Author Archives: ricks95

Brouwerij Van Steenberge—Gulden Draak

Gulden draak—the golden dragon.  You’ll see it on the label on the stunning white bottle with the black swath and the red letters.  This beer has it all…it’s referred to as a triple, but also a barley wine, and that’s just from the brewer; a secondary fermentation, using wine yeast; and again, that sweet bottle.

Initial pour is a creamy brown, like hot chocolate, but when it fills the glass it’s almost black. Extreme dark brown with just specs of lighter colors around the edges. The head is off-tan and a couple fingers thick with good retention. As the head dies, it’s leaves sticky tan foam around the glass.

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It’s got a bready, chocolately nose not significantly different than chocolate cake or brownies. A bit of an earthy, flowery scent I can’t quite put my finger on. As it warms, the chocolate scents grow.

The taste is extraordinary. Tastes like a dark chocolate liqueur, with the slightest hint of vanilla added in for good measure. Just nibbles of hops to keep all the sweetness in balance.

As mentioned, it’s sweet, but never too much so. It’s got a remarkable creaminess to it. Full-bodied. There’s alcohol in there, but despite it’s strength it hides in the background. This beer really sticks to your tongue.

One of my favorite beers. The Belgians simply know how to brew beer.

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Weyerbacher Brewery—Sunday Morning Stout

The bottle describing the beer tells you all you need to know…’Stout aged in bourbon barrels with coffee. 12.7% ABV.’  At this stage it appears to be another win by Weyerbacher.  Let’s see.

My mouth starts to water with the pour.  Thick and viscous, jet black body, and hardly a bubble to be found.  Then, as if by magic, bubbles start to form and climb their way to the top.  A couple fingers of really dark brown head atop the midnight black beer.  Spectacular.

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Coffee, roasted malts, and booze fill my nose.  While I don’t drink coffee or spirits, I dig them in beer.  The scent totally works for me.  The beer is still a bit cold as I pulled it from the bottom of the fridge and already the scents are strong and crisp.

The beer doesn’t taste quite as aggressive as I expected.  The coffee and booze play nicely together while notes of chocolate begin to emerge.  No one flavor tries to shove away the others for attention.  Really good mix of tastes.

Quite smooth and creamy, a pleasant mouthfeel.  I’m shocked that 12.7% ABV and bourbon barrel aging can go down so easily.  Chocolate brings some sweetness while the coffee brings the bitterness.  Earthiness and smokiness from the barrels.  Very chewy with plenty of body.

I’m having trouble finding any faults.  It’s packed with flavor and alcohol, yet still very drinkable.  Like I said, another win for Weyerbacher.

 

Brouwerij Huyghe—Delirium Nocturnum

The Huyghe Brewery bottles their beers in the coolest bottles bar none.  But they also made some of Belgium’s best beers, like this Belgian Strong Dark Ale.  Nocturnum is the 10th birthday beer to the brewer’s heralded Delirium Tremens.

Pours a hazy brown with a nice thick head. You can hear the bubbles from a good distance away.  Head retention is good and a number of bubbles will keep you company as you sip away.

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It has a strange smell for a beer. It’s got some wine-like qualities leading me to believe there’s some grape, but granny smith apples comes to mind. Kind of smells like hard candy.

There’s a maltiness to it and you can’t get away from the granny smith apple flavor. There’s also some sort of berry flavor, though it could be the grapes I thought I smelled.  In addition, some chocolate and licorice are ever-present in each swig.

It gives a nice tingle in the mouth. While not quite as bubbly as its brother (Tremens), it has a crispness. Obviously, there’s a sweetness to it, but it’s also very tart. In the swallow, once you get past the tart, there is a slight bit of warming from the alcohol.

For as strong as the beer is, there is only a bit of warmth in the swallow from the alcohol. It’s medium-bodied and keeps your taste buds on their toes with lots of different feelings. When all is said and done, it tastes good and is easy to drink.

Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck—Kasteel Rouge

Easily my favorite fruit beer ever, what makes this beer so amazing is that it’s a combination of a Belgian quad and a cherry liquor.  Yes please.

Not a good looking beer in general, but ok for the style. It pours a dark burgundy with a moderate pinkish head. Looks very rich sitting in the goblet.

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Doesn’t really smell like a beer; the cherry smell is undeniable and overpowers everything else.  The beautiful scent of the quad is not there, but it’s such a fabulous smell nontheless.

The taste follows the smell. I expected the strong cherry smell to translate into a sour taste, but it’s not at all. It’s slightly tart, but there’s plenty of sweet to it.  Think of a sweet maraschino cherry dunked into a dark fruity quad.

A lot of complexity, as it’s sweet, tangy, tart and dry. However, none of the feelings are obnoxious.  It’s hard to get away from the strong cherry factor but the quad characteristics shine in the taste and the feel.

The best fruit beer I’ve ever had. In addition, one of the best beers I’ve ever had.  I’ll pick this anytime it’s available.

Weyerbacher Brewing—Merry Monks

One of the thigs I love about vacay is the opportunity to try out beers I can’t get at home.  For the past few years I’ve made sure to look for something from Weyerbacher and the brewer has yet to disappoint.

Merry Monks is a Belgian style tripel and while there’s some golden to the color there is also a bit of orange and peach and apricot in the appearance.  Weyerbacher’s website calls for effervescence and while the head is initially huge, it doesn’t retain all that long.  Also, as far as I can see, there is no lacing to be found.

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The scent of this beer is what dreams are made of.  It brings the typical smells of a tripel together with some peppery yeast, green apple, and green grape, but it adds something.  I don’t know what the something is but it’s something fruity and yummy.  Could be pineapple or orange or apricot or peach, but it gives this beer what might be the best scent of any beer I’ve ever had.

Oh my God, the taste.  Everything your nose picks up is in the taste.  A hint of pepper, some green fruits, and whatever that mystery scent is.  Plus, the 9.3% ABV is accounted for, but not overbearing, happily waiting for you in the finish.

The website also suggests the beer is bottle-conditioned which adds to a creaminess in the mouthfeel.  They are so correct; the beer has a creaminess which isn’t typical for the style.  In addition, you’ll find sweetness, faint bitterness, some spice from the yeast, and that heat from the alcohol.

I was thinking Victory’s Golden Monkey was the best American take on the tripel, but I think this is better.  Weyerbacher suggests laying a bottle or two away for the future and I am definitely doing that with my final two bottles.  This was a superb beer to sip.

Brasserie Dupont—Saison Dupont

One of the finer styles in terms of funk and taste, a saison or farmhouse ale takes on the flavors of the area where it’s brewed.  Brewers simply leave the windows open and whatever types of organisms are living (in terms of bacteria and yeast) become part of the charm of the beer.  Due to this, each region’s beer tastes slightly different.

Dupont’s offering is one of THE beers to try for this style.

Golden straw color, just thick enough to be hazy. If you look close, you can see not only a HUGE white head on top (that literally grows and grows), but lots of carbonation going on inside the beer.

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The smell of these things never gets old to me. Fruity, funky Belgian yeast is like smelling perfection. If you try hard, you can pick up some peppery spice as well. (By now, the beer has been in the glass for 5-6 minutes and the head has yet to fall; for the second time ever I’ve had to wipe my forehead with my finger and swirl it around just to get the head to dissipate).

Tastes like it smells, only the pepper and bready yeast dominate. Hints of peach/apricot, something citrus comes through from the funky yeast.

Medium-bodied with a mouthfeel picking up spicy, tart, sweet, dry notes; with a clean finish.

Beers like this really make me appreciate the style. I wish there was a bit more alcohol, but this is a solid beer.

Brouwerij Corsendonk—Christmas Ale

On vacay and lucky enough to find a large bottle of this.  Forgot to snap a photo, but here’s what it looks like:

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Dark brown pour with quite a bit of red. While it’s dark, it’s a bit clear. The head is impressive. Several fingers thick, really nice retention, sloppy lace left behind. It’s a dark off-white foamy looking display of bubbles.

Classic Belgian smell, though I question the Christmas aspect of the beer. Lots of dark ripe fruits. Slight caramel malt note. The slightest bit of alcohol.

A bit of a let down. The fruity flavors never really came through. There was some spice and maltiness, but everything in the nose never made it to the tongue. It’s certainly not bad, just a bit of a downer after how good it looked.

It’s an easy sipper. The taste is easy on the palate and the high alcohol doesn’t overwhelm. The flavor is mostly neutral. The fruity sweetness never presents itself, though it’s slightly tart in the finish. No real hoppy bitterness and only faint heat from the alcohol. Carbonated, dry finish. At the high end of medium body.

Better than any American rendition of the style, but a step below some of the other Belgians. A good beer overall that I’m glad I tried. Will be proud to have the bottle in my collection.

New Holland Brewing—Dragon’s Milk Reserve Cherry Chocolate

This has the makings to be the greatest beer in the history of beer.  Dragon’s Milk is already one of the best beers on record and with this reserve series, New Holland has added cherry and chocolate to the equation.  This is a “bourbon barrel stout with cherry chocolate” according to the bottle.

It looks little different than the regular Dragon’s Milk.  Extremely black and chewy pour with a cascading head of dingy khaki bubbles.  Decent retention for a beer with 11% ABV and a thick lace remaining on the glass.  There’s possibly a red hue around the edges, but also possibly not, could just be my mind playing tricks on me because I know cherry has been added.

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My nose suggests this isn’t the regular beer, though the cherries are playing hide and seek as they are a bit shy at first.  Like with the original beer already darkly roasted, chocolate notes are always present.  No sign of hops.

The cherry flavor is more outgoing in the taste.  Still, the cherries don’t showboat; they provide backup to the dark roasted grains.  Again, no sign of hop life.  The additional cherry and chocolate flavor are divine.

While the original Dragon’s Milk is a heavy beer, this reserve is made lighter and fresher with the cherries, which provides another level to the feel with crispness and tartness.  In turn, this beer is both smooth and creamy, yet carbonated and lively at different times.  And so easy to drink, just skip dessert and have this.  11% ABV has never been so well hidden.

Kudo’s to New Holland for making an already amazing beer even better.  I can find no faults with this beer and am glad to say it’s sold in a 4-pack so I can have one more tonight and then have two left.

Taxman Brewing—Raspberry Ginger Exemption

This beer is seasonal based on Taxman’s regular Belgian tripel, Exemption.  From the name, you will surmise raspberry and ginger have been added.

I didn’t expect the appearance of the beer to be so reddish.  When you consider their regular tripel is golden in color and you add raspberries, it seems to make sense.  That said, it looks very much like a wine cooler, with a dull red color and some faded burnt orange in the body with a fizzy white head.  The head lacks retention and leaves behind almost no lacing.  Overall, it doesn’t look very beer-like.

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The tartness of the beer comes through in the smell.   I think my nose puckered a little bit.  So, the berry flavor is certainly there, but fortunately, I don’t pick up much ginger…a good thing in my book as many brewers seem to overdo it.

Sadly, the reverse is true of the taste where the ginger overpowers the berry flavor.  Thankfully, a lot of the original flavor of the Triple comes through.  The fruitiness shines first, but only for an instant before the ginger and spices come along, with the ginger lingering well into the finish.

I’m reminded of summer with each sip as the fruity sweetness quickly moves onto tartness before some spiciness takes over.  All the while, the 8.5% ABV never shows.  The beer finishes with the ginger and other spices, which never really leaves the taste buds, kind of ruining things a bit for me.  With plenty of carbonation, it feels lighter than it probably is and a freshness is highlighted.

Like many other ginger beers, I don’t care for the flavor at all.  The look didn’t do anything for me and that feeling continued through the scent, taste, and feel.  In the future, I’ll stick with the standard issue Exemption.

North Coast Brewing—Old Rasputin

A special thanks to Russia’s Catherine The Great for this beer.  A couple hundred years ago, brewers tried to gain the favor of the Russian Czar, and this kicked up version of a standard stout was the result.

Old Rasputin pour a hearty black body and slow-forming brown head.  The body is thick and chewy, while the head cascades from bottom to top and is as thick as you care to make it (obviously depending on the aggressiveness of your pour).  The head is like an old in-law, it never goes away.  Several minutes after the pour, I’m now upstairs typing this and it’s still a finger thick.  Also, the tulip glass I’m using needs a good scrubbing to remove the thick, crusty lacing covering what remains of the glass.

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If you can imagine the scent of coffee burning in a pot for too long, you can get a sense of what this beer smells like.  The first whiff picks up nothing but smoke.  The second whiff lands burnt coffee.  Only after the smoke and burnt coffee fill the nose does the scent of bittersweet chocolate start to emerge.  North Coast may have used hops in the brewing process, but roasty malts completely overwhelm any hop variety.

After a sip, chocolate comes to mind.  It’s a nice reprieve from the onslaught of char in the smell.  But coffee lovers don’t despair, charred coffee soon follows up and lingers.  And lingers.  And lingers.

Old Rasputin is remarkably creamy.  The drinking experience starts off with a hint of sweet but is quickly overtaken by bitterness.  Some smokiness presents, but the bitterness keys this beer and stays around for the duration.  Very full-bodied, you won’t want to drink many of these and at 9% ABV with 75 IBUs, you probably can’t.

Nort Coast gifted us this remnant to Catherine The Great and the beer industry is better off for it.  It’s a manly beer, but is so choice.  Anyone who enjoys dark beers owe some it to themselves to try Old Rasputin.