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Beer Review #170 Corsendonk Christmas Ale

I have only reviewed one winter beer so far this year which isn’t surprising since I have a giant backlog of beers in my fridge. I finally got around to drinking a bunch of them recently and I had the chance to restock my collection last weekend. I was on the hunt for winter seasonal beers as some seasonal beers just seem to fly off the shelves. Today’s winter beer comes all the way from Turnhout, Belgium and is brewed by Brouwerij Corsendonk.

This beer is classified as a Belgian strong dark ale, but the bottle says only dark ale. The bottle also says 8.1% ABV so I guess that is where the strong part of this beer comes in. Corsendonk Christmas Ale pours a nice brown color with a fluffy off-white head. I actually had to stop pouring this beer to leave some in the bottle because the head was so thick from the high carbonation.

The nose was pretty spicy and herbal. There were some slight malt notes, but the spices did a good job of covering up the malt. I also got some slight pine notes in there, something I am not accustomed to smelling in any style of Belgian beer that I have tried. On my first taste I was surprised by the sweetness in the front end of this beer. The spices quickly come in and follow through the rest of the beer. I didn’t get any heat on this one, which I was partly expecting to have. I also noticed a bit of fig flavor buried inside of the malt.

Due to the high carbonation, this beer comes off as being very light in the mouthfeel. This one is pretty easy drinking but I found myself a bit underwhelmed. This felt like a muted Belgian beer for me. I don’t know if they brew this in the colder months or at colder temperatures than their other beers since the spices and esters are not super strong in the flavor. Generally colder temperatures will produce a “cleaner” beer with less ester production. In any case, I don’t think this one will be on my list next year. It was an enjoyable beer, but I wanted something a bit more punchy. (more…)

Beer Review #131 Rodenbach Grand Cru

Even since my return from Belgium I have had a taste for authentic Belgian beer. St. Bernardus Prior 8 was one such beer and I have been craving more. On my last trip to the beer store I spotted a beer that I had in Belgium and loved, Rodenbach Grand Cru. Rodenbach Grand Cru is brewed by Brewery Rodenback, or more properly Brouwerij Rodenbach N.V., of Roeselare, Belgium. I didn’t have the chance to make it out to this town, but if I will make sure to if I ever make it to Belgium again.

Rodenbach Grand Cru is a Flemish Red Brown Ale, which is more commonly known as a Flanders Red Ale. The bottle mentions that it is, “33% ‘young’ Ale and 67% Ale matured for two years.” This process is much like what they do at the Cantillon Brewery.Unlike what we think of Belgian beers, this one is relatively low alcohol, striking only 6% ABVs on the scale.

This Belgian ale pours a redish brown, hence the Flemish Red Brown Ale designation. It has a thin light tan head to partner with its redish brown color. On the nose you get the first hints of why this beer has a Flemish or Flanders designation. Flemish or Flanders implies that it is a sour beer made in Belgium. If you have ever heard the term, “bugs in the beer,” they usually are referring to this style of beer. The “bugs” are often a type of bacteria that will sour a beer with time. Rodenbach Grand Cru smells very sour and has some grape qualities to it.

I’m generally not a fan of very sour things and Rodenbach Grand Cru is sour, but not overall sour. It has some strong wine translations with the grape-like flavor and dryness that developed in the flavor profile of this beer. Other than complex sourness, the beer is pretty clean. There are no hops to speak of, but some plum notes can also be found. I also got some cherries in there.

This is a really, really nice beer. It has a good clean flavor that gives a good sour experience without going overboard. It is well balanced and not overpowering in any respect. If you have never had a sour beer this is a great way to get your foot in the door. I can’t wait till I get more! (more…)

Europe Trip: Brussels

On my last post about my trip to Europe I covered our trip from Philadelphia to Brussels. Brussels is a very interesting city. Before I dive into my trip, I should mention that I expected Europe to be pretty different from the US in terms of looks and culture. Largely I found that we are remarkably similar, they just have older buildings.

After leaving Gare Centrale (a.ka. Brussels Centrale) we walked around for a bit trying to find our hotel, which was supposed to be right next to the station. Being the male that I am, I began walking in the direction I felt was correct. It was not. So my wife dove into a corner shop to ask where the location of our hotel was and three minutes later we walked into the front door. To my credit, I was on the correct road, just went the wrong way on it. It was also cloudy so I couldn’t use the sun to get my north, south, east, west heading.

It was about 7:00 AM so we couldn’t check in, but the hotel was nice enough to allow us to leave our bags there. Once we unloaded our bags we began to walk around the city, with our ultimate goal of seeing the Grand Place at some point in the day.

Brussels looks much larger on a map than it does in real life so we quickly knocked out the typical sight seeing places within a matter of hours. The Grand Place is pictured below.

There are some beautiful building in the Grand Place and in the areas around it. Located around this area are several narrow roads that are only open to foot traffic. There are not shops for the most part, but hundreds of restaurants. There are multiple Belgian beer bars located in this area as well and I made a mental note of where they were so that we could come back to later, since it was only around 10:00 AM.

My wife and I decided to go see the Atomium, which was built for the World’s Fair in 1958. According to Wikipedia,

The Atomium is a monument in Brussels, originally built for Expo ’58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Designed by André Waterkeyn, it stands 102 meters (335 ft) tall. It has nine steel spheres connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.

You can go inside of this “building” but we opted to just take some pictures and walk through the park located around the structure. The Atomium is pictured below.

It was soon time to eat and if you must know one thing about food in Brussels, it is expensive. A normal plate of food is going to cost you around 12-18 Euros (17-25 USD). Since this was the first stop on our trip, it was also the country where we discovered that water and soda are more expensive than beer. So we had a lot of beer. It isn’t exactly cheap (2-5 Euros) but I would rather have a world class Belgian beer for 5 Euros and bottled water for the same price. My personal favorite of the beer bars we stopped at was Delirium Café, from the Delirium beer fame. They had dozens of beers to pick from and about a dozen or so on draft. Draft beers were available in .25L, .5L, 1L, and 2L glasses, even the Tripels!

All of the beers are served with their correct glassware and draft beers are filled and then have their head leveled off. Bottled beers are uncapped or uncorked in front of you and poured by the waiter. In Brussels most bars will give you free chips to go along with your beer. I sampled far too many beers to remember but you can view them in the images below.

Beer Review #53 Brooklyn Local 1

My little hiatus from posting has not stopped my love of Belgian beers in the slightest. Today’s Belgian beer comes all the way from Brooklyn, NY, home of the Brooklyn Brewery. Don’t you love it when the brewery’s name and location match? Anyway I don’t think that it any secret that I love most of the beers that I have ever had from the Brooklyn Brewery. On this site I have only reviewed their Pennant Ale ’55, but I have enjoyed a great number of their beers that we hastily drank before the appearance of this blog. I have also read their book, which is also wonderful if you were wondering.

Brooklyn Local 1 comes in as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, which essentially means it is a Belgian beer that has a high ABV and hops that are stronger than you would expect on a normal Belgian beer. It pours a straw color and is 100% cloudy. Lots of sediment to be found and a delicious fluffy white head to go along with it. This beer looks the part of a wonderful Belgian. On the nose the Belgian yeast stands out, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. There is a slight sweetness that is on there as well which I found refreshing.

On the tongue I first noticed the Belgian yeast and the spicy flavors that go along with it. As I dug more into the beer I noticed the malt more and more. It was very sweet. Perhaps that comes from the German malts that are used in making the beer instead of the typical Belgian malts. The hops also come from Germany. Local 1 is a very clean beer. The hops, Belgian yeast, and the malts balance each other out nicely and the hops really help clean your tongue from any left over flavors. The aftertaste was also a nice mix of lemon, grassy flavors, a slight hop bite, Belgian yeast, and some warming alcohol.

For a beer that comes in at 9.0% ABV this beer really did not feature much in the way of heat. It was very hidden and only noticeable on the aftertaste and a bit when the beer really warmed up. The body was in the medium range but it was highly carbonated, so it was tough to get a really sampling of what it would of been like had it had normal carbonation. The beer is something that I think any Belgian beer lover would love. It is clean but features everything a Belgian beer should. Perhaps the most surprising part is how well the ABV is hidden. If you are not careful this beer could easily sneak up on you. It also comes in a caged and corked bottle which added to the “must buy” factor for me.

The Brooklyn Brewery also makes Local 2 which I have had in the past and really enjoyed. It is another Belgian style beer, but much darker and much more bold. If you see anything with Brooklyn Local 1 or 2, get it and I don’t think that you would be disappointed. (more…)

Beer Review #52 Delirium Tremens

Delirium Tremens from Huyghe Brewery in Melle/Ghent, Belgium is a beer that I have wanted to try for a long time now. It is one of those classics that every beer drinker should try. It is also nice to have a Belgian beer that comes from Belgium, as most of the Belgian beers that I have had recently come out of the good old US of A. Not that I am complaining becasue the country of origin does not really play a super important role in beer and American Craft Brewers have done a wonderful job of replicating (and in some cases improving) Belgian style beer.

This beer comes classified as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale according to Beer Advocate. Rate Beer calls it a Belgian Strong Ale, but in any case it is a Belgian beer and the “strong” in both of the style names, says it is really high in ABV. Like 8.5% ABV high. Delirium Tremens pours with a fluffy white head. The beer is straw in color and is cloudy/hazy but you can still see through it. On the nose you get that ever present Belgian yeast spice with some malt sweetness. There are not any hops noticeable and you can surely smell some heat.

The taste of the beer is the Belgian spice mostly. There are a few hints of banana, which was a nice flavor to complement the other spices. The malt was pretty thin. In most Belgian beers the spice is the first thing you notice, and then the flavors start to show themselves more and get fairly complex. I found this beer to be rather one note and not highly complex. After a few sips I think you will find everything the beer has to offer. Not that it is a bad thing, becasue what is there is pretty wonderful.

The mouthfeel is watery. Much more watery than what I would of expected out of a beer that comes in at 8.5%. It is also highly carbonated, which is to be expected for the style. Overall I would consider this a decent Belgian Strong Ale. Not my favorite, but very good. If the body was punched up just a bit, I think it would take it into a whole new category.

As I said before, I am a sucker for neat bottles, and this beer was no exception. The bottle is actually painted, comes corked and caged, and has a foil wrapping. The cork is synthetic which doesn’t really bother me at all. As I said before I enjoyed this beer, but it fell a little flat for me. It is something every craft beer drinker should try, but I felt that it didn’t live up to the hipe, while still being a solid beer.