Posts Tagged ‘belgian’

This years Adventures in Food special Christmas beer comes from the Belgium brewery De Dolle and is called Stille Nacht. Apparently Christmas fire sales do not apply only to holiday decorations, apparel, and other Christmas themed items normally found in department stores. I walked into Binny’s to pick up some good wine for my holiday party and found their entire display of Christmas themes beers on sale on an end cap display. I had recently read about Stille Nacht as a faux holy grail to beer lovers around the world and felt that I was never going to get a better price.

Stille Nacht pours a beautiful cloudy, tangerine orange. This is another one of those impossible beers to pour and the head far outweighs the liquid and quickly fills your glass. What I did love, though, was that the head resembled fluffy mounds of snow. I’ve attached a movie below to show the sheer amount of carbonation that lifts from the glass after pouring only 6 ounces into a pint glass. The head is snowy white, but sticky and does not disappear for some time. I  wound up drinking several mouth fulls of head before I ever got to the beer itself. The aroma bursts of sweet malts with bananas, cloves, and tangerines. The first sip immediate burst of sweet malty goodness with a tinge of heavy orange syrup. The spice notes quickly take over and tantalize different parts of your palette until finally a taste of banana takes over before beginning to fade from existence. This is not a gulping beer, in fact, I’m embarrassed that I even poured this into a pint glass at all. This would be a fine sipper drunk straight from the bottle or poured into a snifter.

I want you to know that words cannot accurately describe everything that is going on with this beer. De Dolle clearly has an understanding of what it takes to make a good beer and this is near perfection. I have no complaints, nor any critiques. Any mistake in pouring to create too much head is my own fault. If this beer cheated on me with my best friend at our wedding, I would probably still take it back. It’s that good. However, perfection comes with a pricetag that many might be scared of. You can purchase a 12oz bottle of Stille Nacht only around the Christmas season for around $6 ($4 if you wait for the fire sale). The 12% ABV is prevalent while drinking this beer, but by no means is it overwhelming. I can tell you that you will feel it by the end of your bottle. You probably shouldn’t plan to drink more than two of these in one sitting. Stille Nacht is a perfect beer in my world and should be heralded and replicated year round. It receives the highest rating in my book.

Grade: A+

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Don’t hate me (because I rather hate myself for this), but I originally ordered the Sprecher Abbey Triple because there was a corporate suit sitting at the bar who butchered the name of the brewery (his rhymed with the word stretcher) and the bartender did not correct him. I was having a particularly nasty day and wanted to just take a minute and win one for the little guys, for whatever that’s worth. Although the suit did look up at me when I ordered my beer, he clearly still thought he was correct. Here’s to quiet victories.

Sprecher Abbey Triple comes in a globe glass as an orange fireball swirling with a cloudy haze. Bartenders really do have a gift for pouring beer and mine came perfectly with two fingers of head that spilled over the glass and settled on the coaster below. Visually, I found this to be a stunning display. Like other triples, the aroma is floral, fruity and contains a high concentration of yeast. I was intrigued after my first taste because I couldn’t quite place my finger of what I was tasting. There was the expected clove and orange taste supported by a solid framework of alcohol, but I swear I was tasting campfire. Not strong like an actual fire, but hidden deep in the recesses of this beer, there is a hint of smoke or perhaps darkened bread crust. The next few sips did not contain this flavor and I thought I was stark raving mad, but then it came back, never out in front, but always in the background. My one complaint about this beer is that it does not finish clean and contains a mild alcohol burn. While the pleasant taste lingers in the cheeks and gums, but my esophagus felt attacked.

Having had the Yard House Triple only a month ago, I thought picking this offering from Wisconsin based Sprecher would be a sure fire win. I’m still up in the air about this one. It showed such promise at the beginning, but failed to contain itself during the end game. The Abbey Triple contains 8.4% ABV which may account for the alcohol burn. I have seen 4 packs of Abbey Triple for around $8 in the Midwest, but have not found it anywhere else. This is not an exceptional beer and I would certainly purchase others over it. That said, this is a good offering from Sprecher and one I may try again in the future just to see if my initial impressions are correct.

Grade: C+

This is the last bottle that my best friend bought me in hopes of redeeming Allagash a a brewery. I decided to save the Tripel Reserve (Batch 171) mostly because I have been experiencing a recent love affair with Belgian tripel style beers and was hoping this would be a crowning moment of glory. Before uncorking the bottle, I held it up to the sunshine to see what was going on inside the bottle and saw a beautiful swirl of sediment in the middle of a beautiful ballet. The shaped formed beautiful arcs and curves before making a nosedive towards the cork until finally it crashed into another swirl. That was entertainment enough for me.

Allagash Tripel Reserve pours a beautiful golden straw color and forms a beautiful head on top. I poured my first into a globe glass and the second in a traditional pilsner. There is a distinct difference in both the quality of the pour and the aroma the wafts from each glass. There was very little going on in the globe. The smell was fresh, clean, and a little lemony, but I could not detect any other fruit or spices. This being a high alcohol beer, I was expecting to detect this as well, but could not. My first taste was incredibly disappointing. I rechecked the bottle that I poured from looking for something indicating Miller Lite.

Yup, it tasted like Miller Lite.

Unlike Miller Lite, there was much more alcohol burn. The lemon flavor I detected in the aroma was gone and I could not extract any spices still. Something was wrong.

I remembered my experience with Allagash Curieux and went back to check the bottle for directions. It indicated that this should be served at “cellar temperatures” (60 degrees?) for optimal taste. I’m game for almost anything so I let the bottle sit on the counter and breath a bit hoping to entice the magic flavor that must be in there to develop. My second pour revealed a lot more of the same with some exceptions. In terms of taste, when served at cellar temperature in a wide mouth glass, there was a little more going on. I could taste the same faint lemon flavor and a hint of some spice I could not identify as well as a more intense bread yeast flavor. A sweet hop flavor also emerged in the second pour reminding me of mildly tangy tangerine flavored candy. The most noticable thing that changed was the mouthfeel. Warmer, Tripel Reserve felt thicker and increased its appeal as opposed to the watery, thin cold pour. However, at this thickness and emphasis on sweet malt notes, there is almost something medicinal about this beer and the warmer pour left me with a cottonmouth feel.

Allagash Tripel Reserve finishes clean and emits a memory of summertime with a faint lemon and coriander flavor, but I could not find anything I especially liked about this beer. Perhaps anything that reminds me of Miller Lite was set up to fail. You can buy a 22oz bottle of Allagash Tripel Reserve for around $8 or a 4 pack in the area of $10. The 9% ABV packs a punch, but for those of you like don’t like the blatent alcohol flavor, this one might turn you off. I myself am willing to give this beer (a different batch of course) another chance, but I can’t quite endorse this as an Adventures in Food recommendation.

Grade: C-

I know it’s Wednesday, but this one was too good to wait for an entire year to review and this is only available for a limited time at Trader Joe’s. I picked up a bottle of Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale 2011 a couple weeks ago, threw it in the refrigerator and actually forgot about it. It hit me only yesterday that I still had it and it was the end of a really crappy day. There really didn’t seem to be a better time.

Vintage Ale pours a beautiful abyss-like black. The bottom of my glass glowed a eerie ruby-purple color that remained until the last drop. The nose immediately bursts of coffee and malt, but there is a hint of sarsaparilla hidden somewhere in the back behind these big flavors. Like a Guinness, the head forms quickly and in force. There is an art to pouring the perfect pint and this one will challenge the eager drinkers to slow down and enjoy the process. The colder the beer, the more the head will form, so if your pulling this fresh from the refrigerator, let it sit on the counter for ten minutes or so. This will improve the flavor as well. It’s hard to describe the taste of this Vintage Ale. If coffee is a dominant flavor and had an alcoholic love child with the recessive root beer, this ale may be the result. Perhaps this description sounds weird, perhaps even nasty, but Vintage Ale works and does so quite well. While the malt and coffee flavors immediately emerge on the palette, there is a tang that develops and lingers on the tongue playfully. I have noted in the past my distaste for dark beers, but perhaps this brewed in the Belgian tradition is generally more appealing to my taste buds and allowed me to appreciate the depth of this beer.

I really like this beer. In fact, after I finished this bottle, I convinced my wife to drive me to Trader Joe’s to buy three more bottles (at 9% ABV, please do not think of driving yourself). The back of the bottle provides the connoisseur advice that while the Vintage Ale is great to drink now, the flavor will develop over the next 5 years. I’m hoping that I can make one of those three bottles last until at least 2015. Whenever I open the other three, I’ll be sure to post an update. At $5 for a 750ml bottle, I think this is an outstanding deal for a fine dark ale. I think this would make an excellent change of pace to your holiday party or dinner. If you so happen to have a Trader Joe’s near you that sells libations, you may want to consider stopping by to pick up their Vintage Ale.

Grade: A-