12 February 2009

From the people who brought you Bud

Despite an elocution lesson from Andrew Pattinson I still can't pronounce Hertog Jan properly. It's AB-InBev's upmarket ale brand in the Netherlands, and I've generally approved of the other beers in the range I've tried. I had completely forgotten about the bottle of their Grand Prestige Mrs Beer Nut brought back from our last trip to the Netherlands. More importantly, so had she.

Having dug it out of the back of the attic stash, and secured the relevant permission, I opened it recently. The first thing that happened was a foam attack which was fortunately held in check by the beer's viscosity. This is a 10% ABV beer served in a 30cl bottle, so thickness is to be expected. Holding the poured glass up to the light reveals a very dark red beer which is completely clear -- the first sign of the mass production techniques that presumably created it.

I didn't get much of a nose from it at first, but after a few minutes' warming it gives off a heady acetone vapour, like pear drops. It's not in the taste, though. Here it's all damsons and raspberries, the sort of fruitiness that gives no indication of the prodigious strength. And while the texture is thick, it's not soupy or syrupy -- it's perfectly drinkable and even has a definite sparkle to it. The flavour finishes with just a small hoppy bite on the end.

What we have here is an fine example of how big brewers are quite capable of making perfectly decent beers if the market demands it. It's no world beater, and you won't find me picking it off a shelf over, say, Westmalle Dubbel, but it's a respectable winter dessert sort of beer of the kind giant transnational corporations tend not to make.

9 comments:

  1. I had a beer in the US back in 2007 from AB as was, called Amber Bock - I seem to remember it being nicely refreshing, though nothing special. I sometimes wonder if we aren't a bit snobby about drinking major producers' beers.

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  2. Whats the best beer by a bad brewer? This sounds good, Guinness foreign extra. Thats all i can think off

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  3. I can bring a Budweiser American Ale over with me if you want to try it next to Blind Pig and Pliny. Merideth tried it at GABF and said it is decent.

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  4. You mean they can make something other than Stella and Bud. in fairness Inbev arent the worst every now and again they do produce a fairly decent beer.

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  5. AB owns rights to a lot of decent beers, from what I gather. Nothing to rave about, especially not in the case of Michelob's Amber Boch. Also, the American Ale is a sad attempt at cornering the craft beer market in the US. I tried to like it. I wanted to say it was alright, but I would only willingly order it over regular AB, such as Bud. It's too hoppy for it's gravity and malt level, and there's a certain funk to it. I had it from a fresh keg, and I assume the lines were clean. Weak flavor overall. If they truly wanted to make something "good", I'd encourage them to try again. But I don't think they care about "good", I think they care more about sellability.

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  6. Chris, you know I'm not the kind to refuse exotic beers. So if you've room it would be very welcome.

    I'm well aware that AB-InBev have lots of really good beers in their portfolio, largely down to trading in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands where standards are generally higher. I quite liked Leffe 9, and will happily drink Hoegaarden, Bellevue Kriek, Spaten, Franziskaner and lots of others. I won't even turn up my nose at Beck's.

    David, Diageo's Guinness Special Export runs close, but I reckon A-B InBev's Bécasse Lambic Doux shades it for me. I'm intending to do some major quaffing of that in Brussels next month.

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  7. Andrew often corrects my Dutch pronunciation, too. Very embarrassingly, I struggle with Warmondstraat, the street where I live.

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  8. Where is the Hertog Jan range actually brewed? In Leuven, like Leffe?

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  9. Hertog Jan is brewed in Arcen in Holland.

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