and certification body.”

    I’ll admit, avoiding gluten isn’t high on my list of things to do and this would be my first gluten-free beer, so I can’t compare it to thers, but I can compare it to other pilsner beers.

    Appearance
    Perfectly clear, golden yellow, with a slight white head. Some lacing.

    Aroma
    Pretty typical lager aroma with a touch of sulphur and malt. No real hop aroma.

    Taste
    Nice balance with malt and hops. The hop flavour is mild, but in good contrast with the malt sweetness. The bitterness is a bit rough, but not over powering. Pretty easy drinking.

    Mouthfeel
    Light with good carbonation levels.

    Overall
    Overall this is not a bad beer, a fairly run-of-the-mill pilsner, nothing to turn me off from it. Having never had any other gluten-free beers, I can only imagine that this one would stack up nicely to most of the market.

    75/100