Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tasting notes - Quelque Chose

My oenophile friends swear by rosé as the most underrated and under-appreciated style of wine. Unfairly burdened by a dark history fraught with white zinfandel, Bartles & James wine coolers, and the connotative connection to Boone's Farm strawberry wine, rosé lurks under the radar at a sub-premium price (along with merlot) while offering spectacular variety and a unparalleled grape-refreshment ratio.

On the other end of the seasonal spectrum, I, on the other hand, try yearly to convince the holiday hordes to come bow before almighty mull, that wicked alchemy of wine, sinisterly warmed with spices, and in my personal recipe, blended with no short order of table sugar and sweet vermouth. My friends joke that a good, choking cough upon first taste of my mull is a sign that the magic elixir is fit for general consumption.

Betwixt the two, an unholy union has given rise to something truly bizarre, faintly sinister, and compellingly delish. Behold the "something" that is Unibroue's Quelque Chose. Picked up in the most unlikely of places (Mill Valley's Whole Foods, if you need to know), this incredibly uncommon find is a true Jekyll and Hyde of the beer-drinking world. Chambly's finest brewery suggests that you either drink this virtually uncarbonated concoction on the rocks (mind you, this is a beer brewed with dark malts and cherries - a combination most people would associate with a beer like Ommegang's Three Philosophers) for a cool refreshing aperitif, or warm in a glass as a bit of a winter warmer. Amazingly, it survives both applications and contributes wonderfully to whatever surrounding its in, delivering both the sweetness of cherries when warm, yet more redolent of strawberries and mint when cool.

With daytime temps in the high 70's, the sun beaming down and casting warm pollinated breezes about the inland valleys of Northern California, it happily plays the role of the underdog rosé as its mild acidity and easy, light fruit nose refreshingly ease the pallette and quench a Sunday afternoon's thirst. When the sun goes down, the mercury's been slipping into the 40's, and that 750mL bottle of Quebec ruby has warmed up next to a building fire, and the mull side of the beast comes out, slightly syrupy, slightly sweet, and completely comforting. What's truly amazing is how under both guises, it's almost indistinguishable from wine. Truly a feat of illusion, mesmerization, or something altogether more diabolical...

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tasting notes - Urthel Tripel

That's Brewery de Leyerth Urthel Hibernus Quentum Tripel, to be precise. With the world's best import beer buyer currently on maternity leave and kegs of homebrew stashed up like a squirrel's autumn bounty in the basement, I haven't had much opportunity to dip my toes in any new ales lately. But when I recently came across this oddity, whose label proudly boasts itself as (in English, nonetheless) "Belgium's newest cult classic", it was like the beer-blogging Cthulhu within me was roused from its ancient and terrible slumber. I'm just a total sucker for hyperbolic liquor labels, I guess. That, and the folks at Leyerth appear to have adopted a belgique Snuffy Smith as their spokesmonster.

Proudly endorsed by Snuffy Smith.
Perhaps in owing to a palate that's been affected in part by American craft beer's generally higher hopping rates, this tripel kicks a bit more bitterness on the front end than you'd expect from the style, but quickly evolves into the classic fruity acidic sourness you find in the regional archetypes - Westmalle, Chimay Cinq Cents, etc. (compared to American versions of the style that usually don't have any tartness to balance the natural sweetness of the sugar added to boost the alcohol content). If anyone out there needs a refresher course in the difference between a tripel and a "strong golden" ale, they need do nothing more than sit down with bottles of Urthel and Duvel (and me, if you insist) to get a quick lesson in just how different these pilsner-hued ales really are.
Urthel also brews a hop-driven harvest-style ale (post to come including comparison to the newest addition to the Chouffe family of artisanal ales) as well as a dubbel and a quadrupel ale. More information is hard to come by from the official site, however, particularly if your Dutch is a little rusty. So, while the site entices you to "discover the secret", you're likely to just leave more confused that when you arrived. And, if you don't have the patience for the ticker text at the bottom of the "English" page, here's what you're missing:
...The Urthel website is completely renewed, with more background information...The good old Knuyst has disappeared from the cafés and the new Paché-glas has made its entrance...Beware of The Bockerijders of Ghorp, the new Urthel Bock 6.5 is arriving...Frightfully delicious...More about the fairy-tale of the Erthels ...and more ...much more...

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tasting notes - Brother Thelonius

Oh brother, thou art yummy. Just as I was in the midst of writing up another "reward offered" post for the newest in must-have releases, Des walks in with a surprise bottle of the object of my desires - North Coast's newest addition to their Belgian-inspired beauties, the dark strong Brother Thelonius. A compositional hero and certainly one of the most individually powerful voices in American music from the past century, it's about time for Monk to be canonized with such a reverent, meticulously crafted namesake as the folks up in Ft. Bragg have done.

Straight to the point - to the point, no fakin'.
Pouring a robust mahogany with hints of red, with the fine carbonation and tight-knit head that's the hallmark of 750mL bottle-conditioning, it definitely owes much to the hallowed abbey ale tradition. Unlike many of its dubbel cousins, however, the aroma isn't a muddy wash of fruity, banana-y yeast phenolics. Instead, it has a precise, unfussy character that shows off a clean fermentation with a nose that's all spice and dark berries, against a malty backdrop of chocolate, toffee and toast. While its profile opens up a bit as it warms up to reveal its 9% soul, its complexity is delivered with such purposeful intent, it seems wholly appropriate in honor of its subject (of course I'd like to believe that Brilliant Corners was piped into the brewhouse while fermentation was underway).
It's also nice to know that a portion of the proceeds from all Brother T-related merchandise (complete with obligatory "Straight, No Chaser" inscription) goes to benefit the Monk Institute, a jazz education and outreach program whose mission is "to offer the world's most promising young musicians college level training by America's jazz masters and to present public school-based jazz education programs for young people around the world." It's a cause that I'm more than delighted to support, even if helping out means having to buy a few cases of the stuff.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tasting notes - Cantillon Gueuze

"Horse blanket. Barnyard. Old leather. Musty. Cheesy. Cidery. Fruity. Tart. Acidic. Lactic. Dry. Put them all together and you've found yourself a lambic. And a damn good one, at that." - Gregg Glaser

With the juggernaut of urbanization casually steamrolling throughout northern Europe, the brewers of the Senne River Valley have had more to worry about than the proliferation of powerfully advertised mass-market brands and the saccarification on the public's taste buds. Similar to the plight of the modern vintner, it's loss of habitat that stands as the Belgian wildbrewer's primary concern. Rather than the soil and irrigation issues that plague the winemaker, though, it's the quality and diversity of microorganisms in the air that's at risk of making historic lambic brewing a lost art.
The precise combination of wild yeasts and other microflora that populate in the "lambic valley", residing in the trees and old buildings' rafters, spreading through the breeze of the Brussels evening, is the soul of the lambic. And while kriek brewers in Belgium have had to contend with the virtual disappearance of their treasured Schaarbeek sour cherries, the modern lambic brewer faces a deforested valley along with old buildings being removed and renovated. Brewers who relocate their facilities will actually take timbers from the old location in the hopes that the resident microflora that gives their open-fermented ales their "house" character will come along for the ride.
With the knowledge that we may be among the last generation to enjoy truly wild lambics in the style that they've been made for ages, it's especially comforting to know that Cantillon is there to represent - and in full-on organic style, no less. Plainly, simply put, their Gueuze is a funkfest, in the classiest sense. The champagne of the horse-blanket and wild-mushroom set, it's a golden, effervescent masterpiece of wilderness. Cantillon still makes their lambics in the traditional manner, their gueuze being the result of a blend of aged with young lambic laid to rest and generate its gentle carbonation through a refermentation in the bottle - and it's a stunner. Deeply complex, dry and wine-y, acidic and challenging, refreshing but appetite-rousing, it's all the things history has taught us a lambic was meant to be.
First-time tasters who recoil at the pop of the cork, the cellar smells and mysterious vapors that emit from the bottle, need only allow it a moment to breathe before taking that first sip and begin to try to decipher the web of sensations that it provides. How something made only from wheat, barley, water, and aged hops could develop into something so fascinating to drink and ruminate over is amazing. That is, of course, until you realize that there's a mysterious blend of ingredients wafting past on the spring breeze.
For now, at least. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 17, 2006

Tasting notes - St. Bernardus Prior 8 and St. Bernardus Abt 12

There is another. Much like the Leia to Westvletern's Luke, St. Bernardus labors in near obscurity behind the beer world's focus on the yellow cap. But as a close sibling linked by Westmalle genes, its Prior 8 and Abt 12 deserve a spotlight similar to the former, and are certainly a force to be reckoned with on the dark side of winter.
Why yes, Yoshi, I think you're correct: The 8º does appear to be brewed from second runnings from the 12º.
Is it *as* good as the yellow cap? Yes, but since it's just that much harder to get one's hands on the holy grail of illegally imported Trappist ales, it's hard to convince folks that it could be true. I mean, they sell it at Whole Foods, fer cryin' out loud, and it isn't $15/bottle! I suggest that people heed the advice given in the weirdly titled but stunningly revelatory "Brew Like A Monk", wherein Stan Hieronymus warns people to be leery of the implied quality of the six named Trappist monastery breweries in comparison to abbey breweries who don't qualify for the fancy appellation label "Trappist" - much in the way one mustn't avoid California sparkling white wines méthode champonaise simply because they can't be labeled "champagne" (*cough* Navarro brut *cough*). [Sidenote: My thoughts on appellations are too tangential even to include in a blog (!), but I'm not hesitant to admit that I just enjoyed a glass of a "lambic" style barrel-aged, wild-yeast fermented, sour cherry-infused, pale ale that just *happens* to be from Santa Rosa, California, and could easily shame many of its saccharinene-influenced relatives from the true"lambic valley". And I'm eagerly eyeing another one from New York in my fridge. Nuff said.]
Gee, thanks a lot, autofocus.
These are both big beers of the "dried fruit and rum" persuasion, thick with luscious yeast aromas of plum and raisin and spice, best enjoyed somewhat on the warm side (55º at least), and just beg to be enjoyed slowly after dinner on a cold winter's night. One could speculate that like the brewers employ a technique used at Westvletern whereby the two beers are drawn from the same mash in a system similar to parti-gyle brewing. It would make sense, as the two seem quite closely linked in character (probably just one or two grains with sugar added?), yet varying in strength and body.
Perhaps the greatest joy in drinking a glass of the St. Bernardus Abt 12 is in realizing that Westvletern isn't alone. It even makes one believe that with a little homebrewing creativity (not to mention learning how to cook your own brewing sugar), you might actually be able to do something similar yourself. Fantasy, I'm sure. But with the snow level dropping and the winds picking up, it's a tempting fantasy to indulge in.


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tasting notes: Moinette Brune

Saisons. Anyone who has read more than two posts on this blog knows I have a soft spot for saisons. Dark beers. Ditto. Put them together and it's exponential love. Moinette Brune is such a beer that generates such a love. Beer love.
Recently, a friend asked me, "What makes a beer dark?", which I thought was a very good question. A good question, since it's one that falls in the "might be a stupid question so I'm afraid to ask it" category. Fact is, there are three ways that brewers affect the color of their beers. The most common way is by adding malts that have been specifically kilned to impart color, from the wide range of crystal malts, to the chocolate, black patent and roasted barley that generate the pitch black you would see in a stout, black ale, or some porters. Another method, not really used much anymore due to the sheer time and energy required, is the use of immensely long boils. What can now be generally replicated by tossing in a dash of crystal malts was once achieved by boiling the wort for up to 18 hours, a process that would slowly darken the color through caramelization. Truth is, when these folks of yore needed to cook their wort, they couldn't really achieve a true rolling boil like any of us modern day ramen cooks know. Instead, it was like a long, painfully inactive simmer which gave rise to the popular "red" beers of Flanders. Lastly, and most importantly to anyone studying the fine art of Belgian artisinal brewing, is the use of darkened sugars, or candi sugars, in the wort to both ramp up the alcohol content and lower the body of your beer. Forget it, let's talk Moinette.

Delicious, glowing, dark and mildly funky. Simply put, it's essentially a wild dubbel. It's light enough in body and sweet enough that I'm inclined to believe its color derives from the use of dark candi sugar and maybe just a smidge of a cara- malt, like CaraMunich or carastan. It's got enough of the aromatic qualities you would expect from something a little wild, but then it settles into the dark fruit and warming joy that you would also want from a darker abbey style.
As early as it seems, we're already waking to the tinges of dawn's indigo scrapes across the horizon. The breeze hints at a cold run of salmon already on their way back north. The fog lingers just a little longer inland than at the coast. Is the wild/dubbel style the perfect choice for this coming of autumn feel? It depends on how many crickets are out, and whether you debate closing all your windows before going to bed. Have you bought your firewood for the winter yet? Are you thinking about it?


Monday, May 23, 2005

Tasting notes - Oudbeitje Lambic

Years ago, a friend of mine was preparing for his first trip to Europe, and our conversation naturally turned to regional specialties of the beer world, and of those, which ones were still uncommon here in the states. Upon hearing he'd be stopping through Berlin, my thoughts immediately turned to the classic Berliner Weisse. What could be more anomalous in the great German brewing tradition than a cloudy wheat beer tinged with lactic sourness typically served with raspberry or woodruff syrup? Oh, but how clouded was I by my fascination of all things beery in suggesting such a drink to a boy on his Fitzgeraldian travels towards manhood? How could I have suggested to a young, heterosexual man roaming through Berlin to enter a bar, cast a knowing glance about the room, and proudly order a pink drink? I have yet to live down the shame of my misguided advice.
One might feel the same way upon purchasing a bottle of Hanssen's Oudbeitje Lambic, what with its frilly script and lovingly detailed strawberries on the label. But they would be wrong in assuming they had acquired a beer in the ranks of a Bartles & James wine cooler. There's a very simple maxim in Belgian beer label typography: The cuter the label, the freakier the beer. Opening up this beer, you're quickly struck by a deeply true strawberry aroma, but that's where the cuteness ends. The friendly strawberry aroma is slowly replaced by the brew's more honest core - cheese, "farm", and funk - which only intensifies upon your first sip. The berry never returns to calm the proceedings as you continue to taste, which are instead dominated by a sharp, acetic sourness which isn't even cleared off your palate with a refreshing dose of carbonation. Disregard its appearance in the photo - this beer is almost dead flat. [And yes, I do occasionally enjoy a beer without first propping it up on my kitchen counter for a photo shoot.]
However, contrary to how it might seem from the above description, this isn't an entirely unpleasant tipple. It's a vividly complex appetite-rouser with that crisp, dry finish that blended lambics so excel at. And for those on the road of lambic discovery, it's a worthwhile side excursion from the more popular, overly sweet options. And who knows? Perhaps the lack of carbonation was due to age (2000) or cork or handling. Either way, if you come across a bottle, give it some consideration. Just don't order one in public if you're trying to be macho - the puckering face you'll make will ruin the image.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Tasting notes - Allagash Curieux

Much better than a boilermaker.

Not long ago, I commented to a local brewer that I could probably help him get a decent price on French oak barrels, were he to ever start experimenting with aging some of his stronger ales. He was quick to dismiss what he saw as a faddish notion - one that might grab some quick attention, sure, but was ultimately a gimmick. I think the "gimmick" argument is flawed in that he ultimate success of craft brewers depends on their ability to provide in a way that the megabrewers can't. That is, the hands-on attention to detail, creative experimentation, and willingness to deviate from traditional practice that the craft brewer can afford to engage in will provide beer enthusiasts with a wider array and higher quality product than the big guys. Simply put, the more complicated the procedure and the more esoteric the ingredients, the less likely major brewing houses are going to get involved. Which is precisely why there are more homebrewers out there right now than there ever has been in this country - they can afford to get intimately involved with those ingredients and processes, of which barrel aging is one such example.
Let any argument over gimmicks and fads end over a glass of this beer. The first batch in a limited series of oak-aged ales put out by the often spectacular Allagash brewing house in Maine, Curieux is a phenomenal achievement. Supposedly, a shipment of the 750mL champagne bottles in which they bottle their tripel was waylaid on route from France. As a sort of stopgap measure, the brewery bought some used bourbon barrels from Jim Beam, and racked the batch into the oak until their bottles arrived. As suspiciously convenient as the story sounds, it doesn't matter. Unlike some other "oaked" versions of house recipes, Curieux is a wholly different experience from the Allagash Tripel, and in a good way.
It's a hugely alcoholic beer in the vein of a Belgian strong golden ale, coming in at 11% abv, and with a very clear, deep gold color (nowhere near the bourbon brown I was imagining). Despite a high level of natural carbonation, the head dissipated very quickly, but not without leaving some nice lace on the glass. It has a very spicy citrusy, tart aroma, with the oak only really coming through as it warms up in the glass. The taste is sweet and buttery at first, with vanilla and banana, which recedes into a strong finish of alcohol burn and a woody dryness.
Considering that the use of wood for beer storage predates stainless steel by, oh, about 5,000 years, it shouldn't seem that out of place in the modern day craft brewhouse, especially those who make higher gravity beers such as imperial stouts and porters, Belgian saisons, French biere de gardes, etc. And it doesn't have to stop there, if you consider that even Pilsner Urquell was aged primarily in wood up until a few years ago. Perhaps it's the trend of tossing a few oak cubes into the house brew and acting like it's a big deal that inspires gimmicky concerns, or maybe it's the folks barrel their IPA and continuously rock them back and forth to simluate the effects of a long sea voyage to India... Whatever. If you come across one of the 290 existing cases of Curieux, by all means: buy it. It's the perfect beer for cellaring, as well, considering the alcohol content and the complexity of the flavor. And if you just can't find it, grab a six-pack of (the considerably less expensive) Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale instead and decide for yourself whether barrel aging is a gimmick or not.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

Tasting notes - Westvletern 12

Ambrosia? Routinely championed as the greatest single beer in the world, Westvletern 12 (aka "yellow cap") is shrouded in boozy mystery for the rest of us lay-drinkers as it's always been the sort of beer that's touted as being impossible to find outside of Belgium.
But, as you can see from the picture, it's not all that obscure an item these days. Look! The label's even (mostly) in English. In fact, I've long been of the mind that W12 was only #1 on those two sites because of it's scarcity. And let's be honest: as a result of the hype, it's almost impossible to enjoy fully. But that's not the whole story (see short rant below). Let's begin this review in typical BeerAdvocate fashion:

Cap reads: 15.10.05 Which is interesting, as it's only April. Fascinating. Poured a ruby, cherrywood amber into my hand-engraved "Beer Hunter" goblet, with traces of pink diamonds in the close-knit bead of dense yet snowy, tight yet billowing head. Raisins, prunes, figs, and other Near East fruits and vegetables danced across the palate before a warming - yet brisk - alcoholic bitterness entered the room for a friendly game of pinochle. They all left a few minutes later after a bittersweet tussle, only to have a finish of oaked sherry and lycee call in the middle of the night to mention they'd forgotten their wallet... A marvelous encounter...

Truth is, it was simpler than that - it's a hot (read "you can taste the booze, man") and dark brew with layer after layer of flavor. Des and I agreed that the up-front alcohol burn seemed out of sorts for a beer that's given such ga-ga reviews, but it's possible the anticipation of "the perfect beer" left us a bit on the defensive side. The interplay of deep flavors is nonetheless phenomenal, increasingly complex as it warms up - yet with characteristics that I've found just as intriguing in a draft of St. Bernardus 12 (whom St. Sixtus has taken to court) or Aventinus Eisbock or even a bottle of (seriously!) Allagash Grand Cru. I must admit, however, that the thought of sitting down at the café across from the monastery with a freshly poured glass of yellow cap sounds like nothing less than beer heaven. It is truly special stuff, and well worth 5, even 6 euros. But is it worth $20?
This is straying from the format of a "tasting notes" post, but I think it's a relevant tangent/rant. Consider if you will: Across the street from the St. Sixtus Abbey is a café where regular, non-Trappist folks like you and me can sit down and enjoy the fruit of their labor for around 3 euros per glass, and if you drive up to the monastery to load up your trunk with a couple cases (five's the max), you're shopping in the ballpark of 1.50 euros per bottle. And that's the way the monks want it - affordable, local, and unpretentious. In fact, they're apparently quite disturbed by all the second-hand labeling and somewhat clandestine distribution, noting defeatedly that "once the beer leaves the monastery, there's nothing we can do". Knowing full well that 330 mL bottles can go from anywhere in the range of $10-$25 has the monks concerned about regular people's ability to afford what they see as a simple, basic element of sustenance - along with bread and cheese - not an item reserved for the wealthy and privileged. Capitalism seems to be doing these folks a disservice: They don't want to charge locals more for their beer, so they refrain from expanding their capacity and distribution in any way that would increase their production costs, which has resulted in a sort of black market export trade where prices go unchecked abroad, in turn leaving the monks debating how to continue their business within the terms of their strict moral code.
I bring all this up because, in the end, you're going to come across some bottles at some point and ask yourself, is it worth it? It's an extraordinary beer. Is it the best in the world? Probably not. And if the bottles you come across are stamped with a price tag that seems extreme, it's still a tough call. Someone as obsessive as me is going to have to try at least one (or two) bottle(s), but for the vast majority (I can't believe I'm writing this) I'd recommend skipping it. You're not only alleviating some of the guilt the monks of St. Sixtus feel, but also telling the folks selling it that you're above the hype. It's a very tough call, considering that it is a very fine ale, and hell -you probably wouldn't even be reading this if you weren't open to the idea of plopping down a Jackson for less than 12 ounces of beer (I'll write about the überexpensive Deus when I've gone totally nuts). But considering that the quadrupel style is being more commonly approached by domestic craft brewers, it's becoming less and less of a novelty item and worth considering the many equally wonderful options you have with considerably less spiritual baggage.
If, however, you've found yourself in that café across the street from the abbey, do yourself a favor and reward yourself with one the world's rarest beers. And bring some back for me...


Monday, April 25, 2005

Tasting notes - Geuze Boon

I have to hand it to the beer buyer (or "team leader" or whatever they call them) for San Francisco's downtown Whole Foods. Say what you will about the store in general, it's prices, etc., but the fact that you can find specialties there that don't even show up at Toronado during Belgian beer month is quite the feat of beer conjuring. Just how many bottles of Boon Geuze do they expect to sell, anyway?
Ask for it by name: Goat's Bone.
Maybe, just maybe, to make the buyer (leader, swami, shaman) feel loved for their efforts, I'll just go ahead and buy the whole damn lot of them.
In the wonderfully weird world of lambics, Frank Boon (bōn) is widely credited for sustaining, if not expanding, the style's acceptance and appreciation around Belgium and the rest of the world. That's no small matter, either, when you consider the product he's selling is a wildly fermented, purposefully sour beer that involves one of the most complicated, time-consuming brewing techniques in the world, when most people would be happy kicking back with a bottle of MGD.
Nevertheless, his success - on top of the current faddishness of farmhouse ales and other imported curiosities - means that a guy like me doesn't have to settle for a fruit lambic when he wants something uniquely refreshing anymore. While the more popular members of the lambic family - framboise, kriek, peche, etc. - consist of old and new lambic ales blended with fruit in the aging process, geuze is an exercise in balance, blending an aged, flat lambic with a young, sweet lambic to referment in the bottle until it's characteristics warrant the comparison: the champagne of the beer world.
Bill Metzger writes of the geuze :"It is as if (Boon) stuffed a piece of the Belgian countryside into a bottle and shipped it overseas." Which is a good way to begin reviewing the drink, since even before you've poured a glass (but after you've opened the bottle, thank you very much), you're presented with some seriously earthy, mushroomy, dare I say funky aromas. Once the smoke clears, however, you're in for quite a special drink. For anyone who's experienced a seriously tart, super dry lambic like Cantillon's Bruocsella or the balsamic vinegar terror that is the Duchesse de Bourgogne Flemish red ale, you can relax: this isn't even in the same ballpark as some of those monstrously acidic ales. The comparisons to champagne are warranted in that it's bone dry, extremely effervescent, with the fine taste of grape skins and a truly winey finish.
And the smell of mushrooms and sherry filled the room.
We enjoyed it as an aperitif before dinner, and I think that's its rightful place. I imagine it as being as crisp and refreshing with almonds and charcuterie as a glass of prosecco, but since we're not quite in that social echelon, it went quite splendidly with a bag of sea salt & vinegar potato chips. Whereas you're likely to find the die-hard geuze drinkers complaining that the Boon version is too soft or too delicate, I would advise the amateur lambic enthusiast to ignore those lemon-faced masochists. There ought to be no shame in brewing a delicate, refreshing, and altogether drinkable version of a beer that the average drinker is often warned to avoid. Don't let either camp fool you: it's delicious stuff. They're just worried that we're going to get the last bottles off the shelf.


Saturday, April 09, 2005

Tasting notes - La Gourmande

From the never-ceases-to-amaze Fantome Brewery in Soy, Belgium, comes this recent addition (to our market, at least) to their line of curious, secretly spiced saison-style ales. This one comes on strong with a hit of lemon verbena in the aroma and a big, citrusy bite at first taste. It has a brief, sparkling existence on the tongue with the grassy, yeasty middle you'd expect from the style, but quickly returns to the lemon flavor in a long, lingering finish. A summer's beer for those whose tastes run to the farmhouse end of things? Or simply the brewer's 180° turn from the "plums and raisins soaked in port" profile of his Noël style? Highly recommended.