About 10 years ago my GP advised me to cut back on the beer and start drinking wine: it was healthier and the size of the bottle put a natural curb on consumption. I followed his advice, became quite fanatic about wine, and was blissfully unaware of the Beer Revolution that started happening all over the world. A complete generation discovered this beverage, started looking around for it, started brewing it and started tasting the beers from beer's home countries: Belgium, England and Germany. It is easier to get to the materials (hop is sold dried, grapes not) and this Revolution was quick to spread over the whole North American and European continent, and as styles started being copied everywhere everybody seemed to learn from everybody and soon you could drink locally brewed Belgian Trappist- or Saison-style in small towns in North America, and were Belgian micro-brewers working on IPA's or Stout's. It was during a recent trip to British Columbia in Canada that I became aware of it, and was amazed about the quality and the taste of beers by breweries like the Granville Brewing Company, Steamworks, Banff Avenue and Jasper Brewing Co, to name but a few. Back in Belgium I was so curious to see if the same thing happened in Belgium itself, and I went to the specialised store's to quench my thirst and my curiosity. And though I found some great IPA's and a lot of experimenting, i was most amazed by the Porter's (or Stout's).
To be honest with you Stout or Porter was never really my favourite, and I bought these bottles out of curiosity: how could i say something about this Beer Revolution if I skipped one of its major expressions or styles ? But these beers amazed me and were responsable for a learning moment: I suddenly realised how beer can be as complex as wine, and how much it is a result of someone's personal choices when he blends his malts and hop's. These three were all excellent but they were also so different that I have become very interested in the style.
Stouterik, Brasserie de la Senne - Prince N°1
The unfiltered and unpasteurised beers from this Brussels Brewery are hard to find, even in Belgium, but are allready famous for their quality and their artwork. They started brewing in 2003, in the De Ranke Brewery, and only moved into their own premises in 2010 in Molenbeek, in the heart of town. With 4,5% alcohol it is not a strong beer. It is made with barley and the hops used are East Kent Goldings. Nice aroma's, with toasted malt and also something sweet and caramalised. In the mouth it packs more punch and is very direct like a Guinness. The bitterness of the hops is quite clear. The coffee and caramel of the malt arrives at the end. Very nice. "Stouterik" means naughty boy, the Senne is the small river that ran through Brussels (now underground). 15/20
Zwet.be, 3 Fonteinen - Prince N°2
3 Fonteinen (3 Fountains) is one of the most famous Gueuze breweries of Belgium. Gueuze is a unique beer and is a blend of lambic's. Lambic's are brewed with the help of all other brewers nightmare: wild yeasts. These only occur in one part of Belgium, not far away from Brussels, and here brewers open their fermenting vessels to tempt it in so that Brettanomyces bruxellensis can start it's work. Today most of these are residential in the brewery. This beer is even more special as it is the result of what is called mixed fermentation, a mix of top-fermentation as usually used for Stout and spontaneous fermentation as used for lambic's and gueuze's. Armand De Belder, the owner and master brewer of 3 Fonteinen, created it because he was not so fond of traditional Stout's, and it is brewed in the Proefboerderij, a brewery where everybody can experiment with small batches. The beer has a very strange smell that changes very quickly. It starts as a sour lambic beer, but with undertones of Guinness, and then went very quickly from armpit smell to very exotic perfumes, very complex and interesting. The taste combined the acidity of a gueuze with the touches of chocolate and coffee usual for a Stout, but in a very complete and interesting way. Great beer ! The name zwet.be is pronounced in Brussels as zwet bee, or black beer. 16/20
Created by the Wychwood Brewery in Witney, in the Cotswolds, where the famous English Hobgoblin ale is made. Brewed with four malts (Pale, Black, Crystal and Oats) and three hops (Fuggles, Progress and Challenger). The smell is exotic and female, with perfumes but also sigars, like a high-class 19th century brothel, and with some nice bitter hop-elements. The taste is absolutely fun, with bitters hidden behind fruit and freshness, popping up as you swirl it in your mouth. Extremely drinkable, and a porter for people who don't like porter. 15/20
All beers were tasted in Beer Sommelier glasses designed by Ben Vinken, Flander's Beer Sommelier.