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I.C.A. Malalts De Malta

June 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.3

The first review of a beer that I managed to try on my recent trip to Barcelona now, this is an 11.5% Sapnish brewed quadrupel from the Instituto de la Cerveza Artesana based in Barcelona and it will be my first beer from them, although the Belgian Rye Fruit APA Citra-Mango that I tried in Barcelona last year was brewed by Piris Beer at the I.C.A. brewery. I ordered this one on-tap at the Abirradero bar in the city on my second day in the city since it’s not everyday that I stumble across a kegged quadrupel, and a Spanish brewed local offering at that. The beer promised a strong malt taste with plenty of cherries which swung it for me over some lighter beers on the menu, many of them also from the I.C.A. brewery but sadly this was the only beer of theirs that I managed to try on this trip; hopefully I’ll pick up a few more on my next visit to the city.

Appearance (4/5): Dark mahogany coloured with a thin, foamy head that is half a centimetre tall and slightly off-white, sitting with a bubbly texture and some faint lacing on the sides of the glass too.
Aroma (6/10): Dark malts and plenty of cherries kick things off here as expected, there was some faint alcohol coming through as well but thankfully it was less pronounced than I’d feared given it was such a strong beer. There was a nice combination of dark fruits near the middle with some raisins and dates both featuring but the cherries from the start still dominated. Towards the end things started to fade a little quickly and at times it seemed lighter and less complex than you’d expect from such a big beer but it was still fairly nice throughout.
Taste (7/10): Following on well from the nose, there was again a nice combination of cherries and very dark malts with some dates and raisins coming through slightly earlier this time around. I managed to get some light alcohol again but it seemed a fraction stronger than with the nose, there was some pleasant spices and a touch of bourbon at this stage too. Still not as strong as you’d expect from an 11.5% beer but slightly more complex than with the nose, the beer was fairly sweet down the stretch with some sugars and ripe fruits featuring too.
Palate (3/5): Medium bodied and lightly carbonated, this one was a strong offering with some alcohol showing but it was still a lot lighter and less pronounced than you’d have expected from the high alcohol content. It wasn’t a particularly complex offering either, besides some early spice and a darker fruits there wasn’t much coming through at all and it bordered on basic at times; it’s definitely not a beer than impressed me much sadly.

Overall (12/20): Quite disappointing overall really, this one wasn’t an overly strong or complex offering and to be honest that’s what you expect when you pick up an 11.5% abv. beer. The promised malts and cherries were in attendance from early on which meant things got off to a decent enough start but there wasn’t much following on from there and it was all a bit underwhelming really. Some alcohol grains and a touch of spice make an appearance nearer the end, there was some further ripe fruits and sugars too but it definitely wasn’t complex and it was one that I just couldn’t get into really.

Brewed In: Barcelona, Spain
Brewery: Instituto de la Cerveza Artesana (I.C.A.)
First Brewed: 2015
Type: Quadrupel
Abv: 11.5%
Serving: Draught (250ml)
Purchased: Abirradero, Barcelona, Spain
Price: €4.50 (approx. £3.93)

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St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

January 31, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.8

My fourth beer from the St. Bernardus brewery now, this one follows on from their Witbier, Tripel and Abt 12 offerings, all three of which I first reviewed here back in January of 2014. This one is a winter seasonal from the brewery that appears to have been introduced in late 2006, proving itself to be quite a popular beer since then. Currently ranked as the 18th best Quadrupel on the BeerAdvocate website as well as the 24th best Belgian Strong Ale on RateBeer, this one doesn’t quite rank as high as the Abt 12 does but it should still prove to be an excellent beer. One of the newest beers from St. Bernardus, this is one that I picked up from a local bottle shop just before Christmas but ended up waiting until the start of 2017 before cracking it open while on holiday in Ireland. Given that all three previous beers from the brewery have been excellent, this was definitely a beer I was looking forward to and hopefully it won’t take me another three years before I get my hands on something new from them again. A final things worth nothing about this offering, it will actually be the 1500th beer that I’ll have reviewed here so I’m glad it’s a good one.

st-bernardus-christmas-ale

Appearance (5/5): Quite a dark looking beer with a traditional quadrupel like appearance to it, it was a deep mahogany with some red tinges and an opaque body. The head was quite an impressive, one and a half centimetre one that was bubbly before turning foamy and holding well over the opening minute or so. There was plenty lacing on the sides of the glass which was unexpected and the beer is great looking one.
Aroma (6/10): Quite a lively nose but one that took a while to open up initially, there was some darker fruits and sugars coming through but they weren’t as strong as expected really. There was some figs and plums alongside a few subtle hops before the darker malts started to appear nearer the middle. Some bread malts and sweet caramel notes showed towards the end and the nose was pleasant enough but I was definitely expecting more from it.
Taste (7/10): Thankfully things improved a little come the taste and the beer started to come through a little stronger at this point with some caramel and sweet malts alongside a combination of darker fruits that included the figs and plum from the nose as well as some dates and apricot. Towards the middle touches of clove, brown sugar and yeast began coming through and there was even a hint of banana too before a little spice brought things to a close; a definite improvement on the nose with being spectacular.
Palate (4/5): An interesting beer but one that definitely wasn’t quite as strong as you would expect from a Belgian quadrupel coming in at 10%. The beer had quite a nice taste and the nose wasn’t too bad either but both seemed a little subdued and lacking at times, however it wasn’t a weak offering at least. There was fine carbonation to the beer and it had quite a crisp, lively feel with more dryness as you got closer to the end but overall the balance was good and some warming, boozy touches seen things out.

Overall (14/20): While this one was an interesting and drinkable beer, it was quite a disappointment when compared to the previous three offering I’ve tried from the brewery and it was definitely lacking something compared to most other quadrupels I’ve tried too. The beer opened a lot weaker than expected with a lighter, sweeter taste that didn’t seem like a 10% beer in the early going. There was good carbonation and the darker fruits were nice but they seemed fleeting and could have been stronger, especially with the nose. It was a relatively easy beer to drink though with a subtle tang and okay balance but it was a little underwhelming at times and easily the worst of the brewery’s beers that I’ve tried so far.

Brewed In: Watou, West Flanders, Belgium
Brewery: St. Bernardus Brouwerij
First Brewed: 2006
Type: Abbey Quadrupel
Abv: 10.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Good Spirits Co. Wine & Beer (Glasgow)
Price: £5.00

Gulden Draak 9000

January 30, 2017 3 comments

Rating: 3.85

The second beer from the Van Steenberge brewery now and one that is a variant of their flagship Gulden Draak offering that I reviewed here around October 2015. This version appears to have been introduced back in 2011 as a special Quadrupel version of the original but one that is also a lot lighter too; it’s also one that I’ve been aware of for some time but as yet have not seen it in any shops. I managed to get my hands on this bottle as part of a gift I received over the holidays, drinking it at the very end of 2016 whilst visiting Ireland and it was definitely one I went into with high hopes given how much I enjoyed the original. Taking its name from the 9000 postcode of the Ghent area of Belgium, this one uses different malt varieties and is secondary fermented using wine yeast to enhance the beer. It’s also quite a highly reviewed beer, currently ranked as the 35th best Quadrupel on the BeerAdvocate website, placing it above the original version of the beer which doesn’t feature on the list but was still an excellent beer.

gulden-draak-9000

Appearance (4/5): Pouring a lot lighter than I’d expected going in, this one was a copper amber colour that was topped with a fairly nice, two centimetre tall head that’s quite bubbly with the odd foamy touch too. The head was a creamy white colour and it faded some over the opening minute or so to leave a somewhat patchy lacing but one that still managed to cover the surface of the beer.
Aroma (8/10): Quite a sweet nose with a lot of caramel and toffee in the early going that combined with some bread malts and a few sugars. Towards the middle some citrus hints and light spice started to make an appearance before a subtle floral backing showed up. There wasn’t the usual dark fruits that I’d associate with this type of beer but some pears and Belgian yeast did appearance right at the end.
Taste (7/10): Again this beer was a relatively sweet offering but it was subdued a little from the nose, there wasn’t the same caramel and toffee opening but some lighter fruits seemed to come to the fore this time around; mainly some grapes, pears and apples featured. Around the middle some of the citrus from the nose showed itself and there was some lighter touches of spice too but the beer was a lot more mellow than it was with the nose, some sugars and floral flavours seeing things out alongside a herbal bitterness.
Palate (4/5): Sitting somewhere around medium bodied, maybe just a touch lighter, this one was quite fresh and definitely lighter than I’d expected going in. It was quite a lively beer with a subtle tang at points but overall the feel was quite smooth and crisp with the alcohol content well hidden and some dryness towards the end; the was a great balance too.

Overall (15/20): This one was quite a surprising beer when I poured it, I was definitely expecting something a lot darker and with a fuller body than what I got, it’s easily one of the lightest quadrupels I think I’ve tried. The beer had a nice sweetness to it, particularly with the nose but the caramel that showed there seemed to fade more than expected come the taste which was also surprising and seemed to put the beer as more of a Belgian pale ale at times. There was a good amount of lighter fruits and even touches of citrus that gave the beer its fresh, lively feel but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the original sadly and it wasn’t quite what I’d expected; it’s still a very good beer though.

Brewed In: Ertvelde, East Flander, Belgium
Brewery: Brouwerij Van Steenberge
First Brewed: 2011
Type: Quadrupel
Abv: 10.5%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: North of Ireland
Price: Gift

Buxton Quadrupel

January 30, 2017 1 comment

Rating: 3.9

One of the first ‘big beers’ I had over the Christmas holidays now, a Belgian quad style beer from the Derbyshire based Buxton Brewery that will be my fourth offering from the brewery. This one follows on from their Ace Edge and Far Skyline offerings from 2014, as well as their Imperial Black that I had in 2015; the first and last of the trio proving to be excellent beers but I wasn’t really a fan of their the Far Skyline Berliner Weisse. By far the strongest beer that I’ve had from the brewery, this one comes in at 11% which is well above the 7.5% of their Imperial Black and it’s definitely one that I’m looking forward to. The ‘IV’ on the bottle comes from the fact that the beer is the fourth in the brewery’s Belgian series of beers and I can’t think of another UK brewed quadrupel so this one is definitely something different. The bottle is a limited release from Buxton that I stumbled across in my local beer shop and quickly grabbed a bottle of, the fact it was just before Christmas made it a prefect time to pick up this strong offering and it was one that I cracked open just after Christmas; here’s what I thought of it.

buxton-quadrupel

Appearance (4/5): A dark, almost deep red tinged brown with a thin, tan coloured head on top that is more lacing that anything else but  somewhat expected given the abv. of this one. The lacing fades fairly fast but some in the centre of the glass remains on top of the opaque body; it not a bad-looking offering for one coming in at 11% at least.
Aroma (7/10): Quite a dark beer with a fairly sweet nose that came through with a lot of darker fruits that appeared ripe and backed up with some sugars that added to the sweetness. There was some figs and dates showing initially before being followed by some touches of banana and a few plums but it didn’t seem quite as pronounced with the nose as some other quads I’ve tried previously have been. Towards the end some bread malts made an appearance alongside some light caramel touches and a hint of spice seen things out.
Taste (8/10): Again quite a sweet beer and a little stronger than the nose this time around, there was a good combination of dark fruits to open things up; namely the figs and plum from the nose but also some raisins, dates, cloves and a little banana sneaking in there too, although the banana was quite subtle. Towards the middle and end of the beer some of the darker malts and a little caramel start to come through alongside to spice and more sugars which see things out.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied, bordering on full with a relatively thick and almost syrupy feel at times, this one was a very sweet offering that came loaded with dark fruits and sugars from the start but it also managed to hint the alcohol content of the beer rather well. There was quite soft carbonation to this one with and decent balance too which made it a good one to sip away at but it was definitely missing something when compared to other Belgian quads out there sadly.

Overall (16/20): Very nice stuff from Buxton, this one was a very strong but also very sweet offering that was dominated by dark fruits and sugars, the caramel flavours and darker malts taking more of a backseat here. The alcohol was well hidden given the strength of the beer and it proved quite a rich offering but the soft carbonation and nice balance made it an enjoyable one too. Definitely a good beer and one that I liked but it’s probably not one to rank alongside some of the better Belgian brewed quadrupels out there and for that reason it’s not likely to be one that I’d pick up again I’m afraid; still, it’s one that is well worth trying if you get the chance.

Brewed In: Buxton, Derbyshire, England
Brewery: Buxton Brewery
First Brewed: 2016
Also Known As: Buxton IV
Type: Quadrupel
Abv: 11.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Good Spirits Co. Wine & Beer (Glasgow)
Price: £4.90

Trappistes Rochefort 6

April 5, 2016 Leave a comment

Rating: 4.2

My second beer from the Rochefort brewery is one that has been a long time coming and follows on from their Trappistes Rochefort 10 offering that I first tried way back in September of 2012. That one was a beer that I really enjoyed and at the time I made a conscious decision to grab the other beers from the brewery that I’d seen, namely their Trappistes Rochefort 6 and 8 offerings but for various reasons I’m only just getting round to trying a second. This particular beer is the oldest from the brewery, having been launched around 1953 and is an Abbey Dubbel style offering that I recently picked up at a Whole Foods Market store in Giffnock as it had been a while since I’d stumbled across a bottle and thought it about time that I actually picked one up. Apparently this one is the least commonly available of the three Rochefort beer with brewing only taking place one or two times a year which might explain why I’ve not seen it as much as the others of late. Currently ranked at the 5th best dubbel on BeerAdvocate, it’s not quite as highly rated as the Rochefort 10 I enjoyed previously but I’m still looking forward to finally finding out what this beer is all about.

Trappist Rochefort 6

Appearance (5/5): Pouring a copper amber colour and topped with a centimetre and a half tall head that is quite foamy and thick looking, this one comes with a hazy body and the head holds pretty well over the opening minute before increasing in size slightly thanks to the strong visible carbonation; there is also a touch of lacing on the sides of the glass too.
Aroma (8/10): Starting with quite a thick and strong nose, there is a lot of bread malts and sweetness to kick things off thanks to some ripe fruits making an appearance in the early going. There was some plums and figs in the early going plus some touches of caramel before bread malts and faint hops came through around the middle before some spice and faint herbal appeared. Right at the end there was a few perfume light notes plus a little apricot to see things out.
Taste (8/10): There was some nice sweetness in the early going with a few caramel malts and some bread to kick things off before the dark fruits from the nose started to come through; both the figs and the plums were present along with grapes and apricot too. There was a faint yeast flavour and some spice sitting around the middle before brown sugars and earthy hops came through towards the end.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied and well-carbonated, there is some nice sweetness in the early goings thanks to the dark fruits and a few sugars. There wasn’t much in the way of bitterness through, even with the odd hop showing but the beer was a balanced and slightly dry one that smooth throughout and very easy to drink; nice stuff again from Rochefort.

Overall (16/20): A second very nice beer from Rochefort, this one isn’t as strong, full-bodied or flavoursome as their Rochefort 10 but that was to be expected really; it was still an excellent beer in its own right with some great fruity sweetness and sugars coming through on top of a well-balanced body. I liked the touches of caramel that made an appearance early on and their was a few light malts that worked well with them making this one quite an enjoyable beer; I’m definitely looking forward to getting hold of Rocherfort 8 the next chance I get now.

Brewed In: Rochefort, Belgium
Brewery: Brasserie de Rochefort
First Brewed: 1953
Type: Abbey Dubbel
Abv: 7.5%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Whole Foods Market (Giffnock)
Price: £2.99

Urthel Samaranth (321 of 1001)

January 8, 2016 Leave a comment

Rating: 4.6

My second beer to fall under the Urthel banner now, this one follows on from the bottle of their Hop-It that I tried back in August 2014 and thoroughly enjoyed at the time. As I’d mentioned then, there was some confusion as to where this beer should be listed as it is now brewed at the brewery of La Trappe in the Netherlands (since 2007) despite hailing from the town of Ruiselede in Belgium but I’ll continue to list it here as a Belgian beer. This is one of quite a few beers that I ordered from the Beers Of Europe website in December 2014 with a view of trying soon after purchasing but given I’d ordered so many strong Belgian offerings I was unable to work my way through them all and ended up having to keep hold of a few until it was winter again and it felt right to try them. The beer is a full-bodied and year round offering from the De Leyerth brewery and it will be my seventh quadrupel and my first since try bottles of La Trappe Quadrupel and the fantastic Westvleteren 12 in Amsterdam earlier this year; here’s hoping that this one can rank alongside those two outstanding beers.

Urthel Samaranth

Appearance (5/5): Pouring a deep mahogany colour, this one is topped with a thumb-sized head that is a creamy tan colour and quite thick looking; there is a little lacing on the sides of the glass as well and retention is excellent over the opening minutes.
Aroma (9/10): Quite a sweet beer and definitely a strong, malty one that comes through with plenty of sugars early on. There was some nice biscuit malts showing themselves around the middle and the darker fruits weren’t far behind, I managed to detect some figs, plums and a little raisin too with some figs in there as well. The sweetness of the beer was further complimented by some nice caramel malts and touches of toffee before some alcohol notes seen things out.
Taste (9/10): This one was quite a rich and malty beer that came through with good complexity and some nice sweetness early on thanks to some sugars and plenty of ripe, dark fruits that seemed to include all the usual; namely figs, dates, plums and raisins. There was some nice caramel malts not far behind and these went well with the toffee flavours that appeared from the middle onwards. Some alcohol and further sugars also began to make themselves known towards the end, as did some touches of spice.
Palate (5/5): Quite a strong beer with a solid, well-rounded taste that had a lot of complexity in there and a pleasantly warm and boozy feel, particularly towards the end. It was a finely carbonated beer that seemed well balanced and was easier to drink than I’d expected with a rich, smooth finish that sat on top of this full bodied beer.

Overall (16/20): This one was a very nice Quadrupel from Urthel and one that was quite an easy beer to drink despite the fact it came in at over 11% abv. The balance of the beer was a good one with the dark fruits working well with the caramel sweetness and the warming alcohol touches were mainly right at the end, although it was easy to tell it was a strong beer from the start; an excellent beer and on that surprisingly was even better than the bottle of Hop-It I tried from the same brewery back in 2014.

Brewed In: Ruiselede, West Flanders, Belgium
Brewery: De Leyerth Brouwerijen (Urthel)
First Brewed: 2002
Full Name: Urthel Samaranth 12 Quadrium Ale
Type: Quadrupel
Abv: 11.5%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: BeersOfEurope.co.uk
Price: £3.39

Westvleteren 12 (300 of 1001)

May 15, 2015 3 comments

Rating: 4.9

I always like to make a milestone beer from the 1001 beers list a memorable on and they don’t come much better than this, to mark beer number 300 from the list I’ve went with a beer that is regularly rated as the best beer in the world; Westvleteren XII. The beer is on of three brewed by Brouwerij Westvleteren at the Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Vleteren, West Flanders and is also the beer I most wanted to try on a recent trip to Amsterdam, despite the fact the beer is a Belgian one. Amazingly I managed to stumble across a bottle in the De Bierkoning bottle shop in Amsterdam on my first afternoon in the city, quickly paying the €15.90 asking price for a bottle that sells for a fraction of that (around €2) at the abbey in Belgian which is apparently the only place it is officially sold. As I’ve mentioned, the beer will be the 300th from the 1001 Beers list that I have tried and is probably the one I have most wanted to try for some time now since it’s notoriously difficult to get hold of ever since being voted the best beer in the world on RateBeer in 2006, the lists first year. In addition to this, the brewery itself was awarded the title of best brewery in the world by the same website the first time they ranked breweries back in 2002 while on the BeerAdvocate website this beer currently ranks as the 20th best in the world meaning it is the highest rated beer on that site that I’ve tried thus far. Thanks to this information, I knew going in that this would be a good one but even I was surprised at just how good this beer really was.

Westvleteren 12

Appearance (5/5): This beer pours a deep, very dark brown with a few red tinges and a touch of haze in the body. The head sits as an off-white colour that is foamy looking and about one and a quarter centimetres tall to begin with but retention is incredibly good for the abv. of the beer with very little reduction in size at all.
Aroma (9/10): The nose on this one is quite strong with a lot of malts upfront and quite a lot of sweetness too, there is a combination of figs and other dark, dried fruits coming through early on with some plums and apricots featuring on the nose as well. I managed to detect some brown sugar and banana in there as well which combined to give this beer a truly excellent aroma.
Taste (10/10): Matching the nose quite well, this one starts quite sweet on the taste buds with a varied combination of dark fruits that included figs and dates coming through from the start. There was also some of the plum and apricot from the nose alongside some banana which helped add some further sweetness to proceedings. I got some Belgian style yeast coming through around the middle and this was coupled with a hint of bubblegum which seemed to go hand in hand with the banana. Some raisins and a touch of clove appeared before the end and the alcohol content was very well hidden throughout as well.
Palate (5/5): This one was a silky smooth feeling beer that proved dangerously easy to drink despite the relatively high alcohol content, this was helped by the fact that most of the alcohol was well hidden throughout although there was a slightly warming feel towards the end. The beer had a near perfect balance with the malt sweetness and dark fruits complimenting each other well and there seemed to be no bitterness anywhere to be found. I found this one to be slightly lighter than expected but it still came out around medium with slightly above average carbonation and proved a pleasure to drink from start to finish.

Overall (20/20): It’s official, I have a new number one beer now – Westvleteren 12 currently ranks as the best beer that I’ve ever tried. This one from Westvleteren was a truly fantastic beer and one that definitely lives up to the hype and its outstanding reputation. There was a huge depth of flavour to the beer and so much going on, admittedly this is a trait of all good quadrupels but this one seemed to excel. The balance of the beer was exceptional with no single flavour seeming to dominate and the beer going down far easier that a 10.2% beer should do. Despite the hefty price tag, this one was worth every penny and is definitely one I’ll be trying to find again; maybe I got carried away with all the hype but either way, who really cares? It was that good.

Brewed In: Vleteren, West Flanders, Belgium
Brewery: Westvleteren Abdij St. Sixtus
First Brewed: 1940
Also Known As: Westvleteren XII
Type: Quadrupel
Abv: 10.2%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Bierkoning (Amsterdam)
Price: €15.90 (approx. £11.78)