It's that time of year already when the Porterhouse sets up an eleven-day celebration of Belgian beer across its estate of pubs (well, possibly: I'm not sure if the new Shanghai branch is participating). The draught list isn't exactly brimming with rarities and is a little light on the dark beers, but there's something for everyone I'm sure. There certainly was plenty for me when I went along to the launch on Thursday evening last.
Fruit beers have always featured strongly in the line-up, and this year sees the return once again of quaffable Newton apple, plus the inclusion of house strawberry wheat beer Früli -- both favourites of mine, even if I do only drink a couple of pints of each per year around this time. The fruit newbie is Kriek Boon, and while I'm sure I've had this on many past occasions I've no record of it here other than in a sauce at a Porterhouse gig some years back. The House of Boon, though not quite in the top flight, are one of the better-reputed lambic breweries so I knew this would be good. I was a little surprised at how unsour it was. In that, what sourness the heavy, sticky red beer has comes not from the lambic but from a chewy cherry skin flavour -- a strong, concentrated cherry taste that I liked a lot. There's of course a sweetness to it too, though despite the stickiness, it's not overpowering: fresh and fruity rather than cough mixture sickly. Nicely positioned between the tooth-stripping acidity of Cantillon Kriek and the tooth-rotting sugar of Floris, Boon was a nostalgic reminder of how I ever came to like Belgian fruit beers in the first place.
For those in search of less frivilous Belgian beers, the Porterhouse are offering the strong toffee-banana stylings of Gouden Carolus and the rather astringent St Bernardus Tripel. On the lighter side, they have LeFebvre's Blanche de Bruxelles, a witbier I've seen around in bottled form but never took the time to try. It's a light and zesty affair -- slightly dry and with quite a low carbonation, at least on this draught outing. What separates it from a million other wits is a piquancy on the tail end, a similar sort of incense note that I found in Kiuchi's Classic Ale recently. It's not massively complex, this, but it's always nice to have a simple session beer that's a little bit different from the norm.
The Porterhouse Belgian Beer Festival is on until Sunday. Thanks to Rachel and the team for the launch invite.