Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 6.5 | Flavor - 8 | Texture - 8 | Overall - 8
Sour ale with 'Brazilian fruits', in this case maracujá and papaya, at session strength; though the label does not mention it, I reckon this is inspired by the 'Catharina sour' hype currently taking place in Brazil, from a less surprising source than one would imagine: Atrium is run by a couple, the female half of which is a Brazilian zythologist and both partners actually met in Brazil (this is not their first Brazil-themed beer either, by the way). Thin and loose, off-white, even-bubbled but unstable head, quickly reduced to a waferthin ring and eventually nothing, over an initially crystal clear, deep peach blonde beer with 'old gold' hue, turning misty with sediment. Aroma very fruity indeed, but strangely more reminiscent of tamarillo and persimmon than maracujá and papaya - with more 'umami' than sweetness; other impressions include green gooseberries, stewed rhubarb, roasted tomato peel, bergamot, old oxidized rosé wine, sherry even, some light papaya in the background indeed (very ripe and a bit 'smoky') but remaining low in passionfruit, faint hints of stale orange juice, exotic orchids, old carraway seed, cucumber, roses, pumice. Tart, fruity onset, again gooseberry and rhubarb, crabapple even, a bit astringent and lemony at first, with the passionfruit element shyly and subtly opening a bit further on; soft carb, smooth and slick mouthfeel. The sourness, a mixture of basic (and soft) lactic acidity and sharper fruit acidity, continues to dry an inherently smooth-edged cereally and very lightly biscuity maltiness, with a faint bread crumb-like touch in the end, all soaked in this sour fruitiness with sweetish retronasal aromatics - I can recognize the maracujá, but the papaya to me remains all but absent, unless that green apple- or pear-like, in the end even cucumber-ish accent is to be associated with it. Tart, minerally, bready and juicy finish, with the sour fruitiness continuing in a refreshing, quenching way; chalky-minerally accents abound as well. Kettle sour with tropical fruit: I guess this holds the middle between a Florida Weisse and a true Catharina sour (which is generally stronger), but at least in 'spirit' it clearly leans towards the latter - and considering how young both styles still are, it is in any case a 'hip' beer in all respects. As my colleagues already noted below, it carries a lot of flavour at this humble ABV and keeps the drinker alert due to its sharpish, brisk but altogether very palatable sourness. Interesting one, though I admittedly expected more luscious, sweet, sultry 'tropicality'.
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 7.5 | Flavor - 7 | Texture - 7 | Overall - 7.5
The newest Kerel to date, from the trusted 'apothecarian bottle', now with lilac label; apparently the first in an intended series of organic beers. Made with French malt (barley and wheat) and American hops. Bottle straight from the brewery, thanks Charlotte for the service! Medium thick, eggshell-white, moussy, regular, non-lacing head fed by lively sparkling running through an initially crystal clear yellow blonde beer with metallic 'old gold' hue, misty with sediment. Aroma of withering kitchen herbs and garden weeds, soggy white bread, oxidized green apple slices, banana peel, damp straw, minerals, overripe cucumber, pumice, bread crumbs, flour, funky hints of stale urine and sweating Camembert cheese, moist white pepper, talcum powder. Spritzy onset, sharpish and very minerally carbonation, restrained fruitiness of green banana, some green apple and Conference pear, smooth and light body; the minerally effects keep accompanying a light-footed white-bready and cereally maltiness, with the wheat malt adding a flour-like effect and a very dim sourish touch but little soapiness; the bread crumb-like aspect becomes somewhat stronger in the end, where it meets - still enlivened by minerals, becoming a bit chalky even - a grassy and weedy hop bitterness with a light zesty edge to it, lasting medium long and adding retronasal notes of dried field flowers, freshly cut grass and old lemon zest, but also a vague touch of herb cheese (old hops?). The minerality, strong from nose to finish, never goes away, but adds to the intended 'quenchability' of this simple, but effective beer; it ends quite dry and never plays up the cliché of the sweet, overcoriandered, malty and sugary 'outdoors café blonde' of which there are far too many around already. Slick, dry, hoppy the 21st-century Belgian way, quenching, minerally and modern interpretation of a blonde, indeed perhaps even closer to an English style golden ale (albeit with still 'Belgian' breadiness and effervescence) than to e.g. Belgian blonde abbey beers and the like. Easygoing with a contemporary feel, I could easily chug down quite a few of these on a benign spring afternoon.
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 9 | Flavor - 9.5 | Texture - 9 | Overall - 8.5
New "Mono blend" by Boon, this time with 90% lambic that matured for no less than four and a half years on 'foeder' 31, a wooden barrel built in Germany more than a century ago. Thick, frothy, gently crackling, egg-white, pillowy, fairly large-bubbled but stable head on a hazy rosy-tinged peach blonde beer, the haze perturbed by fine but fierce and ubiquitous sparkling. Strong, 'noble' and complex nose of dry old oak wood, green apple slices, dusty attic, dry hay(stack), apricot kernels, calvados, hints of unripe nectarine, dry bitter herbs, dried peaches, lemon zest, old peanuts, sumac, crumbly dry earth, late and subtle whiff of funky old sweat when warming up. Spritzy onset, lots of minerality from very active, 'champenoise' effervescence prickling the tongue, soft sourness throughout, green apple- and green plum-like, with a sweetish unripe nectarine-like core tempering the acidity; full, almost 'fluffy' mouthfeel, bread- and rusk-like maltiness with a slight peanutty edge buried under this drying, yet altogether gentle lactic sourness, sedate 'dried' sour fruitiness and strongly increasing tannic woodiness, to the point of flirting with astringency, though that soft, stonefruity and bready backbone has an absorbing effect. Still, the finish becomes quite long and dry, with a late but very pronounced and long-stretching, earthy to eventually even quinine-like hop bitterness, seemingly reinforced by this strong woodiness - and, in the end, by a palpable calvados-like, warming alcohol glow; a vague champagne-like flavour is noticeable as well. To my personal appreciation, these Mono blends are among the most interesting and unique contributions Boon has ever made to the lambic world - I absolutely love them all, but this one breathes the nobility and profundity of old lambic perhaps even more than its predecessors, with this champagne-like accent, warming alcohol (more noticeable here than in any of the other Mono blends), strong woody tannins and soft dried fruit astringency - no sharp acidity or playful lemony aspects here, but a deep, mature, aristocratic lambic blend that will no doubt improve in many, many years to come. This is lambic gastronomy at a high level and among the best of these VAT Mono blends so far for me - though it is hard to compare from memory and tasting notes alone, and the competition with its own congeners is particularly stiff.
Appearance - 6 | Aroma - 4 | Flavor - 4 | Texture - 5 | Overall - 4.5
Apparently the launch of a non-alcoholic version of Leffe Blonde in 2019 was deemed successful enough by the AB InBev imperium to create this brown follow-up in 2020, with a label similar to the classic Brune, but of course clearly mentioning the 0.0% ABV. Available from bottles and cans apparently; I got my bottle from the Delhaize supermarket in Lokeren. Very thick and moussy, pillowy, creamy, pale greyish beige, densely cobweb-lacing head on a crystal clear, deep 'metallic' bronze-brown beer with copper-red hue and some visible sparkling. Aroma of industrial caramel, chewing gum, ferrous water or even rusty iron, plaster, burnt brown sugar, vague hint of brown bread crust somewhere, polyester rug, burnt rubber, aspartame. Sweet, simple onset, brown-sugary in a dull way - though nowhere sticky, medium carbonated, very smooth and evidently thin mouthfeel though just a teeny bit less watery than non-alcoholic lagers and somewhat glueish, with a clear metallic 'zing' to it; simple maltose sugariness, corn slickness and 'bubblegumminess' flavoured with industrial caramel, accentuating the sweetness but also adding a 'burnt' kind of bitterness in the end, which feels a bit chemical rather than naturally roasted or hoppy. Sweetness prevails, even if this bitterness lingers for quite a while; I feel a very slight hint of tomato (sauce) and a whiff of clove in the end as well. Not good, of course, and completely redundant if you ask me, but I must admit that it is also a bit less bad than I was fearing; feels a bit 'bruin tafelbier'-like, in an industrial, smoothened, cheap and artificial way, not unlike the well-known brown Piedboeuf from the same company - with the difference that tafelbier still contains a bit of alcohol, of course. As for its commercial intentions: well, I guess there is some likeness to the classic version indeed, in its artificial caramel, sweetness and metallic side effects, so people who love Leffe Brune will probably be happier with this one than I am.
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 8 | Flavor - 7 | Texture - 8 | Overall - 8
New variation on Brouwbar’s strong blondes (after B17 in 2018 and SB32 in 2019), this time dry-hopped with Mosaic. Thick, snow white, cobweb-lacing, slowly opening, irregularly edged head on a misty deep ‘old gold’ coloured beer with almost ‘rusty’ tinge. Aroma of freshly cut red apple and Conference pear, white bread dough, Poire William, banana peel, leftover dough, kiwi, minerals. Fruity, sweetish onset, halfripe banana, ripe pear and apricot, nowhere cloying though, with soft carb and full, rounded, slick body; doughy, white-bready malts, something honeyish resounding and maintaining a generally sweet impression without it becoming too much, minerally side effects, soft floral hoppiness providing a grassy end bitterness and delicate kiwi- and jasmin-like retronasal aromas (the Mosaic speaking, though softly so). A bready-yeasty touch and warming gin-like alcohol linger in the finish. Accessible to the general Belgian palate even with the inclusion of a New World hop variety, because this variety performs a supporting role here rather than dominate the main stage; deliberately simple, easygoing, slim and slender, a tad more so than the two previous strong blondes Brouwbar produced in earlier years. Enjoyable enough.
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 8 | Flavor - 7 | Texture - 8 | Overall - 7.5
The newest Brouwbar beer to date, a strong saison, or indeed a cross between a tripel (or strong blonde in general) and a saison, bottle from Brouwbar shared with Steve. Off-white, irregular, rather loose and thin, quickly dissipating head on a misty orange-blonde robe with brownish-amberish tinge. Aroma of peaches in ‘jenever’, rusk, apricot jam, cognac, red apple slices, dried orange peel, thyme, clove, dry biscuit, pear juice, subtle earthy hints of sawdust, bitter garden weeds and beetroot juice. Sweet onset, cleanly and slenderly fruity, red apple, ripe pear and apricot with a dash of fresh fig, slight sourish undertone, soft carbonation gracing a supple, slender body, definitely feeling lighter than the ABV would suggest; supple rusk- and bit dry cookie-like maltiness, very slight toasty edge, carrying mild phenolic notes (thyme, clove) as well as a florally aromatic hoppiness – providing less bitterness than, in the end, very pronounced, heating, brandy-like alcohol, making for an astringent effect in the finish. Elegantly sweetish, lean, supple and elegantly aromatized, typical Brouwbar house style in most aspects – but unfortunately the alcohol is not well hidden and for me too obtrusive in both nose and mouth; I think a ‘thicker’, more dense malt profile, paired with a more vivid carbonation, could do this beer well. I do think it will improve with age, though – no doubt I had this too young, curious as I was to taste it…
Appearance - 7 | Aroma - 8 | Flavor - 7 | Texture - 7 | Overall - 8.5
One of several new Brouwbar beers, a sour saison. Off-white, thick but uneven-bubbled and slowly breaking head on a cloudy peach blonde beer with somewhat bronze-ish tinge. Aroma of overripe pineapple, pear juice, dried flowers, soggy rusk, apple peel, dust, a whiff of strawberry, yoghurt, clove, bread crust, violets. Sweetish fruity onset but in a clean and slender way, hints of pear, pineapple and strawberry with a distant hint at guava, and indeed a refreshing, light and elegant sourish streak running throughout, gently lactic, reminiscent of sour berries but remaining subtle and mild, always subordinate to a sweeter main flavour; supple, medium carbonated mouthfeel – carbonation actually being on the soft side for a farmhouse ale. Soggy rusk- and bread-like malt body, graced by phenolic spicy accents towards the end (clove) and a soft, floral, slightly tropical-fruity hoppiness which provides only very light end bitterness; the sourish element as well as some breadiness linger in the end. Light-footed, almost ‘feminine’ summery little beer, graceful and easygoing, with all the parameters remaining light and ‘soft’: softly carbonated, softly sour and softly hop bitter, perhaps a bit too softly so in all those three aspects. I do get the general idea of creating a simple yet elegant quencher, though, and in that sense this brew qualifies.