Posts Tagged ‘belgium’

Beer Review: Früli Strawberry Beer

2 October, 2009

THIS is Früli. I bought it from Tesco without spending much money in the process. And it might just be the first time I can properly compare something to one of my favourites; the awesome Hoegaarden Belgian White Beer. That’s because unlike everything else I’ve tried to compare it to, Früli here is Belgian and white. And what’s more, it’s Strawberry Beer.

Früli Strawberry Beer bottle

It’s a funny looking, diminutive bottle. It looks a bit delicate if you ask me. But it does have a lot of neck-foil.

Früli Strawberry Beer neck foil

Besides what you can read in the photo, there’s not much to say about it. So let’s look at the little front label instead…

Früli Strawberry Beer front label

It’s a sort of roundel. More of a circle really. It has a picture of a tree, lots of strawberry red and some words to read. The most important of which are in the sentence that reads “Premium Belgian White Fruit Beer”. It might not have many words, but each and every one is good. Belgian beer is good. White beer is good. So is fruity beer. And Premium anything is better than economy.

Then there’s the name Früli. If you know the right way to pronounce it, leave a comment at the end of this post. My guess it that it’s pronounced “Fruh-lee”. What do you think?

In the corners of the front label are two vital statistics. The alcoholic volume which is a moderate 4.1% and the bottle which is a miniscule 250ml. Could this be a girls beer? Leave your thoughts in the comments at the end.

Früli Strawberry Beer back label

There’s not much more to say about the back label of Früli Strawberry Beer either. It’s much the same characterless multi-lingual block of text that you find on most imported European bottles. They do flesh out the description a little with “Früli is a premium Belgian white beer brewed with pure strawberry juice”. Look at the ingredients list and they’re right! It really does have strawberry juice as an ingredient! Früli Strawberry Beer is becoming more and more interesting.

For the obsessively curious, the full list of ingredients is “water, barley malt, wheat, strawberry juice, fructose, hops and yeast”. The wheat alone would have me interested, but strawberry juice as well? Luckily there’s not much small print to read through before getting to the fun part of this test.

Früli was brewed and bottled in Belgium by the Van Diest Beer Company Ltd, and they have a UK address in London. Does anyone know where in Belgium this beer came from? The last bit of small print is the number of UK units of alcohol which is, get this, 1.0. Not a decimal place out. One exactly. Was that by accident or design? Either way, it’ll help you keep count. If that’s something you like to do. Not me. The Government is welcome to jumps off my back and stop looking over my shoulder.

So, what does Früli Strawberry Beer taste like? Is it as good as I’m hoping it’ll be? And should you buy it? I can hardly wait to find out.

Früli Strawberry Beer poured into a half-pint glass

Yes, I’ve probably used the wrong type of glass. But it’s all I could find. And this time, it was not a bad choice. A half-pint glass does the job nicely. Just make sure you’ve either got the glass or your lips very nearby as soon as you open that bottle, because it froths up explosively. Then it collapses back down again quickly enough to fit your little glass.

I’m note sure if the photo captures quite how unusual it looks. It’s red. But not red like a ruby beer. Or any other normal beer. It really is strawberry red. And cloudy and opaque. As is the head.

Some strange darker bits also came out of the bottle and landed on the head. At first, I thought it was bits of foil or dirt. But now I’m not so sure. Looking closely at the empty bottle, I think it is yeasty sediment. Great news. Partly because that’s what Belgian White Beer is supposed to be. Partly because it’ll annoy the people that hate cloudy beer.

What does Früli Strawberry Beer. The clue is in the name. It smells of bananas. No, wait. That’s not right. It smells, strongly, of strawberries. Now that’s a smell I know well. Back in Pembrokeshire, we grew dozens of strawberries in the vegetable garden. And I think, that this beer, smells not of the fake strawberries that sweets are made of, but of real strawberries.

What does Früli Strawberry Beer taste like? The first sip is an easy, smooth and fruity one. Unlike Wells Banana Bred Beer, it isn’t a beer with a subtle taste of something else. This is full on strawberry juice that happens to be a beer.

The flavour. That tastes of strawberries. The aftertaste. That tastes of strawberries too. It’s very sweet and very easy to drink. As easy as drinking strawberry fruit juice in fact. Also in the finish is a hint of wheat and touch of dryness and bitterness, helping balance it out.

It’s also smooth, rich and full-bodied. But does it have that unmistakeable Belgian-ness? If you’ve fallen for the other Belgian ales, you’ll know the thing I mean. Well, it is hidden under a huge pile of strawberries, but yes, I think that Belgian-ness is just about still in there. If you don’t know what I mean, try Hoegaarden White Beer or Duvel Belgian Golden Ale.

Nearly half-way through the glass already, so what am I enjoying about Früli Strawberry Beer? I like the wackiness of it. How they’ve combined the incredible quality of Belgian White Beer with fruitiness of a novelty girls drink. I like how it’s as easy to drink as strawberry juice, and the way it manages not to taste at all artificial. It’s uncommonly sweet, easy to pour and not at all gassy.

That sounds like a lot of risks to take. What are the downsides of Früli Strawberry Beer? Well, if you don’t like strawberries or fruit, you might want to skip this one. If you like the experience of drinking beer, not an alcoholic juice, you might want to skip it. Next, imagine the taste of sugar. It’s sweeter than that. Almost sickly sweet. Then there’s the whole ambiguity over whether it is a girls drink or not. If, like me, you’re a guy, you won’t want to run the risk, so you’ll probably avoid it altogether.

How can I sum up Früli Strawberry Beer? The closest equivalent I can think of is the revolting Polish raspberry Karmi Malínowa Pasja. Früli Strawberry Beer is like that, but done properly. Without the horrendously artificial taste. It’s drinkable and good. Some people will love the sweetness and taste. They’ll find it delicious. Not me. It’s not bad. Just not my kind or thing. I didn’t like it as much as I hoped, and it’s hard to compare to the sublime Hoegaarden. Recommended for the intrepid beer adventurer and for women.

Rating: 3.75

Have you tried Früli Strawberry Beer? Can you answer any of the many questions I asked above? Can you correct any of the mistakes that crept in through my complete lack of knowledge? If so, do please leave your opinions, comments, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Chimay Blue Pères Trappistes Trappist Beer

28 July, 2009

THE NEXT unusual bottle to come from Crossharbour ASDA is this $1.74 pence bottle of Chimay Blue Pères Trappistes. Maybe it’s not all that unusual. Somebody left a comment on this blog a few weeks ago that mentioned it. I think it looks like the dumpy little bottles of Duvel Golden Ale which is also Belgian and happens to be delicious. I’ve also got a suspicion that this might be an unfiltered, live, cloudy, yeasty Belgian. And that is a very good thing.

Chimay Blue bottle

Around the neck, are words and a symbol are embossed. But what do they say?

Chimay Blue things embosesd around shoulder of bottle

The “A D S” doesn’t mean anything. Until you read the words underneath it. “Abbaye de Scourmont” is what I could make out. Corrections in the comments at the end of the post please.

Down on the front label, everything is calm, tasteful and, thankfully, much easier to read.

Chimay Blue front label

The numbers either side of the “Chimay” shield logo. Does “2009” make this a vintage conscious beer in the same way as a wine? Is 2009 good or would 1909 be better? Most of the rest of the front label helpfully explains, in a multitude of European languages, that this is a Trappist Beer.

The serenity of the front label is replaced by multilingual overload on the back. It does however, do a good job of answering our questions.

Chimay Blue back label

Considerately, the English language version of the story comes first. They start by pointing out the “Authentic Trappist Product” symbol, which means it was brewed in a real monastery by the community who live there. Monks if we’re honest. Then comes some unexpected news. Apparently, some of the revenue from this beer goes to the monks to support their charitable works. That makes me feel less guilty for buying beer. Thanks monks!

Then they start the description of what Chimay Blue is about. Enticingly, they describe it as “powerful and complex”. They go further than many by giving the narrow temperature window of 10°C to 12°C. I don’t know what that is, so I’ll leave it in the fridge for a while and hope for the best.

Ingredients, at least the ones on the label, are no surprise. “Water, barley malt, wheat, sugar, hop, yeast” are in the list. But look below all the languages, and we spot some things that are a surprise. There’s a cross over a picture of a normal glass, with a side, almost wine glass shaped thing next too it. Next to shat is the same sort of diagram telling you to store the bottle upright, not on its side. Together with the temperature thing, this is turning into one temperamental brew. It also hints at the yeasty sediment that must be floating inside the bottle.

Then we get to the vital statistics. Yes, the 0.33L bottle is little surprise. But the alcoholic volume is. At 9%, Chimay Blue is right up there with the strongest European continental ales, British strong ales and the super-strength alcoholics favourite lagers.

The last bits of detail are just above the barcode. The brewer is one S.A. Bières de Chimay N.V. in Belgium. The Inter-tubes must have reached the Trappist monks of Chimay because they have a website at To save you time, you can find history at, the Blue homepage is at and at you can read about the cheeses that they are very keen for you to eat while drinking Chimay.

With that out of the way, it’s time for the fun part. What does Chimay Blue actually taste like? Will I like it, even though I don’t have any cheese? Should you try it? And will many people leave angry comments because I used the wrong type of glass? Let’s find out.

Chimay Blue poured into the wrong type of glass

The closest I could find to the label picture was a wine glass. Despite this, it still frothed up. Fortunately, the froth went down as fast as it went up. And whatever glass you choose, it looks and terrific. Just look how dark brown it is, and how good it looks with the thick, bubbly head. The downside is that I can’t see the yeasty sediment swirling around.

Then there’s the smell that you can smell from the moment you start pouring. Chimay Blue smells unlike anything I’ve smelt before. It smells richly, deeply of dark fruit. A bit like a red wine, port or cherry. But it’s smoothed by the rich maltiness, familiar from other favourite Belgian ales. Oh, and it smells of alcohol. Strongly of alcohol.

What does Chimay Blue taste like? The first sip revealed a taste much like that of the smell. It also proved the vague label description to be spot-on. It is as “powerful and complex” as anything you have ever drank. A few more sips and some sense starts to be made of Chimay Blue.

A few more sips and I’m thoroughly enjoying Chimay Blue. But I’m beginning to wander if that complexity is all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, it’s a hundred times more complex than lager, but I can’t detect a rainbow of flavours. Just a very powerful taste. It does have a flavour. I think. One of rich, dark fruit that reminds me of wine, port, cherry or fruit cake. Then there’s the aftertaste. On the palate, this is as powerful as it’s 9% volume promises it to be. That smooth, distinctively Belgian taste kicks in, the fruitiness goes into overdrive and you receive a delicious taste of lightly roasted maltiness. I love it.

Specifically, what do I like about Chimay Blue? That mysterious Belgian quality always wins me over. Try Hoegaarden White Beer, Leffe Blonde or Duvel Golden Ale to see what I mean. They all have the same quality that this has. Next, there’s that taste. The only thing I can compare it to is the British Old Tom Strong Ale. That had the same sort of strong taste of dark fruit, but Chimay Blue does it the Belgian way. And that keeps its points for distinctiveness intact. I like very much how well made it is. It’s strong, but not too bitter. Amazingly, they’ve kept it balanced. 9% volume is rarely this easy to drink. I also like how clearly this is one of those drinks to be savoured and drunk slowly, in a civilised way. This is one of those ales nudging into wine territory. On top of all that, it’s not too gassy.

What of the downsides to Chimay Blue? Well, it is strong. There’s no denying that. Even though I got used to it soon enough, it’s going to put off the less intrepid and more lager inclined. If you can find a girl who says she likes Chimay Blue, hang onto her. Then there’s the problem of finding the right time to drink this, and all very strong ales. What is the right social situation? If you know, leave a comment. Lastly, Chimay Blue is probably not going to be half-price at your local supermarket. That means it is going to be hard to find where you live.

How can I sum up Chimay Blue? It is the Old Tom Strong Ale I tried last time, but Belgian. It is just as strong, just as dark, warming, fruity and interesting, only in the form of an unfiltered Belgian ale. It is an exceptional beer. If you’ve ever wanted to drink a fruit cake or find ordinary red wine not beery enough, this is the one for you. Just remember to go slowly and savour it, or you risk becoming sozzled, as I have just become.

Rating: 4.375

Have you tried Chimay Blue? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your opinions, facts, corrections, recommendations, requests and places to buy, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager

17 September, 2008

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer was one of the first, and most interesting bottled beers I have ever tried. Being oak aged by a Scotch whisky producer made it different and delicious. Because of this, I leapt at the chance to snap up a four-pack of Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager from Tesco at the discounted price of £1.99.

Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager 4 pack

This though, is a completely different kettle of bananas to Innis & Gunn. That’s because this isn’t from a tiny, Scottish whisky producer at all. Far from it. This is from the massive Artois family. Or as they call it on the cardboard, “La Famille Artois”. The same Artois behind the infamous Stella Artois lager. This then, is one of they’re attempts to distance the Artois brand from Stella’s bad reputation. All of which begs the question… what do the Belgians know about whisky or oak aged anything?

Whatever the case, they certainly know how to make a good looking product. The cardboard bottle holder looks very classy indeed. Probably because most of it is just blank space. About the only thing you’ll find besides the logos are a small picture of a glass and bottle, and description of this beer as “A Refreshing 4.6% ABV Oak Aged Beer”. They also say something about the Artois horn being the symbol of the Den Hoorn brewery in Leuven, Belgium. It’s so minimalistic and good looking, I had no idea it was related to Stella Artois until I got it home.

Sadly, things don’t continue that way after you’ve prized a bottle out from the cardboard holder. Things start to look familiar. It looks like a Stella again.

The neck label must have received about two minutes of thought before being slapped on the bottle.

The front label doesn’t add much sophistication either. It looks like much the other Artois roundels. But I do like the oak tinged colour scheme. It hints at oaky-ness without being cheesy.

Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager front label

It’s all very straightforward. The familiar Artois horn logo and “Anno 1366” are present. As are the descriptions that it’s an “Oak Aged Lager” and “Premium Lager”, from “Leuven” The alcoholic volume is perfectly clear too. This one is a reasonably 4.6%. Strong enough to be worthwhile. Mild enough to distance it from Stella.

Just like the neck label, the back label is hardly a masterpiece. From such a big name, you expect a little more presentational polish. This is just a plain white label with some writing on it.

Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager back label

The bulk of what’s on there is the Eiken Artois story. A story that manages to connect their “six centuries of brewing” to their very recently “crafted Eiken Artois”. They then expand on their description of the beer as being “a deliciously refreshing yet full flavoured lager”. I really hope they’ve pulled that feat off. Not least because coming from a four-pack, I have three other bottles of the stuff now waiting to be drank.

They’re rather keen on you serving it cold. Hence the “Serve Cold” in capital letters. The next detail is their web address which is Yet again, it’s a totally Flash dominated experience. Why can’t brewers create proper web sites for us? Slow loading sound and animation may sound like a good idea in marketing brainstorming sessions, but it stops the rest of us finding information quickly and easily.

After the responsibility and messages, we’re get down to the small print. This 4.6% drink is in the standard 33 centilitre bottle. That makes it a modest 1.5 UK units of alcohol.

On the other side of the best before date is a very welcome little detail. And one I didn’t expect. That this was “Brewed in Belgium”. I must be getting cynical. Without the word “Imported” anywhere, I full expected this to be another Bedfordshire beer putting on an imitation accent. Instead it was only distributed by InBev UK of Luton. The last two details that could be remotely of interest are the UK “Consumer Helpline” and the list of ingredients. Which isn’t a list at all as it only mentions “Malted Barley”.

If you like a good read from your bottle while you drink, you won’t find one here. And, with nothing else to describe, we’ve reached the fun part of the review. It’s time to see what Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager is like. Will it match Innis & Gunn? Should you try it? Let’s find out.

Try to pour it, and you’re rewarded by a big head. Which promptly disappears into a thin and disappointing patchwork of bubbles. The colour isn’t bad though. It’s a darker shade of amber than the usual lagery colour. Which is exactly what I was hoping for. I think it looks a bit like ginger beer.

It smells better than most lagers do, too. Not as oaky as I had hoped for. More like a richer version of the smell you usually get from a lager. In other words, it smells of a blend of malted barley and hops and things, only richer and more interesting than with most other lagers.

It’s much the same story with the taste. It does have a mild, oaky flavour. Which briskly blends into a tangy, oak tasting but ultimately ordinary lagery aftertaste. As usual with lager, you’ll struggle to find much flavour. It’s the tangy, mildly oaky and lagery aftertaste that you notice most. And, to its credit, isn’t bad. Nothing about it is strong, and it doesn’t linger anything like as badly as some lagers.

What is there to enjoy about Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager? If you’re main complaint about lagers is that they’re all the same and have a boring taste, this could be the answer. It’s got a bit of flavour. It’s got some taste. And that taste happens to be a little unusual. The whole thing is very easy to drink and refreshing, too. As well as the rich taste, for a lager, it’s also quite smooth. And as I haven’t burped yet, not too gassy either.

What won’t you like about Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager? It’s got some nice taste, and its drinkable, but that comes at a price. There’s not nearly enough flavour and taste because it’s so light and watery. A few gulps of this, and you’ll forget what you’ve been drinking. I’m nearly at the end of the bottle, and I’m having trouble remembering if I’ve been writing a post about beer, or drinking diet ginger beer. But then, it is a lager, so all of that could be by design.

So what is Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager all about? It’s no Innis & Gunn, that’s for sure. It simply can’t match it for flavour and strength of taste. They don’t say how long they left this stuff to mature in oak, but I’m guessing it was more like minutes than days. What it is, is an above average lager. If you like lager, you might have found a new favourite in Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager? It certainly fixes some of my big complaints about lager. If you don’t like lager, but have no choice but a shop shelf full of them, this is a good compromise choice.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager? What did you think of it?

Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations in the little boxes below and I’ll think about them.

Beer Review: Imported Stella Artois

26 June, 2008

MY abstinence from lager isn’t going well. In the last few days, I’ve had a few, if not by accident, then through curiosity. And it’s curiosity that brought me to this one. I had decided to put off the notorious, and big-name Stella Artois for as long as possible. But a variety caught my eye. Here is a little bottle of imported Stella Artois.

Imported Stella Artois bottle

First impressions are, that it’s easy to confuse with the non-imported bottle. They’re both green. They both have almost identical labels. But this one has a big thing around the neck and the words “Imported” to set it apart. So you need to be observant not to end up with the faux Belgian Stella Artois premium lager.

Imported Stella Artois neck

As neck labels go, it’s unusual. More of a wrapper than a label. There’s perforated part around the cap, so you can get into it. The all important word “Imported” is suitably prominent. The words “From Belgium” are also good to see. I for one like to know where my beer has come from. Then there’s all the Stella Artois insignia. The logo seems to be a horn, with some barley and hops behind it. There’s also what look like stamps or medals, but they are much too small to see.

The front label looks almost identical to that of the non-imported bottle. But there are some differences. Sadly, I don’t have the other version to hand for a side-by-side comparison. And that would be nerdily unnecessary anyway.

Imported Stella Artois front label

The front label is unmistakable. Clear and well designed, this gold, white and red label sums up continental quality.

The writing in the border of the roundel tells you what you need to know. That this is a “Premium Lager Beer” and that is it “Belgium’s Original Beer”. That Belgian origin is a big reason why I decided to pick up this bottle. So many of the best beers I’ve tried during my arduous research for this blog, have come from Belgium. The country might not have contributed much else to the world, Tin Tin excepted, but they certainly do make terrific beer. Let’s hope this is one of them.

The middle of the label, above and below the label also tell us some important facts. The date for example. This has an “anno” or 1366. One of the earliest years I’ve ever seen on a bottle of beer. It must have been hard work harvesting the raw ingredients for beer, when the wheel had yet to be invented. And there’s the location. According to this Belgian tourist board website, “Leuven” is on the Flemish side of Belgium.

Some brewers put the vital statistics on the back label. Some put them prominently on the front. Others, like Stella, put them on the front, but in a microscopic size. The volume of this bottle is 33 centilitres. Which is unremarkable. And the alcoholic volume is 5.2%. Which is slightly remarkable, because I feared this would be another uninspired 5%.

Because this is an export version, the back label is a multilingual mess.

Imported Stella Artois back label

It’s hard to know where to start. Most prominent at the top is the description “The Classic European Beer”. Funny, as I half expected it to say “Lager Louts Choice” or “The Classic Wife Beater”. Maybe Stella Artois doesn’t have the same reputation abroad as it does here in the UK.

There’s little else to report from the back label. It gives the contents are being malted barley. The size and volume of the beer bottle is repeated in case you missed it on the front. And there’s a web address which is You can choose your location and language from their flashy homepage.

With the labels out of the way surprisingly quickly, it’s time to answer those all-important questions. What is this imported Stella like? And will I feel the urge to punch strangers and family members after drinking it?

Imported Stella Artois poured into a glass

This is a premium lager, so be careful with the head. Pour gently though, and you get a good, controllable layer of froth sitting atop your drink. The colour is as you’d expect from a lager; pale yellow and full of bubbles.

The smell is good, for a lager. It smells richer and maltier than other lagers. Probably because of it’s Belgian origins.

And that quality carries over to the taste. The taste is light. No big, offensive, sudden or surprising flavours in here. Instead, you have a gentle malty bitterness.

What do I like about imported Stella Artois? It’s smooth. Impressively for a lager, it doesn’t taste horrible. It’s not too gassy. The quality is evident, unlike some so-called ‘premium’ lagers. And it’s slightly more potent than other mainstream premium lagers. All in all, it’s surprisingly drinkable. For a lager.

Inevitably, there are things I don’t like about Stella Artois. The taste for one. It may be good for a lager. But it’s still a lager. And as such, it still has that unpleasant ‘sharp’ bitterness. It’s missing any flavours beyond the small subset you find in a lager. Even though it’s a quality, premium lager, if you had to drink more than a bottle or two in a night, you’d soon get bored and start to feel as though you’re drinking dish water.

Compared to other premium lagers, Stella Artois is not at all bad. And it’s the first that isn’t a pilsner that I’ve said that about. It is still a lager, and therefore will never get far above average. But if lager is all that was on offer, I’d happily tolerate Stella Artois.

Have you tried Stella Artois? Of course you have. Here’s your chance to let the world know what you thought of it.
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations here please.

Beer Review: Leffe Brune/Bruin/Brown

20 April, 2008

A WHILE ago, I tried a bottle of Leffe Blonde. And it was one of the best beers I’ve ever had. So it’s with considerably optimism that I move on to try Leffe Brune/Bruin/Brown. A drink I think is probably a brown ale.

Leffe Brune/Bruin/Brown bottle

In Tesco and most of the off-licences near me, this modestly priced beer usually only comes in very large bottles. But after a bit of searching, I did manage to track down this review friendly 33 centilitre bottle. Whether it comes in cans or not, I don’t know. But why anyone would choose a can over a civilised bottle is beyond me.

On the outside, they’ve stuck to the same formula as with Blonde/Blond. Except that the golden yellow colour scheme is replaced with brown. The neck-label and the main front label keep everything the same as with Blonde/Blond apart from that colour.

Leffe Brune/Bruin/Brown neck label

Leffe Brune/Bruin/Brown front label

The Germanic typeface is still there. The 1240 date is still there. The quirky duplicating of every word in Dutch and French still happens. The stained glass style illustration of the Leffe Abbey is still there too. As is the foil wrapping around the top of the bottle. Everything is intact, but with touches of brown here and there.

Over on the back label, and it’s even more similar to that of Blonde/Blond. In style and layout at least.

Leffe Brune/Bruin/Brown back label

There isn’t much story on there. Just the usual small print repeated in lots of different languages. To save you the bother of trying to read it, here are those small print details… It has a surprisingly strong 6.5% volume. Apparently, it contains “approximately 1.7 standard drinks”. And it is best served between 5 and 6 degrees C.

Now to see if Leffe Brune/Bruin/Brown maintains the outstanding Belgian beer track record.

Be careful pouring Leffe Brown, or you’ll end up with a gigantic frothy head like I did. Fortunately, it settled down to enough to drink after a few minutes.

Leffe Brune/Bruin/Brown in s glass

As per the billing, it is brown. Very dark brown in fact. But it’s the smell that interests me. Leffe Blonde was outstanding in its malty aroma. And I’m pleased to say that Leffe Brown isn’t too much of a disappointment. It doesn’t smell as insanely, richly malty as Blonde. And you wouldn’t expect it to, as this is a different beer. And that’s reflected in the smell. It’s still very rich and malty. But different somehow. In a more rounded sort of way.

A couple of gulps in, and just like the smell, it is a bit like Blonde. But also a bit different. Brown shares some of the deep, rich, smooth maltiness. But, it hits you with a bitter taste. And a bitter and sour lingering aftertaste.

There’s a lot of Leffe’s trademark quality in here. It’s smooth. It’s got a good amount bitterness. A full-body and character are both in evidence. And it’s very very drinkable. I reached the end of this bottle much too quickly. Another bonus is that it’s very strong.

There are however, downsides. It’s gassy. So you’ll be burping in between gulps of this beer. And even though it’s not very bitter, it’ll still put some people off. Me for example. Bitters just aren’t to my taste.

How can I sum up Leffe Brune/Bruin/Brown? Well it is very good and very drinkable. But the bitterness means that I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Blonde. Even so, a lot of you out there will like the bitterness. And even I found it palatable. But on the shelf next to a bottle of its sister beer, Leffe Blonde, I’ll choose the blonde instead of the brunette.

Rating: 4.3

What did you think of Leffe Brown?
Have you got any suggestions of anything similar that you think I should review?
If so, leave a comment in the usual place. The comments box. Obviously.

Beer Review: Hoegaarden – The Original Belgian White Beer

11 March, 2008

Since I started this blog, I’ve been wanting to review this. I first tried it a month or two before I started reviewing beers here, and have been longing for the excuse of a review to try it again. This is, Hoegaarden white beer. Produced by the massive InBev, and available from every off-licence and supermarket in the UK for between £1.09 and £1.29.
Hoegaarden bottle

One of the first things you notice about this bottle are that everything on it is in three languages. Just like Leffe, another Belgian beer, this bottle repeats itself more times than an old episodes of Friends.

Forunately, it doesn’t cram in too much detail, so the third of the bottle taken up with English information is minimal. The label up by the neck gives a date of 1445. Although it doesn’t mention what that date refers to. A clue is also up there on the label hinting at what makes Hoegaarden different. That this is “Unfiltered, naturally cloudy”. And yes, if you look carefully enough at the bottle, you’ll see bits floating around in there. What the technical differences are, I don’t know. But I do know that orange juice with bits in is better than smooth orange juice. Maybe the same holds true of beer?
Hoegaarden Wit Bier neck label

Down on the main front label, all the important details are there. That this is a 330 millilitre bottle. What the heck is that in pints? And who the heck asks for 330 millilitre of drink? It is Belgian, so perhaps that explains it. Also on there is that this has a decent 4.9% alcohol volume. With a silver background, logo consisting of two arms holding staffs and very Germanic looking writing, Hoegaarden is terrific. If you want a north-west continental European beer, this looks the part.
Hoegaarden Wit Bier front label

On the back label, it takes a few moments to find the right language. With that done, the information is mostly concise and helpful. That this will be “delicious” and “refreshing”. And that it is “naturally cloudy” and brewed to a “unique recipe”. All very good. And the sort of thing you want your premium continental beer to be. They also, kindly for a continental beer, include the UK units of alcohol. I don’t know if they’re compelled to do that, so it’s good to see it on there. It’s 1.7 units by the way.
Hoegaarden Wit Bier back label

But then, on the right-hand side of the label, it all becomes a bit unusual. You see, in four little panels, it explains how Hoegaarden should be poured. That it takes four panels gives you an idea of how involved it is. First, one must rinse the glass into which Hoegaarden will be poured. Then, the first half of the bottle may be poured. Then the remainder of the bottle’s contents, swirled. Before the final half of the bottle is poured into the glass. I think it has something to do with the natural cloudiness and not wanting to leave the bits stuck at the bottom of the bottle.
Hoegaarden Wit Bier pouring instructions

For the purposes of this review, I carefully went through all those steps. The mistake I made however, was in using a half-pint glass. Those infuriating European measures left a big portion of the bottle’s contents, still in the bottle. What did make it into the glass however, did have a good head to it. And yes, it is cloudy. Cloudier and more opaque than any other beer I’ve yet tried, but not as opaque as some darker ales and stouts.
Hoegaarden Wit Bier in a glass

On the nose, how can I sum it up? Put it this way, I’d buy an air-freshener that smelled the same. It smells delicious. Rich and malty. With some other qualities I can’t quite place.

And that classiness mostly carries over to the taste. It is malty, but not to the same extent as Leffe Blond(e) Beer. Although, maybe because of it’s Belgian origins, it has some of the same qualities. Instead, it’s a little malty, but not at all heavy. It’s light and yes, refreshing too.

Also in the flavour are hints of the barley and wheat. And if you’re wandering, no, you can’t tell that there are bits in there while you’re drinking it. What makes a change is that there’s barely a hint of bitteness in the taste. I’d say it’s sweeter and creamier than almost every other beer I’ve yet tried.

Downsides? It can be somewhat gassy. Although some of that comes down to how it’s poured. And the quirky character might not be to everyone’s tastes. The bottle is also too small. If think you’ll might like this, buy the bigger bottle instead.

For me, Hoegaarden is another Belgian winner. It might be brewed by the faceless InBev, but Hoegaarden has a unique personality. It looks different to most others. It smells right. And it’s quite simply creamier, sweeter and more refreshing than almost everything else on the market.

Rating: 4.6

The biggest question for me now is, how does Hoegaarden compare to the other white beers out there? At least two other white beers are stocked by my local Tesco, so I’ll be sure to try those in coming weeks and let you know.

Have you tried Hoegaarden? What did you think?
Maybe you’ve got recommendations of your own?
Or your own ideas about what I could turn my critical eye towards. Go on. Suggest something in the Comments section below.

Beer Review: Leffe Blonde/Blond Beer from Belgium

18 February, 2008

AFTER slumming it with Tesco Value Lager, I decided to move upmarket for my next beer review. That move upmarket led me to this: Belgian Blond(e) beer.
Bottle of Leffe Blond(e) Beer

Like Ostravar Premium Czech Lager, we can tell that Leffe is premium because of the gold wrapping around the top. Ostravar however, was a letdown, so can Leffe do any better?

The labels on the bottle don’t tell us an awful lot. That might be because the little it does say, it says in half a dozen European languages. Most prominent among those are Dutch and French. In fact, the entire bottle is split between Dutch and French names and descriptions. Not surprising, when Belgium itself is, more than ever, splitting apart at its French and Dutch seams. As a consequence, we have ‘Blond’ also spelled at ‘Blonde’. ‘Bière Belge’ as ‘Belgisch Bier’ and ‘Abbaye de’ as ‘Abdij van’. This final duel wording, referring to Leffe’s origins at an abbey. The ‘1240′ date on the label at the shoulder of the bottle is something of a mystery. That couldn’t possibly be the date that brewing started there. Maybe it’s the date that the Leffe abbey was founded? If you know, leave a comment in the usual place.

Leffe Blonde front label

Around the back, if you look carefully at the multilingual jumble of text, you can make out a small number of facts. We learn that it is an authentic Belgian abbey beer. But we learnt that from the front of the bottle. It is 330 millilitres, so be prepared for either overfilling your half pint glass, or leaving your pint glass looking unfulfilled. Malted barley is the only listed ingredient. The only pleasant surprise the rear label tells us is that this beer has a 6.6% volume. Pleasant because that will make it more potent than most of the ales and cheap lagers I’ve tried recently.
Leffe Blonde back label

Impressions of the outside are of its yellow-ness. Presumably playing on the blond(e) connections, this is a distinctively yellow package. And continental European too, going by the text and red roof-topped abbey.

Poured carefully into a glass, we are treated to a thick creamy head. And one that stays around. The colour is yellow-ish, but not as luminescently bright yellow as the labelling has led me to believe. Still, it does look appealing being a dark shade of gold.
Leffe Blonde poured into a glass

Giving this a thorough sniff, as I recommend that you do, you will be treated to something special. Leffe has the richest and maltiest smell I have seen so far. And not in a bad way. You will have to smell it for yourself to see what I mean.

The smell carried over to the taste. It is rich, creamy and malty. Unlike nearly every other malted barley brew I have tried, it is not the barley that comes through. With Leffe, it is the malt. This is by far the maltiest beer I have ever tried.

It is, however, somewhat gassy, causing me to burp once or twice. You also have to be particularly careful how you pour it into a glass, if that is your preferred method of drinking. Whilst pouring the remainder into the glass, with rather less care than the first portion, it was very easy to end up with a big pile of foam atop a tiny layer of drink.

The flavour, also, might not be to everyone’s taste. It is fairly strong, so if you don’t care for malt, you may not be impressed with this. Me however, I enjoyed every drop. Leffe, is different, but not unpleasant. It is actually quite drinkable. And like the many ales that I have tried, this lager manages to match them on smell and flavour. A rare accomplishment indeed.

Does Leffe deserve to play the ‘Premium’ card in the same way as Ostravar? Unlike Ostravar, Leffe doesn’t just look quality, it is a quality drink. And it does what it does differently to the others. For that, I think it is well worth your time trying a bottle for yourself.

Rating: 3.75 to 4.25 depending on how much you like strong maltiness

Have you tried Leffe? What did you think of it? And have you tried any other Blond(e) beers? Leave me and the other readers a comments!

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