St. Feuillien Tripel

Brewer: Brasserie St. Feullien, Le Rœulx – Belgique
Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 8.5%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This beer has a white, smooth and very compact head. Its pale amber colour is very characteristic revealing a distinctive maltiness. It has a rich aroma with a unique combination of aromatic hops, spices and the typical bouquet of fermentation – very fruity. Secondary fermentation in the bottle gives it a unique aroma due to the presence of yeast. St-Feuillien Triple has a very strong and exceptionally lingering taste thanks to its density and its long storage period. Whether served as a refreshing aperitif in summer or savoured during the winter months, the Triple is a connoisseur’s beer par excellence.

Tasting Notes: This beer is certainly consistent with what I’ve come to expect from a Tripel, and in some ways, reminiscent of Duvel. It is straw golden in hue, semi-cloudy, and has hints of clove, honey and spice on the nose. These come through in the flavor department as well, starting subtle and lingering on the palate, and with a yeasty tang to punctuate things. A good sipping beer, refreshing despite its strength.

Vichtenaar Flemish Ale

vichtenaarBrewer: Brouwerij Verhaeghe, Vichte, Belgium
Style: Flemish Red-Brown Ale
ABV: 5.1%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: Named after the town in which it is brewed, this beer is brewed in the tradition of Flemish reds. This includes combining deeply burned malt, spicy and fruity hops, and soft water pumped from a local well. It then undergoes primary fermention using wild yeast strains, a second lagering, and then a third fermentation in oak casts, where it matures for several months.

Tasting Notes: This beer get solid marks for its commitment to tradition, but I deducted several because of the flavor, which was far too vinegary for my taste. When you initially smell it, you get strong traces of apple cider vinegar and sugar. When you taste it, you realize that’s pretty much all its got going on. In many ways, it reminded me of Krampus, another vinegar-heavy sour ale that really didn’t do much for me.

Appearance: Deep red-brown, clear (appears opaque at first), mild foam and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, yeast
Taste: Smooth start, sugars, vinegary bite, yeasty effervescence
Aftertaste: Lingering sweetness and vinegar flavor
Overall: 7/10

Corsendonk Agnus Tripel Ale

Corsendonk-Agnus_tripel-33-1_1024x1024Brewer: Brouwerij Corsendonk, Turnhout, Belgium
Style: Tripel
ABV: 7.5%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: Corsendonk Agnus is the brewery’s take on the traditional Belgian Tripel. True to this tradition, it combines a generous dose of pale malt with a mild hopping, and is then bottle-fermented using active yeast cultures. And the end result is a brew that is rich, malty, crisp and bubbly, and none too shy about its alcohol content.

Tasting Notes: Corsendonk is kind of a big deal as far as the Belgian beer game goes. In the past, I’ve had their Pater a few times, so I was pretty pleased to see their Tripel available locally. And I was quite impressed with it. In addition to all the things I’ve come to love about Tripels – rich malt, strength, lots of yeasty flavor – the Corsendonk Agnus manages to pull all of that with a degree of subtlety. Its drinkable and refreshing on top of it all, which is a nice plus.

Appearance: Golden-orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, sugars, citrus, floral nose, coriander spice, yeast
Taste: Rich, crisp malt, hint of sugar, honey, coriander spice, yeasty effervescence
Aftertaste: Lingering notes of honey, yeasty bitterness
Overall: 9/10

Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru

Brasseriedesrocs_GrandCruBrewer: Brasserie des Rocs, Montignies-sur-Roc, Belgium
Style: Strong Brown Ale
ABV:
9.5%

Description: This strong Belgian brown ale is fashioned using 7 different varieties of malts, a mixture of three kinds of hops – Belgian, German and Czech – and is brewed without any sugar. The end result is then double-fermented and unfiltered to create a malt-forward, strong special ale.

Tasting Notes: This was a surprising experience, being very malty and sugary – despite the lack of Candi sugar in the brewing process. However, it was what one would expect from a strong Brown ale or a Belgian Dubbel. Basically, it was packed with flavors of dark fruit, brown sugar, and had a nice, smoky finish that reminded me of Christmas and figgy pudding. Another good intro to a previously-unknown Belgian brewery.

Appearance: Ruby/brown, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, brown sugars, fruity notes, plums, dates, raisins, rum-like essence
Taste: Smooth malt, strong sugars, dark fruit, hint of smoke, mild alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering smoky, dark fruit and sugary aftertaste
Overall: 9/10

Het Anker Golden Carolus Cuvee van der Keizer Rood

cuvee_van_de_keizer_r_75clBrewer: Het Anker, Mechelen, Belgium
Style: Special Blonde Ale
ABV: 10.5%
IBU: 17

Description: Launched in 2008 on the 10th anniversary of the Cuvee van de Keizer Blauw’s release, this special blonde ale that contains added varieties of malt, an exclusive Belgian hop variety, and three kinds of herbs.

Tasting Notes: As blonde ales go, this one was rather “special”. The strong malt, sugars, and yeasty notes are true to a blonde ale, but the infusion of herbs, notes of honey and fruity esters give it a flavor that is somewhat reminiscent of mead. It’s also very smooth despite its high alcohol content and diverse array of flavors. Definitely an interesting experience and a worthwhile buy!

Appearance: Deep golden, slightly cloudy, heavy foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich grainy malt, yeast, honey, sugars, sweet herbs, white wine
Taste: Smooth start, tang, yeasts, sugar and honey, fruity esters and herbs, oak,
Aftertaste: Lingering honey, malt flavor, yeast bitterness and esters
Overall: 9.5/10

Off To The Beer Seminar!

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Today is a great day for beer appreciation, because it is the day that I finally get to host my long-overdue beer-tasting and history of beer seminar. Ten participants have signed on, the space has been reserved, and in a few hours time, I will be giving the attendees a quick (well not too quick) run-down on the history of the brewing craft, coupled with some generous sampling.

I’ve prepared the following list based on what I could find and what seemed indispensable to me as far as representing the history and full range of brewing was concerned. All told, they are divided by style more than historical period, but I will be presenting them in this order since it gives a pretty good idea of how the art evolved over time.

Ancient Beers:
Heather: Salt Spring Island Heather Ale (5% / 650 ml)
(I desperately wanted to find a bomber of Gruit as well, but that variety of beer is both hard to find and hopelessly out of season right now)

Abbey Beers:
Blonde: Affligem Blonde (6.8% / 330ml)
Tripel: Townsite Charleston Tripel (9% / 650 ml)
Sour: Driftwood Belle Royale (8% / 650 ml)

Anglo-American Beer:
Pale Ale: Hoyne’s Down Easy (5.2% / 650ml)
India Pale Ale: Driftwood Fat Tug IPA (7% / 650 ml)
Stout: Hopworks 7-Grain Stout (5.3% / 650 ml)
Barley Wine: Howe Sound Wooly Bugger (10.5% / 375 ml)

German Beer:
Lager: Ayinger Dortmunder Lager (5.5% / 500 ml)
Oktoberfest: Russel Marzen (5.5% / 650ml)
Hefeweizen: Schneider Weisse (5.4% / 500 ml)
Bock: Schneider Weisse Aventinus (8% / 500ml)
Smokebeer: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (6.6% / 500 ml)

The seminar will begin with where and how beer became a cornerstone of civilization – emerging alongside agriculture and sedentary communities some 8000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. I will then go on to how the rise of wine making introduced a sense of cultural distinction during Classical Antiquity, and the influence was largely confined to the parts of Europe where the Roman Empire had influence (France, Spain, Italy, the Mediterranean, but not Germany, the Low Countries, Eastern Europe, or the British Isles).

Then comes the Middle Ages, the establishment of Abbey/Monastery Brewing, the rise of hop use, the advent of Lager and the growing professionalization of the industry. Which then gives way to the industrial revolution and the emergence of brewing as a big business, followed of course by the modern era and the resurgence in craft brewing. It promises to be interesting, I just hope I can keep it down to 20 minutes. Leaves more time from sampling!

I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes and I hope to repeat it in the very near future with some other (and larger) groups of people.

Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic Bio

Cantillon_kriek-500x500Brewer: Cantillon Brewery, Brussels, Belgium
Style: Kriek Lambic
Alc/Vol: 5%

Description: The Cantillon Brewery is a family business run by the Van Roy-Cantillons of Belgium. Committed to producing traditional Lambics, Krieks, Guezes and other traditional Belgian beers. Much like all Krieks, the beer is made using a Lambic base and then infused with sour Morello cherries, bottle-fermented, and then aged for three to five months to achieve perfect saturation.

Tasting Notes: This beer was a fitting and faithful example of a Kriek. The nose and flavor were packed with sour cherries, discernible sour yeasts, and some serious oaky flavor. For many, the potent, tart flavor might be a bit off-putting or overwhelming, but I’ve always been a fan. The rich aroma and flavor are intoxicating, exciting, and linger on the palate for some time afterwards.

Appearance: Deep burgundy, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong cherry notes, tartness, rich oak, lactic acid and yeast
Taste: Immediate burst of sour cherry, tartness, wild yeast and oak flavor
Aftertaste: Long lingering sourness and cherry flavor
Overall: 9.5/10

Westmalle Trappiste Dubbel

Westmalle-dubbelBrewer: Westmalle
Style: Double Ale
Alc/Vol: 7%

Description: An Abbey ale, brewed by Trappist monks since 1856, Westmalle Dubbel is a double fermented ale that is one of two beers that is brewed year round and commercially available. In 1926, the monks changed the recipe to its current, heavier-tasting recipe.

Tasting Notes: This beer is one of the best Dubbel’s I’ve ever tasted, even after many years of sampling. Like a barley wine, it has a strong malty flavor that is rich, sugary and loaded with fruit. The lacy head and yeasty flavor are distinctive and firmly identify this beer as a Trappist product. However, unlike barley wines or other strong ales, at no point is the malt flavor or alcohol content overwhelming or coarse. While I have always been partial to their Tripel, this one is still a top contender for a spot on my all-time favorites list.

Appearance: Dark brown, opaque, strong, lacy foam and good carbonation
Nose: Rich malty nose, light hop aroma, raisins and sugars
Taste: Strong malt backbone and yeasts, notes of brown sugar, raisins, figs and oak
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast, malt flavor and oak
Overall: 10/10

Delirium Tremens

delirium_tremensAh, its wonderful when old friends look you up and come by for a visit. Yes, that’s a bit of strange analogy for me finding this beer in my local store, but I think its apt. Brewed by the award-winning Huyghe Brewery in Melles, Belgium, Delirium is a world famous Golden Ale, and one of the many Belgian beers that I was treated to at Ottawa’s Vineyards Bistro as part of my early beer education.

As a result, it occupies a special place in my heart, and was one of the many beers that taught me about the wide, wide world of brewing and what it means exactly to be a Belgian ale. Basically, it involves some syrupy malts that range in color from blond to deep brown, yeasts that leave a distinctive taste and smell, and a flavor that is strong, a little coarse and tangy, and often effervescent and slightly sweet. And of course, it must be strong, generally in the 7% or higher range.

And Delirium is certainly no stranger to any of these qualities. It pours a light golden, has a great deal of yeasty effervescence, and packs a strong alcoholic punch (8.5% alc/vol). In short, between its golden hue, its bubbly characters, and strength, there’s a reason they call it Delirium! In addition to Westmalle, Aventinus, and McAuslan Vintage Ale, I can’t tell you how nice it to see my old favorites finding me where I live these days. Makes me miss my old home just a little less…

Appearance: Straw golden, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Belgian yeasts, rich malts, trace of sugars and honey
Taste: Effervescent yeasts, syrupy, semi-sweet malts, hint of citrus, honey, trace of oak
Aftertaste: Clean finish, lingering yeast, malt and mild oak flavor
Overall: 9.5/10

Trappistes Rochefort 10

https://i0.wp.com/www.theperfectlyhappyman.com/uploads/trappistes-rochefort-10.jpgHello again and welcome back to this celebration of Winter Beer and Trappist Ales! As we are coming up on the holidays, let me also wish everyone a very merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and any other holidays you choose to observe. May they be joyous, full of good food and drink, and may you be surrounded by loved ones for the duration!

Picking up where I left off the other day, I have yet another beer from the Trappistes Rochefort brewery. After sampling their 6 and more recently, their 8, I finally got a chance to resample their 10 and learn once again why I enjoy their lineup so much. Whereas the previous beers were a double and triple respectively, the lineup concludes with their “blue cap” quadruple ale; an extra-dark, extra strong (11.3% alc/vol), extra sugary beer with thick malts, a chewy mouth feel, and plenty of sugar, spice and fruit to go around.

Appearance: Dark brown, translucent, good foam retention
Nose: Rich malt nose, notes of dates, brown sugar and yeast
Taste: Sweet, heavy malts, viscous mouth feel, plums, raisins, dates
Aftertaste: Slight spice, sugars, slightly bitter finish
Overall: 9/10

Of the three, I have determined that the 8 is my favorite overall, mainly because it offers the best balance of fruit, spice and sugar. But that need not and will not apply to all people and palates. Sample the entire line and decide for yourself which possesses the most preferable characteristics. However, I must advise caution when drinking at this end of the Rochefort color spectrum. These beers are rich, sweet and very sugary, but that belies an intense strength which can knock you sideways. When compared to the red and green-colored caps, this last one can cause serious “Blue Shift”! Pour yourself one, preferably in a specialized Trappist glass, and savor. Savor!