Sunday 26 May 2013

Natural light and darkness

We’ve spent a good deal of time this weekend trying to keep a nest of baby black birds safe from marauding magpies. The parents are doing the best they can, and we come out to help when we hear their alarm call. Still, it’s been pretty brutal: two chicks gone already, one cowering in the honeysuckle. Nature can be pretty ugly.

I am thus not instantly impressed by products that proclaim their “all natural” or “organic” ingredients. Magpies are completely natural. So is cyanide. Doesn’t make it right.

When Brasserie de la Lesse announces their beers are mostly organic, therefore, I remain to be convinced. We put two of their offerings -- a blonde and a brune -- to the taste test.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Excuse me, there’s chicory in my beer

I understand that people get bored. It happens to us all from time to time. And I get it that brewers will occasionally want to try something different just to spice things up.

But putting chicory in beer? I think there may be a line drawn there. Or a good ways before you get to there in fact.

Recalling previous tastings of some historical experimental brews, I think the problem starts whenever you get away from using hops. Beers like Gageleer or Dupont’s Cervesia, which rely on bog myrtle instead of hops, may be interesting, but they’re not anything I’d buy again. The same is true for other pre-hop era remakes like Dogfish Head Theobroma or Dogfish Head Midas Touch: after the novelty wears off, you just have to ask yourself if this is really anything that people want to drink.

Still, I tried to keep an open mind as I approached Hof ten Dormaal Wit Goud, a beer made by replacing some hops with chicory.

Sunday 19 May 2013

Four new Belgian blondes

As spring continues to evade Belgium, and the family has run off to Scotland in search of warmer weather -- yes, that’s how bad it’s been here -- I carved out some time to catch up on a bit of important paperwork. But since tax forms are infinitely dull and these ones aren’t due for some time yet, I figure it would be far more interesting to write up some tasting notes that I’ve also been neglecting for a while.

Let’s start with a few blonde Belgian ales. I’ve run into a few new ones in recent months, all worth mentioning. Well, actually, they’re more worth drinking than mentioning, but you know what I mean.

Sunday 5 May 2013

Five British darks

For sweet dark beers, Belgium is king. The rich velvety gingerbread of Achel Brune Extra, the deep porty notes of an aged Chimay, the bubbly berries of Rochefort... They all have a special place in our hearts. But for the bitter darks -- with the exception of the apparently one-off Black in Japan or the sadly hard-to-find Scheldebrouwerij Oesterstout -- we usually need to look further afield.

Britain is a good place to start, and over the past few months, we’ve been able to sample five super stouts and black IPAs from the UK, all very much worth trying if you can get your hands on them.