Wednesday 27 October 2010

Westvleteren in the supermarkets?

This is not a blog of breaking news, but I couldn't avoid this -- particularly as people are phoning me about it!

The newswires here in Belgium are buzzing with information that Westvleteren is in talks with the Colruyt supermarket chain to distribute its famously delicious and equally famously difficult to find beer. Apparently the abbey needs repairs, so the monks may break with their long tradition of single-point distribution.

For those who read Flemish or can put up with a machine translation, there's more here and here.

If Colruyt can land a deal, it would be brilliant. I don't believe the romantic notion that Westvleteren's rarity somehow makes it taste better. As long as the abbey's production methods remain the same, wider availability is only to be welcomed.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast

When misfortune strikes, there's a risk it will turn your whole outlook sour. The nastier elements of life appear and try to sap your appreciation of the good things, and you must fight the battle with the forces of inner darkness and rediscover your spirit. Thus it is that, after some creep stole my wallet last night, I will respond by opening a geeky beer I'd been saving for a special occasion.

And it could hardly get geekier than Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast. After sampling the wonderful Mikkeller Monk's Elixer, and having read so much about Breakfast, I'm expecting great things here.

Let me just note, however: I am not actually drinking this beer at breakfast. It's just after a late lunch, actually.

Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast pours a rich "inner darkness" black, with a thin tan foam like the crema on cup of espresso. This is logical enough, as this oatmeal stout is made with coffee.

The taste is deeply burnt malt and hop-and-coffee bitterness, loaded with the flavours of baked raisins -- the kind you find at the edges of a raisin bun, where they've blackened against the tray in the oven. The lingering bitterness means this sipping beer lasts a long time. It's cold coffee left in a cup and rediscovered in the late morning, mixed with scalded molasses and 86% cocoa chocolate.

Wonderful stuff. Life is good.

Sunday 10 October 2010

Den Herberg Bruin

After that last disapppointment, I think it's only fair to give something else a try. So, off to a new tasting of another beer I've never heard of before: Den Herberg Bruin.

It pours a fantastic butterscotch colour, particularly after you add the significant amount of yeasty mungness from the bottom of the bottle.

The taste is creamy and mildly malty, low on hop. It's a tremendously smooth caramel delight, actually. It's hard to imagine a more velvety beer.

Despite the lighter colour and the relatively low alcohol level (5.5%), this beer is actually not very far in taste from dark Trappist fair.

In short: moreish.

Special-Block 6

You can't judge a beer by its label anymore than you can a book by its cover, but if you could, this bottle would surely win a prize. What a lovely label, eh?

Opening the bottle, I got an instant whiff of cherry. Unmissable, in fact. And then, it's there in the taste, too: a bit of a cherry soda or even cough syrup. This is somewhat odd for something that's not a lambic.

Actually, it's all a bit too overpowering. Not really for me, I'm afraid.

But still, it's a nice afternoon on the sun-trap terrace, and that label looks great.