Sunday, 29 June 2008


Once again, I must describe my distaste for the use of cartoon characters on beer labels, but since the girls bought me this one as a welcome home present, I’ll give it a fair shot. And it does seem a rather refined brew: it sports a bow tie and claims to come “with taste evolution”.

It’s a lovely dark beer with a thick head. The first taste is sweet, with a bit of that black cherry cola, like Bobeline Brune. I’m reminded of Moinette Brune, too. It also has a strong burnt malt note that turns sour in the aftertaste. It’s missing the extra flavours of the Moinette, however -- no cinnamon here -- and overall, it’s not as complex. 9% alcohol.

I think, it’s a bit too sweet for me. The little cartoon character on the label may be cute, and it may be a well-dressed bottle, but still, it hasn’t wowed me much.

I guess the “with taste evolution” claim on the label refers to the fact this beer has a secondary fermentation in the bottle. I’d like to see how it ages, actually. Once those sugars are converted over time, I imagine it would lose its sweetness and become something quite rich and multi-layered. I think I’ll put some down in the cellar and try it. I'll give it about year and see what we get...

In the meantime, I'll just be happy I've got a dark beer to enjoy after those dull lagers of Colombia. A quiet moment in the sun-trap...


Sunday, 22 June 2008

Pilsen (Colombia)

Sure it’s not a Belgian beer, but then, “Pilsen” is not from the Bohemian town that gave us the great style of beer. Produced by the Bavaria brewery, this Colombian beer has something of an identity problem.

I’ve just been sampling it here in Medellín, and I can report it is indeed a beer in the pilsner style. Not too bad, but in no way exceptional. The name just begs an appellation discussion, though. Weren’t the Czechs trying to get legal protection for the name “pilsner” or something?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Ivorian Chimay

While I've been working on getting myself checked out of a plastic surgery clinic in Bogotá, Seb sent along these photos of himself and his friends celebrating their own Chimay fathers' day in Côte d'Ivoire.

Strangely, this happened totally by chance at the same time as our Four Fathers Chimay celebration. Spooky.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Our Four Fathers' Chimay

Fathers' Day was celebrated yesterday by four of us with various types of Chimay. Over in New Jersey, Brian and our father had Chimay Grande Réserve, but apparently, this bottle they bought in the States did not have the year very prominently displayed on it, so I've no idea if it was the 2008 or something aged and older. Anyone know why the date isn't on the bottles you buy in America? Is it not fermented in the bottle there?

Here in Brussels, I was with my father-in-law, Ronnie, and we had the Chimay Blue. This beer has gone up in my estimation in recent weeks. It's still not going on my list of top ten Belgian beers, but it's getting closer. It seems richer than when I first tasted it for the 40b40, more date and raisin notes.

Fiona -- not a father, but we let her drink anyway -- opted for the Chimay White, a grapefruity tripel. Laura chose no Chimay at all, because was driving the team back to Connecticut.

It was all captured on Skype video phone -- well, not the drive to Connecticut -- so I'll leave you with the snapshots here...

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Poperings hommelbier

Another beer from the Van Eecke brewery in Watou, this one stresses the hop element: “hommel” is the Flemish for “hop”. Apparently, it also means “bumblebee”. No idea what the connection is there, if any. Picture of hop plants on the label. No sign of any bees.

The beer itself is a blonde ale, and, yes, heavy on the hop: bitter, super-dry finish. It’s quite cloudy, with a lot of the bottle yeast in suspension. Does this mean I poured it too fast? It has a kind of steamed celery or steamed onion taste to it, which is actually quite nice. 7.5% alcohol, balanced nicely. Not much sting to this bumblebee.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Chimay Grande Réserve 1999

“Pig farm” and “slurry” were Fiona’s first tasting notes on this one. And while it’s true this nine-year-old bottle of Chimay Grande Réserve had strong agricultural notes, I found it outstanding just the same.

Interestingly, the 1999 was quite different from the Chimay Grande Réserve 2001. Rather than creamy and smoky, this one was a bit thinner and more pungent. “Rotten leaves and mushrooms”, said Marcus. I thought hemp and wet linen, with a few sweet notes, and though it had no fresh fruit taste, I detected a kind of black cherry liquor flavour.

Marcus compared it to a non-alcoholic German Malzbier, but the alcohol level in this was high. Not that you could taste it -- the great mix of flavours hid the fumes very well -- but you could feel it. “With every sip, I feel more and more drunk”, Galima noted. She was quite right, and in that regard, the 750ml split between the four of us was plenty. When bottled, it was 9%, and I’m guessing the extra years of bottle fermentation probably put it up to 12 or 13%. That’s just a guess, though.

The taste was so complex and rich, so full of organic, mucky malt... We suddenly remembered a hunk of Chimay cheese we had in the fridge, and passing it around, we realised the rind of the cheese had exactly that farmy richness. Logical, of course.

“Stinky”, concluded Fiona.

But to me it’s oh so good, and again, it’s obvious that aged Chimay Grande Réserve will remain in my list of top ten Belgian beers.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Bornem Dubbel

Here’s an abbey beer from the Van Steenberge group for damp Thursday.

It’s wonderfully dark, and it has an absurdly thick head -- you could build a wall out of it. The taste is burnt oak and “sour molasses”. The 8% alcohol doesn’t overwhelm.

Overall, however, I’d say it’s not complex enough. A beer this dark with a head this thick promises more flavour than this brew delivers. I was hoping for something deeper and richer.

It’s drinkable, of course, but I probably wouldn’t buy this one again. Maybe no beer can brighten up a damp Thursday.