I wanted to include this as kind of a bonus post mostly because these three Belgian or Belgian inspired styles of beer have quickly become three of my favourite things about my growth as a beer drinker. I never thought I would ever clamour to try any of them and their fruity, malty and warming alcohol properties. Most of the best ones still come from Belgium and the very best from the recognized 11 Trappist Monastery Breweries, of which 6 are Belgian, 2 in the Netherlands and one each in Austria, Italy and the United States. They sell beer not for profit but to provide for the monastery's needs and any actual money earned after that is used in helping those in need. So you are kind of doing a bunch of good deeds just buy purchasing the beer and then drinking it so you can buy more. Circle of life stuff here folks.
The Dubbels, Tripels and Quads are in reference to the strength of the beer and as you will see, secular brewers here in Canada and around the world are now trying their hand at these styles...some with great success. At best I am scrapping the very surface of what is out there and in 2017 I vow to explore this even more. For now the ones I have tried are all available here in Ontario, usually at the LCBO for a very reasonable price, or at a brewery near you. Try them, I did and it has changed a lot about me.
1. New Limburg Brewing Dubbel
A late night thinking beer from the late summer, this 7.4 % slow sipper was the perfect antidote to a hectic day. Smelling plum and dark malt with a sticky dark fruit, plum and roasty body with licorice, brown sugar, caramel and raisins. Finish was warm and boozy with a tart and bold malty kick. It took my worries away and was a revelation that a Canadian brewer could indeed compete on the world stage in this style.
2. Scourmount Abbey Chimay Red (Belgium) - A classic any way you look at it and available in my local LCBO all the way from a Belgian Trappist Monk Brewery for a very reasonable price. $7.45 for a 750ml bomber...unreal. Toasty and sweet malts on the sniff with caramel, apple, plum, cherry and a crisp but filling finish with plum, figs and dates. Boozy backend but not overpowering.
3. St. Bernardus Prior 8 (Belgium) - Available in a seasonal Mix pack at the LCBO with 5 other beers from this Belgian brewer. 8 % and smelling sweet sugar, malty raisin and caramel. Creamy body with bready caramel, raisins, cherries, burnt sugar and a hint of coconut. Warming but not boozy...delicious.
4. Great Lakes Brewing Body Dubbel
5. Second Wedge Brewing Deraillier
1. Cameron's Brewing Dry Hopped Tripel
The very first time I actually got the banana note from a beer and enjoyed the fruity earth tones of Belgian style yeast was this 7.5 % Tripel. It was an eye opener when I first tried it in February and was one of the beers that kick started my eventually abandoning macro beers altogether. Smelling that banana and then sipping to find more of it with bubblegum, clove, candied sugar, orange peel, lemon zest and a peppery coriander finish that was a revelation. Many of my growler fills contained this golden beauty until it was gone.
2. Beau's All Natural Brewing New Lang Syne - A big slow sipper at 9.0 %, this one was shared on Valentines day and was a hit. Earthy and fruity on the nose, it had loads of orange peel, lemon zest, clove and banana with a tart, almost sour kick from the wine barrel aging. Lovely and available again this year, a great treat for New Year's Eve.
3. St. Bernardus Watou (Belgium) - Another gem from the mix six seasonal pack I grabbed in mid November. 7.0 % with a light fruity sniff of apples, peach and banana. The flavours were more of that with banana, clove, orange peel and lemon joining in. Earthy yeast with candied sugar and a peppery finish. So refreshing and smooth.
4. Sawdust City Brewing/Nickel Brook Brewing 11.05 (2016)
5. Brasserie St. Feuillien Tripel (Quebec)
These are indeed the favourite of all the Belgian style beers I have tried. There are some outstanding ones out there that have yet escaped my glass and in 2017, I shall make them mine. Make no mistake though, the ones listed here are outstanding and should be on your must try list.
1. Abbaye St-Remy Trappiste Rochefort 10 (Belgium)
At this point, the discussion on Quads always begins with this Belgian piece of heaven. The fact that it is available at an LCBO (and online for home delivery!!) for $4.35 is almost larceny. This Trappist Quad is a premier slow sipper at 11.3 % and one of the best beers in the world, bar none. First poured into my glass on a humid August night, dark candied fruits, plums wafted up from the glass. Strong and bold with raisin, plums, chocolate, orange and cloves in a a velvety smooth body. Warming and sticky on the finish with more dark fruits and a sweet malty kick. I buy it often and with no worries because it always makes my heart sing.
2. St. Bernardus Abt 12 (Belgium) - Another Belgian giant, this was in both the big 750 ml. bomber format ($10.70) and the Mix six that hit shelves this fall. Available at the LCBO online and in store, it is another must buy. A slow sipper at 10 %, this one smells of sweet malts, plums and figs. Smooth on the sip with toffee, caramel, molasses, candied fruit, brown sugar, fig and plum somehow coming together in a creamy and warming body. Lingering with a sticky finish, it hides that ABV very well.
3. Block 3 Brewing Through the Quad - Quite simply, the best non Belgian Quad I've had. Big and bold with plums, raisin and a deep sweet malt note. Figs, molasses and candied fruit with a tart booziness make this 10 % slow sipper from St. Jacob's a reason to take what is happening here very seriously. Give us some time and we will challenge the best in the world in every damn style of beer there is.
4. 5 Paddles Brewing Midnight Paddler
6. Brouwerije Van Steenburge Gulden Draak 9000 (Belgium)
While the lists aren't long, my love for these styles continues to grow. Now to tackle the really hard stuff...IPA's and Pale Ales up next. This is gonna hurt, but what a way to go!