Appearance - 7 | Aroma - 8 | Flavor - 8 | Texture - 7 | Overall - 7
Ruimtegist's second brew, a hefty quadrupel; 75 cl bottle from Dranken Pauwels, shared with Goedele. Eggshell-white, cobweb-lacing, thick and frothy, slowly breaking head on an initially clear, deep bronze-brown beer with vermillion red glow, misty with sediment. Aroma of hard caramel, brown candi sugar, old raisins, dust, straw bales, dried blueberries, sugared tea, dry earth, prunes, dry tree leaves, hints of 'drop', chewing gum, clove. Sweetish onset, old raisins and dried prunes with hints of pear and banana, fizzy and minerally carbonation, full and slick body, bit resinous; hard-caramelly maltiness, some brown sugariness on top but certainly not too sweet, brown-bready edge developing a mild toasty-bitterish character near the end; coriander spicing and a notable 'drop'-like flavour appear too, paired with soft herbal hop bitterness and much less soft, wodka-like alcohol dominating the tail and becoming rather wry and tiring in the end. Sleek, supple quad, alas a bit too alcoholic for me, the alcohol taste is actually noticeable in its pure form, but generally not badly made, with that unexpected 'drop'- or even liquorice-like accent you'll either love or hate. There is worse in this segment.
Appearance - 7 | Aroma - 7.5 | Flavor - 6.5 | Texture - 7 | Overall - 7
Dry cider from a traditional cider region in Spain, bottle from BeerFreakChick shared with my girlfriend. Some loose, large, off-white bubbles form during pouring, but obviously no head is formed; hazy yellow blonde colour with greenish tinge. Aroma of lots of oxidized green apple as well as red apple juice, lemongrass, something lightly sulfuric, green kiwi, lemon butter and a solventy note hovering over it all (rubbing alcohol). Crisp onset, green apple everywhere, but a red apple sweetness mediates its tartness; flat body, supple and smooth, juicy with growing apple peel (and apple seed?) astringency towards the end, even slightly bittering; ends medium try, a bit tart, but the fructose sweetness still moderates. A funky aspect shows up as well (urine, bit cheesy too), adding some depth to the whole, while that light solventy aspect briefly pops up retronasally too. Pleasant, easy to drink, juicy and mildly tart; I will probably never fall in love with cider like I did with beer, but this is a nice and very refreshing change amidst all those hundreds of beers. Enjoyed it, and who knows, maybe I'll dig a bit deeper into the cider world after all.
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 8 | Flavor - 7 | Texture - 6 | Overall - 7.5
This one, bought at Wijnegemse Drankenhal, may well be among the most far-fetched beers I ever had (though there is stiff competition for that title): apparently a cocoa- and cherry-flavoured quadrupel "infused with cigars" (something I've only encountered from fellow Italian Opperbacco so far) and aged on aquavit barrels... Thick and mousy, yellow-beige, lightly lacing, remarkably stable (for strength!) head on an initially clear, dark mahogany brown beer with vermillion-red glow, misty with sediment. Aroma of caramel candy, cocoa indeed (dark chocolate and quite a lot of it), 'koetjesreep' too, ripe black cherries and cherry liqueur, Belgian chocolates with cherry flavour, tea, tawny port, cough syrup, indeed cigars (but rather cheap, old and musty ones to be honest), wet oak including a whiff of vanilla, nutmeg, blackberry jam, 'drop', shoe polish, cola, red apple. Sweet onset, syrupy even, ripe black cherry galore but so sweet that it reminds of candied cherries as well (I assume concentrated cherry juice was used, which would be congruent with this profile), brambleberry jam and plum compote, light sourish note from the cherry, medium carb, rounded and slick, quite full body - though not as full as one would expect from a beer over 13% ABV. Sticky brown-sugary sweetness rules over a toffeeish maltiness deeply flavoured by the cocoa, in an almost milk-chocolatey way, but then the cigars set in, adding a retronasal whiff of old tobacco paired with nutmeg- and white pepper-like impressions and, not unexpectedly, rather strong solvents, again accentuated by that gin-like aquavit. Some oak reveals itself in a vanilla-ish accent tucked away in the background, but the tannic effects remain soft and sticky sugariness gets the last word - impairing drinkability a bit, but then this is a slow sipping beer anyway so that does not bother me too much in this case. Aquavit booziness is strong, but less wry and dominant than feared, mitigated as it is by the sweetness. A sugar-driven quad in all respects, but the malts and some herbal hops provide some bitterness in the end to keep things interesting; the cigar smoke is noticeable enough, but for me clashes a bit too much with that 'praline'-like cocoa and cherry sweetness. A complicated and truly bizarre construction, this beer: I know that White Pony has guts, a lot of guts even, but if you put so many different flavour aspects in one beer, they need to match with each other too, and that is not entirely the case here. Very interesting brew, though, but very odd as well; not really sure what to think of it, in spite of my twenty years of experience... Have a point for that.
Appearance - 7 | Aroma - 8.5 | Flavor - 8 | Texture - 9 | Overall - 8.5
Cascadian dark ale (or at least inspired by it) from this interesting Antwerp craft brewer; steinie bottle from Wijnegemse Drankenhal. Gusher, but slowly so. Thick and frothy, audibly crackling, foamy, pale yellowish beige, stable head on a dark chocolate brown (though not actually 'black') beer, hazy with ruddy hue, showing some dark protein bits sinking to the bottom - clearly this bottle is already past its prime, so I'll take that in consideration when rating. Still a hoppy explosion in the nose, the old school way: grapefruit peel, pine resin, cedar wood, moist pepper, onion, orange juice, brown bread, dry beef broth cubes, fried black olives, toasted walnut, caramel, dry earth, nutmeg, sweet Brazil cigars somewhere in the background. Crisp, fizzy onset, strongly stinging (over)carbonation at first but calming down further on, fruity hints of old raisins, pear and dried fig, restrainedly sweetish with a soft sourish undertone; brown-bready and bit caramelly maltiness, a tad sweetish but quickly bittered, by a nutty toasted malt aspect but most of all, by a very firm, 'old school American', grapefruity, piney, peppery, leafy hop bitterness, offering retronasal aspects of black pepper, toasted onion and bitter fruit - while undeniable yeast breadiness and fruitiness peeps through as well. Long, bitter finish, but mitigated a bit by this yeasty breadiness, juicy and satisfying all the same. Black IPA-inspired for sure, aromatically a fond memory from a recent past when this style was still popular, but not truly 'black' - if anything, this is more of a 'brown IPA' with some Belgian yeast notes pushing themselves forward through it as well. Whatever it is, I did certainly enjoy it.
Appearance - 7 | Aroma - 8 | Flavor - 8.5 | Texture - 10 | Overall - 7
'Wild' saison by La Source, one of the most exciting newcomers on the Brussels beer scene of the past years; from a 37.5 cl bottle with crown cap, bought from Être Gourmet. Medium thick, egg-white, mousy, slowly breaking, thinning and opening but generally stable head on a cloutraw blonde beer with deeper ochre-ish tinge. Aroma of homemade lemon bread, lemon zest, raw rhubarb, green gooseberries, sour grapes, stale urine and some light 'horseblanket' (Brett), vague touch of manure but actually fitting in well, field flowers, oxidized green apple, freshly baked dry cookies, pizza dough, lemon thyme, fried green bell pepper, unripe banana, starfruit, cava gone flat, kiwi, damp earth. Crisp onset, lots of 'green' fruitiness, Granny Smith apple, lime juice, starfruit, unripe green bananas, spritzy carbonation but in a very 'refined' way with bubbles small enough not to distract from the flavour, supple body feeling 'fuller' than expected from a beer below 5% ABV. Smooth bread crumb-like, bit cereally pale maltiness, sweetish in its core but dried by this tartness, situated somewhere in between lime and green grapes, yet not becoming too harsh or puckering at all; quite 'lactic' too, adding further yellow-green fruitiness. Quenching finish, with the tartness behaving more vinous and still remaining relatively soft, lime juice-like with side notes of startfuit, green kiwi and sorrel, while a clear Brettanomyces effect appears as well, bringing hints of 'horseblanket' and damp hay. The wild Brett flavours remain remarkably well in balance with that spritzy bacterial sourness, both softened by this simple but efficient 'white-bready' malt bed; some urine-like Bretty notes do linger retronasally, though, while hops provide a very mild floral background bitterishness and the astringent green fruit (green apple, sour grape, gooseberry) aspects linger on the lips long after swallowing. Blonde sour ale labelled 'saison' - this brew reminds me of many of The Kernel's 'bières de saison', but with just a bit more body and depth to it. Very refreshing while still maintaining an earthy keynote: this would be my ideal spring beer.
Appearance - 9 | Aroma - 8 | Flavor - 8 | Texture - 8 | Overall - 8
One of those old Founders beers - and one I apparently have not had before, an American style robust porter. Thick and frothy, densely cobweb-lacing, pale brownish-beige, pillowy head over a misty dark chocolate brown beer (near blackish) with wine red tinge. Aroma of coffee grounds and cold black coffee, unsugared black chocolate, dry leather, espresso, roasted walnuts, fried black olives, salmiak, hard caramel, dried blueberries, black pepper, hints of ground almonds, moist cigars, clay, thyme, dried sage, vague bonfire. Restrained sweetishness in the onset, some dried fig, but more underlying sourishness and surrounding black olive- or dried porcini-like umami, yet none of these flavours dominate and everything remains well in balance, all the while gently carbonated with a smooth, rounded, full mouthfeel; dry hard-caramelly and toasted- bread-like malt body with early and strong roastiness, very black-coffeeish especially in the finish, where the mouth-filling roastiness is joined by a leafy hop bitterness. Roasty, leathery, thinly nutty, bittering but altogether rounded, gentle finish, harbouring some subtle herbal accents of dried sage and thyme. The coffeeish roasted bitterness dominates here, however, to such a degree that this could just as well pass as a (double or dry) stout... Being familiar with Founders' achievements in the field of (American) stout, I can only imagine that KBS and the like exert a slight background influence here. Needs less roasted bitterness and more caramelly smoothness to fully qualify as a porter, but who am I to criticize an American porter that has been around for so long - and has in itself probably been influenced by Sierra Nevada Porter, with which it shares its roasty profile... A throwback to the days when concepts like "robust porter", "brown ale", "American barleywine" or "West Coast IPA" were about the most exciting things we could get from the U.S. craft brewing scene here in Europe - and how excited we were. Old-fashioned, this stout-ish porter, but all the more lovable for it. How I miss those early days of exploration sometimes... Well, this brew conveys the sentiment, so have a point for that - and perhaps another one for restoring my faith in Founders, who did let me down on several occasions (I am still trying to ignore their attempts at kettle sour styles). Great porter, mouth-filling, warming and layered while still easily drinkable, deserving of its high score here, in its particular style at least.
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 8.5 | Flavor - 8 | Texture - 8 | Overall - 8
APA and one of the first beers from this Misery brewery in Wallonia, one to watch out for from a more 'international' point of view: no tripels, 'ambrées' or 'brunes' here, but American style craft beer all the way. Anglo-Saxon style can of 44 cl, definitely not traditionally Walloon in looks - containing a very American beer style, the old APA. Thick and frothy, egg-white, busily and intricately cobweb-lacing, stable, dense head on an 'opaquely' hazy peach blonde beer with ochre-ish tinge. Bright and fruity, but also slightly dank aroma of freshly squeezed sweet orange juice, mandarin, dough, mouldy limes, lemon zest, ripe mango, hint of diesel, marijuana, soap, papaja smoothie, starfruit, honey touch, 'deeper' and very volatile but interesting notes of freshly cut ripe cucumber, dry clay and vanilla. Refreshing, fruity onset, mango purée mixed with orange juice, yellow kiwi and starfruit but also hints of peach and banana, relatively softly carbonated (but well enough for an APA) with minerally side notes, supple and bit oily, very slick mouthfeel; doughy maltiness, with these minerally side 'stings' remaining in the middle, sweetish and a bit 'bare' for a very brief moment - exploding in colours a fraction of a second later when the hops set in, filling the mouth cavity with aromas of mango, orange zest, mandarin and Cape gooseberry, as well as providing a peppery end bitterness, which remains relatively soft but still lasts for quite a while, with a bit of a powdery feel in the end (yet avoiding a true 'hop burn'). The soft, doughy malt 'soil' remains very present as well, though, even with a soapy edge to it. In all: lovely hazy hop juiciness the contemporary way - this beer could just as well have been labelled NEIPA, but I do feel that they tried to curb the hoppiness a bit here in order to arrive at an APA feeling; still this is hoppy enough to deserve the 'IPA' moniker in the hazy, juice sense of the word. But who cares, really: the bottom line is that there has been a bit of a 'buzz' surrounding the appearance of this brewery in craft beer circles and even if this brew - and another one I had from them - still leaves room for improvement if compared with the great international names, they have already reached a high level of quality, considering how decidedly non-Belgian this kind of beers are. If anyone had told me that this was brewed in, say, London, Oslo, Amsterdam or New York, I would have easily believed them. Postmodern, 'urban', hipster style brewing in Liège: this excites me more than the umpteenth local tripel in Flanders, I have to say; so even if on an international level, Misery still has a long way to go to become truly stellar, at least on a regional level they stand out - completely.
Appearance - 6 | Aroma - 8.5 | Flavor - 6.5 | Texture - 7 | Overall - 8
Dok’s formidable barleywine, brewed last year, has been ageing on three different barrels for a year now and these three barreled variants were launched last Saturday in 75 cl bottles. This white wine version show a pale greyish beige, thin and open, quickly and eventually completely dissolving head and warm, deep and dark chestnut brown robe with hazy burgundy hue. Intense aroma of caramel liqueur, reduced port sauce, brown sugar, vanilla, old furniture, ground hazelnuts, wax, elderberry syrup, toast, almond, gravy, prunes, soy sauce, molasses, cola, white chocolate, old brown honey. Sweet onset, cloying even and more so than the already very sweet rum version, candied dates, prunes and cooked apples, very soft carb (near flat, actually), full and oily body with lots of ‘dark’ sticky sweetness over a very full caramelly maltiness with molasses-like edges and a deep hazelnutty core; toasty bitter note in the finish, leafy hops and drying wood tannins with indeed white wine effects, but in a sweet, demi-sec-like way, even white port – which I expect to be even more outspoken in the actual white port version, which I have waiting (two of these in one evening was more than enough…). Sticky sweet till the end, boozy of course but less so than the rum version, which showed considerably more astringency from alcohol; a rich ‘dégustif’ and even if the sweetness became a bit much, it behaves softer and perhaps a tad more elegant than the rum version.
Appearance - 6 | Aroma - 8.5 | Flavor - 7 | Texture - 8 | Overall - 7.5
The white port barrel aged version in this demanding series, bottle bought at Dok's own premises. Medium thick, pale yellowish beige, immediately open and further diminishing head, hazy dark caramel brown robe with ruby hue. Aroma of marzipan, caramel liqueur, ripe nectarine juice, almond, vanilla-scenting oak wood, white port indeed, red apple, pear syrup, black cherry 'pralines', white chocolate, rum. Sweet onset, candied dates and figs, yellow raisins, ripe pear and red apple even, softish carb, thick body, more syrupy than vinous; deep caramelly and chestnutty malt underbuilt, spiced up by pronounced vanilla-scenting oak wood (including drying tannic effects) and clear white port flavours, which in the end take on a white chocolate- or even almond-like shape. Low in bitterness, yet somehow the finish remains less sticky-sweet than in the other two versions - which is the reason I am rating this one a bit higher. Complex 'dégustif' indeed, but this one too could use a bit less sweetness, in my personal opinion.