High on my hitlist, such as it was, for Borefts 2012 was the Mont Salève brewery in the French alps. I'd encountered one of their beers during the summer on a visit to Lyon (though I haven't written about it yet) and having really enjoyed it was eager for more. What I found was a bit of a mixed bag. Hops are clearly their thing: Admiral Benson is a 6% ABV IPA made with Nelson Sauvin. It's cloudy orange and runs the full gamut of Nelson flavours: flint meets mango on a dank funky background, liberally brushed with tangy high fruit notes. There was also an excellent barrel-aged barley wine called Gamay. It's quite dry and more than a little woody. White grape is in the ascendant but there's a solid base of malt and hops too, the latter coming in nicely grassy. Unusual, for a barley wine.
The dark beers weren't so hot. Tourbée promised a lot: a 5.5% ABV peated dark ale, but the result didn't have enough peat to it, nor anything much else, and was watery and dull as a result. Their "black bitter" Mozaik was more full-on despite being a whole percentage point lighter. But they've got the dark grain balance wrong here and have ended up with a difficult, overly dry, tarry effect drowning the hop notes and too burnt-tasting to be enjoyable.
From the alps, across the Pyrenees, and into Spain. Naparbier Zombreaker was a bit of an erratic: the brewery didn't have a stall and the beer doesn't seem to be a collaboration. I'm sure someone can tell me what it was doing there. Anyway, it was gorgeous: an amber IPA with massive, luscious, lary hop flavours screaming peaches and nectarines and similar succulent juicy loveliness. It's the first Spanish beer I've ever been really impressed with. I knew such a thing had to exist somewhere these days.
Skipping eastwards over the Med we come to Italy, and a modest offering from Del Ducato which I didn't really take the time to explore fully. Verdi was my token contribution to helping empty their kegs, an 8.2% ABV imperial stout brewed with chilli. Not very much chilli, mind, and it has imparted more of the sweet quality of the fruit than its spiciness. This joins some gorgeous rich dark chocolate under a more severe molasses nose. It's not too busy flavourwise nor treacly in the texture. I wish I'd taken the time to try some more, but it was the Saturday evening at this point and queues were starting to form at some of the brewery stands. Can't be having with queues when there's this much to be sampled.
Our virtual journey takes us north next, to Germany. Gänstaller-Bräu had their contribution to the new wave of German IPAs on offer, an imperial version called Green-Gold. It manages to pull off a mature oily hop funkiness while also tasting fresh and zingy: a single-glass lesson in what hops are and do. For more traditionally German hopping they had a Näturtrüb Zoiglbier, an oddly clear gold colour, given the title. It's mostly quite sweet from the lager malt but also shows wonderful herbal perfumey hop notes too. A great sipper but I could see the perfume getting a little overpowering in larger measures. Finally there was a minimalist doppelbock called Quator, a ruby colour that's pale for the style but appropriately sweet. Light, drinkable and fun, which is a great way for a dark lager to be, even at 10.4% ABV.
So far our virtual journey around Europe has taken place in two of the De Molen brewery's sheds. To get back home to the Netherlands we must head back up to the shadow of the windmill where we find the Mommeriete brewery from Gramsbergen, a village just inside the German border on the way to Groningen. I went for their Rookbock, a smoked take on the typical chestnut-coloured Dutch autumn lager. It doesn't have the sticky sweetness some of these do but is instead rather clean and properly lagery, hopped with some quite German-tasting varieties. The smoke just adds an extra layer of interest to this without getting in the way. It's a style that takes rather well to smoking. A very balanced and drinkable 6.7% ABV package.
Time now to hop the virtual North Sea and see what those cheeky Brits are up to.