Just reviewed Embrasse by Brouwerij De Dochter van de Korenaar – you can read it here!
I was quite surprised to find Negra Modelo on the list. I had never really researched the history of Vienna Lagers and it had never occured to me that a Mexican beer would be a documented example of the style. It seems Austrian immigrants brought the style over to Mexico in the 1800s, and darker examples like Negra Modelo are actually closer to the original Vienna Lagers. The style seems to have been widely replaced by the close-but-not-quite Oktoberfest/Märzen style (category 3B) in modern European breweries.
So, here is my review of Negra Modelo – a fine example of this great style, and a fine beer in general!
After pouring, the beer smells somewhat nutty and toasty, indicitive that it is balanced towards the malty end of the spectrum. It is an understated yet inviting aroma – no unpleasant or harsh odors detected.
The beer pours with a thick, white head which takes a little while to settle. It is a very appealing dark copper color, not surprisingly very similar to an Oktoberfest. The clarity is great – overall, a very impressive looking brew.
The flavor keeps me coming back for more. For some reason, I never thought of Negra Modelo as a quality beer. I think I’ve actually avoided it in the past thinking it was swill. However, after giving it a chance, I am pleasantly surprised! True to style, the beer has a strong malt backbone, with some biscuity/toasty flavors rolling around. There are just enough hops to balance the malt out – the hops are not in your face hoppy, but keep the malt from tasting sickeningly sweet. The beer finishes with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Carbonation is on the medium to low side – just enough to create a little bite on the palate. The beer has an overall smooth sensation – medium thickness, enough to coat the mouth slightly. The word “chewy” comes to mind, but not in the super-thick milkshake stout sense.
I am impressed with this beer – I can’t quite call it a favorite yet, but it has earned a spot on the rotation for future tastings. It is a little heavy for session or summer drinking, so take that into account. Would make a wonderful fall beer (like it’s cousin the Märzen) and would pair nicely with some heavier or spicier foods. If you haven’t tried Negra Modelo, give it a shot – you might be pleasantly surprised!
I asked my girlfriend to choose one of the remaining four bottles. Of course, she picked the white bottle that stood out like a sore thumb. This bottle contained none other than Gulden Draak – Golden Dragon in Dutch, er, Flemish – which weighs in at an impressive 10.5% ABV.
10.5%?? On a Wednesday night? Such is the cross I bear to bring you this review.
The beer has a nice aroma – caramel and some fruit notes – perhaps a touch of plum or raisin? Unfortunately, my allergies are awful right now and I can’t trust my nose. Hell, this beer might smell like old gym socks for all I know. Don’t trust a word I’m saying here.
Nice appearance – thick, super-rocky head which took forever and a half to recede. Left less lacing on the glass than I thought it would. Dark, deep reddish-brown color which I found appropriate for a Dark Tripel.
This is a strong beer, and it makes a statement. My initial impression was a nice and sweet caramel malt backbone cut by sour cherry notes. There is a touch of hop bitterness in the aftertaste, but the hops are not overly prominent – like most of these Belgians I’ve tasted, the hops serve to keep the maltiness in check while blending into the background. You can taste that 10.5% alcohol – it brings a sharpness and a bit of heat to the mix.
The beer is heavy and thick, but the alcohol and crisp carbonation help to cut it down to a manageable level. Definitely not a session beer, but the mouthfeel doesn’t bog you down too much.
This beer is like a thief that sneaks up and steals your sobriety. It starts off great, but as you finish the bottle, you can’t help but fall victim to the 10.5% ABV. I would not recommend drinking this before driving, operating heavy machinery, rebalancing your 401(k), proposing, deciding to deep-fry a turkey, buying a puppy. or writing you law school admission essay.
Tonight’s Belgian beer is Augustijn Ale. The bottle label depicts a monk hard at work in what must be an abbey brewery, and also informs us that this beer is 8% ABV. You know, something to warm me up while I enjoy watching the Rays stomp those ridiculous, cocky Red Sox.
Ahem. Anyway, on to the beer:
The beer smells inviting, with the clove and banana notes which are prevalent in most Belgian brews. There is no real hop aroma I could pick out, which in my experience is also typical of Belgians. There was a slight citrus note, which I found intriguing. Something else there, caramel or raisin, perhaps? Made me want to take that first sip.
Appearance was gorgeous – the beer poured with a ridiculous meringue head which lasted forever. The beer itself is a light gold/amber color and was a touch hazy. The lacing lasted quite awhile. Very inviting and true to style.
The flavor was impressive. The typical Belgian sweetness was muted and nicely balanced with some hop bitterness in the finish. The banana and clove I picked up in the aroma didn’t really come through strongly in the taste – rather, there was some raisin, a touch of vanilla, and something I interpreted as a touch of citrus tang. You can detect a bit of the alcohol in there, but it is very well disguised. Excellent beer – clean and crisp taste, and very enjoyable.
The beer was highly carbonated, leading to a very crisp mouthfeel. Unlike some Belgians, which coat your tongue like cough medicine, this beer was not too thick and cleaned itself up nicely with the carbonation and hop finish.
Wow. After the first Belgian Box review (Piraat), I was expecting the worst here. I figured the entire box had been mistreated and would yield less than enjoyable experiences. This bottle of Augustijn really exceeded my expectations. This was the perfect Belgian, in my opinion – high-powered ABV, but not at the expense of taste. Rich and deep flavor profile, without being overpowering or sickly sweet. I’ll be looking for this in my travels, and recommend you do the same.
Well, there you have it. I’ll be back soon with the next entry in the Belgian Box series. If you want to check out the previous entry, you can read my review of Piraat. Bis später!