Down at Kronenbourg HQ they appear to have been sitting around a bottle of Hoegaarden, attempting to dissect it and find out what makes it tick. The result of their endeavours is Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc. It is paler than Hoegaarden, being a very light greenish hue. It tastes overwhelmingly of lemons. I know lemons and witbier have a long history, and that finding a slice floating in the froth is quite normal in bars across Europe, but I shudder to think what would happened if you added actual lemon to Kronenbourg Blanc. Probably some kind critical lemon mass and a zesty implosion. Suffice it to say that I don't intend to find out. More spice and less lemon would have improved this recipe. Mine's still a Hoegaarden.
Recently I was braving the Christmas shopping crowds on a weekend afternoon in Dublin. Having acquired most of what I was looking for, with the evening closing in, I stopped off in a city centre hostelry for a refreshment before heading home. Sitting over my pint of stout I lamented that Ireland lacks the seasonal winter beers that civilised countries produce. What I wanted was a small glass of something deep and rich and red, but what I ended up with was a pint of plain.
Never fear, however: Maguire's to the rescue! The current seasonal beer at the Burgh Quay brewpub is called Jul-Ól, and is a wonderfully dark (almost black) winter ale. Perfect for an early evening tipple this time of year.
With my taste for winter beers awakened, I revisited the produce of Weltenburger-Kloster, this time their Winter Traumale. It's an excellent rich aromatic beer, and full-flavoured as long as it isn't served too cold.
I'm all in favour of screwing with tradition for the hell of it. It makes the world a more interesting and diverse place. So I was amused when I saw that La Trappe, not content with the usual dubbel and tripel styles of Trappist beer, also make a "Quadruple". For all the iconoclasm of the name, however, it's a fairly normal strong, dark Trappist ale, weighing in at a fairly hefty 10.9%. It remains drinkable despite this and is chock-full of varied fruit flavours. Nice for a change from the Belgian norm.
Currently on the shelves in Dunnes we have BB Bürgerbräu, a Czech lager from České Budějovice (formerly Budweis). It makes it quite clear on the label that it is a real Budweiser beer, and that this is now an EU-protected geographical designation, à la Champagne and Stilton.
However, for all its concerns that a big nasty American corporation has stolen its intellectual property, Bürgerbräu still has the feel of a cheap knock-off, of Budvar. It has the deep rich golden-syrup colour of Budvar, and does a fairly good impression of that full malty Czech taste. But it doesn't quite go all the way to perfection, lacking the smooth drinkability of Budvar. I think I'd pay the extra to trade up.
Fair play, however, for the game attempt to take back the Budweiser designation. I notice a few new Bohemian lagers around in Ireland these days. Here's hoping they can turn this geographical designation issue into a real campaign.