These guys have been sitting in my beer fridge since the spring and as a result, being bottle-conditioned, they provided a bit of a multicoloured experience. Hof ten Dormaal Blond, from the delightfully-named Flemish village of Tildonk, introduced itself with an assertive pop as the cork came out, and began pouring a hazy straw colour. I let the massive fluffy head subside and poured again: this time more of an amber beer came out. A second repeat of the process deposited gritty tan-coloured dregs on the surface. And the end result: more orange, shading to brown, than blonde.
The head subsided quickly, leaving room in the glass for dry and woody old-world spices: clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, plus a whiff of that workhorse from Alan's thesaurus: burlap. There's also a bit of a heady burn, showing off its 8% ABV in no uncertain terms. The taste is sweeter than it smells: clove rounds out to banana and a white pepper piquancy enters the mix, though it's hard to get a proper handle on what's going on because of the biting overactive fizz. It lacks the delicate fruit subtleties of (inevitable comparison warning!) Duvel, but it's decent.
The Tildonk Donker (beer that sounds like it's falling down stairs: love it!) is similarly fizzy and an opaque brown colour. In all honesty it's not hugely different from the Blond: the same banana sweetness and a similar clove spice. There's perhaps an extra whiff of farmyard from it and sure, the banana is perhaps a little darker, somewhat riper, and maybe even slightly caramelised. Beyond that, however, there's not much to add. While fine by themselves, these two are just too samey for this kind of horizontal tasting. If picking between them I think I'd go for the peppery Blond over the sweet and sticky dark one.
With the basic beers dispatched I had hopes for the last in the series: that it would give me something more unusual. It certainly makes promises in this direction: Wit Goud is brewed with chicory and is a pleasant, vaguely hazy, shade of gold. The nose shows those fruity esters again, but there's another woody complexity under it that invites closer inspection. The chicory is out in force in the flavour, adding an almost medicinal herbal tint to it. There's a touch of smokiness too, and a sour finish. Not for everyone, this. It's complex and very grown-up tasting: playing the same game as Orval perhaps, though not in the same league. I'd have it again.
I think the unsophisticated rustic branding on these three is more than just marketing flim-flam. They're rough-round-the-edges rude mechanicals of Belgian ales. Don't expect anything fancy.