Oct 302008
 

Gulden Draak

Gulden Draak

Ah yes, on to part three of that mysterious Belgian Box!

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.

Aroma
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.

Appearance
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.

Flavor
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.

Mouthfeel
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.

Overall
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.

Gulden Draak poured

Gulden Draak poured

Check out the other Belgian Box reviews – Piraat and Augustijn Ale.

Oct 162008
 

Augustijn Ale

Augustijn Ale

Wow, I’m waaaay behind on blog posts. I have a ton of stuff to write about, and no damn time to get er’ done! I’m sorry, es tut mehr leit, etc… I’m trying to chip away at some of the overdue posts, so here is the second edition of the Belgian Box reviews! Oh, and hang in there – I have plans to brew this weekend, so hopefully we’ll have some actual homebrew-related posts here soon!

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:

Aroma
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
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.

Augustijn poured

Augustijn poured

Flavor

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.

Mouthfeel
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.

Overall
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 sp├Ąter!

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.

Ahem.

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

Piraat

The confused Piraat...

Aroma
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.

Appearance
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.

Flavor
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??

Mouthfeel
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?

Overall
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!