I’m in Brussels at the moment for the 2015 instalment of the European Beer Bloggers Conference – #EBBC15. There will be more posts to follow, but the end of the first day (shortly before the original posting of this) saw this year’s live beer blogging session – twelve brewers, each with a beer and five minutes to present it. The bloggers listen, drink and then blog about it. Some are doing it live. I’m not. Here’s my attempt – posted immediately after the session, then proof-read at 3am, then updated with pictures the next day.
Beer 1 – Bush de Charmes
Presented by Mark from Brewery Dubuisson.
Originally Bush blonde at 10.5%, but aged for four months in Meursault casks – a white Burgundy made with Chardonnay. The original beer is fresh and fruity with minimal hops, and the intention is to intensify this character with the ageing. It has limited production: a maximum 22,000 bottles per year. They’re out of stock at the moment and waiting for the next batch to be ready – hopefully it’ll be out in December.
Nose: Sweet and fruity – apricot and a touch of pineapple. Touch of lemon acidity.
Palate: Very fizzy and initially sour, with intense winey notes – almost like a grape must beer.
Finish: Sweet and sour, with white grape skin and lots of yeast.
In the US they can’t use the name Bush thanks to the similarly named Annheiser-Busch flagship, so they instead call it Scaldis. That was also the name in the UK until 2010, but they’re now calling it Bush again.
Beer 2 – Straffe Hendrik Heritage 2013
Presented by Steve from Straffe Hendrik. It’s their quadrupel, aged in old oak barrels for 12 months – bordeaux casks, cognac casks and new oak. We’re drinking the 2013 vintage, the third, and the 2014 will be available in October. They try and add different casks each year.
Nose: Heavy and Marmitey, with a red berries and a hint of rubber. Caramel and red wine notes develop.
Palate: Thick and sweet, with lots of spicy oak.
Finish: Thick Marmite, with red fruit jam.
Beer 3 – St Bernadus Extra 4
Presented by Marco Passarella from St Bernadus. The brewery usually make a doppel, tripel and quadrupel, but this is a single – something different, which normally gets missed out of other ranges. The numbers go up with the amount of malt, and this is the lowest amount: classic monk beer, which they would drink day to day. The style went out of fashion in the 1970s, when the Belgian brewers started switching to the stronger beers that we know today, in part as a reaction against Pilsner-style beers.
The brewery is based in Poperinge, a town famed for its hops, and they grow theirs in a field by the brewery. In this case they are using Kent Goldings and Hallertau Magnum.
Nose: Light crisp and grainy. Beautifully restrained bitterness, a mix of hop and grain.
Palate: Hugely grainy, with gentle bitterness.
Finish: Very minimal, with a burst of dark bitterness and a touch of lingering grain.
Beer 4 – Delirium Tremens
Presented by Alain de Laet from Huyghe – the fourth generation of the family to brew: his son Alexander (currently 14 years old) will be the fifth. This is the original Delirium Tremens, created at a time when they had no money – the label was designed in return for two cases of beer. They used to be known for making crazy beer, but are calming down a bit these days.
Nose: Soft and sweet, with coriander and a touch of wheat?
Palate: Sweet again, with gentle spice and a hint of orange.
Finish: Orange peel bitterness and gentle spice.
I used the word gentle a lot. It seemed appropriate. There is no wheat in it…
Beer 5 – Gouden Carolus Classic
Presented by Hans Rubens from Het Anker. The brewery has history going back to the 1471 – there was a convent on site, and the nuns were running a hospital and brewing beer. They even had an interesting tax arrangement, where they didn’t need to pay excise due to the hospital.
The first generation of the current family appeared in 1872, with a mill and gin distillery. The third generation decided not to brew pils and started making the dark beer that we are tasting today, but worked with a pilsner brewery so as not to miss out on the market.
Nose: Malty with some burnt touches and dark sugars.
Palate: Thick and sweet, with dark chocolate and rye crispbread.
Finish: Burnt malt and a touch of sweetened black coffee.
Beer 6 – St Feuillien Grand Cru
Developed four years ago – a Belgian pale ale, rather than a more traditional style, using champagne yeast. Thing to note: it poured with the best head of any beer yet: thick and lasting.
Nose: Bitterness hiding behind buttery grain and a hint of swampy water (in a good way).
Palate: Much sweeter and richer than the palate suggested. Definitely boozey, but with butter, toast and candied lemon.
Finish: Bitter and sweet, with a kick of booziness.
They gave us a goodie bag of beer and chocolate. I think that counts as cheating. [Edit: it was a bar blade bottle opener and not chocolate, as I discovered when I tried to eat it at 2am]
Beer 7 – Pater Ename
A beer from Roman Brewery. The current boss is the 14th generation to run the brewery since 1545. Ename is one of their ranges: it has with classic blond, doppel, tripel, and the like. This one is a bit different – focused on low alcohol with lots of flavour. It may be 5.5% ABV, but the rest are 6.5%+, so it’s sort of low in alcohol.
They use their traditional brewing techniques, along with triple hopping, dry hopping at high temperature, and other new bits and pieces. They also add more yeast before bottling for a further fermentation.
Nose: Very soft, with a green and leafy background.
Palate: Stacks of bitterness, with a big sourness and a touch of wheatiness.
Finish: Biscuits and raw hops. Also some bitter berries – not what I expected, and very nice.
They gave us a USB drive. Cheating.
Beer 8 – Duvel Tripel Hop 2015
Presented by Nicolas from Duvel, their brand ambassador. This beer is different to the regular Duvel due to addition of more ingredients – lots more hops. They use Saaz and Styrian Goldings, and they add a new hop each year – in 2015 it’s Equinox. It’s about 46 IBU versus Duvel’s usual 22.
Nose: Mulchy hops, with lots of sweetness – pineapple and dried apricot.
Palate: Very fizzy, and sits in the mouth as bittersweet bubbles. Fruit starts to fall out before getting hit with leafy bitterness.
Finish: Dark and mulchy leaves, with some gentle woody spice.
They gave us cheese, and a mango, yuzu and white chocolate truffle. That’s definitely cheating.
Beer 9 – Lindemans Cuvée René Oude Kriek
Dirk Lindemans from, well, Lindemans. They take a minimum six month old lambic and add old cherries. They then leave it to mature for another six months, making kriek lambic. They then bottle it and allow it to ferment for a third time to give it some fizz. They use about 10,000 kg of cherries per year.
Nose: Big cherry hit, sweet and sour. Not much else gets through.
Palate: Drier than expected with sour cherry backed up a hit of mustiness and then intense sour beer sourness.
Finish: Cardboard, twigs and cherry leaves, with big sour cherry.
I really liked this one – a big sour beer, with real cherries running through it.
Beer 10 – Palm Cornet Oaked
They went back to the history of their brewery, and found tales of a brewer and distiller called Cornet, and they decided to try and recreate the sort of beer he might have made back when he was around. It’s matured with oak chips, to add some of the woody flavour you might get from using wooden vessels – just for a week or two, so as not to go too far.
Nose: Lemon and coconut, with a hint of oak sawdust.
Palate: Fizzy with a touch of ginger and nutmeg. Butter and bitter hop – a weird mix of over the top lager and sweet oak.
Finish: All hop. Bitterness toned down slightly by butteriness.
Beer 12 – Duchesse de Bourgogne
A very old style of beer, sitting between sweet and sour. The sourness comes from the maturation in open casks. There’s not very many brewers (maybe only five) still making it, as it’s difficult to do so. It’s one of my favourites.
Nose: Balsamic vinegar and long overripe grapes.
Palate: More vinegar, but sweet fruit turning to minerality and crushed red fruit.
Finish: Surprisingly short, with a touch of vinegary chips.