8 Wired Rendition

Total Score: 8.95/10 Clove1Flowers1Bubblegum1Tulipglass1

Hmmmm, “Dry Hopped Belgian Style Ale with Brettanomyces” sounds right up my Belgian alley, this should be a pretty decent drop to add to my many reviews of pretty decent drops. Now, I already know that this beer is going to be good, as I’ve already reviewed their Wireless 100% Brettanomyces IPA (even gave it a 9.1/10!)… plus Brett is great… unless you’re a wine-maker, in which case it can be a real problem… but ‘yay Brett!’ regardless. Pro tip for those of you who have never had a Brett yeast beer: Open it over the sink, trust me on that 😉. So let’s crack open this “rendition” of an age old monastery beer already, my throat is feeling parched with all this talk of Brett brews.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: She’s a gusher as expected – my pro tip came in handy with some beer foam finding its way into the sink. When it settled the head was a nice cream-coloured affair with fairly large bubbles, with a cloudy orange body also pleasing to the eye. 8/10.

S: That classic nose-smack of funky/spicy Brett yeast that never gets tired (at least not yet for me), followed by floral and bubblegum notes, and a hint of medicinal herbs – for a dry hopped brew the hops are fairly in line with the yeast/malt characters, surprisingly so. Nonetheless the aroma is spot on full of Belgian goodness which is hard to fault. 9/10.

T: Exceptionally tasty! If you love a Saison with a bit of kick then put this review down right now and go out and buy a bottle of this. Flavours are funky/spicy/barnyard right from the get go, with floral/bubblegum notes, hints of caramel and a decent long dry finish. Aftertaste throws in a light medicinal herb bitterness, other than that though the Brett is a bit subdued with less tartness than usual – not that I’m complaining, this is trucking tasty. 9/10.

M: Brett beers tend to be highly carbed: This is no exception. Medium bodied. 7/10.

D: Let me get the dad joke out of the way first: This is one extraordinary rendition. Yikes, that was the worst kind of dad joke: A dad joke in bad taste. Overall as a Saison lover (my #4 beer of all-time is Dupont Cervesia) and Belgian beer lover in general (6 in my top 10 are Belgian) of course I am destined to fall in love with Rendition. The one problem I had with this is: It should be corked & caged in a 750ml bottle – then instabuy every time 8 Wired! 10/10.

Food match: This is a perfect pairing for a cheese platter.

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Birra Baladin Open Rock ‘n Roll

Total Score: 4.45/10 BrownSugar1DarkFruits1Bread1Tulipglass1

The last of my Birra Baladin mixed 5 comes with a tinge of sadness, they were nothing if not different beers, and being fairly seasoned at this “drinking stuff” it was nice to have something a little different. Not sure when I’ll get a chance to try another Birra Baladin, I’ve not found them anywhere, and I was gifted these brews from a rep. In any case, if I do see another Birra Baladin please make it Nazionale – that has been my favourite of the bunch [don’t count your chickens yet Doc, you’ve still got Open Rock ‘n Roll to review]. Yes, true weird voice in my head that’s probably early signs of dementia expressed in square brackets – you never know, Open Rock ‘n Roll might be better… though I’m cynical.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Uh-oh: crazy secondary fermentation yeast particles floating around in this opaque brownish brew… same thing happened with Wayan, and it wasn’t pretty. Oh well, 3 out of 5 bottles were perfectly fine, can’t win them all. Head is off-white, dense, and provides minimal covering. 5/10.

S: Spicy yeast notes mingle with musty cardboard characters… it’s not great, sorry Birra Baladin, this is going to be another bad scoring beer for you. Whiffs of brown sugar trying to vie for attention with cardboard, it’s like some sort of Bruegelesque nightmare here (Google his The Triumph of Death painting to see where I’m coming from). 4/10.

T: A thin veneer of dark fruits gives way almost immediately to ethanol, at 7.5% ABV this is unusual and I attribute it entirely to the in bottle refermentation. Bold yeast character of musty cardboard throughout the palate is another example of refermentation. Finishes with a sharp spirit note and aftertaste has a grape spirit, or grappa, note… this isn’t even the worst thing I’ve tasted – I would still drink this over a VB. Still, it’s a shame that I didn’t get to try Open Rock ‘n Roll at its best. 4/10.

M: Mid to light bodied and over carbonated from the referment. 6/10.

D: Yep. Not great that this refermented, but them’s the breaks in the beer reviewing game – sometimes you get a brilliant fresh American IPA, and sometimes you get a refermented (whatever style this was) brew. Will it stop me from drinking Birra Baladin again if I see it on a shop shelf? Maybe. Will I drain pour the rest of this glass? Yes, most likely. 5/10.

Food match: No point giving you a food match on this spoiled beer.

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Birra Baladin Super Bitter

Total Score: 7.4/10 Lemon1Caramel1DarkFruits1Tulipglass1

Next up in the mixed 5 beers given to me by the Australian distro of Birra Baladin for the purposes of me liking/reviewing is: Super Bitter. From what I understand Birra Baladin already had a brew called “Super Baladin”, they then decided it wasn’t bitter enough (or something) and rejigged it to be more bitter and released it as “Super Bitter”… at least without any research or confirmation I am totally assuming that is what happened – Dr. Hops, always reporting the real news! You all should know by now that I am super objective in my reviews and would never ever give any beer a good review based on getting it for free – that is why I was surprised by how good Birra Baladin Nazionale was. Am I expecting this to be as good? Not really… let’s see.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy and reasonably opaque Russet body with a thin, tightly compacted, 1 centimetre Ecru head that slowly dissolves leaving a ring. For an 8% ABV brew the head is pretty good… very dense too, expecting a creamy mouthfeel. 9/10.

S: Citrus/caramel characters front and centre. The aroma suggests some sort of IPAesque bitter onslaught, however I could be wrong. Further whiffs include: Bready/floral and lemon notes. Not quite as outstanding and peculiar as their Nazionale, my score reflects this. 7/10.

T: Once again Baladin have thrown me a googly (cricket term: Google it) with a brew that is unlike anything convention has taught me to expect. Yes it has that citric/caramel overtone, however there’s something funky in there as well… hard to describe… sour (maybe rotting) fruit, hints of spice too… bready yeast and a slight floral touch. There is a light alcohol note in the background too, nothing to be alarmed about. Finish manages to be dry with a mild bitterness, and aftertaste is fruity. 7/10.

M: Medium bodied with a nice dense carbonation – yes it has the creaminess I was expecting. 8/10.

D: It’s a Belgio-Italio-American car crash of a beer that again sets Birra Baladin apart from the others (yet at the same time drawing parallels with Birra Del Borgo). Did I like it? Not as much as Nazionale, however it does need to be tasted to be believed IMO – it’s an odd journey into a realm I’ve not discovered and for that I appreciate it, however Nazionale is where it is at for me with these peeps. Birra Del Borgo still edge it in the Italian brewer of my heart stakes. 8/10.

Food match: Stew or a nice Ratatouille with braised beef here.

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St. Stefanus Blonde

Total Score: 7.35/10 RedApple1 Pear1 Peppercorns1 Tulipglass1

St. Stefanus Blonde, from the same brewery (Brouwerij Van Steenberge) that brought us the mighty Gulden Draak and Piraat, this is going to be a good drop have no doubt. Also a steal from DM’s at $50 for 6 x 750ml corked’n caged bottles, which works out to be 8.3333333333… (ad infinitum) dollars. When you’re getting a $12 750ml bottle of 3 Monts and thinking that is cheap $8.33 is a real find, besides I do love a Belgian Strong Pale Ale (just look at my Beeradvocate.com top 10) so I was eager to wrap my gob around this one.

Poured from a 750ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy amber body with a billowy 3 cm off-white head that soon disintegrates leaving a thin lace covering. I have a bias towards cloudy beers which plays somewhat into my score, take a couple points off if you like a clear beer. 8/10.

S: Pear and apple esters upfront and all over your face, bam! Bready overtones balance this out with hints of cracked pepper and clove adding a touch of spice as well. Overall St. Stefanus has a pleasant aroma leaning more towards sweeter characters, looking forward to the next category. 8/10.

T: Fruity with pear and scrumpy red apple cider notes which lead into the aforementioned bread yeast and a cracked pepper/clove flourish towards the end, which is an even crisp and dry, almost vinous (white wine) tannin-like finish. As it warms some metallic notes become ever-present and distract a little from this delightful brew, too bad St. Stefanus. 7/10.

M: Mid to light, could benefit from more heft, with a tack sharp carbonation. 6/10.

D: If you’re going to compare this to the awe-inspiring Duvel or La Chouffe it will (of course) fall short of greatness. Nonetheless this is a great buy at the price, I would easily spend $10 a 750ml bottle on a brew of this calibre, so don’t mistake St. Stefanus for an average Belgian Strong Pale Ale because it is a decent brew, unfortunately it resides in the style pantheon of the greatest brews. Interestingly I noticed “rice” listed as an ingredient in this beer, anno 1295, European brew? Something is amiss here – I don’t recall hearing about European beers having rice in them back in 1295… or hops even… or anything other than Gruit* in those days. 8/10.

Food match: Cheese platter, obviously, and that old catch-all: Brasserie food.

*Google is your friend.

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Bush Ambrée

Total Score: 7.6/10 Pear1 DarkFruits1 GreenApple1 Chalice1

Now there are two types of bush in this world: One that produces delicious berries, and George W Bush. Hopefully Bush Ambrée is good Bush. TBH, this one caught me by surprise, I thought I had reviewed some pretty big Belgian beers in the past but Bush claims to be “THE STRONGEST BELGIAN BEER” quite prominently on the back label. I had to check back over all the Belgian beers I’ve reviewed and the only thing that comes close to 12% ABV is Trappistes Rochefort 10 at 11.3%… so I guess Bush is the strongest then.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Chimay chalice.

A: Yee HAW! We got us a heap o’ them yeast particles floating around up in them there glass *best Yosemite Sam impression*. Along with a typical amber body and thin white lace I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much yeast floating in a glass, it’s a massive yeast party [insert highly (in)appropriate yeast infection joke here]… a little off-settling actually. 6/10.

S: Over ripe apples and pear, hints of dark fruit and quite a big boozy note, hope it’s not a half glass of beer with Grandmas brandy making up the rest, fingers crossed. Add a truckload of sugar, and you’ll be spot on the aroma of Bush. 7/10.

T: Yep. Sugar. Truckloads. But we expected that from the Belgians who famously use truckloads of sugar in their brews, and this is THE strongest Belgian beer one can buy, so yeah, obvious really. Once you get past the overbearing sweetness though there are some nice flavours at play with the over ripe apples, pears providing some acidity to cut through the sweetness, along with notes of plum with bready yeast, and a medicinal bitter finish. 8/10.

M: Medium to heavy body with a dense, excitable carbonation. 7/10.

D: Good? Yes. I can however feel a headache coming on like a swarm of sharks smelling blood in the water. Better pop a couple Aspirin with this brew. I do appreciate that my face is warm now, living in Canberra (which is the Australian word for “cold winters”). Overall though this beer is competing in the best stable in the world – the pedigree of Belgian Strong Ales, and there are many other great options: Duvel (of course!), La Chouffe, Piraat and Delirium Tremens. That said it is cheaper than all of those… this is then, I do declare, the best cheapest Belgian Strong Ale you can get, yay! 8/10.

Food match: Ibuprofen, Panadol and Aspirin – pick your poison. Or cheese platter.

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Leffe Rituel 9°

Total Score: 7.1/10 GreenApple1 Bread1 Pear1 Tulipglass1

Beer: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the beer-blogger Doc. His five-year mission: to explore strange new Ales, to seek out new Double Imperial IPAs and new Bière de Gardes, to boldly drink where no man has drunk before* [cue Beer Trek theme]. Today’s review in the lead up to my #500 milestone (for those keeping track this is #496) is Leffe Rituel 9°. Now those of you familiar with my reviews on BeerAdvocate will know that I’m not Leffe’s biggest fan – I find their beers sweet to the point of requiring an Insulin injection (i.e. too sweet). What makes me think 9° will be any different? I don’t really, but I’ll give Leffe another shot because I trust the monks when it comes to beer (religion “no”, beer “yes”).

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Presents a hazy deep orange body with cream coloured 1cm dense head that leaves some light lace patches around the glass. Impressive head for a 9% ABV brew. Most impressive. 9/10.

S: Aroma is sweet over ripe cider apples, a hint of clove spice, followed by doughy bread yeast and a touch of pear/banana… then add A TRUCKLOAD OF SUGAR!!! Dammit Leffe, you always do that to me! It’s not all bad though – the truckload of sugar does accentuate the fruity esters of apple, pear and banana, in fact it’s like sniffing a bowl of fruit salad… with a truckload of sugar on top. 7/10.

T: Cloying sugar up front, we expected that from you Mr. Leffe, however what we didn’t expect was how the array of other flavours would work together (well it turns out): overripe cider apples, clove, pear, banana with a hit of brandy and a sourdough bread yeast middle. The flavour can be best described as “a bowl of overripe fruit, covered in sugar and fermented with sour Saison yeast”. Not bad but that sugar, again Leffe. 7/10.

M: Leffe generally get this part right, and Rituel 9° is no exception: Medium bodied with a dense but light carbonation. 9/10.

D: I would love Leffe if they toned down their sugar – they combine classic Belgian tastes well, Rituel 9° included. If you want something similar but less cloying I would go with the brilliant Brasserie d’Achouffe’s La Chouffe (the one with the Gnome on the bottle)… I guess that’s high praise for Leffe. 6/10.

Food match: The acidity of a cheese platter to cut through all the sweetness.

*Yes I’m watching Star Trek reruns, what of it?

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