February/March 2010

Belgian Beers

For those of us lucky enough to travel afar in our beer journey, Belgian beers are a
religious experience nearing the sublime. Belgian beers are the ultimate pleasure in diversity
and complexity. Closer to home Belgian inspired beers are an easily acquired taste, with
experimentation strongly encouraged. Wacky characters and intricacies of spices and flavors
make Belgian beers excellent food pairings. As the Beer Diva saying goes, “Few beer styles give
us more pleasure in such an incredible and unique variety of ways than Belgians.” Way - ah ha!

The Beer Beacon panel ventured out to Sterling Place Tavern on Hertel Street in Buffalo for
the Belgian Beer tasting. A cozy neighborhood spot, the owners, Judy and John are beer enthusiasts
and have an amazing selection of rotating craft beers on draft. Sterling features a home-style
menu that includes a fabulous burger, excellent fish fry, and pierogies, too. Everyone quickly feels
welcome and a part of the Sterling Place family.

Hearts, hugs and kisses to all the big-hearted breweries that sent samples to the Beer Beacon for
this beerful Belgian adventure. Cheers to March Madness!

Next: Lagers (including maibocks, pilsners, schwarzbier, and more!)

The Place:
Sterling Place Tavern, Buffalo, NY

The Tasters:
The Beer Beacon Tasters included our loyal band of brews crew: the Magistrate, Evil,
Hop Jack, Vinny, Gerg, Swoop Jones and Mensa Drop Out.

The Method:
Tasters are served each beer, with only the information of the style the brewery is emulating, when there is a style. The beer name and brewery are revealed to the tasters as each next blind round is served.

The Beers:

Samuel Adams American Kriek, Boston Beer Co.
One Design Center, Suite 850, Boston, MA

“A sweet cherry pie nose that reminds me of a Hostess Fruit Pie,” said Gerg. “Sharp, sweet and tart berry body,” said Vinny. The flavor is rich in cherries agreed the Magistrate and he thought the finish was clean. Swoop Jones liked the slight tartness and would have liked more sourness, but suggested this would be a great introductory lambic. Evil summed it up as a “Kriek Lite” with significant panty dropping potential.

Flamande Rouge, Pearl Street Grill & Brewery
76 Pearl Street, Buffalo, NY

“Definitely sour,” commented Hop Jack. Swoop Jones thought the cherry aroma eclipsed the muted sour cherry flavor. Vinny agreed, noting a
slight vinegar nose and light fruity sour flavor. The Magistrate thought it
was sherry like. Evil and Gerg found it funky, in a strange, appreciatively weird way.

Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection, Stony Brook Red, Boston Beer Co.
One Design Center, Suite 850, Boston, MA

Vinny noted the Brett nose with some tartly fruit, earthy leather and toasted vanilla aroma and flavors. Hop Jack thought the beer was pleasantly balanced and overall very drinkable. Swoop Jones agreed this was a more traditional Flanders red with a mild sourness and sweet cherry flavor. Evil said it reminded him of Cold Duck. Perfect for Red Hearts Day, the Beer Diva suggested, as it is both red and lacey and hides the alcohol very well.

Riserva, Weyerbacher Brewery
905 Line Street, Easton, PA

“There we go,” said Gerg, “the taste gets me tweckin' sour and tart!” Swoop
Jones commented on the fruity raspberry aroma and funky tart fruity complexity
in taste. Hop Jack called it a berry explosion that goes from tart to sour with a balanced lingering body and a crisp finish. The Magistrate heard a little “Jump and Shout” and found it pleasantly palate cleansing. Vinny thought the long, tart farmhouse finish was very nice. Evil likened it to a framboise that meets a whiskey sour in a cloud of funky yeast. We all thought this beer would pair will with mussels and frites.

Heavy Seas Red Sky at Night Saison, Clipper City Brewing Co.
4615 Hollins Ferry Road, Baltimore, MD

Mensa Drop Out joined the Beer Beacon Panel on this beer and commented
on the coriander, lemon aroma. Hop Jack thought it was spritzy and fruity,
perhaps a bit light, but refreshing. Vinny noted the subtle sweet noble hops aroma and light fruit flavors made it an easy drinker. The Magistrate and Evil agreed that although somewhat subdued in flavor, it made up in its drinkability. The Beer Diva liked the spicy, lemon citrus sailor's delight and suggested it would complement fresh fried Perch very nicely. Swoop Jones summed it up as “more Saxo than Saison Dupont”.

Hades, Great Divide Brewing Co.
2201 Arapahoe Street, Denver, CO

Big surprise - Evil likes Hades - calling it “Golden Goodness”. The Magistrate thought the herbal, earthy sweet flavor was complex with some hops in the finish and Hop Jack found it both crisp and clean. Mensa commented on the mildly fruity, fennel taste with an exaltation of hops. Swoop Jones noted the leafy, grassy, lemony bouquet with peppery spice flavors that gave it a semblance to Duvel Green with bigger balls. Gerg agreed and (surprisingly) renamed it the more PC “Duvel lite”.

Merry Monks Golden Ale, Weyerbacher Brewery
905 Line Street, Easton, PA

Vinny did all our work on this one “a thick, fruit and Brett nose, a crisp and tart spicy body, a shot of alcohol and a helping of complexity equals an excellent beer”. Swoop Jones commented on the Juicy Fruit aroma and lemon spice, Hennepin-like taste with a peppery finish. The Beer Diva found this one inviting - strong and big with a beautiful head and creamy taste. Hop Jack noted the horse blanket nose, fruity and bubblegum taste and warming finish and summed it up as a “nice, solid Belgian style beer”.

Blasphemy, Oak Aged Quadruple, Weyerbacher Brewery
905 Line Street, Easton, PA

The Magistrate loves beer on wood and was surprised the toasted oak and vanilla won over the huge alcohol body. Swoop Jones commented on the raisins in vodka nose with an alcohol blast and Vinny turned poet with, “dried fruits licorice and vanilla down the hatch, oh brewer, make another batch”. Evil declared “no amateurs allowed,” and interestingly, Gerg found it a “lumberjack, pancake dipping beer”. Mensa called this one “exquisite!” summing it up for the panel, “Holy Smokes! Sip Away!”


Monk's Blood Dark Belgian Ale, 21st Amendment
563 2nd Street, San Francisco, CA

Swoop Jones noted the subtle spice and herbal aroma with a mild citrus zest and malt flavor. Vinny thought the light fruity tart spritz was brewed for the delicate beer geek(?). The Beer Diva was confused and intrigued by both the oxymoron and the sweet dried apple-fig, malty concoction. Evil found it fruit spicy with a touch of vanilla, but somewhat unstable. The Magistrate and Hop Jack agreed it was sweet in the body, interesting, but unbalanced.


Samuel Adams New World Wood Aged Tripel, Boston Beer Co.
One Design Center, Suite 850, Boston, MA

Gerg really liked the funky hop nose with a subtle fruitiness and booze body and the hop bite finish. The Magistrate called it “yummy and delicious” with a beautiful Belgian flavor. Vinny commented on the complexity of this beer with a yeasty bready nose, a very active body of peachy fruits and a tart dry finish. Evil called it “triple smoothness” and added, “the foam goes straight to your brain”.


Yuletide Tripel, Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet, Clipper City Brewing Co.
4615 Hollins Ferry Road, Baltimore, MD

“Heavenly triples!” declared the Beer Diva. The Magistrate and Hop Jack agreed-the banana and clove with a horse blanket yeast aroma was classic Belgian style. Mensa noted the coriander with straw note aroma with a sweet spice lychee fruit taste. Vinny found a multitude of flavors: fruity, candi sugar, malt, sweet pears with alcohol a 'plenty. Hop Jack enjoyed the complexity and Gerg thought it tasted a bit like cider. Evil said it “calmed his frayed nerve ends”.


Quadrupel, Weyerbacher Brewing
905 Line Street, Easton, PA

Quads being an acquired taste, the Beer Diva describes this as elegantly rich and intense. Mensa commented on the big sweet fruity nose with hints of cinnamon. Vinny noted the nose hair twisting aroma and big booze and malty sweet fruity body. Hop Jack found the heat dominating and Swoop Jones agreed its berry fruitiness was powerful. The Beer Beacon panel all thought the Belgian characteristics came out more as the beer warmed up. This is one to savor as with dessert, or to cellar for that extra special occasion as we expect it will grow in complexity and flavor.



--- by The Beer Diva, Beer Beacon columnist

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