Aug 272008

The Belgian Box

The Belgian Box

So I found this interesting-looking box-set of Belgian beers in the liquor store last week. It was pricey ($17.99), but I decided to take the plunge in the name of journalism. Don’t say I never did anything for you.

I was originally going to review them in a live-blog format, one after another, but that would probably be dangerous. It would also delay the post for a few weeks until I have a free Saturday night with no responsibilities except drinking and playing Rockband. I’ve already been absent long enough (yea, really sorry about that!), but fear not – there will be plenty of opportunities for me to drunkenly blog my way into your hearts. In the meantime, I’ll attack these bad boys one at a time.

The first on the list is Piraat – Dutch (eh, I mean Flemish) for pirate. The label clocks the ABV at an impressive 10.5%, and features a picture of a remarkably clean-shaven pirate. It also depicts what looks like an old Viking ship… I suppose Vikings were pirates, if you want to get technical, but… well, whatever. The ship is flying some non-descript colored banners. Where’s the Jolly Roger? Hell, I would’ve been satisfied with a Norwegian/Icelandic/Miscellaneous Scandanavian Country flag…at least it would explain the Viking ship.

But I digress. As often happens when you are drinking 10.5% ABV beverages.


Anyway, I’m not terribly impressed with Piraat. Here’s the tale of the tape:


The confused Piraat...

The aroma is somewhat complex. There are sweet esters characteristic of Belgian yeast, along with some definite alcohol notes and sourness. The sour notes are actually pretty strong, and I expected a very tart beer at first taste. The aroma mellowed a bit as the beer warmed up, losing a touch of the sourness. Overall, I was a bit confused by the aroma, and felt the impression it gave me didn’t quite match up with the taste of the beer.

You can’t fault Piraat on the appearance – it looks good. It pours with a nice head – recedes fairly quickly, leaving moderate lacing on the glass. Clarity is good, and the beer is a light copper color – slightly darker in color than a pilsner.

Here’s where I feel disappointed. As mentioned above, I was expecting a tart beer, maybe like a very light gueuze. I did find sour notes in the flavor, but they were sloppily masked by a saccharine sweetness which left a very bitter aftertaste. The whole thing smacked of artificial sweetner, and I was reminded of some posts I have read that spoke of Belgian breweries adding just that to their beers. I don’t know if that is the case with Piraat, but either way, I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor. Note: Flavor does get better towards the bottom of the glass…what was that ABV again??

Medium carbonation helps to cut the sweetness a bit. The beer is not as thick as some Belgians I have tasted, but it does leave a bit of a coating on the roof of your mouth and tongue. Should I mention the very bitter aftertaste again?

I wasn’t thrilled with this beer. I would try it again to give it a fair shot, but there are much better Belgians out there. It did get better towards the end, but for an expensive import, I want quality from the first sip. If the brewers indeed added artificial sweetner to the beer, they should go to jail…rock sugar and other sweetners are fine, but artificial?? Come on, Belgium, you’re supposed to be setting standards over there!

Anyway, I’m going to bed…look for part 2 of The Belgian Box – coming soon!