De Garre – Bruges

Although it’s a couple of years old now, for some reason this post seems to be getting lots of hits at the moment, probably as folk plan Belgian beer expeditions. I like it as it brings back lots of fond memories, so I thought I’d post it again. Sorry for the self-indulgence if you’ve read it before…

P1010907To find this place you either stumble across it, or have to purposely search for it, for us thanks to the “Around Bruges in 80 Beers” guide-book and the map reading skills of “pathfinder Rachie” (the wife), it was the latter.

Although centrally located on the main tourist trail and only 100 yards from the main Bruges Markt square, De Garre remains discretely hidden from the less discerning beer tourist, tucked away down a tiny cobbled alley (De Garre) off Breidelstraat. Clientele ranged from the obviously regular local folk each having what seemed to be their own favourite chair, to beer enthusiasts and folk that were very probably lost…

The main room itself is quite small in cafe/bar terms, probably 18 feet by 18, with a small apertured high bar facing you as you venture up the ancient worn stone steps, a tiny winding staircase aside the bar leading to the upper drinking gallery.
Once inside the feeling is like stepping back in time. Being a fan of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, it reminded me of the scene in The Prancing Pony where the hobbits first met Strider, huge gnarled oak beams, stone floor, simple wooden tables clustered together all baring glasses of foaming ales.

Dating back to the 1700’s, De Garre is one of those places where the gentle atmosphere and ambience has your mind wondering how many people have sat here before you. What joys, tragedies, laughter, crimes or drunken buffoonery have these tine four walls witnessed in their lifetime?

Garre Tripel – 11%


Although they have a reasonable beer menu at De Garre, I was only after one in particular at the recommendation of Mark, co author of “real ale reviews” blog. This was the leg weakening De Garre house “Garre Tripel”, I was not alone as almost every table had at least one.

The Tripel arrived in two large goldfish bowl like glasses, with the thick white creamy head massively outweighing the liquid content by about three parts to one, there being only about three-quarters of an inch of beer sitting at the base. Either by sensing our unconscious looks of disappointment or by the daily experiences of newcomers to his bar, the barman softly whispered “wait, it will come”.

Each tray of beer is served with a small portion of chopped cheese, which I’m led to believe is a compatible match for most Belgian beer, it was soft, creamy and when finally, patience rewarded we got to taste the Garre Tripel went perfectly with the beer

The beer itself has aromas of yeast and biscuits with slightly grassy hoppy notes. Once through that thick long lingering head, the first thing that hits you is the smooth malty flavour that disguises the alcoholic strength better than some half the same ABV. Garre is quite sweet for a Tripel which I suspect is due to the heavy alcohol, it has a smooth full-bodied creaminess in the mouth which perfectly compliments the peach and light citrus flavours. The finish is easy-going with evidence of hop bitterness but lightly so.

Garre Tripel is only available on the premises so you really need to make an effort and find it if ever you visit Bruges, all in all a fantastic experience and one we repeated whilst in the city. The beer can be purchased in 1.5 litre bottles to take away but we refrained from buying one preferring to keep the memory of the visit alive.

A final word of warning, at De Garre I’m told they will only ever serve you three house Tripel beers in one sitting, I didn’t test the theory but probably suggest that it’s a wise move..

Advertisements

Your own personal Jesus

EvenMoreJesus_label-465x346Your own, personal, Jesus someone to hear your prayers, someone who cares..

Now I’m not suggesting that you should seek solace in a bottle during troubled times, but if you were of a mind, you could do a lot worse than this dark and brooding little bottle of deliciousness from Danish brewery Evil Twin.

P1100724Up until September of last year I’d tried only a couple of beers from Evil Twin, these were Yin and Yang, a pair of beers designed to make up the ultimate black and tan as demonstrated admirably by Ghostdrinker in the picture, read his review here.

That all changed in September though when I visited the Borefts beer festival at De Molen brewery in Bodegraven.

Evil Twin were one of the invited guest breweries present and my god did their beers rock, the good folks there-present lapped them up big style. The beer list they arrived with came and went, each time you returned to the bar, another had the words “SOLD OUT” hastily scribbled next to it. Somehow, from nowhere, more beers turned up and very quickly went the same way and all were soon again long gone whilst many others around them lagged behind.

IMG_4568

The sign-writing may not have been up to the mark but the beers were a revelation, Hey Zeus, an imperial stout laced with liquorice and chilli was one of my top five beers of the weekend, Molotov Fruit Cocktail Impy Double IPA (irresistible name for a beer) was not far behind and for anyone in the UK close enough to be able to visit a Brewdog bar, available on keg at most of them at the time of writing this.

IMG_5435Even More Jesus is an Imperial Stout coming in at a whopping 12%abv. It pours as black as old motor oil into the glass, but forms this amazing copper brown head. Imagine molten rich milk chocolate whisked to a meringue-like froth and you’re somewhere close (this picture doesn’t do it justice).

The smells are amazingly intense. Masses of chocolate and coffee, stewed prunes in sweet baked rice pudding, warm molasses and a hint of kipper smokers flat cap, it’s smokey man..

You take a taste and are rewarded with a humongous mouthful of big old flavours. Chocolate of course leads the way coupled with dark roasted bitter coffee beans. Seared whisky barrel oak brings a pleasant but not overpowering smoke to the party mellowed by rich boozy rumtoft fruits and fresh malted bread. All these tastes are huge but still somehow manage to come across mellow and smooth, there’s no harshness here at all.

Even More Jesus coats every corner of the mouth with a thick oil-slick coating of delicious flavour that takes about as long to clear, make this your last beer of the night and savour every moment.

Luxurious, stunning, POSH?

Reach out and touch faith, go on, it’s over there, right next to the Soft Dookie…

STOP PRESS!

A tune to celebrate..

Cheers

Rebel Rebel

IndyMan, you remember that right?

Even if you weren’t lucky enough to attend you must have been comatose not to have noticed the furore that followed what was for me at least the best beer festival ever, be that on blogs, twitter or word of mouth. Well that was where I had my first proper taste of Tiny Rebel

I walked in, massively excited at the prospect of an awesome day of beer and immediately faced a dilemma, what beer to try first?

I scanned the along the wide expanse of the cask bar and stopped, one pump clip leapt from the bar, a spinning, whirling mass of jaggedy edges, clip fixings, fire and lightning. It screamed HADOUKEN in a slightly stereotypically oriental voice, drop kicked me between the eyes and before I knew it was back on its hand pull, a slightly smug smile on its plastic, flat face.

OK, OK, there may have been an ever so slight air of exaggeration there, but for anyone who grew up playing Street Fighter, you’ll at least get where I’m coming from. Anyway, tonight, I’m back there again, memories flooding back as I tuck into a bottle of Hadouken magic.

First off lets look at the Tiny Rebel branding, modern, bold, clear, simple and instantly recognisable, I just love it. I love it so much in fact I’d better get this bottle open…

It smells incredible, there’s an immediate hit of fruit bubblegum balls, the type you used to get in jars. Stick your nose in and try to pick your favourite from the kaleidoscope of colours that bizarrely whirl around your nostrils. Then more, candied strawberry, melon and a slightly savoury twist, lets take a stab at salted caramel, it’s one of the best smelling beers I’ve had for a good old while..

The taste is much more contained, but nonetheless pleasingly good. There’s a sweetness there but its very much restrained, like Chun Li bound tightly with the bitterest of bitter hop shackles.

There’s a sort of softness underpinning the whole thing, a warm malted bready-ness that carries the whole thing along nicely, but again can’t override the resinous, grapefruit pith hop bitterness that coats the tongue with every mouthful and lingers long.

This is a seriously good beer, Amplified IPA it has scrawled graffiti style on the label and it certainly lives up to that. I can’t wait to get stuck into the rest.

Cheers

*Massive thanks to Chris Dixon, who very kindly lugged these from the West Midlands for me, top bloke and worth a Twitter follow if you love good beer.

Bottle night leaves a sour taste…

Beer, it’s a funny old thing, just when you think you know your stuff, up turns something completely different to blow your mind and set you off on another mad journey of discovery..

Thinking back about 18 months when I really seriously got into beer and not just accepting any old slops cheaply named with an “ooh err Mrs” style pump clip. Designed to attract me because it’s name had some extremely loose connection with ladies bits, or perhaps sticking one up a goblin etc etc (see Pumpclip Parade for details), anyway way back then I remember trying my first real sour beer, it was Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Geuze..

If you are not familiar with Lambics, Geuze, (Geueze) whatever, that name will mean nothing, but let me tell you I thought it was foul, absolutely undrinkable and most of it ended up in the sink.

My thoughts were at the time, “if I had some fish and chips, this would make a perfect condiment, that is if it didn’t melt the food before my very eyes..). So when I was invited to a bottle night at The Wharf in Macclesfield last week, theme “sours” and the first picture I saw contained a bottle of Hanssens, you can imagine I approached the evening with a bit of trepidation.

However it’s worth saying that since then my horizons have been broadened and I’ve dabbled in the odd Lambic etc with higher degrees of success after several visits to Belgium, exploring the delights of La Mort Subite and Meoder Lambic to name but a few.

La Mort Subite is where I started actually liking some of these beers, they had a nice range, both plain and fruit flavoured which were not quite as sharp as examples I’d tried before and even the wife liked them which makes life easier all round.

Fast forward a year or so and I’m at Moeder Lambic and trying Tilquin for the first time, far more serious and actually enjoying it, so that’s what I took along as I knew I’d at least like one and that’s where we kicked of the night.

No surprises here as it’s now a firm favourite, light, fresh and refreshing I’m actually getting to like this stuff (what’s wrong with me??).

Then, my arch nemesis, Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Geuze…first sips, I still have a tongue, a little more and wait, a gaping hole has not appeared where my oesophagus should be, this stuff is not so bad after all. It’s stronger flavoured yes, but not harsh it’s rather smooth, I’m shocked!

We then went coincidentally to Mort Subite, strange because I wasn’t picking the order but it sort of followed an almost freaky pattern and this is where it all went a bit weird for me. After the two previous drinks this, an old favourite, my entry-level beer was pretty damned awful and the sentiment echoed around the table. It’s sooo sweet which is probably why it’s far more palatable to the novice, but far more than I ever remembered tasting rather like Appletise, another complete shocker.

Cheese, did I mention we had cheese
If not, we had cheese…

Then things started to get serious, out came the big guns Cantillon..

Now I’d had some Cantillon beers over the last year or so, but on previous occasions not got on too well, so again I was wary here. But fear not, at last I’m starting to see what this is all about and the Fou’ Foune was just divine, sour but not lip pursing, it’s a full flavoured apricot fest in a glass and in my top three beers of the night.

From then the list went like this so as not to labour the point:

  • 3 Fonteinen Oude Gueze – really fresh and refreshing
  • Cantillon Grand Cru Broucsella – a pure three-year old lambic which again was delicious. Not a firm favourite from everyone because of the lack of carbonation but definitely one to seek out and savour.
  • Boon Marriage Parfait – One of my personal favourites this and one that I’d recommend to anyone wanting to try Geuze for the first time, I always try to keep a few of these knocking around and they are reasonably priced too. Better than champagne any day of the week.
  • Gueuze 100% Organic Lambic – Not a stand out favourite in this company but still really very good.
  • Rosé de Gambrinus – Probably the sour/bitterest of the lot and surprisingly one of my favourites, think juicy but under ripe raspberries, there’s so much fruit in here it’s incredible.
  • Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek – Wow, the best well and truly until last, intense cherry fruit flavours, an absolute class act, I want more..

As you can see we had a really good range of top quality beers sitting empty on the table as we’d finished, a few that are probably having lambic lovers salivating right now and I am truly shocked at what I discovered about my own tastes and how they have developed over the last couple of years. If you’d asked me in 2010 to try some of these, I may have done so (be rude not too) but I doubt very much if I’d have really enjoyed it and no way could I see myself writing this now.

The simple fact is that I currently find myself craving them more and more, don’t get me wrong I still love a good hoppy session beer, a triple IPA and Impy Stout, but while I’m downing one I’m secretly scouring your beer fridges hoping to find something sour…

Cheers

Note: Massive thanks to Chris at The Wharf in Macclesfield for the cheese and being a fabulous host

Trappists laid bare

Westvleteren, the myth, an enigma, some say the best beer in the world, consistently top of the hit parade in Ratebeer circles at least, but is it all hype?

Are our senses clouded by the cloak of mystery that surrounds the abbey and the notoriously difficult buying process for the drinker?

Last night i set out to find out…

The main purpose of this experiment was to prove to myself which was better Westvleteren 12 or St Bernardus Abt 12 which is reportedly one and the same thing, St Bernardus having once been the brewer of the other under licence back in the day (hence it’s inclusion albeit not actually a Trappist beer), this argument having raised it’s head on many occasions. I also wanted to throw a couple of others in the mix too, to make things interesting..

So I opted for another classic, Rochefort 10 itself an absolutely epic beer and finally, the new kid on the block Gregorius, the 8th official Trappist from the Monastery of Stift Engelszel, Austria, completed the line up.

I also wanted to strip away any preconceptions for the tasting, to make this as fair a battle as possible, so each beer was stored together and was served at exactly the same temperature. The chalices too although branded, were identical in form so as to be indistinguishable by touch alone. Then finally all four tasters were blindfolded..

So there we sat, scarves tied tightly around eyes, looking rather foolish I expect, well actually of course I know we did as photographs were taken as soon as we could no longer see, (how these did not end up on Twitter etc I do not know). On a serious note though it makes you feel really vulnerable, your other senses working overtime to compensate for the loss of sight, but the beer itself stripped bare to aroma and taste alone.

Tasting session or firing squad, you decide? On second thoughts…

Each beer was passed by our “official servers” one at a time from taster to taster on the first pass, with a refresher of water in between, the order of course being changed from the original table layout and documented by the keeper of scores. We all then had a second chance to taste each one directly after the other and to revisit any again before making our individual decisions, our mission not to try and identify which was which, but simply to rate them one to four or best to worst.

We ranked in order of merit and I’ve scored them as such, top beer choice scoring four points and the bottom one, the results being as follows

  • Westvleteren 12 – 14 points
  • Rochefort 10 – 12 point
  • St Bernardus Abt12 – 8 points
  • Gregorius – 6 points

It was a really weird experience actually, much more difficult than I thought it would be and although the results around the table show a clear winner we certainly weren’t all in agreement in terms of favourites. Two judges had an identical orders for example with the other two having first and third place in complete opposites.

The one that surprised or maybe dissapointed me personally most tasting this way was St Bernardus. I buy it regularly and really enjoy it, but in this short experiment at least it failed to impress. Gregorius too was a tricky one, it never got out of the bottom two across the board, I thought it tasted a little harsh to be honest, a friend described it as raw and maybe that’s a good assessment, one to revisit.

Clearly the Rochefort and Westie were closest of all with the latter just edging it for me in terms of flavour and aroma hit, but not by much.

So what does this prove?

Bugger all really, it’s answered a few questions in my mind and for others around the table too. It’s not proved that Westie deserves its revered position as the best in the world only the best in my kitchen on a cold October evening…

Great fun though

Rooster’s Baby-Faced Assassin; Praise for Home Brew

Finally opened “My Precious” last night and popped back to Leigh’s blog to reacquaint myself with how it tasted 12 months ago. I’m not going to write it up again when it’s already been done well at The Good Stuff but have noted yesterday’s findings in comments, hope you enjoy reading this as I did.

20120916-103038.jpg

The Good Stuff

Ok, I wasn’t going to blog about this beer, because I know it’s not available for everyone and, quite frankly, it’s not fair. However, it’s so damn good, and other people have already, that I’m going to give in. What can I say –  I’m weak. Beer Weak.

Anyway, Rooster’s Baby-Faced Assassin is what you get if a crack homebrewer (and I’m sure Tom won’t mind me using that term; he’s really good) gets his hands on a real brewplant. In fact, that Brewery is now his – he and his brother Ol (formerly of Copper Dragon) have taken over at Rooster’s and are guiding the reins admirably thus far. When I heard this news, my first question was ‘Are you going to brew BFA?’, so was I taken by it when I first tasted it earlier in the year. Some non-committal answer was given, the subject changed and…

View original post 477 more words

A Moroccan Mirage #SourPower

Sorry that’s a typo it wasn’t a Mirage it was a Mariage..

Today is one if those special occasions when beer folks from hither and thither come together as one, be that in their homes, favourite bar, hyperspace or in my case the rather warm balcony of a Marrakech hotel.

Sadly before you ask, no its not available over here, I sneaked it into my suitcase ten days ago to give me a brief respite from the mundanity that is holiday beer. I chose this one out of many on offer for three reasons. One, it’s a stunning refreshing beer. Two, it’s perfect for a hot sunny day (and boy we’ve had some if those).

Finally three, I’m going to be travelling most of this afternoon/evening and didn’t want to miss out on all the fun..

So happy Sour Power day everyone, hope today’s events go well and your faces are well and truly twisted and puckered! #SourPower

20120906-092355.jpg

20120906-092405.jpg