HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Category: Craft Beer (Page 1 of 2)

California Dungeness Crab Bisque

California Dungeness Crab Bisque

California Dungeness Crab Bisque

Crabbing on kayaks in Humboldt Bay is rewarding

When in Northern California, do as the Humboldtians do, go crabbing. Except when there is a harmful red tide going on. Then you don’t go crabbing. You go eating. But here’s what to do when you can go back in.

Crab. Dungeness Crab. Metacarcinus magister. Named by the English Naval Captain George Vancouver after the arrowhead-shaped headland in Kent, England, this super middleweight gets its name from the town of Dungeness in Washington’s Juan de Fuca Strait, the watery border between the U.S. and Canada. Native only of the Pacific coast with commercial fisheries from Alaska to Point Conception, California, “Dungies” are trap-caught, which allows for the release of bycatch (inadvertent fish caught in trap), and therefore considered sustainable by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

Read More

Cooking with Craft Beer

Cooking with Craft Beer

Let’s get something straight. I am a middle-aged Caucasian American male married with small children. I work for a large corporation. I have a car and a house and all the different kinds of obligatory insurances and a smart phone and I play fantasy football and I drink beer and then instagram photos of the beer. I probably seem like a very typical person who is not very interesting to anyone whom I do not financially support, and even then only peripherally. Even I am mostly bored by me. Pragmatic and realistic, I have been tucking in button up shirts for what feels like years now. Compared to how I used to live–doing freelance photography while traveling abroad for years at a time on a shoestring budget, now writing this is as exciting as it gets. I remember when I was a child I used to get excited by so many different things, and what made me happy most was swimming at the beach amid the daily barrage of everything that felt so new. However fresh things may have been, I was always skeptical. I do remember feeling that the whole Santa Claus / Jesus ruse was always bullshit. The closest I ever got to feeling something about the Hand of God was if I went to the bathroom while watching a Dodger game, I swore that I had affected the outcome of the game (if I do #1 versus #2 will Fernando Valenzuela strike out Mike Schmidt? or will he homer?) Having somehow become a typical middle-aged white dude, I had to ask Well, what else is new?

...caramelized red onion relish with jalapeños, nonpareil capers, tomatoes, garlic, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and yes, beer, cooked slowly until yummy. Click To Tweet

Cooking with Craft Beer

It’s hard to stay saucy.

The old adage that Time Flies should be prefaced by (The Older One Gets…) Time just flies. This past year(s) has been a whirlwind. It feels as if it has been ages since I actually sat down to write something. All the ideas are still there (I hope…), but actually getting them down on–forget paper–screen, has been something of a challenge. But one of those intangible, foggy challenges one doesn’t realize even exists. You just wake up one day with words spilling out of your head and your fingers itching to get back to the keyboard and well, there you are. What had been (or perhaps it is better to put it, what had not been) happening prior to that could be any number and combination of minute chemical, psychological, or physical factors, which will indubitably go to fill that ever expanding pile of remaining a Mystery For All Time (or my MFAT ratio as I like to say…)

What is worth writing about these days? Wikipedia has cancelled this page, although this page will give you some results. Unique visitors are up but overall visits are down (is that due to actual living visitors perusing and lack of bots or something else…?). Urban dictionary has mixed reviews. There’s all the great music out this year. All the beer and books. But when you really think about what is important, long and lazy Saturday afternoons were born for gastronomic exploration and beer drinking. Experimenting with good food is a great way to please your spouse and avoid watching another goddamned Mickey Mouse video with the kids. Turn on some music, break out the dance moves and teach them how to cook! Cracking a couple of Belgian IPAs and American Saisons along the way not only can’t hurt the experience, but can add flavor to the recipe of life.

Cooking with Craft Beer

The dough:

* 4 1/2 Cups High Gluten Flour (add some whole wheat for roughage)
* 1 3/4 Tsp High Grade Salt (Sel de Mer or Himalayan, Hawaiian, etc…)
* 1 Tsp Yeast
* 1 3/4 Cup Cold Water Beer

Mix the dry components into the flour to distribute well. Please tell me you have a mixer, but if not you will want to add the beer slowly while kneading the mixture (adding a bit more beer or flour as needed) until coalesced into a great big brown lump of raw love. If you do have a mixer, put in the dough hook and let’er rip for 5 minutes or so. If not, I hope you work out ‘cos your forearms are soon to be burning.

Cut into four, knead into pretty balls, oil’em up like your Swedish Masseuse and throw in the fridge. They’ll last for up to week but are best used within two-three days. You use cold beer to delay the fermentation process, which takes place in the fridge overnight. Longer, slower fermentation means a healthier, tastier pie. Just ask the scientists. There are many other recipes in which I use beer to add flavor. In most cases it is best used at room temperature and flat, much like myself.

The sauce I use is a basic caramelized red onion relish with a combination of jalapeños, nonpareil capers, tomatoes, garlic, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and yes, beer, cooked slowly until yummy. Cook ahead of time and let cool to room temp before adding as base sauce to dough. Take the dough balls out at least two hours before using. Once ready to make your pie, press and toss the dough (do not roll) to the desired size, spread on the relish, top with a mixture of cheeses (fresh mozza, meunster, crumbled bleu, brie, et al) and a few flavorful toppings.

So what is worth writing about? Despite not really liking the word itself, happiness, is worth writing about. Or at least writing about what provides that intangible satisfied feeling, when thought passes away and there is just the person and people around you, smiling through faces stuffed with great homemade pizza and homebrewed craft beer. What else is there really, but variations on this theme?

Taste Testing Chainbreaker White IPA

Taste Testing Chainbreaker White IPA

I had the opportunity to taste test White IPA A versus White IPA B a few years ago when in Portland’s Pearl District I happened across the Deschutes Brew Pub. It wasn’t any kind of special event that I was specifically invited to, but rather Deschutes offers tasters of their Beers To Come to the public. It’s a great program that let’s the average Bearded Joe Craft Beer Drinker feel like they know what they are talking about when they drink a beer. I’m pretty sure I wrote something about "the fruity frothy white reminds me of a shaken not stirred Welch’s white grapejuice" kind of ignorant bullshit.

But the IPA, Wheat at a medium ABV of 5.6% packs just enough IBUs at 55 to please multiple camps of beer drinkers–enough to satisfy the hardcore heavy IPA thrashers who wake up to a smoothie of Ninkasi Tricerahops and Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, as well as the lighter Belgian Wit loving orange and coriander flavor savorers. Brewed with pilsner malt and both malted and unmalted wheat, Chainbreaker White IPA has enough citrusy IPA guts from Bravo, Cascade and Centennial hops that meld with the esters of Belgian yeast to make it the best of both worlds. This is the beer Blue Moon dreams it could have been at night.

Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon

Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon

Salmon season has begun in Alaska, and the King (Chinook), Chum (Keta), Silver (Coho), Pink (Humpy), and Red (Sockeye) are the salmon species most frequently targeted in freshwater and saltwater sport fisheries. Starting in May and June with King Salmon, June and July are good are good times for Reds, while Pinks & Chum have a short season in July and August, Silvers can often peak in September. In Alaska, although salmon returns to streams near the major population center is relatively small, large returns do occur on other more remote areas which are accessible only by boat or by floatplane. Lakes and the mouths of rivers typically provide exceptional angling opportunities for sockeye salmon during June and July and then again for coho during August.

TASTING NOTES: A bold and balanced IPA.
13 INGREDIENTS: Rogue Farms Dare™, Risk™, Maier Munich & Dare™ R-3 Malts; Rogue Farms Liberty, Newport, Revolution, Rebel, Independent, Freedom & Alluvial Hops; Pacman Yeast & Free-Range Coastal Water
Crafted with 7 of the 8 Hops grown at Rogue Farms.
22oz Bottle & 4 Pack / 18° Plato / 7.77% ABV / 76 IBU / 78 AA / 16° L

Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon

Craft Beer - What's On Tap for 2015

Craft Beer – What’s On Tap for 2015

Craft Beer – What’s On Tap for 2015

2014 was a blur of craft beer. It feels as if I was finally awakened to all of life’s infinite malt possibilities, but I know that it’s just the beginning. 2015 promises to be equally exciting and full of new and delicious surprises. The big ABV boys were out at play in the barley fields of the lord. Sierra Nevada, Boston Beer, and New Belgium led the way for the craft beer industry, but limited run ales, as well as multiple hopped IPAs from Lagunitas, Rogue Ales, Brooklyn Brewery, Stone, Dogfish Head, Boulevard, Harpoon, Deschutes sold out regularly throughout the US and the Double IPA saw a large showing as well. Stronger beer seemed to be what was on the menu. But in order to grow beyond the roughly 5% market share they currently possess in the domestic market, smaller craft breweries will have to diversify. It looks like we could be in for a wave of lighter, flavored and session brews running anywhere from a demure 4%- to a slightly less timid 6% ABV. 2015 will be the year of the Wheat Shandy and the Milk Stout. Here’s the rundown of what 2014 tasted like. And cheers to the new year!

Duvel – Blonde Devil

Duvel – Blonde Devil

Duvel Brewery, Belgium

Pale Ale. The name rolls euphoniously off the tongue almost as smoothly as what it describes. The pale varieties of ale have proliferated in recent years, each branching off into seemingly infinite and opposite directions of the basic characteristics of what defines this most popular of brews: Amber, American Pale, Bière de Garde, Blonde, Bitter, Irish Red, India Pale, Strong pale, American Strong, Scotch. Yet despite their differences–and provenances–all of the following share the singularity of the Pale Malt.

Say “malt” five times fast. A bit of a strange word, isn’t it? From Old Norse, similar to melt, malt is kiln-dried barley that has been germinated. Kilning at higher temperatures than lager malt gives pale malt a toastier flavor well suited to pale ales. Unlike some specialty malts, pale requires mashing, the hot water bath process to hydrate the barley, which activates the malt enzymes, and converts the grain starches molecules into fermentable sugars*. Because the yeast need to eat before they excrete ethanol and they like it sweet.

The other important part of the singularity of pale ale is the Saccharomyces Cerevisiae strain of yeast which differentiates the Ale from the Lager. Cerevisiae, as well as being central to the fermentation of wine-making and baking, likes warm temperatures, and is generally, if not anachronistically, called top fermenting, unlike lager yeast, which sinks to the bottom. There is a joke there somewhere, but I’ll leave it for now.

The prototypical pale (although specifically a Belgian Strong Pale) is Duvel. Produced by Duvel Moortgat Brewery, Duvel is not the traditional Belgian brew. The main difference between other Belgian Beer and Duvel is the Moortgat strain of yeast still which stems from a culture of Scottish yeast bought by Albert Moortgat during a business tour of the U.K. just after World War I. And although surrounded by Trappist beer, the Moortgat family has been brewing delicious beer for generations using a simple recipe of pilsner malt and dextrose, and hopping with Noble Saaz and Styrian Goldings, the Slovenian variety of British Fuggle. Yes, hop names come from the characters in Harry Potter.

Duvel – Blonde Devil

Why so pro Duvel? All expenses paid first-class trips to Belgium? Ha! Are they paying me in cases of beer? I wish…but alas I have to buy it just like everyone else. Truthfully it is the seductive combination of the following:

Appearance: Golden Blonde with a clear body and thick white head.
Aroma: Fruit, Straw.
Flavor and Mouthfeel: Lightly but firmly hopped with a fizzy, almost champagne-y touch of dryness on the tongue. Low acid and lack of bitterness lend ease of drinkability fooling the palate into thinking for itself and ordering ahead of schedule.
Alcohol Content: Strong 8.5 ABV with slight aroma of alcohol present in the head.

Beyond the basic Duvel, they also produce the stronger Triple Hop Pale Ale (adding the American Cascade hops to the 2014 version for a special variety of bitter devilry), and recently they licensed the Maredsous Abbey name to produce the dark, rich-bodied Benedictine brew Maredsous Triple, which at 10° ABV, packs a powerful punch yet remains amicably drinkable and overall gives off an old oak-refined finish with a light tinge of fruit, wrapped in a lush summertime breeze of hops, leaving only its smooth creamy head behind. Once you have entered the Maredsous universe (also a Maredsous 6° Blonde and a Maredsous 8° Bruin) there is little else that can grab your attention. Something your toothless uncle would drink on Tuesday mornings because it’s better than Muesli.

The Duvel Moortgat brewery acquired Brewery Ommegang, the US-based Belgian style craft beer kings in 2003 (which brewed a Game of Thrones series of ales last year…I’ll have the Blonde Khalisi please…) and recently they bought a majority stake in one of my favorite American breweries, Boulevard Brewing as well as California Craftbeer King Firestone Walker Brewing. It is nice to know that with AB-InBev assimilating all of the craft breweries they can, there are some brewing companies that will remain as independent and insulated as possible from the growing onslaught of adjunct lagerfication. You know, heat rises, but this little devil, when mixed with the pale malt and any variety of and combination of hops, will take you down to the baddest place around.

*Thanks to John Palmer’s excellent resource How To Brew.

Westmalle Trappist Tripel - 9.5ABV - Brouwerij Westmalle

Trappist Beer – The Divine Brew

Trappist Beer – The Divine Brew

What does it mean: Trappist Beer and why does it start at six dollars a bottle (if you can get it at all)? After a bit of imbibed research and some hard sought questions in a few local European Beer Pubs, I’ve found out some interesting facts about what makes a Trappist Ale so special, and why they’re themselves worth the trip to the countryside Abbeys of Belgium (plus The Netherlands, Austria & yes, the USA). First, onto the monks themselves.

The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.: Ordo Cisterciensis Strictioris Observantiae), or Trappists (who get their name from the original La Trappe Abbey, named so for its isolation in a Normandy valley), are a contemplative Roman Catholic religious order, that follows the Rule of St. Benedict, summarized in the motto, ora et labora (“pray and work”). That work tends to be the production of bread, cheese and, some of the best beer the world has ever quaffed.

The rules and regulations of Trappist Beer as set down by the International Trappist Association (ITA) in 1997 state that the beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, by or under control of Trappist monks. The brewery, the choices of brewing, and the commercial orientations must obviously depend on the monastic community. The economic purpose of the brewery must be directed toward assistance and not toward financial profit. And the beer must be kickass.

Trappist Brewery World Map

Trappist Brewery World Map

There are currently 10 International Trappist Association recognized breweries that are allowed to have their products wear the Authentic Trappist Product logo:

  • Brasserie de Rochefort – Belgium – 1595
  • Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle – Belgium – 1836
  • Brouwerij Westvleteren/St Sixtus – Belgium – 1838
  • Bières de Chimay – Belgium – 1863
  • Brasserie d’Orval – Belgium – 1931
  • Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis (Achel) – Belgium – 1998
  • Brouwerij de Koningshoeven (La Trappe) – Netherlands – 1884
  • Stift Engelszell – Austria – 2012
  • St. Joseph’s Abbey – United States – 2013
  • Brouwerij Abdij Maria Toevlucht – Netherlands – 2014

Why is Trappism so fitting for the brewing of premium beer?

In a word: Quality. Devoted to the Good Work as they are, the monks have long been the key to the survival of the analog ways of classic beer fermentation. The Reinheitsgebot, the Bavarian beer purity law of the 15th century states that beer should only be made with barley, hops and water. The fact that yeast was unknown to the German brewers of the time notwithstanding, it was the peasants of Northwestern Europe (Belgium, France, Netherlands) who began to use distinctly un-beer-like ingredients to add flavor, such as citrus and herbs. to make Saisons and other beer, which remember, dear drinker, was once brewed in open vats, leaving the wind to germinate–and flavor–with whatever happened to fly by and drop in. For the Germans, who developed the bottom-fermenting lagern method of cellaring beer to keep it at a constant temperature (and ipso facto inadvertently gave birth to the modern Budweiser), this method of brewing was messy, undisciplined, unfathomable. So as much as we are dealing with the German certainty that comes with controlled chemical reactions, we are also left to waft in the Gallic wind as the Hand of the Almighty Brewer mixes his nectar for us–by way of the monks who protect his secret recipe–to slip behind the veil if only a wee bit to witness the golden ale light of the divine elixir. Chance or Divine Providence? Depends on your upbringing. Depends on your outlook. But enough flim-flam. On to the drink!

What is a typical Trappist Ale?

Belgian Beer Bubbles!

Belgian Beer Bubbles!

Many of these top-fermented ales are cap numbered (6, 8, 10, etc.) dating from the days before labels, when barrels were marked with one, two or three crosses, generally to denote strength, which translated into three simple categories: Enkel, Dubbel, Tripel. While the Enkel is not really brewed much anymore, some breweries offer more sessionable varieties of the stronger versions on tap at the brewpub. If you have never been to one of these abbeys, then all you may know of the Cistercian brewery is the Dubbel and the Tripel.


The origin of the dubbel bubbled forth from Westmalle in 1856. Hence Westmalle Dubbel is the benchmark and has been imitated by many other breweries worldwide, leading to the emergence of the Dubbel as a distinct style. Apart from the classic Westmalle, the Chimay Red, La Trappe Dubbel, Ommegang and New Belgium‘s Abbey Ale are delicious examples of a strong, dark dubbel.

Dubbels are a strong, dark ale (brown color comes from dark malts) with full flavor flavor and a robust body. And while not as overtly aromatic as one would first notice after pouring the molasses-hued ale into a snifter-like glass with a wide lip and taking the initial sip, swishing the more complex, caramel-textured flavors about one’s mouth, encountering an unexpected dry cereal crispness and fruity complexity, one’s interest is more than piqued. You long for a day reserved for solely for drinking down these dark candy sugared Dubbels while picnicking on apples and grapes and cheese and freshly baked bread in the pastoral sun of a Belgian lea surrounded by wildflowers and bubbly Belgique Belles Femmescooing haughtily into your warm ears. Pour another one sir, for though these bottle-fermented ales are slightly heavy, they go down smoother than panties on well-lotioned thighs.


Tripels - So Many Choices

Trappist Beer Tripels – So Many Choices

There you are again, perusing the bottled multitudes at the the high-end organic co-op your wife props up with your paycheck. You’re eyeing a sixer of good microbrew to see you through yet another holiday party. You move to the last shelf and see the individual bottles and Flash! An Epiphany. Chimay Cinq Cents. You see the maple colored bottle and its straw label modestly boasting its diminutive “Tripel”. Triple what? Taste? Creamy Golden-ness? Despite the pale, straw colored ale, triple the strength. Not overly, but perfectly, hopped (Surprisingly, the monks use the American-grown Nugget hop), on opening (or decorking if you’ve got the 75cl bottle) an evanescent aroma reminiscent of a fresh harvest of hops just after a rainstorm issues forth. Send the relatives home, grab your glass and get thee to a comfortable chair. This strong pale brew, evanescent of fruity esters with just a touch of ephemeral bitterness washed away so quickly another sip is quite in order, deserves an audience. It needs a deep rich mahogany coffee table and a warm fire, and a finely-sweatered Northern European female by your side. Swirl. Take another sip. Swirl again. Then one more. Maybe that’s what the “Tripel” stands for. All sips come in threes. Though slow down, cowboy. This is made by monks. Trappist monks. Think Sloths. Slow but strong. They cruise relaxedly chuckling away to God while beer bubbles foam away on upper lips, these giddy brewmeisters, high on hops, fermented to high heaven, they take their time. As should you, mon frere. Letting the creamy head mellow and the rich amber settle, take another whiff and let the aromas pour over your skin, feel the soft bite of apples, sniff again and quickly now, take a deep drink, getting the head all over you as the color of caramelized happy liquid floats so smoothly down your throat. The strong crisp taste of raisins lingers so luxuriously on your tongue, on second (or third) thought, taking another sip too quickly is not recommended. Let it rest. Happy Holidays.

Achel Blonde 8° ABV

Achel Blonde 8° ABV

It is said that he first golden tripel was produced by the Three Lindens brewery, post-war, when, as famed Beer Hunter Michael Jackson says, “brewers of strong, top-fermenting beers were trying to compete with Pilsener-style lagers. When the Three Linden brewery closed, its product, under the name Witkap, was taken over by the Slaghmuylder brewery, at Ninove, west of Brussels.”

Yet it was, once again the Westmalle version that is considered to be the foundation of this beer style as well. Though striking from the label to the glass bin, Achel Blonde proves that those who drink Blondes do have more fun. I am having more fun than before I opened the bottle. One could only imagine what would ensue if this weren’t merely a bottle containing a beautifully crafted tripel brewed by an order of Belgian monks who’ve been chased out of their abbey time and again (first by the French revolution and then the nazis). The smallest of the Trappist breweries, the Achel freres began brewing again in 1998 and seemingly have never looked back. The proof is in the pour. Patience is the key word here, because it takes what must be referred to as a Belgian Minute in the Trappist lingua franca for the thick, creamy head to dissipate. Notable non-Trappist Tripels include Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet 8.4% ABV, Unibroue La Fin du Monde 9.0% ABV, St. Bernardus Tripel 8.0% ABV, Gouden Carolus Tripel 9.0% ABV, St Feuillien Triple 8.5% ABV, Ommegang Tripel Perfection 8.9% ABV, Boulevard Smokestack Series – Long Strange Tripel 9.2% ABV.

Like many of the Trappist (and non-Trappist) breweries of North-Western Europe, there are varieties offered solely within the confines of the brewery itself. Achel offers the lower ABV Blonde 5% and Brune 5% only on tap (and how delicious that must be–“Friar Tuck, pour me another!”), while the Achel Extra, 9.5% ABV Blonde is only available in the 75 cl bottle. The incentive being to get thee to the chapel.


Chimay Blue, 9% abv Belgian Strong Dark Ale, also known as Grande Réserve.

Chimay Blue, 9% abv Belgian Strong Dark Ale, also known as Grande Réserve.

While the overall style of Trappist brewing is one of strict observance of style and discipline within a world dominated by “beer” brewed with whatever ingredient (soy and corn) happens to most cheaply prevalent, there are a few breweries who don’t strictly follow the traditional enkel, dubbel, tripel format. That’s where the Quad comes in. Quadrupel is a new style loosely based on strong dark ales, well-spiced with notes of citrus and pepper and an ABV over 10%. Just over the Belgian border in the southern part of the Netherlands is the De Koningshoeven Brewery, best known as La Trappe, the most commercial of the Trappist breweries. They produce a Blond (6.5% ABV), a Dubbel (7% ABV), Tripel (8% ABV), a Witte (5.5% ABV), a seasonal Bockbier (7% ABV), and an organic brew named PUUR (4.7% ABV). The brewery also has become known for its La Trappe Quadrupel (10% ABV), following suit in terms of gradually stronger ABV than the dubbel or tripel, while retaining its overall drinkability, despite a boozy tinge of flatness that sets in about halfway point, a slight downer in an generally good drinking experience that could be eliminated with age.

It has been said that The Best Beer In The World is made at the Westvleteren Brewery in West Flanders, and is sold exclusively to individuals (who must promise before god not to resell) at the abbey store, who have called in advance. You probably have to do some push-ups as well. The Trappist Westvleteren 12 (Strong Belgian Dark Ale, 10.2° ABV), sells for 40 Euros per 24 bottles (plus 12 Euro bottle deposit). Quite a deal for locals, but tough for American Beer Enthusiasts to get a glass. The last of the major breweries to hold out to international distribution, the monks of St Sixtus also deem it perfectly acceptable to bottle their brews without labels. That must be some brew if they don’t feel the need to label it nor let most of the outside world purchase it. It goes back to a post-war accommodation between a local brewer who produced a similar yet noticeably different brew for distribution until the early 90s. When the deal ended so did Westvleteren desire to expand. When I went to Brugge several years ago, I was too young to drink anything but Stella Artois. I have not yet been back, but in one of his reviews, Michael Jackson says, “Beers of ‘triple’ strength are said to have been especially associated with the city of Bruges.” Good enough reason to book a return trip.

Moving east through the Ardennes toward Luxembourg it is beer-growing country. Take the locally plentiful crops of barley, hops and wheat, add the monks of Abbey Our Lady of St Rémy and you get the heady brews of Rochefort. Upon opening a lanky brown bottle of Rochefort 10 (blue cap, 11.3% ABV), a dark and immediate bouquet grabs one’s olfactory senses and takes one back to the days of Saint Rémy. Before then even, the Abbey was founded in 1230, and the monks began to brew beer sometime around 1595. Survivors of local invasions, greedy plunderers, monastic and social revolutions–and yes, the nazis–the motto Curvata Resurgo (Curved, I straighten up), which illustrate the three theological virtues: the palm tree (faith), the star (hope), and the rose (charity), does well to demonstrate the resolve of these Trappists in their dedication to beer brewing as the lord’s calling. But don’t go expecting to have a revelatory experience at the tap, because they only bottle to go.

The more pagan aspects of my mind imagines skinny dipping with sirens in vast natural hot springs of strong malt surrounded by oak-boasting mistletoe with wild almonds growing poolside and you have an inkling of how smoothly the 11.3% alcohol volume slides you into a medieval reverie. There you are cavorting like a drunken cherub in the smooth leather-colored waters when you get the urge to dive, to sink down deep into beery abyss and chase the roots of malted hop eddies unseen. You drain your glass and the silt of more than 400 years of utopian brewing ideals sinks into your tongue, penetrating deeper than mere mortal taste buds allow.

Spencer Trappist Ale - Cheers to the Future

Spencer Trappist Ale – Cheers to the Future

Of the Trappist breweries, the monks of the Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval are perhaps the most independent, producing only two beers: Orval and Petite Orval (a light 3.2% ABV brew mostly for their own consumption). So they make one beer, fermented with Brettanomyces lambicus, which produces the yeasty and spicily aromatic Orval Belgian Pale Ale, 6.2% ABV. The bottle, though nicely shaped, is uneventful considering its boastful Trappist brethren. But then Orval is not the average Trappist beer, if indeed there could be one described as “average”. It has a smoother, more refined, decidedly English air about its orange caramel body, easily observed as early as the pour. This beer is not malt heavy, though does contain pale barley malt. Rather Orval depends more on two stages of hops: an initial dry-hopping as well as the various Hallertau, Styrian Goldings and French Strisselspalt hops. The first taste, a tinge on the bitter side, rather leathery and unfruity, seems overly yeasty and a bit disappointing. Midway through the beer, still nonplussed, I begin to picture the hard-working monks in their habits and their haircuts, toiling away all these hundreds of years. I consider the fact that there are a mere ten Trappist breweries worldwide and that Orval is exported to the four corners of the globe. Maybe it’s just a bad bottle…? As I ponder not so much why I dislike Orval as opposed to why it’s merely not up to par with its Trappist roots, something happens. The beer shifts and the heretofore untasted bounty of flavors begins to show its Belgian blood. Compelled to continue to the last hop-rich gulp, the last few sips are reminiscent of a crescendo, and a strange buzzing of sorts, an aria if you will, arises upon draining the glass, dissipating only as the eager candy-colored liquid works it way molasses-like down my throat. Orval is an opera. It needs to develop and can stand up well to cellaring. Give it the temperament it deserves.

Having yet the honor to taste anything brewed in Austria’s Stift Engelszell, Massachusett’s St. Joseph’s Abbey, or the Dutch Brouwerij Abdij Maria Toevlucht, no comment will be made here as to the quality of their brew, save for one: Should it be prophesied that these strong ales are destined for a chance in a chalice to dance across my lips, to alight upon the taste buds of my tongue and down into the darkened regions of my belly to enlighten my body and mind to their delicate and divine mysteries, I would be a willing initiate.

Pauwel Kwak Amber Ale

Pauwel Kwak Amber Ale

Pauwel Kwak Amber Ale 8.4ABV from Brouwerij Bosteels

Pauwel Kwak Amber Ale 8.4ABV from Brouwerij Bosteels © Adrian Storey

In the ever expanding brewhead of HESO Magazine’s Beer of the Year of the Beer, we present (as if you didn’t already know and weren’t already awkwardly tilting one back) Pauwel Kwak, or just Kwak to his friends.

Named after an apocryphal 18th-century innkeeper and brewer, Pauwel Kwak, Kwak is an amber ale that is served in a particularly distinctive branded glass–basically a scientist’s lab beaker, stood upright in a wooden stand for easy to grab-and-drink-ness.

Brouwerij Bosteels is a brewery founded in 1791 in Buggenhout, Belgium, which brews three beers: Tripel Karmeliet, DeuS, and Pauwel Kwak, here served in its traditional glass. The brewery claims the glass was designed by Kwak the innkeeper for coachmen who would stop at his coaching tavern and brewery named “De Hoorn”, but weren’t allowed to go in for a drink. The wooden stand stabilized the horsemen’s ability to drink and drive a team of horses on potholed old European dirt roads. Somewhere along the dusty road of history it fell from the carriage of man’s achievements and was forgotten. Until roughly 1980, when it was rediscovered and brought back into the fold of history’s favored children’s favorite beer-drinking devices. It’s carnival-esque for sure, but as far as Amber Ales go, Kwak is one of the best.

The typical Belgian ale is a heady brew with an initial appearance that can foam up a puffy white head quickly upon opening and should solidify into a good inch or two of good mouthfeel as the deep amber colored ale issues forth. Many Belgian brews are spiced, coriander being a favorite herb and Kwak has a strong malty, sweet aroma. With both a hoppy and fruity spice to its medium body, the carmely taste doesn’t overpower, but fades nicely, if a bit dryly, replaced with nothing overly bitter, as Orval tends to do. The drinkability is overwhelmingly positive, but at 8.4abv, wouldn’t suggest more than one 75 cl bottle, even if you need something to help swallow the whole Kwak story.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén