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Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Brilliant Bruxelles bevvies

After our lengthy, but rather excellent evening spent in the company of Glenfiddich, I found myself waking on a slightly chilly Wednesday morning, still tasting the 105 Glenfarclas, I had perhaps rather foolishly drunk prior to heading to bed. As delicious a dram as it is, I fear I may have slightly over indulged and my wooly head certainly confirmed this.
It was at that point I realised I needed to be at Kings Cross Station in roughly 20 minutes to board the Eurostar for a slightly unscheduled trip to Brussels.

Oh dear. I was going to be one of those days.

Travelling anywhere on the train is a wonderful experience (discounting the apalling Cross-Rail network in London) and the Eurostar never fails to impress. Even with a slight hangover, checking in was a mere formality and soon, I was settled in, looking forward to my destination- Le Botanique; a marvellous music venue in the shape of a mini Roundhouse. I was there to see a great new artist (Yoav) play and, with any luck, sample some fine Belgian cuisine.

But what to drink? My heart said Laphroaig (on the artist's rider) but clearly, my head was screaming "NO WHISKY TODAY, PLEASE!!"
There really was no argument and after the gig, I stumbled across the wonderfully titled 'Drug Opera' restaurant for pancakes, waffles AND lashings of fine Belgian beer!!

We've reviewed a few good beers on here before and today's are no exception, just very different. With the rich heritage of brewing in Belgium, it is little wonder that there are so may different styles and flavour profiles to explore. First up - something with at least a little familiarity to scotch drinkers:

Gordons - Finest Scotch Highland Ale - 8.6% vol - 33cl

I first came across this oddity when many years ago, my wife was living in Liege, to the east of Belgium. Old ladies would return from an evening at the theatre, around 2am (!) and proceed to drink me, a youthful 23 year old squarely under the table. The irony, is that I doubt this has ever so much as seem a Scotsman, let alone allowed itself to be consumed by one in Scotland!!

Nose: Very weighty, heavy hops, dark molasses, some rich stewed prunes and a waft of burnt caramel. No way you could drink more than a couple of these in one sitting!

Palate: A continuation of the nose, with bitter chocolate and hop notes, loads of toasted malt and the prunes coming through in abundance. It reminds me a lot of the John Martin's Special Export Guinness, specially made for the Belgium market.

Finish: Rich and surprisingly sweet, considering the hoppy notes on the palate.

Overall: It's no wonder that a new-comer to this beer would totally lose it after only a couple of glasses. What still amazes me to this day is quite how those elderly theatre goer's could neck it like London Pride.

Next up: One of THE quintessential flavours of Belgium.

Lindeman's Kriek - Cherry Bier - 3.5% vol - 37.5 cl.

There are so many flavoured Lambic beers in Belgium, that one could quite easily get lost forever in the heady sweetness, ever to return to traditional ale. I have never been a huge fan, but... 'when in Rome' (or Bruxelles!)

Nose: Very perfumed, with lots of ripe cherry, sweet notes and the faintest whiff of hops and malt. Apparently, a strongly concentrated fruit pulp is added to the beer during the fermentation process.

Palate: An initial sharpness, leads the way for a very sweet fruitiness, with a really pleasant wheat under-note. Very fizzy, but not at all artificial tasting- like some of the other fruit beers I have tried.

Finish: Bitterness develops across the palate and the finish really emphasises the fermented fruit flavour.

Overall: Again, no way you could sink more than a couple of these, without feeling giddy and a little bit sick, but it certainly makes for a perfect accompaniment to the ludicriously sweet pancake the waiter just bought over!

We'll endeavour to bring you a much wider Belgium beer tasting in weeks to come as this small foray has really whetted my appetite for more. On my return to the UK, I am armed with an alarming haul of Dubbel, Trippel, Trappist, Blonde, Lambic and many others to get through!!