I scoured the label of my bottle of Smiske Extra for ages trying to find the ABV. Just as I was about to give up and open it anyway before it got warm I found it, hidden in the dot of the Comic Sans i. From the poorly printed, poorly applied, fourth-form artwork, I wasn't expecting much. It's a "nature-ale" which has me thinking it may have some organic credentials or something, but if so they've neglected to write that anywhere. It pours a lightly hazy blonde and gives off a gritty Belgian blonde aroma. That slight harshness from the yeast dominates the flavour too, and there's a meaty, sweaty locker-room funk underlying it as well.
I'm looking hard for redeeming features but there's basically no malt character and what hop there is is just a sharp bitterness, more like something that poured from a plastic tub than infused via the cheery leafy cone some teenager has crayoned onto the label. The bucketloads of fizz do it no favours and... is that vinegar? It gets worse the more I think about it. I'd be better off just moving on to the next beer...
... which is from the same brewery (Smisje, in East Flanders, in case you were wondering) and is a clearly marked 9% ABV Smisje Dubbel, though the least said about the creatures on the label the better. Another fizzy one, the foam literally roared as it subsided, leaving me with a heady-smelling swampy glass of brown. The booze vapour is overpowering: a mix of port, dark rum and kirsch thrown together in a way that screams hangover fuel but actually tastes quite nice. I've never met a dubbel like this. Each sip boasts serious alcohol, but then sings daintily of autumnal orchard produce and old oak in dusty cellars. I find it disarmingly tasty and would love to know how they did it. It would make an ideal dessert beer and if I had more I'd be giving serious thought to introducing it to some quality ice cream.
The problem then is: given my diverse reactions, are Smisje beers to be recommended? Ah sure go on then. I'm intrigued to find out what they do next.