30 March 2009

Refusing Brussels stouts

I have not, hitherto, felt particularly positively disposed towards the stouts of Belgium. Hercule is often lauded as the finest of the genre, and while I appreciated that it was well made and did everything a very strong Belgian stout is supposed to do, the thick sweetness of it meant I just couldn't warm to it as a regular. It's still streets and streets ahead of Leroy Stout, a saccharine bomb I picked up in Ypres and which I really should have left on the shelf. As a result of all this, when I'm feeling stouty in Belgium, I'll generally go for Guinness Special Export, since it has that lovely balance between treacle and roastiness that the others just can't seem to manage. It takes a lot to move me away from it.

It was the terribly cool socialist-realist label that made me pick up and bring home a fourth stout on my January trip to Belgium. Stouterik is brewed by De La Senne of Brussels at the De Ranke brewery (thanks for the correction, Stan), and at only 4.5% I should have known this was going to be different from the bigger ones. It's very pale for a start, pretty much a red-brown shade. There's a dry roast barley nose, and a gorgeous sulphurous gunpowder flavour fading to dryness, with just enough sparkle to keep it moving. We get a fleeting glimpse of something very sweet right at the end: violets or lavender or similar, but it vanishes quickly. All in all it's a wonderful stout experience and I could drink a whole heck of a lot of this. Shame it's in 33cl bottles.

My perception of Belgian stouts has been altered and I'm a lot more willing to give new ones a try. Recommendations always welcome.

12 comments:

  1. Hmm. I enjoyed their Zinne Bir. I'll look out for this on Thursday so. Being dragged back for another night there, although this time with a colleague who is not a beer gook :)

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  2. And of course, I meant geek. Jetlag is a terrible thing.

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  3. Agreed that it is a lovely beer. Also, though it may seem a small difference, it think it is noteworthy that the guys at De La Senne "rent" the De Ranke brewery and essentially do their own brewing.

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  4. Ahhh, that does make a difference. Cheers.

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  5. One of my favorite things about Senne is the sessionable abv of Stouterik and Taras at 4.5%. Pretty refreshing in Belgium.

    They expect to have their own brewery opening in Brussels by the end of the year, if everything works out.

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  6. I would also recommend De Dolle Brouwers stout and Alvinne Podge Imperial Stout. 'tHofbrouwerijke Hofblues is also worth seeking out.

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  7. Noted, John. Thanks.

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  8. Laurent Mousson11:15 am

    Hmmm, La Senne indeed is one of the new-ish Belgian breweries to keep an eye on, as they seem to have understood beer does not always need to be 7%+ to be worth drinking. And they did know what hops were for before US beer importers came and twisted a few breweries' arms to get them to brew hoppier brews. ;o>

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  9. I agree with John Clarke; De Dolle Brouwers stout is excellent. I had it in De Kelk, Bruges in November last.

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  10. This is the first time I've heard "gunpowder" used in a reference to beer flavor. I'm intrigued!

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  11. Yeah. People tend to give me confused looks when I trot that one out. I think it's mostly a roasted barley thing, possibly black malt too.

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  12. yep, i too enjoyed both this and the Zinnerbir - tasted them both at a belgian beerfest in 2008. And what labels! sorry, but i'm a total beer label whore.

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