Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Some samples from Belgium and beyond

By JIM BEAUREGARD August 29. 2017 11:22PM

I have been on a Belgian kick for a few weeks now, and I thought I would wrap it up today with a few odds and ends. It’s a sampler that takes us from Belgium into France and a few other places. So, let’s get right down to it:

Grimbergen Blonde, 6.7% alcohol by volume. Brewed in Belgium by Brouwerij Alken-Maes, there is a phoenix on the bottle, the symbol of Grimbergen Abbey, which is in France, where the beer originated. We have here a bright golden ale with some slight amber hints, a relatively thin white head and a nose that speaks of hops. On the palate, the first thing you can say is it’s noticeably refreshing. Chill this one well before you try it and you won’t be sorry. It is dry, though with brightness of acidity and well-integrated alcohol, medium body, somewhat thin in the texture, but that actually works just fine. Flavors of citrus, hints of lemongrass, just the slightest hint of spice. This one will go down well on a hot summer night.

Grimbergen Double Amber, 6.5% ABV: Sticking with the same monastic roots, this is a much darker beer, at the dark end of amber, with light tan head and a very different nose, in which the malt speaks out. There was green here, bread, and just a little bit of roast. The palate brings some nice surprises. It is dry, with medium bitterness, well-balanced alcohol and a fairly complex flavor profile that includes mostly malt flavors of caramel, cookie, just a hint of molasses; there is a little bit of coffee and some roasted notes that emerge along the way to a long finish. Surprisingly complex and well worth it.

Kirin Ichiban, 100% malt, 5% ABV. This Japanese beer is now brewed under the strict supervision of Kirin by Anheuser-Busch. OK, you’re right, this has nothing to do with Belgian ales, but I saw it at Bert’s in Hooksett a couple of weeks ago and it reminded me that Kirin was one of the first beers I bought when I attained legal age. I was on a flight to Europe, and as a matter of principle I ordered one. Now this is a straw/gold beer with a hoppy nose and a very thin white head. It is also a dry beer, with refreshing acidity, light texture and good flavor intensity that follows along the hops spectrum. I seem to have struck it lucky this week with good beers for hot nights.

Orval Trappist Ale, 6.9% alcohol by volume. Brewed and bottled by Brasserie D’Orval, Belgium, Orval is becoming more readily available in New Hampshire — and this is a very good thing. It is a classic Belgian ale, in the tripel ballpark, with a huge just-ever-so-slightly off-white head over a deep golden ale, very rich gold hue.

The nose carries aromas of both hops and malt, as well as some good fruit notes. If you give the head a couple of minutes to die down before you take a sip, you’ll be greeted with a fairly bitter and acidic beer that makes your mouth water, with well-integrated alcohol medium body and flavor that packs a punch, including lemon, lemongrass, just a hint of lime. I think there’s a hint of geranium in there somewhere too, some herbal notes to the back of your mouth and along the way to the finish, hints of pine, as well as some burnt and nutty notes. In other words, lots and lots going on, and well worth the price of admission.

This tasting was conducted as a taste-and-spit, until I got to the Orval. I will head into the evening with this one.

Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com


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