Of course, any trip to Belgium will involve a fair bit of sticking a pin in the beer menu, especially the three-inch-thick menu of Delirium Café, holder of the official world record for most beers in stock (2004 in total). So, I've a couple of themed posts to do, based partially on beers I brought home, but here's everything else.
First up is Cuvée des Trolls. This is an easy-going but rather bland affair carrying herbal hints but not much else. Also from western Belgium comes Forestinne, a red gold ale which offers much stronger herbal flavours with pronounced pine and juniper notes. Sweet, vaguely medicinal, and very tasty.
My suspicion of honey beers took a knock with Barbar Blond, a quite mild but surprisingly strong (8%) golden ale. The honey flavour isn't very strong, but instead there's a rich malty taste and a heavy filling texture. On a lighter note, there's St Idesbald Blond, clear and refreshing with just a hint of bitterness to it.
Similarly light, golden and refreshing is Rulles Estivale which has just a final bitter hops kick to give it personality. Rulles also make a Tripel which is loaded with tasty bitter fruit and which lingers long on the palate. The same can't be said for Lamoral Tripel, unfortunately, it being rather light, thin and generally disappointing.
Some of the most interesting discoveries were on the darker side of the spectrum. I'm a big fan of Flemish red ales so was expecting much from Bourgogne des Flandres. It pours red-brown and is dry with notes of raisins and fruit-infused tea. There's a lingering sourness which makes it a beer to savour, unlike reds such as Rodenbach which tend to have a short lifespan in my vicinity. Curiously, Bourgogne des Flandres is made using maize but doesn't seem to suffer from this. Good Belgian yeast and blending techniques cover a multitude of sins, I guess.
On this bitterly cold Dublin morning it's hard to believe it was only Wednesday last that I was sitting in the balmy garden of Hopduvel in Ghent, basking in the last of the evening sun. While there, on another menu pin-stick, I tried Grottenbier, a spiced bruin from St Bernardus. As the speleological name suggests, this beer has an earthy characteristic, warm and bitter. It's a little like the aforementioned Flemish reds, just a little heavier.
Finally, my find of the trip and another inductee for The Beer Nut Weird-Stuff-In-Beer Hall Of Fame: Captain Cooker. This is Belgian-made, but on a New Zealand theme, with manuka (tea tree) leaves. I reviewed the sterner New Zealand version, Spruce Beer, last year. This is a much more approachable product, however. It has a sweet perfume aroma and a mild flavour with notes of Parma Violets and eucalyptus. All very refreshing and a marvellous fusion of two brewing traditions.
That's not the end of the posts based on the trip, the others will be trickling through over the coming weeks. Bet you can't wait...