Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April's Beer Tasting: Belgian Beers

We announced around Christmas-time that we had joined Wine Gourmet's Beer of the Month club, with promises of reviewing the beers for you here. Well .. that didn't happen for a couple reasons, and effective April 1st, we left the Beer of the Month club. We still think very highly of Wine Gourmet, we just personally wanted to go a different direction.
We still plan to do our own "Beer of the Month" though it may be more of a style focus rather than a "from ________ brewery" focus. For April we decided to try out some Belgian Ales.
To keep things simple, we went with two breweries: Chimay & Brasserie Caracole. These are two we already think pretty highly of, or have at least heard lots of good things about.
There were clear "winners" here. Brasserie Caracole just can not be beat. The complexities of their beers are amazing. Seriously, Carrie was determined (a couple years ago now) to name one of our kids Caracole, or some version of that.

First, we tasted SAXO from Caracole. Here is the description from ~
SAXO from Brasserie Caracole is a very complex artisanal Wallonian blond ale with an unusual hoppiness, bitterness and a touch of spice. Bizzare grainy punch of taste preceding hops and waves of flavors whizzing over the tongue.
Couldn't have said it much better ourselves. We did pick up the scent of cloves, and there was also a nice banana taste to it. A great Belgian, summer-time beer.

Next, we tried Chimay's Triple, aka Cinq Cents when bought in the larger bottles. Here is the description from Chimay's website, ~
Named Cinq Cents in 75 cl (25.4 fl.oz.) bottles, this beer with its typical golden colour, its slightly hazy appearance and its fine head is especially characterised by its aroma which results from an agreeable combination of fresh hops and yeast. The beer's flavour, as sensed in the mouth, comes from the smell of hops: above all it is the fruity notes of muscat and raisins that give this beer a particularly attractive aroma. The aroma complements the touch of bitterness. There is no acidity, but an after-bitterness which melts in the mouth. This top fermented Trappist beer, refermented in the bottle, is not pasteurised.
Chimay beers are really popular around here, but we were kinda disappointed. Justin thought it was "alright", Carrie gave it "meh" vote .. bordering on ugh, and not wanting to drink it again.

We decided to stick with Chimay, and next tried their Red, which is a dubbel. Again, the description from Chimay's website:
First sold in 75 cl (25.4 fl.oz.) bottles, it is noted for its coppery colour which makes it particularly attractive. Topped with a creamy head, it gives off a light, fruity apricot aroma produced by the fermentation. The taste perceived in the mouth is a balance confirming the fruity nuances noticed in the fragrance. Its taste, which imparts a silky sensation to the tongue, is made refreshing by a light touch of bitterness. To the palate, the taster perceives a pleasant astringency which complements the flavour qualities of this beer very harmoniously. This top fermented Trappist beer, refermented in the bottle, is not pasteurised.
This one we liked much better, and we think that this is probably the Chimay that most people are going for around here. We both thought it was good, though questioned whether it was really worth the over-all price tag. It brings to mind a nice Belgian version of a brown ale, pretty much anyway.

We finished off our tasting with Caracole's NOSTRADAMUS, a Belgian Dark Strong. Here is the description from ~
NOSTRADAMUS from Brasserie Caracole is a very complex artisanal Wallonian brown ale, rich, warming, little piquant in the mouth with liquorice, mocha flavors, pear and toasted bread background notes, perfect after-dinner drink or night cap.
Again, Brasserie Caracole's beers just whoopped Chimay's butt. Justin liked this beer, noting that it was "very interesting. Carrie also really liked it and noted that it was fairly fruity.

And those were our beers for April's Belgian Beer Tasting. Chimay isn't bad, it deserves a lot of the attention it gets, though it does seem a little on the pricey end for what you're getting. Brasserie Caracole continuously impresses with it's complexity. Maybe it wasn't fair judging them side by side. One is a Trappist brewery (brewed by monks), one is just a good, old Belgian brewery. Chimay has been brewing beers since 1862, Brasserie Caracole has been brewing since 1766, though the name has changed twice since then. I guess that extra century of brewing has proven invaluable as far as knowledge and talent goes. Fun Fact - Brasserie Caracole is known for a couple things: 1)heating their water via a wood heated oven, and 2)bottling and labeling all their beers by hand.

What do you think?? What is your favorite Belgian beer??


peltkore said...

I'm suddenly thirsty for beer. :-p~~

Douglas said...

My favorite Belgian beer is from New Belgium Brewery located in Fort Collins, CO. Granted, I'm not sure how Belgian they really are but my favorite of their's is Fat Tire. Sadly, we can't get it here but it is in Tennessee now so maybe it will be here soon.---CAT using Doug's account