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.