It can’t get wacky enough for me – please, brewers of the world, keep them experiments coming! Sure, I may sometimes moan and groan about beers with over ten ingredients – I still want to try it and make my mind up! I do respect beers, however bluntly named, that stand out in terms of balance and harmony most – those are the true giants of Beer land. Most contemporary brewers seem to have an issue with balance and harmony (wood aged beer should not leave the impression someone has been clubbing you with an oak stick really, really hard) whereas those ‘classic beers’ tend to have balance and harmony as their middle names. When their brewers start experimenting with them, I’m in first line to try the result!
But first congratulations to Lindeboom Brewery: its Gouverneur Blond was recently awarded a Gold medal, and not just ‘a gold medal’. It was awarded gold at Brau Beviale, or European Beerstar, in the Belgian-style Blond Ale category and was honored because of its ‘full flavor, subtle bitterness and fruity aftertaste’; thereby essentially saying it is a text book example for style. It is rare for Dutch breweries to get a gold in this competition, particularly for Belgian styles, so this award is a massive compliment for the Lindeboom Brewery team – and a well-deserved honor for a Dutch classic!
This week I attended Horeca Expo in Gent, probably the leading trade show for Horeca in Europe. Amazingly, thousands of Dutch bar owners and –managers attended, seeking inspiration and buying all sorts of product – what do Horecava and BBB do wrong? Also, almost all relevant Belgian breweries showcased themselves and some beers really stood out.
I kicked off with Carolus Indulgence by Brewery Het Anker: a mix of Cuvée of the Emperor 2015 and 2% original Anker whisky. The Cuvée of the Emperor is a great beer already, brewed once a year only, but this extra lifted it above itself. Contrary to expectation the whisky underpinned the deep red fruit flavors, vanilla and licorice, rather than fortifying the flavor and aromas. A Belgian work of brewing art I really recommend you to try!
Another surprise was Delirium Christmas by Brewery Huyghe. As far as I’m concerned this brewery ranks in the top-five of Belgium, particularly since they’ve really mastered the art of brewing super strong beers that retain drinkability and therefore feel sort of light-footed. Delirium Christmas is no exception to this rule and thus ranks top amongst its peers: it’ll be available in Holland too and I strongly recommend you to give it a thorough try!
Then there was Chimay Blue, oak-aged… where will this world go to when even Trappist monks start experimenting with their classic brews? Having said that, this beer is definitely a 100% ‘go to’ brew – albeit the fact batch one seems to have been sold out already (mainly to Scandinavia). But do not worry: various other interpretations will soon follow, like cognac vat aged and chestnut wood aged! In this first batch, it was vanilla and deep woody tannins that paired with the original and intense red fruit flavors that characterize Chimay Blue. Rumor has it an experiment to make whisky from an unhoped batch of wort has been cancelled: although there are some tens of barrels lagering and aging, the Trappist brethren decided this was a bridge too far for them – and they still have the final say. Still I’m curious what will happen to these barrels, now a commercial release has been cancelled.
My ‘piece de resistance’ was Boon Black Label, a 7% ABV geuze with apparently amost 100% attenuation (!), presented by Jos Boon. Jos is one of the sons of Lambic-legend Frank Boon, and destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. He explained this may be the last release with Lambic from the old brew house: 99% of the blend is from the new one. Any geuze is always a blend of various vintages, and Boon may be the Ultimate Masters of Blending. Jos has been walking around in the brewery as long as he can actually walk and has learned all tricks and how-to’s from his father. He also was the last student to graduate with legendary Professor Delvaux from Leuven Brewing University: Jos is destined to bring some phenomenal beers to us! This Black Label is, for me, the softest, driest and most remarkable Oude Geuze I ever had: silky, gentle, like a soft spring breeze. Just hang on and it’ll be available in The Netherlands – maybe the most classic yet experimental beer in the world, that will surely never die and most certainly not as long as the Boon family is around!