Gawd, I can remember the depressing blurgh of this all too well. I’m trying my best to catch up to the actual Diary, but the value of t still stands at fifty-something days, and the memory remains uncomfortably raw. I bought this on the same shopping trip that netted the Coconut Porter and ‘Big Swell’ IPA from Maui Brewing, so it was in good company, and the Mikkeller beers I’ve had before have been marvellous. Smart money might look like it was on this being at least enjoyable, but it just wasn’t.
The overall sensory impression was: something is wrong. It’s difficult to pinpoint just how it rang my internal alarm bells, or quite what it most resembled — the plasticky, papery awfulness of a rain-soaked piece of junkmail; the unexpected sudden wrongness of distractedly biting too far down a piece of melon and accidentally eating a big chunk of that thick, terrible skin; the horrific vegetal funk that wafts around the kitchen when you finally get around to cleaning out the bottom drawer of the fridge. Maybe all of those, and more. I suspect that bits of my brain have charitably done a spot of cleaning house, pruning the neurons that remember the specific horror, just leaving enough of the general memory to be going on with.
Not that I’m blaming the beer; I can’t — I just don’t know what the Hell went wrong. There were a few complications in this thing’s life before it horrified me so, ranging from the immediately-recent to the possibly-long ago:
It fountained like crazy when I popped the cap. That’s never a good sign, and could be down to a few things — two possibilities for which we’ll get to — but my previous Mikkeller, the ‘Jackie Brown’ which I had on Boxing Day last year, was also enthusiastically bubbly… Moreso than this, but the memory of the other one being initially-worrying but perfectly fine was enough to stop me freaking out.
Just like that previous Jackie Brown, this was a “grey market import”. Such things have a historical reputation for at-least-imperfect / possibly-outright-dodgy handling, and a rough enough trip over from the other side of the planet could make something go sufficiently wrong to account for both the foam and the yuck. The problem being, of course, that you just don’t know. Maybe something went wrong in transit, maybe something was wrong with this bottle before it left the brewery, or maybe the beer entire is just pants. Who knows?
And this poor, unfortunate bottle in particular suffered a fridge-fall a few days earlier. Sitting at the outside edge of the bottom shelf inside the door, the physics and the leverage conspired against it and hurled it out and onto the floor after my flatmate, in hunger-induced enthusiasm, opened the fridge too fast. Ordinarily, a few days undisturbed would be more than enough to calm it down — but perhaps things were worse than they appeared; maybe the cap was dinged enough to ruin its seal, letting in something funkifying or just a whole bunch too much Oxygen. Again: who knows?
I had to check / bluff / Google the funny-speak (i.e., the Danish) on the label to make double-sure that nothing weird and ripe for mere-subjectivity-based dislike was meant to be going on. But no. Just a nice big American-hopped pale ale, with a dose of oats thrown in for texture, presumably. Sounds fab — more’s the pity about this bottle. Ah well.
Addendum: (My second addendum in as many days, weirdly.) Since this post has been referenced in Hashigo’s ‘Rungs on the Ladder’ newsletter — as Dom was talking about grey market imports, making points which I’m totally on board with — I feel I should be extra-honest and up-front about the provenance of this beer, decoding the note in my handwritten Diary: my ‘Stateside’ came from the New World Thorndon supermarket, and carried a sticker showing it’d been imported by BeerStore.co.nz. I’ve had fantastic beers from New World and BeerStore, and both acting in concert; but that’s just the point, duds like this are the ineliminable risk involved — caveat emptor, bigtime.
Verbatim: Mikkeller ‘Stateside’ 19/4/11 330ml $10 @ NWT, 7% Bought together with the Mauis. And a lesson in the difficulty of ‘reviewing’ something. This was a) a grey import, b) the victim of a fridge-drop a few days ago, and c) a fountain when it opened. There’s something ‘off’ about it, but I have no idea what’s at fault for that. Should be lovely, given the pitch + maker. But it’s not. And that’s bloody depressing.
And now for something completely different. Because gueuze beers are different in a staggering and mind-bending way. Some people are entirely horrified by them, despite otherwise being big beer nerds. Other people would drink them all day and all night and go a bit kittens-with-catnip at the mere sight of one. Myself, I’m somewhere in the middle. (Though it’s the latter people who freak me out more than the former. By quite a margin.)
Brewing is a delightful mix of Bucket Science and Rocket Science — it calls for meticulousness roughly as often as it demands a healthy dose of “fuck it; biff that in and see what happens”. And so while you’ve got brews that call for very-particular strains of yeast, carefully cultured over decades and gently prodded in some desirable direction, genetically speaking — you’ve also got beers that are basically made by quite-literally leaving the windows open and just running with whatever-the-Hell drifts in on the breeze. Then these beers, the lambics, go out of their way to emphasise their oddness by using older, dried (and so less-potent) hops and usually fairly easy-going malts; a subtler canvas upon which the Jackson-Pollock-y crazypants of their random yeasts can shine. Lambics often have fruit (or fruit syrup) added, but a “gueuze” is an unsweetened blend of young and old lambic, and they get a bit… eccentric.
It’s one of those Belgian styles which quickly calls for the word funk. Surprising adjectives flow from people who are praising these things: musty, sour, medicinal, cheesy. The blessed subjectivity is in sharp relief; devotees and detractors will describe them almost identically, really differing only on whether on not they personally find those characters appealing. Tim and I probably enjoyed drinking this more than we enjoyed it, if that makes any sense. It was a hell of a ride: an enjoyably confusing and confronting barrage of sensory assaults clanging around and in a strangely fascinating way, like when forgotten change works its way out of the pocket of your jeans as they go around in the tumble-drier. It’s baffling, but never quite enough to make you give up. Each sip put a pained and alarmed look on our faces, but it was never very long before we went back for more; you just can’t not, somehow. The sheer weirdness of it prompted some hilarious conversation.
Sticking with obviously-positive descriptors for a moment, this had the sharp tartness of a cleansingly-acidic white wine. The fruit flavour in the forefront of my mind was crabapples — and I’m a sucker for crabapples, since I grew up with a tree full of them in the front yard. But there’s just no denying the scarier flavours: an imperfectly-made homebrew cider, the too-clean chemical smell of hospital disinfectant, the spiky aroma of a bowl of lemons just about to start rotting, and the dried-sweat stench of a gym towel that sat neglected in a corner somewhere and missed last week’s round of laundry.
But like I say, people who love them love them. Try one when you’re feeling brave — or give one to someone who foolishly says something like “just get me a beer, anything, I don’t mind; beer’s beer”, if you’re feeling particularly bastardly.
Verbatim: Lindeman’s ‘Cuvée René’ Gueuze 11/4/11 $16 ÷ 2 with Tim @ MH. He had an embarrassing run-in with a Lambic, way back; threw it out, thinking it was off. Ah, our pre-geek days. Lovely hazy gold. Turning-fruit, hospitally nose. Amy freaked out: nappies with lemons growing in. The sterile-chemically-ness is in there. Along with the usual crabapples I like. It is confronting. Hard to imagine the people who’d casually drink it. Tim: homebrew cider. Totally. A glass of gym-towel; dry and sweaty.
I’ve struggled for a while to come up with a similie for this. It might be the Beer Geek equivalent of an Adventure Freak climbing Everest and swimming the Channel in one weekend. Or, in Geek terms, of watching a whole season of The Wire in one sitting — with the commentary on, rather than the audio, or playing Sam & Max Hit the Road right through from memory without getting stuck. What I mean to say is: we pulled off a rather special Nerd Milestone, and it was bloody marvellous.
The big Belgian abbey ales are rightfully famous, particularly those made at the Trappist monasteries — the number of which in the brewing game has varied over the years, but currently stands at seven. And I’d venture to say that a good majority of Proper Beer Geeks haven’t had one of each in their ‘career’ — owing largely to the scarcity of Westvleteren, especially — let alone all in one night.1 It was way too much fun. The group I did this for / with had been doing occasional tastings at Malthouse for about two years and we’d mentioned the possibility of this a few times before. Finally, we got all our ducks in a row. I was almost-embarrassingly giddy with excitement and was way too distracted with hosting and tasting duties to take proper notes. Thankfully, one of the group acts as “scribe” for the choicest and weirdest comments; he’s planning on doing a blog post of his own about it, so I’ll share that when I can.
— La Trappe Bockbier
We started with La Trappe, partially since they were only relatively recently ‘let back in’ to the Authentic Trappist fraternity, after a brief falling-out over them contracting-out too much of the work. The only non-Belgian brewing monastery (being from just over the Northern border, in the Netherlands), their stuff is now pretty damn ubiquitous (they are the largest producer, though only by about 20% over Chimay and Westmalle) but we managed to find this one, a bock not normally seen on local shelves — it gets Double Bonus Uniqueness Points for being the only Trappist lager. It made for a nice start, an excellent point of comparison (since doppelbock is, broadly, the German cousin of the famous Belgian abbey ales), and a pleasant autumn sipper all on its own. To me, it just seemed like proper doppelbock; rich with a date-ish fruit flavour, and packing a strangely not-unwelcome mustiness.
— Achel ‘8’ Blond
From the biggest to the smallest producer — and the one which, in my experience, most Beer Nerds have particular trouble remembering when they try to list off the Trappists. Adding to the ease with which it slips the memory, Achel only got back into the beer-making game in 1998. The Germans had looted / salvaged their brew gear in the First World War and they never fully recovered until, in a rather-charming move, they were helped back onto their feet by Westmalle (the monastery from which their founding monks originally came) and Rochefort (a monastery founded by their own monks in turn). This was a zesty, charming blond/e (depending on your preference), somehow sweet and dry all at once. It did seem odd that a re-founded-in-the-nineties brewery would be so old-school in their packaging, though, but maybe the point was to hark right back to the early 20th Century. I did feel extra peculiar taking a photo of a blank white bottlecap — but I couldn’t not get the full set, once I’d started.
Orval. Just “Orval”. Weirdly, for a bunch of Catholic monks, there’s no uniformity in the naming of each monastery’s different beers. There are abritrary-ish numbers, colours, and the single-double-triple ladder. Orval has no need for that, and their sole commercial2 beer screams uniqueness in other ways, too; it’s dosed-up with the usually-wild and usually-meticulously-avoided Brettanomyces yeast, something which lends flavours often described as ‘barnyardy’ or ‘saddle-ish’. If you look up the chemistry of these things, you’ll see that ‘Band-aids’ and ‘antiseptic’ are also listed among the commonly-evoked sensations — and they were very-much the lead roles in the one other bottle I’ve had of this, some time ago. Not so much that it was rendered unpleasant, but enough to make me a little anxious; nervous to have another in front of company. But damn, it was delicious. Still very different, but gorgeously sherberty and dry and zippy and delightful. A lot of that is probably down to it being conspicuously fresh, which usually means that the hoppiness is still quite forceful and the Brett-ish funk hasn’t ramped up much yet. There’s no need to necessarily fear an older bottle, though; consensus seems to be that it ages in waves — there must be some dizzyingly-complex chemistry going on, as different yeast strains play off against each others’ work over time — so the scary-chemical side comes and goes. It’s a dice roll, for sure. But a totally worthwhile one.
— Westmalle Tripel
Speaking (as I was, above) of naming systems: Westmalle’s one is strangely influential outside Trappist circles. Their original “Enkel, Dubbel, Tripel” approach named their beers according to their positions on an ascending scale of strength — the words, perhaps obviously, simply mean “single, double, triple” although “first, second, third” is probably more in the spirit, since their Tripel wasn’t necessarily three times boozier than their Enkel. Eventually, though, the second two words came to connote not just strength but also the particular character of Westmalle’s beers — their Dubbel happens to be dark, their Tripel is golden. So a ‘Tripel’ is no longer just your third-strongest beer (whoever you are); it should really be one like Westmalle’s. And speaking of that, we found it quite confrontingly gunpowdery — the flowery perfume quickly giving way to a hot taste. Perhaps owing to its relative lightness, it wore its high strength the perhaps most prominently of our set. I’m kind of sad to note this — but it must be true of one of the group, after all — but this was probably the least-well-received beer of the night. In the company it was in, that’s not the bad thing it could be, of course; is there such a thing as “praising with faint damn”?
— Westvleteren ‘12’
Maybe the anticipation and then overshadowing of this had something to do with the consensus on the Westmalle… This is far-and-away the hardest-to-get Trappist. They produce fractionally more than Achel but have charmingly-peculiar purchasing regulations in place — though the rumour of a mandated Oath to the Pope that you wouldn’t on-sell what you buy is disappointingly false; they instead just print a discreet “Do not resell” plea on your receipt. Between the brewery gate and this end of the World, the price skyrockets in a way that definitively proves demand: we bought two bottles for NZ$60 each, which was us getting a good deal with which we were delighted. But demand isn’t the point for the monks at Westvleteren. Trappist monasteries are obliged (as a matter of doctrine) to be ‘productive’ in some commercial way to support themselves and some charitable works, and one assumes that the bigger brewing operations (like Westmalle and Chimay) are rationalised on the grounds that more money equals more charity. Westvleteren don’t go in for that, brewing only enough to “be able to afford being monks”. Hell, they don’t even spring for labels, instead cramming all the legally-required text onto the bottlecap. Now that’s frugal.
Despite (and probably partially because of) their protestations and reluctance, though, their beer is legendary. Which always brings that peculiar sort of nervousness to your first encounter with it, when you’re never sure how much of the Emperor’s New Beer phenomenon might be propelling the mystique or quite how you’ll ‘come out’ as not liking it, if you don’t. But damn, I had no such worries with this. I can honestly say that it didn’t remotely disappoint; it was stunning and wonderful and everything I wanted it to be. It took me ages to take my first taste, because the aroma was just bloody lovely enough. My feeble notes list chocolate and fruit characters and a definite Weet-bix-ish / Milo-ish maltiness. Which doesn’t come close to capturing anything. Suffice to say I’d happily go in on another sixty-dollar bottle. And I earn even less money than you probably think.
— Rochefort ‘10’
And then we threw this into a massively unfair Tough Act to Follow situation, but it performed very well, bless its pretty blue bottlecap. Rochefort ‘10’ is the biggest of their three, which are all essentially rungs on a ladder of heftiness, rather than a trio of distinct varieties — in choosing their classification scheme, they’ve opted for a combination of seemingly-abritrary numbers with colour-coded caps. (My math might be off here, but I suspect that their ‘6’, ‘8’ and ‘10’ are references to ABW — alcohol by weight, rather than the more-usual alcohol by volume.) It was really delightful, and an interesting point of comparison between the previous and the next of our set. We really liked the winey, porty, sour-fruity character and while there was some malt in the aroma there wasn’t really any chocolate flavour in the taste, at least compared to the Westvleteren. My notes record us as comparing it to a bottle of Cab Sav that you left open and forgot about for days, but you liked enough / were thirsty enough that you just thought ‘fuck it; I’ll have it anyway’ — or an overloaded fruit bowl that you find on the turn after coming home from holiday. In a good way, you understand.
— Chimay ‘Bleue’
And finally, the last slot on our Dance Card went to an old friend. The Blessed Blue was certainly my first exposure to Trappist beer, and I’ve really never tired of it. Also, naturally, there’s the consideration that by this point of the evening we should probably be sticking to things more familiar than exotic if we’re to be remotely fair. Judging by the timing of the similies involving near-rotten fruit bowls with the Rochefort above, we got that about right. After six varied and powerful beers, though, this still held its own. Compared to the two which preceded it, its body was considerably lighter (reflected also in the drop in strength from 10.2% and 11.3% down to ‘just’ 9%), and the port-winey-ness milder than what you get in the Rochefort, but the spiciness came more to the front of the stage and put on a hell of a show. In the end, since we are at the end, there is a damn good reason that Chimay Blue is a classic.
1: “Dance Card” isn’t too foreign / old-timey an expression, is it? Such things really did exist — in some wonderfully weird forms — and something about the phrase just stuck in my head while planning this. 2: Like the other Trappists, Orval also make a patersbier (charmingly known as Petit Orval) for the consumption of the monks themselves. Much lighter in the booze department, these things are usually restricted to the monastery (and the obligatory adjacent tourist-distracting café / gift shop). Since I’ve finally knocked off this milestone, and since I have a longstanding Midstrength Obsession, I’m dead keen to try them. I’ll have to put a nigh-impossible Patersbier Dance Card on my To Do List.
Despite my usually-militant middle-class-ness, sometimes you just have to cross the tracks and try something out-and-out posh. Of course, it helps when you can also wrangle two friends into thirdsing the cost with you.
And it was lovely, it was. Deliciously fragrant — with tempting wafts of things like vanilla, plum and jasmine — it was one of those beers where actually taking your first sip involved some determination, because just sitting back and enjoying the nose was so good. Thankfully, once you did dip in, the flavour didn’t remotely disappoint. It had all those flavours, given zip and zest by the lively effervescence.
I really should dig out the scan and photo for the Estrella ‘Inedit’ I mention in the Diary entry itself. That was another attempt at a poshified beer complete with a little booklet of notes and history, and was supposedly brewed in collaboration with the chefs at el Bulli, reputedly some superswank 3-Michelin-star restaurant — again, militantly middle-class; I’d never heard of it. But it was pants, it was completely and utterly worthless nonsense. Full of marketing and brandwank, but totally lacking in substance or point or interest. This thing, though, this ‘Tripel Hop’, avoids that problem entirely and basically did justify its price tag.
Verbatim: Duvel ‘Tripel Hop’ 16/2/11 $45/750ml ÷ 3 w/ Peter & Ollie 9.5% Sexy dark version of the labelling; one of this pleasant run of hopified-x, done with class. Utterly gorgeous, pale gold with a big white head. Delicious aroma; vanilla + plum skins and all sorts of goodness. Delicate on the palate with the usual racing bubbles. And I love a good punny name. Compare the included booklet with the Estrella Inedit one (which I rediscovered yesterday, tidying my room) and the latter really is a pile of wank; this one’s nicely done. It’s all jasminny and lush, like some sexy millionairess’ garden.
Borrowing adjectives from another recent entry to describe Mikkeller himself is useful: he’s the reigning rockstar of brewing, a mad roving Dane who probably never sleeps, and who is an absurdly multi-tricked pony — because you’d be damn hard-pressed to find any equally-universal descriptors for his beers. For every boundary-breaking piece of madness, there’s something like this: easy-going and relatively sedate.
But still delicious. I was a little nervous when the bubbles got away from me — my thoughts quickly turned to the parallel importing debate and the concerns about rough travel for ‘unofficial’ imports — but my fears subsided as the foam did, because the nose underneath was perfectly lovely with no worrying traces of funk. It was, instead, very much that lid-just-pulled-off Milo tin scent, all cocoa-y and dry and malty. Less rich and ‘big’ than the other recent Brown Ale of note, Rewired (from the oddly-also-Danish Søren Eriksen’s 8 Wired label), it treads a delightful line between easiness and fullness.
My sister’s daughter Izzy tried a little sip, too. It’s difficult to have an un-sampled glass of anything when she’s around, and she does have a pretty neat palate for a four-and-a-half year old — as a rather spooky party trick, she can usually tell you the grape variety in a random glass of wine. I can’t do that, and I’m nearly eight times her age, and am an actual bartender — albeit an evidently rubbish one, when things made of grapes are on the line. Anyway, she described this as “lemonade chocolate”, which I thought was pretty neat. I’ll have to see if I can teach her to add beer-style-picking to her repertoire.
Verbatim: Mikkeller ‘Jackie Brown’ 26/10/10 6.0% $8ish from Rumbles @ the Parents’ house. Mine was enthusiastically heady, which always makes a person nervous about a random import. It’s a gorgeous rich brown, with a nicely dry malty Milo-tin-ish nose peeping through the light tan head now it’s subsided. That dry cocoa flavour is in the face, certainly. Deftly skates between being quite light + quite rich; it’s full-flavoured without being stodgy. What with this and the similarly-Danish ‘Rewired’, let’s have more brown ales! To compare, though it’s been a while, this is less rich + massive, but focuses in tighter on that nice dry cocoa. But really, I should have another Rewired. You know, for science. Izzy said it’s like “lemonade chocolate” — which I think captures the taste + the feel quite nicely.
An evening of pub-hopping and beer-having had made Kirsten and I rather peckish, so we backtracked a little up Hood Street to a place called Gothenburg, which had caught our eye on our way to House. She picked the food, and I took about ten times as long to pick the beers.
I had missed this ‘Hopsinjoor’ when we had a few bottles at work — we presumably got them from the same place the restaurant did; local (to Hamilton, that is) beer importers Beer Store — so leapt at the chance to have one. Kirsten herself had never had the Westmalle Tripel, and I thought both would go well with the prawns, calamari and anchovy pizza we’d ordered. And go well they did, indeed. I feel I deserve some Beer Matching points for that, but really the bulk of the credit goes to the restaurant for their insanely yumtastic food, and to these rather clever breweries.
The ‘Hopsinjoor’, as the name begins to give away, is a hoppier-than-usual Belgian ale, which has considerable zing thereby added to the nicely dry, complex goodness that is a well-made pale golden strong ale of its type. Trading a few sips for a side-by-side comparison, the extra angles of flavour become really apparent.
Verbatim: Gouden Carolus ‘Hopsinjoor’ 27/10/10 330ml 8% $14 @ Gothenburg, Hamilton. This place for dinner, and drinks took longer to decide on; I’m guessing that Beer Store are largely to credit for the impressive, Belgian-stuffed beer list. We had this one at work a while ago, but I missed out. It’s a cloudy, pale straw. Big, yeasty nose; not a lot of hops present until you get to the face. There, they give a nice zingy bitterness that is welcome + unusual. Kirsten had the Westmalle Tripel and both have gone ludicrously well with the insanely tasty prawns, calamari + anchovy pizza we went for. Civilised.
Mikkeller is a wonderfully-mad roving brewer. He’s Danish, but this beer is properly tagged as ‘from Belgium’ — he brews all over the place, the absolute reigning rockstar of collaborations and experiments and (more than occasionally) ludicrously whacked-out beers.
As an exploration / demonstration of the individual character of different hop varieties, he did a ten-member series of single-hopped IPAs, each using an identical base recipe and just one cultivar for its bittering and aroma to really show it off. And then — because, frankly, why the hell not? — he made a 10-hopped IPA with that same base and a bit of everything.
Tasi, one of our regulars and a bartender at Hashigo, kindly gave me a bottle, the mad rainbowy design of which has a section of each of the single-coloured labels from the earlier series — like a tolerable version of that absurd EU “barcode” flag proposal. The colour of the beer itself was gorgeous, and you’d have to assume that was true of the ‘singles’, too — the nose, however, was naturally something else entirely with a hell of a lot going on. The masterstroke was just that, though. It’s very easy to overdo things, with beer, and this could’ve easily tasted like the sound of a jazz band falling down a flight of stairs, if you’ll excuse my recurring synesthesia. But it absolutely didn’t; it had balance, and style, instead.
Verbatim: Mikkeller ‘10’ 23/10/10 gift from Tasi + the peeps @ Hashigo 330ml ÷ 2 w/ Scotty, who has revived that black + red shirt we all like so much. 6.9% Really pretty peachy hazy appearance, in a madly colourful bottle, presumably echoing all of the ‘1’ releases at once. (These were a series of single-hopped beers; this has all ten at once.) A suitably complex nose, but not the cacophony it might easily have fallen into. Easily avoids that jazz-band-falling-down-stairs problem of overdoing things. Nothing really stands out individually against the crowd, but that’s probably the point.
George (the gifter of the original Diary) organised a little tasting session at his house for a few friends of ours, with me playing the Informative Nerd. I’ll be the first to admit that I made them all run a bit of a marathon, but we hit most of the Big Styles, did some Interesting Comparisons, and had a whirlwind tour of the Long and Rambling History of Beer.
There’s a lot more variation in beer than there is in, say, wine or whisky, so a fairly zoomed-out overview can go a long way towards making people more ‘conversant’ in the basic styles, why they are what they are, how to figure out what they’re in for by looking at the bottle, and to help people discover what is (and isn’t) Their Thing.
I can’t help but notice, though, that I utterly failed to fulfil Jessie’s request / demand for a “super-awesome” Diary entry. I’m definitely more of an improvisational entertainer than an on-demand one — and that curry was seriously distracting. Especially after all that beer.
Verbatim: Beer 101 10/10/10 I have to write something super-awesome, says Jessie. No pressure. Tasting session & history lesson at George & Robyn’s, with Jessie + Simon + Pip. Great chance to get my nerd on, and evangelise to Robyn. We had: – Wigram Spruce Beer – Hoegaarden – Hofbräu Munchner Weisse – Köstritzer – Pilsner Urquell – Mussel Inn Golden Goose – Tuatara Porter – Invercargill Pitch Black – Emerson’s Bookbinder – Fuller’s IPA – Epic Pale Ale – Three Boys Golden Ale – Chimay Blue – Kriek Boon. And now, George + Pip have wrangled us a curry. Bloody marvellous.
I’d wandered into work on a day off mostly taken up by mooching around town running various errands. Just as I plonked myself in my usual spot at the bar, Scotty opened one of these by mistake, the customer apparently actually wanting its ‘Blonde’ sibling but not managing to properly articulate their decision — so I had this as a freebie to try, in the spirit of not letting something pointlessly go to waste.
It’s a Belgian strong golden ale, but not one I can really recommend. For the price tag, it just seemed a bit… naff — so I’m extra-glad the price tag didn’t apply, in my case. Have a Tuatara Ardennes, or a Moa St. Joseph if you’d like something local and similar, or hell, just have a Duvel if you’d like the real deal. It’s just better, somehow. The Brugge Tripel just seems a bit, thin — like they’ve candy-sugared it up too much. It does — at 8.2% — pack a sly boozy punch, though, I can tell you that.
Afterthoughts, February 2011: Just about the only thing I can give this beer credit for, now, is inspiring me to rewatch In Bruges. Pretty limp praise-by-assocation is the best I can manage; this beer was a real let-down from what I was hoping for, and against what I’ve liked in other examples of its style.