Whilst placing a recent beer order, my cursor hovered over an interesting sounding beer brewed in the Belgian Tripel style. The brewery wasn’t from Belgium but this was their take on that category of beer. There’s nothing wrong with that; interpretation of borrowed styles is 75% of what I drink these days. It was a brewery I greatly respect too so why wouldn’t this be good. Then I noticed the price – nearly £10. Well, I’ve paid more for beer in the past, so…
But then I thought, why don’t I just buy a Belgian Tripel from a great Belgian brewer instead? And why wasn’t that my first thought?
It’s been apparent to me for a while that Belgian, and German beers for that matter, have become anachronistic in the British beer market. Styles change, and beer is not immune to this, but the more they sequester the greater the loss to our choices.
My first world beers , those great eons ago, were the classics; Leffe, Hoegaarden, Erdinger etc and I owe them much to the evolution of my tastes away from the traditional British ale style. From these foundations I branched to the next big boys in bars such as Fernandes or Elliots in Wakefield with beers such as Franziskaner, Weihenstephaner, Grimbergen and Chimay. All classic beers, but classics for a reason. Delicious but different. Historic yet evolutionary.
It concerns me that drinkers these days, especially the “newbies,” are not drinking these beers in favour of the new wave arriving. Some breweries are becoming the brand names of the beer world that are sought after at a higher cost, but then why would you reach for an American or Danish interpretation of a classic without ever having the classic? None of these great new craft beer bars feel they are worth stocking anymore. Even the Grove’s beer menu has evolved; where once it contained page upon page of Belgian and German delights, now they are limited to half a page each as the British and Americans dominate.
So, tonight I’m opening the beer I bought when looking at THAT Belgian Tripel. But it isn’t even a Belgian Tripel, it’s a Belgian QUADRUPEL. At 11% this beer is brewed with a variety of complex malts and designed specifically to improve with age in the bottle. Sound familiar? If this was from a British or American brewery I’d probably already have read half a dozen blogs about it
It is the Brouwerij de Halve Maan’s Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel. It pours a robust black settling with an amber haze. The smell is big; very vinous with pine, sultanas and a perfume quality. The taste is big too. There’s a great warm toffee and liquorice feel and then a lick of raisins that have been soaked in brandy. Then comes the sweetness that is all plums and dark old fashioned candy. The alcohol does hit and there’s a slight burn towards the end but the aftertaste is all roasted malts and that sweet Belgian yeast characteristic. The carbonation is hidden enough to make this far too enjoyable. In hindsight I wish I was having a hearty beef stew alongside this.
This was fantastic. I’ll certainly be ordering another bottle to age for longer to see how it develops and I would highly recommend you do too. And get yourself a range of Belgian beers whilst you’re at it and appreciate the individuality of this nation.
Oh, and for a fantastic beer in this style and at this strength was it nearly £10 like the other I nearly bought?
No. It was £2.59