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Belgian Lace  

Belgian Styles

Belgium has evolved one of the most unique brewing cultures in the world. Unfettered by silly restrictions, like the German Reinheitsgebot, that limit what can be used to make beer, Belgian brewers have been free to explore non-traditional ingredients like fruit, spices, and sugar. But what really makes a beer “Belgian” is the yeast. The delectable fruity and spicy flavors given to beer by the Belgian yeast strains are unmistakable. The range of styles is enormous. There are the Trappist Ales, still brewed by monks at one of seven remaining Trappist monasteries. There are the Blond Ales, and the Strong Goldens and Strong Darks. There are the traditional farmhouse ales, Saison and Biére de Garde. Belgium is one of the few places that you will find spontaneously fermented sour ales such as Lambic, Gueuze, Flanders Red and Brown, still brewed using traditional methods hundreds of years old.  But be careful with the Belgian Ales. Belgian brewing tradition also stresses drinkability. These very strong beers go down dangerously easily.

Enough talk. Let’s taste some beer.
  Fantôme de Noël  

Brasserie Lefèbvre
Rebecq-Quenast, Belgium
Style: Belgian IPA


Aroma: Fresh bread malt with banana and cotton-candy yeast character. Fruity hops; citrus, papaya, grapefruit, and passion fruit.
Appearance: Huge, fluffy, meringue-like, white head. Very persistent. Color is pale gold. Quite hazy, but the haze subsides as the beer warms.
Flavor: Sugary sweet bready malt with plenty of spicy banana Belgian yeast character. Crisp but moderate bitterness just balances. Citrusy, lemon-lime hop flavors combine with the sweetness to give a Sprite-like flavor. Brown sugar and rum-raisins linger in the finish. Some alcohol is noticeable.
Mouthfeel: Light and spritzy, yet mouth-filling like a hefeweizen. Some alcohol warmth.
Overall Impression: I am not a huge fan of the Belgian IPA style. The intense hops and Belgian yeast phenolics fight on my palate. It is funny to me therefore that I found myself wanting more hops from this one. While it is refreshing, its balance is decidedly sweet and wanting some additional IBUs to offset that. Makes me think of an “English-style” Belgian IPA.

  Allagash Carieux  

Curieux 2008
Allagash Brewing Company
Portland, Maine
Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged Tripel


Aroma: Toasty woodiness dominates with light peach and pear fruitiness.  Very delicate banana and bubblegum esters float in the background.
Appearance: Crystal clear with a deep golden hue. The large, fluffy, white head dissipated relatively quickly but left nice lacing on the glass.
Flavor: Sweet, cotton-candy malt and yeast notes at the start gives way to a sharply bitter herbal and black pepper hop character. There is a light fruitiness reminiscent of citrus and stone fruits. Woody oak flavors derived from bourbon barrel aging with hints of bourbon in the background. Alcohol verges on boozy, giving the beer a medicinal quality. Lots going on, but the different flavors seem to be fighting one another. A last sharp bite of bitterness on the swallow leads to a lingering and beautifully evolving finish that goes from black pepper to sugary sweetness to vanilla and coconut.
Mouthfeel: Definite alcohol warmth that verges on hot. Medium-high carbonation.  Medium-high body. Some astringency.
Overall Impression: Very complex and yet seems somehow jumbled up. Lots of flavors that all seem to be stepping on each other. The alcohol is too intense and not in keeping with the best Belgian tripels that keep the high levels of alcohol sneakily hidden. I like that the bourbon remains in the background, just enough that you know it’s bourbon barrel aged but not enough to make you feel like you are drinking shots. The best part of this beer is the finish. I love those long-lingering vanilla and coconut flavors.

  Fantôme de Noël  

Fantôme de Noël
Brasserie Fantôme
Soy, Belgium
Style: Belgian Farmhouse Ale


Aroma: Wet leather and tobacco with tangy Brettanomyces funkiness. Loads of tart cherry and pineapple fruit. Toast and very light caramel malt.
Appearance: Red-amber and cloudy. The lower than expected off-white head dissipated quickly leaving only a very light film.
Flavor: Moderately sour with a tart cherry and melon fruitiness and pronounced barnyard funk. Toasted malt with some caramel comes out in the middle and lingers into the finish. A red wine vinous quality. Alcohol is apparent, but I never would have guessed that this beer is 10% ABV. Faint notes of tobacco, green onion, black pepper, and herbs come in as it warms. Finishes with a last acidic bite in the throat.
Mouthfeel: Light body but with a bit of weight coming from the caramel malt. Bright acidic tang. Medium-low carbonation.
Overall Impression: A tasty, fruity, toasty, sour beer similar to a Flanders Red or brown. Carries the high alcohol content well. Refreshingly tart. Very complex. Would go well with poultry and pork dishes, particularly with fruit sauces or stuffing. Might also complement a spiced cake. Beers like this one are the reason I love beer so much.

  De Struise Tsjeeses  
De Struise Brouwers
De Panne, Belgium
Style: Christmas Spiced Belgian Tripel

Aroma: Fresh baked bread and spices. Salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Thick canned peaches and oranges. Light alcohol with just the faintest hint of leathery funk. This beer offers something new with each whiff.
Appearance: Murky, cloudy, copper color. Mousse-like white head that won’t go away. Leaves loads of lace on the glass.
Flavor: This beer is like biscuits with spiced peach jam and butter or spiced peaches in fortified wine syrup. Fresh bread malt lingers into the finish. A dance of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, stone fruits, peach and apricot, and orange citrus. There is an assertive alcohol, but sweet, not hot.  
Mouthfeel: The full body is thick and syrupy. This is accentuated by relatively low carbonation. There is definite alcohol warmth.
Overall Impression: This is a rare and great beer from the fellows at De Struise. Complex layers of fruit, spice, alcohol, and malt character. The thick full body reinforces all the complex flavors. Great yes, but is it really worth the $10 I paid for an 11 oz. bottle? Probably not. This would be a great beer to serve with fruit desserts. My mind is wandering to fruit tarts as I type.

  Thiriez Amber  
Thiriez Amber
Brasserie Thiriez
Esquelbecq, France
Style: Biére de Garde

Aroma: Bready malt with very light toast. Massive fruit character full of citrus, apricot, and banana. Very faint spicy notes.
Appearance: Huge fluffy and persistent off-white head. Light amber to copper color. Hazy.
Flavor: A base of fresh bread and toasty malt supports an explosion of lightly tart fruity yeast character. Tangerines, peaches, and apricots with a light peppery spice. The low hop bitterness and hint of spicy hop flavor just balances. Finish is semi-dry lingering forever on apricot fruit.
Mouthfeel: Rich, chewy, and creamy but still light bodied. Effervescent carbonation lifts it up and makes it refreshing.
Overall Impression: What wonderful fruit character. From start to finish fruit is the highlight of this beer, with rich support from the malt. Rich yet light and refreshing. Goes well with spicy Indonesian food or shellfish.

  Saison d’Epeautre  
Saison d'Epeautre
Brasserie de Blaugies
Blaugies, Belgium
Style: Saison

Aroma: Bready wheat malt with banana and coriander spice. Redolent of citrus and pear. Hint of sulfur.
Appearance: Light gold and hazy. Long lasting creamy mousse white head leaves lace on the glass. Persists as fine film of white bubbles on surface.
Flavor: Big splash of tart lemon and orange fruit greets the palate and stays to the end. Rich bready malt joins in late and fills the mouth. Hop bitterness is low, but the dry finish lingers on a faint spicy hop at the back of the tongue.
Mouthfeel: Light body. Effervescent. Bready malt gives it a mouth filling quality that is surprising for such a light beer.
Overall Impression: Highly refreshing and light. This is a great beer for sitting in the yard on a nice summer day. The citrus fruit character is amazing. Juicy, tart, and long lasting, it complements the bready malt well. This is one of my favorite Saisons.

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