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.