La Trappe Quadrupel Trappist Ale

LaTrappe_quadrupleBrewer: La Trappe Brewery, Berkel-Enschot, NL
Style: Quadruple Trappist Ale
Alc/Vol: 10%

Description: The strongest and heaviest of La Trappe’s lineup, this unfiltered, bottle fermented ale is brewed in the age-old style crafted by Trappist monks to achieve a dark, malty profile that contains dark fruit and sugary notes that conceals a rather hefty alcoholic punch (10% alc/vol). Though brewed in The Netherlands, it is very much in keeping with the proud tradition of Belgian ales.

Tasting Notes: I’ve been looking to test out La Trappe’s Quadrupel for some time now, as I can recall sampling it back in my Ottawa days alongside their Tripel. And having reacquainted myself with said Tripel not long ago, I wanted to get my hands on a bottle of this so I could finally give it a proper review. Suffice it to say, it is very consistent with their other brews and with the style of ale itself. Like a good Trappist beer, it had the yeasty, effervescent quality that comes from bottle fermenting and conditioning. And true to a Quadrupel’s taste, it packed all the flavors of raisins and dates with brown sugar and molasses. And of course, a mild hopping and Belgian ale yeast provides a nice tang and bitterness to accompany it all, and finishes with a gentle nutty flavor to round it all out. Definitely well paired with sharp cheeses and red meat dishes!

Appearance: Amber/brown, cloudy, sediment, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, dark fruits, sugars, molasses, Belgian yeast
Taste: Smooth malt, mild tang, raisins, dates, yeast, brown sugar, mild herbal hops
Aftertaste: Lingering sugars, dark fruits and sugars, yeasts and nutty flavor
Overall: 9/10

Wooly Bugger Barley Wine

woolly-bugger-label_dec-2011Happy New Year all! Not sure how people are choosing to ring in the end of 2012, but for my money, a nice evening in with the wife, hot stew, some Halo co-op playing, and some barley wine are the perfect substitute for going out. And to fill the bill on that last item, I picked up a bottle of Howe Sound’s latest limited release for this winter: the 2012 edition of their Wooly Bugger Barley Wine!

And as far as first impressions go, I was mighty impressed with this beer. I have long been a fan of barely wine, ever since I tried St. Amboise’s Millennial Ale back in 2000 and few things have managed to rival it. But I tell ya, this beer came pretty close. Upon sampling it, I was immediately reminded of both it and Swan’s Legacy Ale, and trust me when I say that is a flattering comparison. Much like those predecessors, this beer struck a fine balance between sweet and coarse, combining sugary notes with strong malts and alcoholic content (11% alc/vol).

Appearance: Deep reddish brown, cloudy, average foam retention
Nose: Syrupy malt nose, sugars and floral hops
Taste: Strong, sweet start, hints of citrus hops, heavy notes of molasses and brown sugar, dates and prunes, giving way to slightly coarse malts and alcohol
Aftertaste: Slight bitterness and tang, coarse malts linger for some time
Overall: 10/10

All in all, the sweetness and strength of this beer, along with the notes of fruit and sugar, provide for a perfectly balanced, warming, and intoxicating drinking experience. And its profile makes it ideally paired with desserts or after dinner fare, especially when served in a snifter or Trappist beer glass, the way Brandy or other digestifs would be.

Personally, I’m very glad I happened upon at my old watering hole, because the picking for New Years were many and I really didn’t want to walk off with a huge haul. Wooly Bugger, ladies and gentlemen, one of my new favorites and a great investment for any New Years party or winter weather gathering!

More Belgians!

Okay, back for more Belgian beer reviews. I should take this opportunity to mention a few places which I found over the years which can be counted on to carry some of the beers I’ve been covering. In addition to Vineyards, located in the Byward Market in Ottawa, there is also Pub Italia, located on Preston Street in Ottawa’s “Little Italy”. Third, there’s the Beer Markt, one of the biggest beer halls I’ve seen outside of Germany, located in King West, Toronto. All of these places were quintessential in my beer education, up to a hundred taps and several hundred bottles. For some reason, I have yet to find such a place in BC, but I will try!

In terms of Beer Stores, your larger LCBO’s (in Ontario) are usually a good source. In BC, the BCL usually focuses on beers of the pacific northwest, but Liquor Plus has been known to carry quite a few labels.

St. Martin Blonde: The brewery of Brunehaut, which is responsible for this brew, has a looooong history. Though technically not a Trappist beer, it is nevertheless a traditional Abbey beer, done in the same tradition of making strong, double/triple fermented, and bottle conditioned ales. The blonde ale is one of their flagship beers, and is nice and light. At 7% alc/vol, its certainly no slouch in terms of strength, but the taste is clean, oaky, and with just a touch of honey. The color and nose are consistent with this, being cloudy gold with light aroma of hops and honey. 7.5/10

Duvel: Here is a beer that I’ve sampled many times, but can never really acquire a taste for. Which is surprising given my love for most wheat beers. At 8.5% alc/vol, this beer lives up to its name (Devil), and the taste is certainly consistent. Befitting a traditional Belgian golden ale, it is made with Pilsner malt and white sugar, which is reflected in the taste – being crisp, hoppy, and with a strong finish that is reminiscent of rum. Originally brewed to commemorate the end of WWI, this beer is certainly a fine product, but remains one Belgian I can’t get into! Duvel – good quality, but not a personal favorite. 7/10

Maredsous Brune: Made by the same brewery that produces Duvel (Duvel Moortgat), this beer was a faithful fallback beer during my sampling days. The color, as the name suggests, is dark brown, the taste is tawny, but with a syrupy touch. A good balance of hops, malts and sweetness that Belgian Abbey beers are famous for. I wish I could get my hands on more of their lineup, such as the Blonde, and Tripel. Next visit to Ottawa, I guess! 8/10