A Sour Stroll Through Belgium…

Good evening all, tonight we have coverage of a small tasting the local beer geek crew partook in.  We didn’t get to Vlad, Barrel’d Everett, or that sneaky elusive Druiven Gueuze (which is going in my celler for a long time).  We did, however, get to De Struise Aardmonnik/Earthmonk 33cl, Mikkeller Special Series: Cherry Alive! 25cl, and Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze Vintage 75cl (Red Label, 2002, hand dated).

Jen and John broke out several cheeses, some grapes, apples, regular and sweet potato fries, and some crackers.  All of which paired really well with the sour “over the pond” excursion of a lineup we had.

First up was the Mikkeller Special Series: Cherry Alive!.  Which, while a tiny odd shapen bottle, had a beautiful pale burgundy wax.  I don’t believe this one has ever seen these shores for distribution.  Huge Thanks to Rachel for sending this one from Belgium specifically for the tasting group, not to mention the Malvasia (Druiven Gueuze).  According to the label, this particular brew was aged in Cantillon barrels with their Kriek cherries and rings in at quite a hefty 9%abv.

The appearance is decent, but nothing really spectacular.  A slight orange tinge to an otherwise ruby coloring with a meager off white head.  Not hazy but not exactly clear either.  White the head would say little carbonation, there were bubble pockets all over the glass within moments.

The aroma is mostly ethanol for me.  Not extremely pleasant, but there is a kick of acidity and tart burn to the nose.  Some Cantillon funk can be perceived on the back end of things.  Reminiscent of Duck-Duck Gooze or Flaming Fury.  In other words, extremely acidic and lively on the nose.

The taste is definitely a high point though.  Hits the tongue with an apple cider character.  It just feels like a nice viscous cider.  Little carbonation, I was expecting more life but was wrong.  Makes the namesake a little ironic though.  Very little alcohol on the taste, but there is a heavy warmth, although I think it’s the acidic shine.  Loads of oak and woody qualities play with the tart acids and that’s about the end of the complexity here.

Overall it was an enjoyable brew, I just think our bottle might have been past it’s prime.  I love heavily acidic beers, this one just fell short of the mark.  I’ve been kind of spoiled with vintage Cantillon though.  Price per ounce on this one is rough, worth a try though.***

Onto one I’ve been wanting to try for some time.   De Struise Aardmonnik/Earthmonk, a rather traditional Oude Bruin.  This is a 2008 bottle and also may have been a little past prime.  8%abv and according to the label, 5000 bottles every 2 years.  I’d like to get my hands on a fresher one, although some harsh descriptors were thrown around by some of the tasting members haha.  Things like blood, scabs, and other tasty terminology.

It poured a deep dark mahogany with crimson edges.  A very small head and little carbonation.  Extreme alcohol legs though.  Coats the glass with a visible tan slick film as it’s tossed about.

The nose brings some heavy sour notes but they feel restrained.  As if they could explode at any second.  Some light malt sweetness finds it’s way out, almost a floral honey like quality.  Loads of plum notes as well.  Plum, figs, some vanilla and some oaky notes.

The tongue gets loads of plums too.  Light kisses of tartness and acidity.  I thought the nose hinted at more but again I was wrong.  It’s very nice, a thoroughly enjoyable bruin.  A nice drying quality in the finish but it lacks that trademark Struise crispness.***

And now the highlight in my eyes.  Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze Vintage.  Red Label.  Bottled April 13, 2002.   The bottle is beautiful, the label is beautiful, hand dated, and over eight years old.  6%abv.  This is one of the more sought after Vintage’s of Armand’s wonderous gueuze blends.  And my friends, it is so completely worth it.  One of the top aromas I’ve encountered.  It is amazing.

As usual, Armand’s Vintage blends shine like the goddamn sun.  Beautiful appearance.  Tangerine orange with bright, vibrant yellow highlights.  I swear it glows.  A nice fluffy white head.  I think I’m witnessing perfection.  At least in my young eyes.

The aroma.  Sweet baby jebus.  Intensely intoxicating funk punches through in an incredibly refreshing way.  Lively, quality white grape juice notes.  Lots of green apple meat, lychee fruit possibly?  Amazingly complex, the brettanomyces has done some mind blowing things.  A distinct grassy quality, light citric flavors, but the tartness does plow through.  Which I love.

The taste is very effervescent.  It’s very lively and quite nice.  Boatloads of funk, barnyard, and grassy notes bombard the senses.  A slight orange peel astringency pops in and the leaves with a trail of grapefruit tart notes.  Very soft for the carbonation.

While the taste wasn’t as epic as the nose, this was an incredible brew that I am ecstatic to have tried.

Cheers all!
Dave

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