Appearance - 7 | Aroma - 6.5 | Flavor - 6.5 | Texture - 7 | Overall - 7
Ginger-flavoured ale by this all-female microbrewery in Amsterdam, having made its way to the Albert Heijn supermarket shelves apparently. Very thick and foamy, egg-white, busily cobweb-lacing, very regular and dense, creamy head resting heavily on a misty apricot blonde beer with pale orange tinge. Aroma of very strong soapy and spicy ginger, not just ginger root and gari but ginger cookies and ginger ale as well, lemonade or even Fanta, ripe banana, brioche bread, ripe pear, freshly cut sweet red apple, fresh basil (probably just the ginger again), lime zest, melon, minerals, white pepper, field flowers. Sweet onset with sourish edge and ginger spiciness right on, banana, ripe pear, apple peel and some peach, fizzy carbonation with minerally effects lasting deep into the finish; slick cereally pale malt core, sweetish and a tad bready, deeply soaked in more sweet than spicy ginger, which has the upper hand all through. Lingering sparkling water minerality and 'yellow' fruitiness in the end, while the ginger does become spicy after all, though lacking the 'burn' I was expecting; more alarmingly, the finish also lacks hop bitterness (even if some aromatic citrusy zestiness is certainly there), so that apart from this peppery ginger spicy effect, not much 'body' is added and the whole ends somewhat watery. I have nothing against ginger-flavoured beers (though ginger may not be my personal favourite when it comes to beer flavourings), but this one feels rather sweet, thin and watery, due to a lack of hops; I guess these ladies thought the ginger was going to be enough and would solve it all, but a beer like this really needs hop bitterness too to lend body to the finish and support the ginger even in a ginger-dominated beer. Likeable enough if you are into ginger, but structurally rather feeble and poorly constructed so ending up a simplistic one-trick pony, I regret to say.
Appearance - 7 | Aroma - 7.5 | Flavor - 7 | Texture - 8 | Overall - 7
Belgian style blonde brewed by Eeuwige Jeugd for the 'Appie', the affectionate name Dutch people give to the Albert Heijn supermarkets. Longneck bottle from, indeed, an 'Appie'... Thick and foamy, egg-white, tightly cobweb-lacing, firm and stable, dense head on a crystal clear, warm yellow golden blonde beer with lively visible sparkling, misty and deeper gold with sediment. Aroma of ripe banana, honey-glazed pear, white bread dough, coriander, cooked turnips, freshly cut grass, green apple (acetaldehyde), meringue, iron, sourish sweat note. Fizzy, sweetish onset, banana ester mingled with cooked pear and green apple, dash of overripe cucumber, sharpish minerally carbonation, slick body; pale malt sweetish core, cereally and a bit white-bready with sharper grainy edges, accompanied by a 'whiny' sourish undertone, leading to a grassy hop bitterish finish with some soapy coriander thrown in for good measure. Floral hop aromas (sweetclover, chamomile) rise up retronasally and this gentle bitterness lasts long enough to remain moderately entertaining, though that sourish aspect as well as those sweet malty flavours pass through easily and unabatedly. Something metallic is present as well. Thinnish and boring, but admittedly well-balanced blonde - though not really one worth seeking out, considering the many other interesting beers gracing the 'Appie's' shelves these days.
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 7.5 | Flavor - 7.5 | Texture - 7 | Overall - 8
One of several variants of Mind Your Step, the superstrong stout by Uiltje, this time flavoured with coffee from Moyee, a fairtrade coffee brand from Amsterdam. Can from De Picker in Zele (much to my surprise). Thick and densely creamy, warm mocha-beige, softly crackling, very regular, tiny-bubbled, massive head visibly built from uprising carbonation on the underside, on a jet black beer. Strong bouquet of espresso powder and lots of cold black coffee, juniper branches rather than berries, burnt oak chips, unsugared black chocolate, salmiak, hard caramel candy, gin, dark Brazil cigars and black Danish pipe tobacco, whisky, molasses, hazelnut crisps, dried prunes more than cranberries, treacle, melting mocha ice cream, toasted walnuts, old linen cloth, limestone. Thick, dense, concentrated onset, sourish blackberry edge round sweeter dried fig and prune impressions, softly carbonated with - unsurprisingly - utterly thick, viscous, syrupy mouthfeel, hampering drinkability a bit, so forcing one to sip this in small portions. Big fat slabs of caramelly, black-chocolatey, walnutty and black-toasty malts and grains then fill the mouth completely, bittersweet but more bitter than sweet, especially when roastiness sets in, strongly amplified by the 'tons' of added Moyee coffee, which brings both additional spicy bitterness and retronasal coffee aromas. Some blackberry and dried fig fruitiness lingers along with aspects of leather, blood, salmiak and limestone, before a 'grand finale' heats the back of the mouth, highlights both the sweetness and the bitterness and then slowly fades away, unveiling traces of juniper berry 'ethereal' spiciness and very rooty, leafy hop bitterness in its path, the latter much more evident than the former and lingering for a long time. Coffee travels along as well, very prominently so even, but nothing here stands a chance against that superthick, layered, impenetrable, massive dark malt structure, absorbing the alcohol, the coffee and the hops to a large extent - cranberries, probably being a more 'frail' ingredient, are even lost completely without ever being noticed. Boastfully thick and bold - a bit too much so even for its own good, many subtleties, both good and bad, are covered under a thick carpet of oily dark maltiness and apart from the coffee, which must indeed have been added very generously, the added ingredients are completely buried under all that weight. The alcohol too, though, as said, largely absorbed by the malts, remains too prominent in the end and eventually acquires a rather astringent character, which I dislike. One to slip slowly on a cold November night like this one - spicy, bittersweet, viscous and syrupy, this is not quite an easy drinker even for a powerful imperial stout. Could do with more 'drinkability' and less alcohol, if you ask me. Less impressed by this version than by the original one, I must say.
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 7.5 | Flavor - 8 | Texture - 8 | Overall - 7
Triple IPA (TIPA - or IIPA which is the same thing) by this Dutch craft beer pioneer, cleverly hopped with two hop varieties typically associated with grape- or white wine-like flavours, Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau Blanc, along with a third one (the famed Citra). Thick and frothy, egg-white, moussy and very regular, firm head on a misty peach blonde beer with warm pale orangey glow. Aroma of orange blossom, grapefruit peel, pink peppercorns, dry biscuit, Graham crackers, triple sec, lemon bitters, bitter honey, dry Sauvignon Blanc wine, bread crust, mature abbey cheese rind, gin, grass, subtle notes of sweet white grape, black radish and dry earth. Crisp, fruity onset, but rather restrained in sweetness, hinting at grapefruit early on, next to vague rowan berry, unripe pear and dried apricot; tingling carbonation, minerally and a tad stingy even, but otherwise smooth, bit vinous, full mouthfeel. Cracker-, rusk- and bread crust-like maltiness, a tad biscuity here and there, remains accompanied by this spring water-like minerality, but is soon overshadowed by a firm, expressive, uncompromizing hoppiness, adding a very long, rooty, quinine- and yellow grapefruit peel-like bitterness allowing only a trace of fruity and malty juiciness to pass through, as well as a retronasal 'wave' of citrus pith, grape skin and pink peppercorns, with sweeter touches of orange and white wine woven into the whole. Warming, gin-like alcohol glows at the back, accentuating the bitterness of the hops without breaking it too much. Quite citrusy, in all, with less white grape effects than I was hoping for based on the two main hop varieties used here - but what I got instead, is an old school, powerfully bitter, West Coast-like IIPA, bringing back memories of the likes of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA or even Pliny the Elder, though in an admittedly somewhat more 'muffled', less radiant and less sophisticated way. Still, all things considered - especially the fact that this comes from a supermarket shelf (Albert Heijn) - this is a damn fine offering, I have this craving for old-fashionedly bitter IPAs from time to time and it is good to know that this supermarket chain has it in stock. Very good to excellent, but still well below world class, as with most of the high-profile beers in Jopen's output, at least in my personal experience.
Appearance - 9 | Aroma - 8.5 | Flavor - 8.5 | Texture - 9 | Overall - 9.5
Interesting and highly profiled (as well as quite expensive) blend of Johnnie Walker barrel aged quadrupel with Chivas Regal barrel aged 'smoked imperial brown ale' and bourbon barrel aged 'imperial red ale', one in a series of prestigious and ambitious 'bières de dégustation' by this trusted family brewery in the eastern Netherlands. Comes with fancy box, which is apparently used for all these Curiosité variants. Shared by Craftmember in honour of his birthday - cheers to that, Vincent! Pale greyish-beige, tiny-bubbled, open and eventually dissolving head, deep chocolate brown robe with copper red glow, clear at first but misty in the end. Beguiling bouquet of ground hazelnuts, Pumpernickel bread, toffee, lots of vanilla-scenting oak wood, walnut liqueur, dried prunes, pear, cinnamon, candied fig, some smoky whisky in the background, fainter but equally alluring notes of black cherry, dried apricot, liquorish, bourbon-soaked raisins, ketjap manis and dried porcini. Sweet onset without any stickiness, concentrated with a slight sourish edge, impressions of fig, pear and ripe red plum with a dash of ripe blackberry, softish carbonation with rounded, full mouthfeel; complex, primarily hazelnutty and toffeeish malt body with nougat-, caramel- and even lightly chocolate-like sides, as well as toasty accent (I suppose from that imperial red ale). The smoky part of the 'smoked imperial brown ale' (whatever that may be) remains very faint, but is still detectable retronasally. Lots of noble, vanilla-scented oakiness graces a long, soothing, complex finish, in which the layers of nutty and caramelly malts show off their best, adorned with residual candi sugar sweetness, raisin and dried fig notes and warming, evidently single malt- and bourbon-like alcohol, which warms persistently without burning. Hops are hidden below all these structures, providing balance against the sweetness without explicitly revealing themselves, as it ought to be in this kind of strong ale. Profound, multi-sided ('kaleidoscopic'), majestic winter warmer - far above any other Bronckhorster beer I had to date. If this is the level of quality this Curiosité series offers, then I can only regret having missed out on earlier editions, and remain eager to try more of them. Truly superb quadrupel - of sorts.
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 8.5 | Flavor - 7.5 | Texture - 8 | Overall - 8
The most recent addition to the renewed Eylenbosch range (not to be confused with Boerenerf Eylenbosch as I noticed is already happening here and there), with 459 grams of the famed Schaarbeekse cherries per liter lambic (of 8 and 20 months old), macerated for nine months. Medium thick, pale lilac-tinged pink, fizzing, tiny-bubbled head, quickly settling as a dense, open, thin and eventually completely dissolving ring around the edge; initially clear, deep wine red robe with ruby glow, turning deeper purple-ish wine red and misty further on (with the bottom of the bottle containing dark red-brown grit from the fruit). Aroma of sour cherry juice and skins, dark green tree leaves and bitter garden weeds (typically De Troch), green walnuts, almond, redcurrant, swimming pool chlorine (but not too 'heavy'), unripe plum, wet oak wood, unripe orange, crumbling dry earth, raw beetroot, lemon flesh, dust, spring water, vague touch of Limburg 'zuurvlees' faraway in the background. Crisp, sour onset, lots of sour cherry astringency but also fleshiness, bit puckering at first with sharp lemony and redcurrant-like edges; accents of wild apples and rhubarb as well, all fizzily carbonated with minerally effects. Dry mouthfeel, rounded and full, tad vinous but mostly astringent from the combination of lactic acidity, fruit acidity and heavy tannins from the fruit's skins and pits, accompanying a bready 'soil' to a fruit-fleshy, long finish where the wood from the barrels further accentuates the tannic astringency of the fruit's skins and pits. Minerally and 'swimming pool' effects abound, and briefly but unmistakably, that rich almond-like aroma of this sour cherry variety pops up retronasally. Sourness remains generally strong, matching with the dry and astringent character of this kriek, but the fleshiness of the fruit does add some balance to that as well. Deeply situated 'old hop' bitterness is noticeable too, though briefly so, and hard to set apart from the bitter aspects brought by the fruit; some horse steak-like proteins also subtly linger at the back, and a thin lemony edge refreshingly remains on the tongue after swallowing. The typical fleshy and almondy 'Schaarbeekse' character is there, but not as thickly, intensely and convincingly so as in the best Schaarbeekse cherry lambics by longer established producers; still, a solid and credible lambic offering from this producer. Suitable as a kind of 'introduction' to Schaarbeekse kriek, perhaps?
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 7 | Flavor - 8 | Texture - 8 | Overall - 8
Rhubarb lambic - no longer a total surprise since Cantillon's 2008 Zwanze - by Kestemont, the new family business in lambic land, continuing what Goossens had begun in the 18th centurty; 37.5 cl bottle with cork and muselet. Snow white, moussy, tiny-bubbled, thinnish and open head, remaining as a white ring of foam and some dots and veils in the middle for a while but eventually gone; initially lightly hazy apricot-golden blonde robe with very active, fine-bubbled sparkling, misty and deeper beige-tinged gold further on and almost cloudy yellowish in the end. Aroma of indeed raw rhubarb straight from the vegetable plot, green apple, gooseberry to even sweeter gooseberry jam in the background, moldy old lemon peel, dry hay, old dry wood, unripe nectarine, sawdust, oxidized white wine, petrichor, Conference pear peel, raw radish, something faintly smoky (burning rubber even) but very volatile, raw chard, light wet leather funkiness. Tart onset, estery with lots of green apple, unripe pear and gooseberry, even a sweeter note of apricot hidden within, all covered under crisp oxalic acid from the rhubarb - but surely that subtle sweet touch also comes from the same rhubarb; lively carbonation, dry and lightly vinous mouthfeel. Bread-crusty underground, playful lactic tartness with this oxalic acidity continuing, but both in a rather soft, mellow, 'malse' way, nowhere sharp; fruity, crisp rhubarb with that sweeter side to it remain noticeable in the middle, while woody tannins pop up and add to the overall dry effect. Slight funky notes here and there (wet hay, sweat, petrichor), vague lemony accents too - in the end accompanied by a deeply buried, earthy 'old hop' bitter touch; even then, however, this soft sourness and 'green' crispness of the rhubarb remain the dominant factors. Decent rhubarb lambic with the rhubarb sufficiently generously applied, but lacking a bit in body, spirit, character and complexity; I would not even have minded a sharper sting of oxalic acid, more funk and more tannic woodiness in this particular case. These Kestemont lambics so far seem a bit underdeveloped and unrefined, but there is passion and goodwill enough, and I do not doubt that they will improve as these people become more experienced. I will certainly keep obs on them...
Appearance - 8 | Aroma - 7 | Flavor - 7 | Texture - 7 | Overall - 7.5
Blonde hopped with locally grown hops – and by locally, I mean in the Sint-Macharius quarter of Ghent, which borders on the Heirnis quarter where the brewery is located. People from Sint-Macharius grew and harvested wild hops to use in this extremely local beer, only available at the brewery and in the pub located in the old gate building of the Coyendanspark in Sint-Macharius. Only 700 l is produced so far but intentions are to recreate it every year. Had this one from tap at the brewery. Snow white, creamy and dense, membrane-lacing, stable head on a warm pure apricot-golden beer with somewhat greenish tinge. Aroma of freshly cut grass, white bread, raw cereals, plaster, field flowers, dry hay, vague cooked white cabbage. Dryish onset, very restrained unripe banana and unripe apricot fruitiness, fizzy carbonation, very minerally; smooth cereally and white-bready malt core, sweetish pale maltiness gently bittered by grassy and floral hops, somewhat drying but in a very soft way (as is typical for wild hops), so that this pale malt sweetishness continues near unchanged into the finish. Obviously the botanical form of Humulus lupulus contains less of the alpha acids found in all those cultivated varieties, hence less aroma and less bitterness, though I have to admit this beer feels clean and pleasantly ‘greenish’ (grassy). Subtle but correct, easygoing quencher, one I would not mind revisiting next time I am in that particular neighborhood of my beloved city. Note the little pun in the name: many streets in the Heirnis quarter are named after fish (because fishery was once a major source of income there) and ‘schol’ is the Flemish name of the European plaice – but also a Flemish word meaning ‘cheers’, when toasting, for example with beer…