Appearance - 7 | Aroma - 6.5 | Flavor - 6.5 | Texture - 7 | Overall - 7
A fairly recent addition to the Eastern Flemish beer scene, this beer tries to connect beer to wine and is effectively a tripel infused with white wine, produced in BeerSelect’s kettles in commission of the creator, located in Assenede (in the Meetjesland region northwest of Ghent). Bottle at Café ‘t Schoon Zicht in Mariakerke, cheers Gido! Snow white, frothy and thick, bubbly, stable head over an initially clear, orange-glowing deep golden beer with lots of visible sparkling, turning misty with sediment. Aroma of apricot, red apple, cooked carrot, ‘wet dog’, some iron and something sulfuric, indeed a sweet white wine hint, wet kitchen towels, wet cardboard perhaps, withering grass. Sweet, cleanly fruity onset, pear, cooked red apple and apricot, but surprisingly little grape at least in the beginning – apart from a persistent sourish undertone running till the end. Medium carbonated, very slick body, smooth cereally and very lightly caramelly malt sweetishness, straightforward with a very mild floral hop bitterish touch in the end but primarily a retronasal effect of damp kitchen towels and slight iron. Some vague grape sour-sweetness does linger about in the end, along with a dash of warming alcohol, but for a beer presenting itself as “from hops and grapes”, I expected it to be much more grape- or wine-forward; Italian grape ale the Belgian way? Not too impressed by this: see Italy’s grape ales for truly great examples of how to connect wine to beer…
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 8 | Flavor - 7.5 | Texture - 7 | Overall - 7.5
Quadrupel devised by a hobby brewer in Sint-Denijs-Westrem, submunicipality of Ghent, executed at Glazen Toren (a bit unexpectedly, seen the proximity of BeerSelect’s original facility and their proneness to commercialising all these hobby brews). Bottle (75 cl) from the Hopduvel, shared with Goedele. Overflows a bit upon opening but this can be avoided with patience and carefulness, I suppose; very foamy in any case, and difficult to pour without filling the glass instantly. Huge, initially inches thick, pale yellowish beige, cobweb-lacing, plastery, stable head, misty dark caramel-brown robe with ruddy hue and strong visible sparkling. Aroma of brown bread crust, hard caramel, ‘oude jenever’, wet toast, clove, dried prunes, tree bark, some candi sugar, toasted walnuts, old dry red wine, dust, forest floor and even forest mushrooms and a background note of bubblegum. Sweet but not too much so in comparison with many other (new and old) quads, fruity notes of dried fig, raisin, blueberry and prune with a vaguely sourish undertone; lively carbonated but in a ‘fine-bubbled’ way. Clove-like phenols appear early on, adorning a brown-bready, slick caramelly and eventually mildly toasty-bitterish maltiness without ever becoming too pronounced; meanwhile lovely ‘rustic’ dried fruits and this odd mushroom-like aspect (trompette de la mort) continue too, working their way into a warming, satisfying finish where all these flavours get tied together well, accompanied by a leafy but gentle and restrained hoppiness on the one hand and gin- to whisky-like alcohol on the other hand – the latter becoming too obtrusive, ‘hot’ and astringent in the end, alas. If this booziness would have been kept in check a bit more, this beer would improve significantly – and still be a warming, strong quad. Apart from the alcohol being too obvious and the light gushing, I have no complaints, though: the general flavour profile, though completely classic for the style, is refined and tasty, better than many other new dark ales from other beginning microbreweries. ‘Promising’ is the right word here – one to watch.
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 7 | Flavor - 8 | Texture - 8 | Overall - 7.5
New strong stout by Dok, intended for ageing on different barrels, but for starters, the ‘naked’ version is now temporarily available from tap at Hal 16 as well. Pale greyish-tinged off-white, medium thick, moussy, opening head on a jet black beer. Aroma of beef broth and ‘Maggi’, coffee grounds, wet old leather, black olives, burnt toast, oyster sauce, whisky, burnt wood, cigars, old dry raisins. Onset mixes umami (beef broth, black olive) with a bit of raisin-y sweetness, softishly carbonated (oddly – I am used to Dok beers from tap generally containing high amounts of carbon dioxide, at Hal 16 at least) with full, smooth, oily body; toasty-bitter, burnt-nutty and eventually coffee grounds-like ‘black’ roastiness, dryish with a layer of Maggi-like umami on top and aided by a persistent leafy hop bitterness as well, highlighted by a dash of gin-like, warming alcohol accentuating the flavours rather than disrupting them. Dry, smoky and roasty ‘oldskool’ stout (which I love), perhaps just a tad too much umami, but in any case really solid and doubtlessly suitable for extended barrel ageing – its barreled offspring will be followed closely, and not only by myself, I think.
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 7 | Flavor - 7 | Texture - 7 | Overall - 8
Session IPA by Dok but a multigrain variant, using buckwheat; hopped with Talus and Sabro, both very popular in recent years, and deliberately carbonated below average. From tap at Hal 16. Snow white, moussy, medium thick head on a hazy ochre-tinged pale straw blonde beer. Aroma of white bread crust, lime zest, oxidized green apple slices, rosemary, potato mash, damp straw, withering lettuce. Crisp onset, slight lemon zest and unripe starfruit along with a green pear accent, rounded body with a wheat-like slickness to it which in this case comes not from wheat, but from buckwheat. Carbonation, given the fact that it was tapped at Dok where everything from tap tends to be a bit overcarbonated, is still sharpish and crystalline – I guess the lower carbonation levels only apply to the cans. Nice underlying ‘dim’ sourishness from the buckwheat, mingled with white bread ‘barleyness’, makes for a relatively full body in relation to ABV; zesty, floral and lightly herbaceous hops with a drying bitterness contribute to this as well. In all, a pleasant, refreshing, juicy, ‘grainy-spicy’, zesty quencher with a summery feel to it.
Appearance - 7 | Aroma - 7 | Flavor - 7.5 | Texture - 8 | Overall - 7
Dok’s long-anticipated birthday beer, celebrating the fifth year of brewing activity at Hal 16 in the stylishly refurbished Dok Noord site in what used to be the southern and western part of Ghent’s harbour neighbourhood. Originally intended to be ‘quintuple’ mashed, that experiment apparently did not work out so Dok decided to take a different, less adventurous but still challenging approach and brewed a barleywine which was then freeze-distilled into a monster with a towering ABV of 20%. From tap at Dok’s tasting room. Medium thick, off-white, moussy head quickly opening and dissolving under influence of the alcohol, clear deep bronze robe with brownish-coppery glow. Intense nose with very strong umami effects: soy sauce, ‘Oxo’, reduced gravy, brown rum, beef stock, candied fig, old tawny port, mackerel, smoked pork, saddle of hare, dried cranberries, whisky, some walnut. Dense onset heavy on both sweetness and umami, a mix of soy sauce, porcini, tomato concentrate, fig jam and beef stock, with medium prickly carbonation and thick, oily mouthfeel, nevertheless avoiding sticky syrupiness. Hard-caramelly, lightly walnutty, somewhat toffeeish malts under a continuing, thick layer of beef stock- and soy sauce-like umami, overwhelming a sweeter cranberry jam-like aspect but communicating well with a salty, smoky touch (smoked mackerel even briefly popping up again). Lots of peppery, warming, whisky- and brandy-like alcohol in the end, of course, but still part of it remains embedded in these layers of maltiness, sweetness and umami, so that all things considered, the finish still remains surprisingly palpable and digestible (‘drinkable’ is not the right word here). Not really my personal cup of tea – I prefer my barleywines at about half of this ABV – but there is no denying that this is technically quite a ‘tour de force’; the umami effect here is over the top, clearly, but once you get used to that, this creation grows on you, revealing more and more of its layered complexity. One to ponder about, indeed, the limits of our existence – and the future of this great brewing project. Cheers to Dimitri, Janos, Joeri and all the rest of the crew, it has been an interesting five years, hopefully many more are to come!