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..

I am NOT obsessed with beer!?!

I had an accusation levelled at me over the weekend, saying that everything I’ve posted on Facebook, Twitter etc recently has involved the word BEER and that I was obsessed, this understandably left a bit of a bitter taste..

What nonsense I thought, ridiculous in fact and although normally I’m a mild mannered man, thought I’d better hop to it and prepare to stoutly defend myself from such accusations at the dubbel.. To prove my point I’m going to have a Bass at explaining why I’m not obsessed, without mentioning the “b” word at all, it’s gonna be Hardknott to, but ale try my best.

It is true that I like a lovely brewed beverage or two, it’s tasty, relaxing and much safer than taking pils. The more I drink though, the more I learn and I only seek to pass on that knowledge, wort and all, by sharing it with the mashes. This inevitably leads to tuns of posts, status updates and tweets..

Not to labour the pint, each time I write a blog post it is published on Facebook, Twitter and email automatically, so instead of seeing one, you can see up to Tripel¬†the amounts of mentions of the unmentionable. Therefore if I’ve quaffed an ale and am itchen to share it with you, it seems Scilly not to tell you all it Wentwell whilst I’m Fuller information straight after the Session.

So there you have it, a full and comprehensive explanation of the facts without a single mention of ” “. Conclusive evidence, displaying no obsessive behaviours whatsoever, in fact as you can see I’m completely Fyne.

Indian Ink – Bristol Beer Factory 6.5%

I stumbled upon this beer by accident really after reading a post on Zac Avery‘s website “Are You Tasting The Pith“.

Zac’s review of BBFs “New World Tripel” sounded wonderful, so I paid a visit to the Bristol Beer Factory’s online shop, saw that they offer a mixed case that included the New World Tripel at a very reasonable price and placed an order.

I have to admit to being a little disappointed as the main beer that had driven me to order was not in the case when it arrived, in fact I very nearly got on the blower to complain. Then I noticed that there were a few intriguing bottles in the box as replacement and thought ah well, what the hell, in for a penny…

One beer in particular caught my eye, a big old Black IPA (which I love anyway) called Indian Ink. Interestingly it was brewed as the winning entry of a home brewing competition run or at least sponsored by BBF, won by a brewer called Ali Kocho-Williams. The prize was to go to the brewery, brew the beer to the winning recipe which would then be served in the local pubs and bottled for distribution. Oh and Ali won 9 gallons to drink too!! ūüėČ

The recipe it seems, is based on Kernel Brewery’s own Black IPA, you can read it here.

It’s a good beer, quite strong at 6.5% abv but is extremely refreshing and deceptively drinkable disguising the alcohol extremely well.

Not much on the nose, mainly a peppery hop spice. Flavours though are of intense liquorice espresso, high cocoa content bitter dark chocolate. There’s orange pith and citrus flesh too, finishing long, dry and very peppery.

How does it compare to the original Kernel version is hard to tell without tasting side by side. From memory I recall the Kernel having much more in the way of fruity aroma and flavour, but there’s no shame in that as Indian Ink is it’s own beer and works really well. Would I buy another, most definitely.

Nice one Ali

Follow Ali in Twitter here: @alikocho

 

De Garre – Bruges

To 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 approximately 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..

 

A little piece of Belgium in the Peak District

I organised something this weekend that I’d been meaning to do for for a couple of years which was to visit the Belgian bar “Den Engel” in nearby Leek. God only knows why it’s taken that long it isn’t THAT far (Leek is around 10 miles away), I think it just seems it, as it’s a bit of a rural route and I’ve always thought too costly for a cab. Anyways turns out I was wrong and an 8 seater working out at about ¬£22 from Stoke.¬†Needless to say we’d been depriving ourselves unnecessarily for far too long…

Even from the outside Den Engel already has a bit of a Belgian feel, quite old styling with a big glass frontage that lets you see how the place is laid out and what’s on offer. Once inside they have a three page menu featuring the 100 plus beers available both in bottle and on the changing bank of brews on tap, from memory they were on the night, St Feuillien Dubbel & Tripel, Mc Chouffe, De Koninck, Floreffe Bruin, a Kriek of some description and Den Engel Lager (or Pilsner, can’t remember which). They also have a selection of flavoured Jenevers and a small food menu featuring Belgian style dishes often with a beer influence, these are served in a room upstairs.

The staff were friendly and knowledgable and the place itself had a great atmosphere, it was busy and had that “good night” buzz about the place, but without the rowdy element probably put off because they don’t sell Carling etc.. Be warned it is pricey, but it’s not your run of the mill bar and you get what you pay for which is a great selection of good quality beers, well kept and served.

The bar itself is split into two rooms, with a large central bar area dominating the space (there is a table service available), not sure if the room upstairs had a separate bar but if not service applies. Now I wouldn’t normally mention toilet facilities apart from the fact that in this instance you get a quick look at the cellar through a window on route which is a nice touch and shows the confidence that the landlord is happy with what goes on downstairs….

So what of the beers themselves, well I have to be honest in saying that they are a bit of a blur now a few days have passed, I remember starting on a Mc Chouffe which is a delicious Scotch style ale, a St¬†Feuillien Dubbel, Rochefort 10, De Koninck Amber, Westmalle Dubbel and many many more…

To finish the evening off suitably, I opted for a grand finale in the form of a large bottle of “Val-Dieu Grand Cru” which was shared with fellow Belgian beer loving pal Lee Farrington, landlord of “The Greyhound” pub in Newcastle- U-Lyme and was one of the many stars of the recent SIBA video. The Val-Dieu was the star beer of the night for me and although expensive at over ¬£10 for a 750ml bottle, it capped a fabulous evening off with suitable grandeur. It is a Belgian Abbey Quadrupel ale which is dark, rich and spicy, it has tastes of lovely roasted malts with chocolate and port, but it’s how it delivers the flavours to you that sets it apart from the rest. It’s just so smooooooth….

All in all a cracking evening and one that will be repeated again and again now we realise how accessible the place is. For reference the address and contact details are:  Address: 11 Stanley St, Leek, ST13 5HG Telephone: 01538 373 751

‘Op uw gezondheid’ or as they say in French¬†‘A votre sante’

Beautiful Belgians!

For those of you who clicked the title to this post hoping to see something more aesthetically pleasing than beer, sorry but just copy and paste the title into Google and hope for the best. (Don’t bother I tried out of interest as I wrote this and you’re better off here…) ¬† Seriously though,¬†this is actually about three beautiful Belgian beers, two old favourites of mine and a recent discovery.

HOUBLON CHOUFFE Dobbelen IPA Tripel

I first tried this at the fantastic Delirium Cafe in Brussels, they hold the Guinness World Record for the most varieties of beer commercially available. They had when I visited 2004 beers and listed them in a 233-page beer menu. If you haven’t been then put it on your to do list… The name “Houblon Chouffe” apparently is taken from several sources: “Houblon” is French for Hop, “Chouffe” from the brewery Brasserie d’Achouffe, Dobbelen and IPA are in homage to good old English India Pale Ales and American Double IPA, finally Tripel is the owners favourite style of Belgian beer. As the description from their website listed below suggests, the idea was to create a harmonious new style of brew that pulled all of these factors together.

“The HOUBLON CHOUFFE was brewed for the first time in 2006.¬† It is an ‚ÄėIndian Pale ale‚Äô type of beer, with a harmonious balance between a marked bitterness (three types of hops are used to make it) and a pleasant fruitiness.¬† The HOUBLON CHOUFFE is unfiltered, and re-fermented in the bottle as well as in the keg. ¬† See:¬†http://www.achouffe.be/en/nos-bieres/nos-produits/”

The Beer itself pours with a lively head and is a bright golden colour with a reassuring haze. Pour carefully to avoid the most of the bottle conditioned sediment mixing or not if you prefer, it won’t do you any harm and some prefer the added taste this brings to the beer. There are big old hop tastes and aromas here, with citrusy grapefruit, yeast and that lovely dry hoppy finish.

Moinette Brune 8.5%  

BAMMM! Sweet sticky malt smacks you right in the chops and gently smothers away any resistance. As you can guess I really liked this and as a Brucie bonus it’s a new beer for me which will definitely be a regular. You may be more familiar with seeing one or more of Duponts other offerings, the Saison being the most readily available in supermarkets and such, but for me personally this definitely presses the right buttons.

A light bubbly head at first which quickly disappears to almost nothing at all, with the lovely aroma of hops and malts. Simply gorgeous!

Notes from Dupont: “The¬†‚ÄúMoinette brune‚ÄĚ is a top fermentation beer with refermentation in the bottle.
Since its creation in 1986 this beer becomes more and more famous.
A melange of 4 special malts results into this unusual colour, light darkbrown going into russet. The aromas of hop and special malts are creating the dominating taste in this beer.
The¬†“Moinette brune” combines a slightly bitterness with a fruity touch.
A real refermentation in the bottle, which will continue for many months in your cellar, will transform this product into a quite surprising”

beerhttp://www.brasserie-dupont.com/dupont/en/6966-moinette-brune.html

Caracole Nostradamus – 9.5%

Described as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, the first thing that grabs you about this and all the beers from Caracole is the label. Bright comical cartoons of what appear to be characetuers ¬†featuring the shell of¬†snails? The theme apparently features the spiral snail shell to signify the name of the brewery itself. The snail is the emblem of Namur and the translation in the local dialect is “Caracole”.

So, enough about the pretty pictures, what about the beer! Well it’s another sweet sticky ale that is perfect for that late night final hurrah, although I’d also say that it would pair very nicely with some strong cheeses, something like a creamy Stilton or vintage Cheddar (now there’s a future project..)

Has a lovely creamy head that lasts to the end of the glass, with malted fruit and chocolate aromas. The taste is sweet and rich like drinking a liquid plum pudding whilst chewing strong liquorice, hints of Christmas spice and hops in the finish. All in all VERY more-ish…

I’ve added a link below to the Caracole website via a Google-Translate search result as most of the site is in Belgian, still worth a look though.

http://www.brasserie-caracole.be/

All the beers listed were sourced from Beers of Europe Р http://www.beersofeurope.co.uk/

A “dubbel” helping of Smisje’s Tripel and Speciaal

For my first beer review I decided to go for something new for me personally in the form of the t’Smisje Tripel and t’Smisje Speciaal.

The¬†Smisje Brewery (Brouwerij), was originally called “De Regenboog” (The Rainbow) and is a craft brewery now based in the village of Oudenaarde in East Flanders.

t’ Smisje Tripel ¬†9% – Pours with a light head that quickly disappears to a thin line of bubbles around the neck of the glass. A hazy orange/amber colour with a aromas of yeast and caramel. The caramel continues in the taste along with hints of fruit and spice finishes with hoppy bitterness. One thing I thought was odd about this was how much the alcohol came through making it a little heavy going for a Belgian Tripel.

t’Smisje Speciaal – 10.5% – Pour, colour head almost identical to the Tripel. Flavour wise again had the sweet sticky caramel running through it from start to finish, tastes of banana, tangerine even coriander spice all held together with a rich, but sweet¬†smokiness. Although this a higher alcohol content, I found it much easier to drink, a lovely spiced ale to savour.