Who Needs Hops?
Look! It’s another beer Sarah likes! It’s a traditional gruit brewed with herbs and spices and, of course, no hops. Posca Rustica is similar to Brasserie Dupont’s saisons, spicy. It’s slightly malty and wit-like. I’m guessing that comes from coriander and the malted wheat. Posca Rustica is delightfully full and creamy.And it doesn’t offend my wife.
Beer from Belgium, via the grocery store
I’m feeling nostalgic for Europe lately. It was a year ago this week that Sarah and I traveled through Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Ostensibly to visit my sister, we really just looked for beer. Now Kathleen and Bobby are back in the states and we no longer have an excuse to visit those foreign breweries.
Until Kat settles in and can unpack her stash, the Whole Foods will have to satisfy our needs. Kat told me Brasserie D’Achouffe was her favorite in all Belgium. And I can see why. La Chouffe is a golden beer that immediately screamed “apple pie!” It’s fruity and spicy with a thin pastry crust. The initial whiff of pie subsided into a solid Belgian ale with just a hint of light struck skunkiness.
Why do brewers still insist on green glass? It just doesn’t travel well.
The Grand Cru Bruocsella smells and tastes just like a Cantillon beer ought to. The house flavor of Brasserie Cantillon’s lambic is completely unique to the place it’s created. The brewery itself is present in all their lambics, literally. The wild yeasts that ferment every beer only grows wildly in Brussels, in that neighborhood, in that building, in the oak barrels they use and reuse. The flavor of Cantillon is the flavor of tradition, one hundred years of brewing in a single place.
While gueuze is a blend of lambics aged one to three years, Grand Cru Bruscsella is a straight bottled, three year old lambic. It pours completely still like wine. The bottle compares Grand Cru to a cereal based wine, which isn’t far off. Bruocsella has a distinct fruitiness — nectarines, tart green apples — and a semi-sweet, grainy backbone. The yeast adds a layer of dust and hay. There is a hint of vinegar — think kombucha not balsamic dressing. The body is fairly thin, but the flavors fill it up to perfection. The truly unique aspect of all Cantillon lambic is the perfect balance of the flavors — nothing overpowers, nothing distracts.
Cantillon is a unique brewery. You must visit to truly understand and appreciate the beer. Every bottle we open transports us back to our trip to Brussels, but we only have one bottle left from our trip. It’s bittersweet, but we will have to find our way back for another visit.
We skipped the Atomium in Brussels. It was too long a drive out of town, and there was too much beer to drink. Atomium Premier Grand Cru just started showing up here in Portland, and I am a sucker for weird looking beer.
Atomium is actually really tasty. It’s a strong pale ale with great fruity esters that mix with the malt sweetness to make a fresh honey scent. Stone fruit and peppery spice dominate the palate with plenty of malt to back it up. Really, really solid for a random bottle purchased on a whim. Sometimes it’s nice to leave expectations behind and just crack open a beer and let it surprise you.
Best Beer in Belgium?
There is nothing quite like spending an evening tasting some of the most revered beers in the world. Once again, RateBeer.com has named Westvleteren XII the best beer in the world, but we wanted to test it out among the other top beers in the Belgian Quadrupel style. So I put together a little blind tasting.
Sarah was our master pourer, a job she is excellent at, and Kathleen, being pregnant, was only a sniffer. Sarah reserved a small pour for herself, but she also reserved her judgement. My brother-in-law Bobby and myself were the tasters of record.
The night started with La Trappe Quadrupel, a stand out beer for it’s lighter golden color and pronounced alcohol presence. While Bobby found La Trappe quite pleasing — noting a strong dried apple flavor, I found it a little astringent for my taste. La Trappe Quadrupel is an outlier for the style. It’s quite drier and lighter in color than most and lacks a big malty character.
Second, and most widely forgotten, was St. Bernardus Abt. 12. As the legend goes, Abt. 12 is based on the original recipe for Westvleteren’s famous 12, but brewed commercially in a non-Trappist facility. In my notes though it only stands out as a more traditional Quad than La Trappe. Abt. 12 is juicier — raisins and dried cranberries, but still dry. It has a hint of brown sugar, but it’s dry and a bit lifeless. Especially when compared to the original.
Westvleteren 12 was served third. The most revered beer in the world, it didn’t disappoint. 12 is darker than the St. Bernardus interpretation, with a hint of roasted malt. 12 has a big grapey flavor, not entirely unlike Port, raisins in brown sugar. As it sat and breathed the flavors became even more intense and rounder.
Rochefort 10 actually contains more alcohol than the rest of the field, 11.3%, but it hides it well. Grapes and berries are layered all over, with a subtle alcoholic burn. I found 10 to be the spiciest and most balanced. There was just something different; I still can’t exactly place it.
Really, it’s hard to decide which is better or best. Bobby and Sarah liked the La Trappe Quadrupel, but it was my least favorite. Between the Rochefort 10 and Westvleteren XII there was only the thinnest slice of daylight. When we tried guessing which beer was which, I got the first two spot on, but reversed 10 and XII. Who knows, maybe thinking that Rochefort was Westy made it taste just a little bit better.
All I know is that both were very, very tasty.
Pannepot is dedicated to Belgian fisherman and their cute little boats.. It’s hard to categorize Pannepot. It’s sort of a stout, but it’s classified as a Quadrupel everywhere I look. I would never call Pannepot a quad — far too much delicious chocolate. There are hints of cherries, raspberries and plums, but this is not as fruity as a traditional Belgian quad. And it’s a velvety smooth beer for 10% alcohol.
I was so intrigued by this beer I went looking for more information. Is it a quad is it a stout? Nothing was cleared up. Many reviews mentioned far more fruit than I. I did find out that De Struise Brouwers started as ostrich farmers and that “struise” is slang for tough, but also means ostrich. That little fact makes this beer even more awesome.
The Lindeman’s Cassis is probably Sarah’s favorite — maybe even better than the Framboise. She loves currants, and Lindeman’s delivers. The fruit juice dominates, followed by a smack of tartness and some sugary sweetness.
Sarah is trying the Lindeman’s lambics again. They are so juicy and sugary. The kriek is bit like cough syrup. I believe they add fake sugars to these beers to keep them sweet, the yeast cannot break down certain sugars. It really tastes like it. Anyone know if it’s true?
To celebrate the New Year, Sarah and I opened a saucy bottle of Rosé de Gambrinus. Rosé is Cantillon’s lambic aged on raspberries and bottled as a geueze. As opposed to the Lou Pepe framboise, Rosé has no sugar added. Our bottle was fresh from the brewery eight months ago, but the raspberry has faded — which is sad. I put it in the fridge to keep it from aging too fast, but I couldn’t save the fruit. Subtle fruity and floral notes are a bit overwhelmed by a yeasty bitterness. If you have any fruit lambics, drink them sooner than later. I learned my lesson the hard way.
I got it! I got it! Now what?
I’m thinking share one for a blind tasting.
Horde one for myself.
And save the rest to be parceled our over the next few years.