#344 Leffe – Radieuse

Name: Radieuse
Brewery: Leffe (Leuven, Belgium)
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 8.5%
Source: Countdown Victoria St

You know how people love to use the word “busy”?
To complain and also brag about how frantically, painfully, wonderfully snowed under they are?

Well that’s me right now, I’m pleased to tell you – f l a t – o u t. As you can see from the nasty fluorescent lighting in the picture, I drank this beer at work. Drinking beer at my desk (outside of work hours that is, should my boss be reading this) has become an increasingly frequent practice of late, as I’m trying to catch up on posts and the unpleasantness of being at work  makes me type faster.

I picked up this bottle of Leffe Radieuse because it was one of the few single beers I hadn’t blogged from the city Countdown, and really just because I like the word Radieuse. True story.

It smelled sticky sweet and fruity. It may have been the label playing tricks with my mind, but I got berries and cherries and all things pink and purple. There was also toffee malt and that typically Belgian banana bread yeast.

In the mouth it was very sweet and malty, with a hint of tart cherry’s and licorice. At the finish it was quite dry, with a little raw alcohol note that reminded me that, oops! It’s actually 8.5%. No wonder I was slurring all through that meeting. (Just kidding. Outside of work hours – really.)

Leffe’s were my Belgian beer of choice when I was about 18, but I think I may be done with them now. They’re good beers I think, but a bit too sweet and alcoholic for this busy old-timer.

Published in: on July 24, 2012 at 4:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

#306 Green Flash – Rayon Vert

Name: Rayon Vert
Brewery: Green Flash (San Diego, California)
Style: Belgian Pale Ale
Source: Galbraith’s Alehouse
ABV: 7%

When I was little, someone told me about the green flash. Not the beer – I was only drinking the foam from my Dad’s Guinness back then – but the green flash of light that can appear just after the sun slips below the horizon.

It was probably Dad, and maybe I was drunk from the Guinness foam, but somehow I interpreted it to mean that every time the sun set there would be a green flash. To this day I have spent every single would-be romantic sunset looking for it, and not once, not bloody once have I ever seen it.

Thank you for nothing, science. 

The good news is that this beer (who’s name means Green Ray in French) was as wonderfully weird as that optical phenomina, although it did take me quite a few sips to properly warm up to it.

The aroma was strange – it seemed medicinal at first, but then I recognised it as that same dusty, horsey smell you get from lambic beers – caused by the wild yeast brettanomyces.

In the mouth  it tasted of fruity hops (lemon, orange and grannysmith apples) and of a horses stable (the leather saddle, the hay, and the horse itself). It wasn’t really sour – lightly tart perhaps, but bitter and very dry at the finish.

The Rayon Vert reminded me of one of my favourite beers, Orval, but it was a little more intense in both brett and bitterness. And speaking of bitterness, here’s a picture of the phenomena that I’ve wasted approximately 598 sunsets trying to see:

Green Ray

Not even that cool is it?
OK fine it is.

Published in: on June 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm  Comments (2)  

#281 Dale’s – Belgian Ale

Dale's Belgian AleName: Belgian Pale Ale
Brewery: Dale’s Brewing Co. (brewed at West Coast)
Style: Belgian Pale Ale
ABV: 5.4%
Source: Dave Kurt

The first time I had this beer I was seriously distracted by the smell of chicken – I had it outside the Hop Garden which is right by KFC – and this time I was seriously distracted by something else.

I swear to god, it tasted so much like mine and Dad’s homebrew Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone. The hops and the malt were different, yet the beers shared this really distinctive, unique flavour which is hard to describe – sort of a hard candy-like sweetness. Was it a fault? Something to do with the plastic bottles? I don’t know. It wasn’t bad, just a little odd. Like seeing my better looking, better dressed doppelgänger in the street.

Anyway poor Dale, I don’t mean to offend him by comparing his beer to my first-ever homebrew, this is a lot better after all. I tried to put the comparison out of my mind in order to come up with something constructive, and with some effort I detected some notes of orange and passionfruit, warm wintery spices and golden syrupy malt. Mostly though, it just tasted like de ja vu.

Published in: on May 27, 2012 at 1:53 pm  Comments (3)  

#241 Westvleteren Extra 8

Westvleteren 8 bottleName: Extra 8
Brewery: Westvleteren (Vleteren, Belgium)
Style: Trappist Ale
ABV: 8%
Source: The Beerstore

I found this random unlabelled bottle in the back of Dad’s fridge some time late on Saturday night. I wasn’t sure what it was but I was already too hammered by then to care, so I opened it up and used it for the Circle of Death drinking game we were playing.

What did it taste like? Lord knows! I had to scull it back and I’m pretty sure it had some tequila and white wine mixed in with it by then, but I do remember thinking (as I threw it up the next morning, not at the time) that it might have tasted a bit Belgian.

Relax – I jest! I jest! Imagine if I’d actually sculled a Westvleteren beer as part of a drinking game! Would any readers have killed me if I had?

For the non beer-geeks, it’s funny because the three beers from the trappist Westvleteren brewery are rated online as some of  THE BEST IN THE WORLD (booming, thunderous voice), with the holy grail being the Westvleteren 12 – ranked number 1 on Ratebeer.com.

I think the mystical aura surrounding Westvleteren contributes to it’s appeal – by which I mean, the fact the monks only produce very limited amounts, and that they don’t sell it to any wholesalers. You can go and buy it from the abbey, but each person is only allowed one or two cases every two months, and you have to phone ahead and reserve it first. Talk about playing hard to get!

And that’s why it seems a bit strange that my dad was able to get me this bottle, simply by visiting The Beer Store and parting with $55 or so. Too easy, right?

Some people would probably argue that Westy isn’t meant to be exported to the other side of the planet.  That you can’t be sure all the middle-men have handled it properly, and that the bottle you have in your hand in the end is only a shell (albeit a much more expensive one) of it’s former self. All quite true probably, but I’m not concerned. I may never make it to the Belgian municipality of Vleteren, and so if it weren’t for this grey market import, I might never get to try it at all.

And anyway, it was still very very delicious by the time it reached me.

I got malty aromas of raisins, marzipan, and brown sugar. In the mouth it wasn’t the massive sweet beast I was expecting, but one of the more refined, dry trappist ales I’ve had. I got a delicious blend of spices, leather, yeast, and stonefruits, a tiny hint of tartness and a medium, smooth mouthfeel. The dryness of it meant that it went down easy and, not helped by the fact I had to share it with about 5 people, disappeared in 3 minutes flat.

Had I not been aware of all the hype around Westvleteren beers, I can’t say I would have instantly declared this the 10th (or whatever it’s ranked) best beer in the world. That’s partly because I’m not enough of an afficianado, and partly because it probably did lost a little of its magic along the way.

Despite that, I heartily recommend forking out for a bottle to try on a special ocassion – or just to pour into a beer bong if you want to watch a beer geek sweat.

Published in: on April 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm  Comments (5)  

#238 Mikeller – Mielcke & Hurtigkarl

Mikeller - Mielcke & HurtigkarlName: Mielcke & Hurtikarl
Brewery: Mikkeller
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 8.7%
Source:  Shiggy from Hashigo

On Tuesday night I went to Galbraiths to taste some beers with Ian the head brewer, Dave the manager, and Shiggy – who works at Hashigo Zake in Wellington and had bought a few beers up to taste. Ian spent a lot of time trying to convince me to break the rules of my blog so that I could post about all the beers, but I insisted that my weird self-imposed rules were set in stone (I think this exasperated him).

I chose this one to write about because the chance of me having it again before the blog ends are pretty much nil. Also because it’s one of the most goddamn beautiful beers I’ve ever tasted.

This beer was brewed especially for a Mikkeller and Three Floyds dinner at a restaurant named Mielcke & Hurtigkarl (try and pronounce it, I dare you!) in Copenhagen. It was aged in Château d’Yquem barrels,  Château d’Yquem being the world’s most famous (and probably the most expensive, too) dessert wine.

This might sound like being fancy for the sake of it (like edible gold – wtf?), but I can tell you that the resulting beer was out-of-this-world delicious. I’m going to find it hard to decribe because it seemed to be so many contrasting things – full of flavour but subtle, boozy but delicate. It was just so… so damn elegant.

If it were a food, it might be liqueur-soaked peaches with freshly whipped cream. There were definite stone fruit flavours -peaches, apricots, mangoes too, as well as floral notes and a little lemony tartness. The mouthfeel was excellent – creamy yet dry like champagne. I felt instantly pissed after having one sip (granted this was the fourth strong beer we tasted), but the alcohol wasn’t that obvious in the taste. It was – and I don’t say this lightly – my idea of a perfect beer.

Thanks so much to Shiggy, Ian and Dave for sharing with me, and apologies again for spilling that other Mikeller beer all over the table. I’m just bloody glad it wasn’t this one.

Published in: on April 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

#231 Hoegaarden – Verboden Vrucht

 Hoegaarden - Verboden Vrucht, Forbidden FruitName: Verboden Vrucht (Forbidden Fruit)
Brewery: Hoegaarden
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 8.5%
Source: The Beer Store

Verboden Vrucht (or Forbidden Fruit, if like me you’re no good at guttural hacking sounds), is certainly one of the more enticing beer names I’ve seen, but it also rings particularly true if you’re a resident of the U.S.A.

I remember Yeastie Boy Stu telling me way back ages ago about the Forbidden Fruit, and how it was banned in the US because Adam and Eve were depicted (close your eyes kids) butt nekked on the label.

Americans sure know how to brew good beer, but Goddamn they can be prudes sometimes.

Anyway, they’re missing out big time because this is, in my opinion, the most delicious of all the Hoegaarden beers.

If you’ve ever tried the Hoegaarden Grand Cru, this is basically it’s evil alter-ego. It’s dark and wickedly rich, tasting  fruits (berries, dates, apples), banana, toffee, brown sugar, spice, and all things nice. It’s quite heavy and sweet, but with a little bitterness at the finish  to round things out.

I’m not sure if this insane ban still exists in the U.S or not (they’re wearing leaves for christssake – practically beach attire!) but if so, I’d say it’s worth building an underground tunnel to Mexico in order to smuggle some in. No really.


Published in: on March 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm  Comments (4)  

#211 ePICO – Something

Epico beerName: I’ll get back to you on that
Brewery: ePICO (Auckland, New Zealand)
Style: Belgian Strong Ale perhaps?
ABV: Pretty strong
Source: Epic Brewing Co.

As you may have inferred from the above beer desription above, I have no f**king clue what this beer was.

You see, this was an ePICO beer (experimental Epic homebrew thingee) that didn’t have a label on it. It did have a tiny little bit of paper around the neck which had the name (I want to say Galaxy but I think that’s probably wrong), the ABV and possibly the style, but in the five days that passed between then and now, some bastard tidied up our kitchen and threw the bottle away away.

That’s OK though because I always make super-detailed notes that tell me everything I need to know, right? Wrong. Looking back at my notes I see I have written “Wow. Super sweet! Strong. Belgian. Banoffie. Marmite?? Drinkable. Crisp. Dry. Bit too sweet.”

So Kelly or Luke, can you please decipher those notes and tell me what I drunk so that I can update the information about this beer accordingly? Probably not because those notes are rubbish. 

In conclusion – some experimental beer that Epic made was nice but a bit too sweet for me. It’s a good thing nobody’s paying me to do this – amirite?!

Published in: on March 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm  Comments (5)  

#202 Het Anker – Lucifer

Het Anker Lucifer Name: Lucifer
Brewery: Brouwerij Het Anker (Mechelen, Belgium)
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 8%
Source: Belgian Beer Cafe

A few weeks ago I was at the Belgian Beer Cafe, looking at the menu and feeling a bit bored at the prospect of having a Leffe or a Hoegaarden or a Kreik, when I looked behind the bar and spotted all these other crazy beers in the fridge.

“What’s all that!?” I asked. “Have you got beers that aren’t on the menu?”

“Oh,” said the girl behind the bar. “Those are on our cellar list”.

And then she handed me, from behind the bar, this black menu that had six or so pages of beer on it – all a lot more exciting than the stuff in the main red menu, albeit a little more expensive.

Was that exciting enough to warrant a blow-by-blow reenactment? I don’t know, but the point is this: how long have the BBC had this ‘cellar menu’? Why do they keep it so hidden? And am I the only one that didn’t know about it?

But instead of asking all those questions, I ordered this Lucifer – it was a hot afternoon and a blonde that tasted of peaches (according to the menu) sounded just the ticket.

It was pretty good, but also kind of disappointing. It tasted like a fairly typical blonde ale – some yeast, cloves, banana, candied sugar, but quite dry and with a little lemony tartness at the finish. There was nothing wrong with it per se, but it was a little light in mouthfeel and the flavours seemed to fall flat somehow.

I will continue to plow through the BBC’s little black book, but I suspect people may be better off ordering the fresher beers from the tap. The cellar ones seem to have come via The Beer Store, and obviously aren’t being moved along quickly at the bar, so it’s hard to know how long they’ve been sitting there.

Or, another idea: we spread them word and get them moving along. Go forth and drink Belgian beer! (Tell your friends.)

Published in: on February 28, 2012 at 9:15 pm  Comments (1)  

#176 John Martin – Gordon Finest Gold

Couldn't get my photo off my camera!

Name: Gordon Finest Gold
John Martin
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 10%
Source: Te Aroha Countdown

OK, OK. I know what you’re thinking. First DB Export Dry, then Becks, and now whatever the hell this is. The blog is going downhill.

You’re absolutely right, it is, but I assure you we’ll be uphill very shortly (not in the next post though, the next one will be crap too) just as soon as I get out of the Coromandel.

I’m in Te Aroha at the moment, which is a rather lovely thermal town just a couple hours away from Auckland. And while it really is rather lovely (bush walks n mountains n that), the beer of choice is Waikato Draught and there isn’t much else on offer.

I was going to have a Waikato Draught, but then I just went to the supermarket and bought this strange thing instead.

I had one sip and then decided it wasn’t worth the hangover.  It was like someone had put 10 teaspoons of sugar and a shot of vodka into a Golden Ale, albeit a Belgian one with a little bit of fruit flavor. Possibly that sounds excellent to some people, but for me it was just a mess.

On the plus side, if you wanted to get drunk for $10 then two cans of this would do it. Also, it comes in a large yellow can so uhhhh… I guess it would always be easy to spot at parties??

Published in: on February 2, 2012 at 9:07 pm  Comments (5)  

#137 Yeastie Boys – Red Rackham

Yeastie Boys Red RackhamName: Red Rackham
Brewery: Yeastie Boys
Style: Belgian Ale
ABV: 6.8%
Source: Waiheke Wines

It’s Christmas! Woooooooo! Yeah! Alright!

But before I get on to that (next post), a few words about my Christmas Eve beer – Red Rackham. (And I’ll just be very quick because I’m going to Mexico tomorrow and I still need to learn Spanish before I go to bed.)

This was a great little Belgian Ale, though I’d struggle to properly describe it. On one level I thought it had a typically Belgian nose – candy, bubblegum, yeasty bread and banana and LOADS of caramel… but there was something else. Something quite definitely pink. 

It’s possible it was just the label (which Stu will tell me is Magenta), but all these pink things came to mind when I sniffed it – pinky bars, turkish delight, and marshmallows. It didn’t taste like any of these things exactly, it was more of a vibe, you know?

There were hops too, or at least something sharp at the finish – a little bitter, slightly tart, balancing the sweet Belgian flavours and keeping things fresh.

I drank it with some extra special cheese – Kapiti Ramara (my fave) that had been washed in Epic Hop Zombie. It seemed almost criminal given how rare that stuff is these days – but I decided it was a worthy sacrifice once I tasted it.

Kapiti Ramara Hop Zombie

To be honest I couldn’t detect a definite Hop Zombie taste (others with more astute palates say they can), but it was excellent nonetheless – with a sharp and stinky rind and creamy gooey deliciousness inside. An excellent way to kick off Feastmas!

Published in: on December 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment