Belgian Strong Dark Ale
10th highest rated style (of 102)
Highest RatedCuvée Van De Keizer Blauw (Blue) (97 / 100) Average score69 / 100 (Very Good)
Lowest RatedShangrila (24 / 100) Number Tried108
Tsjeeses 2015
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 09.01.18 in bottle
Overall:
62 / 100
(Decent)
Final beer of my 2017 #fletchmas Advent Calendar, enjoyed on Christmas Eve. Reviewed blind.

Pours a sedimenty dirty bronze colour. I noticed the sediment cloud forming as I poured, creating at the same time a nice frothy off-white head, which has sunk to a thin but dense film. Lacing is pretty nice. Looks alright, if a little odd.

Smells oxidised, but pleasant for all that. Noticeable fruity characters with currants, raisins, maybe a touch of cherry. Maybe I'm just in the festive mood so my mind's going that way. Treacle as well, with a slight brandy booze character hiding behind it. Smells like it's got a bit of age on it, but it's aged fairly well, too. Retains a fair bit of character.

Taste is similar, and a bit less pleasant really because the age really shows through here in a kind of dead, spent grain kind of way. Some nice boozey character late-mid, along with some rich dark fruit - cherry, raisins and figs, and some light brown sugar character. But the front is a bit wet cardboardy and the back is a bit earthy and wooden as well like it's had the malt character hammered out into a fibreboard pastiche. It tastes like it may have been a superb beer at some point but it's just been stored too long in a damp cellar.

Mouthfeel is pretty decent, actually. Obviously a bit of weight behind this; it's got a good malt body yet with the age, any residual booze heat has mellowed out so it goes down nice and smooth. Ultimately I'd rather have a lively palate and a hot mouthfeel than this smoothness on a muted palate, but still.

Yeah it's pleasant enough drinking. The lack of front palate character is unfortunate but negligible, but it's the scarcity on the finish that really leaves me hangin', Greenspan. Otherwise some nice character.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Fantôme Coffee Ruby
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 22.11.17 in bottle
Overall:
70 / 100
(Very Good)
Bottle shared with me by Jez. It happened sometime and some place in the space-time continuum.

Pours a murky dark red colour, gorgeous head, beige and foamy and very voluminous. Sticky trails of lace left behind. Maybe a bit sparse in webbing but otherwise about the perfect head. Looks great otherwise too.

Smells, I'm not sure what given I don't know the style. Sort of tart but also sort of dark, with some sour cherry character that's quite big, and a roasty coffee note as well. Touch of chocolate too. Maybe some brandy. Interesting and quite intriguingly nuanced aroma.

Taste doesn't elucidate the mystery at all because frankly that's quite weird. Roasty all over it, but not quite heavily bitter or dark, just this flavour of coffee beans and cocoa-rich chocolate, with a slight fruity character, mostly vinous with a rich oaky shiraz kind of flavour on the back. Quite plump and juicy without being tart but a distinct woodiness underlying it. Slight vanilla character midway too, possibly also from the oak. Interesting drop, but I really don't quite know what to make of it, it's complex but somehow doesn't feel grounded, and maybe a bit too unbeery without bringing it back via some good dark malts or some hopping (which admittedly wouldn't suit the beer at all though).

Quite tingly throughout, with a slight boozey pull midway through. Maybe could again use more malt base.

A very curious and worthwhile drop but It feels like a bit of an overall experiment rather than a beer with unusual flavours or a bit of a twist.
appearance: 4.75 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | drinkability: 3.75
Fantôme Coffee Ruby
Reviewed by Jez on 02.09.17 in bottle
Overall:
67 / 100
(Solid)
750ml green bottle purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco. Shared with Sam during a brewday.

Pours a vibrant mahogany red colour, quite clear when held to the light, with a frothy, beige crest of foam that leaves good streaks of lace. Body is very firm, holding pleasantly static, but surprisingly coarse carbonation. Lacing forms in leopard-print streaks. Looks pretty good.

Nose definitely has a lot of coffee, with a strong fresh-roasted bean quality to it. This mingles pleasantly with a hint of Belgian yeast spice—although it's certainly not the kind of funk I associate with other Fantôme brews.

Taste is definitely weirder. There's a lightness through the body that is probably the result of the Fantôme house culture, and this brings out more aniseed and carob notes in the coffee. There's some slight hint of melted vanilla ice cream as well, only just with the flavour, not the creaminess. It leaves the back with the aromatics of sweetness, but not the actual sweetness, which again is an odd experience.

Overall, it's indeed unexpected. There's lots of pleasant characters to it, but they're juxtaposed in ways you don't normally see. So it's a bit of a head-scratcher. A pleasant one though.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.75
The Jimmy Laureys
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 15.08.17 on tap
Overall:
59 / 100
(Decent)
Tried at GABS festival 2017 in a sampler (which is the only way I think it was available). Coming straight after trying the Mountain Goat Quetzalacatenango Ghost Chilli IPA, we dived into this 22% monster.

Pours an amber colour, slight haze in the body. Head is beige, foamy and retaining pretty well. Looks good.

Smells pleasant. Inevitably sweet, with vanilla, caramel and toffee characters to the malt. Some nice Belgian notes as well, with a slight phenolic character and notes of coriander spice. Good, and enticing; overcomes my trepidation somewhat as there's a good complexity to it.

...and I'm inevitably disappointed by the palate. It's one-note and predictable; hugely sweet and ultimately insipid. Vanilla and toffee upfront that develops a mild Belgian character midway but it just turns medicinal, and the sweetness just blares and blares throughout. The booze is surprisingly well-hidden, to its credit, but there's very little character to this beyond FUCKYEAHMALTMALTMALTMALTMALTMALTMALT.

Body is full, and the alcohol is warming as it goes down. Not nearly as horrible and shit as it really should be given the size.

Big and too sweet overall, a bit of a crazy idea that's quite deliberately but inescapably gone off the rails. No balance to it is why. There's some craft to this beer but it's just mad scientist stuff.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.0 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 3.25
Bombastic Monastic
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 05.07.17 on tap
Overall:
64 / 100
(Solid)
A Cocoa Mandarin Barrel-Aged Belgian Brown Ale, brewed for (?) and sent down to GABS festival 2017 in Melbourne. Tried at the festival on tap.

Pours a dark brown colour, quite clear though. Beige, foamy head retains very nicely. Looks pretty damn good.

Smells hugely bourbony. Nice chocolate, dark fruit characters fairly typical of darker Belgian styles, but a big oaky and bourbony character, that's perhaps a bit too strong. Hint of citrus, coriander as well. Pretty good.

Taste is similar; quite Belgian for the most part with dark fruit and hints of spice. Bit hot and boozey towards the back but a good fruit hit that saved it from going really overboard. Lots of complexity and it's the flavours you'd expect given what it says on the box.

Full body, decent texture and carbonation, inevitable warming hit from the booze but not too harsh.

Like it, but it's quite boozey and I feel it dominates just a bit too much, drowning out the Belgian complexities which might otherwise make this a really intriguing drop.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Embrasse
Reviewed by Jez on 19.04.17 in bottle
Overall:
68 / 100
(Solid)
330ml brown bottle purchased as part of a bulk order with some folks from work.

Pours a deep burgundy-hued brown, but maintaining good clarity. Head froths a lot on pouring, crackling away with boisterous carbonation until it subsides to a beige crease of tighter, foamier bubbles. Lacing forms in tight streaks. Looks pretty good all up.

Nose is driven by yeast, booze and malt, each of which contributes in its own way. The yeast characters come through giving pepper and aniseed characters, but they wouldn't be as potent without the whiff of boozy sharpness that adds a slight medicinal character. It's all wrapped up in a warming sweetness—again, this is nicely, tightly integrated with the booze. It's good.

Taste is a little more flat. There's a smooth sweetness, cut with a boozy redolence that spreads across the back palate. But the spice character is missing, and in fact, there's a kind of lack of anything sharp or leavening that would give a top note, and some brightness to balance it. The malt is nice though, and the body is quite light. Despite the booze note as well, it doesn't feel hot.

Overall, it's a decent brew, with some weaknesses that stop it from being great. There's plenty of pleasant things in it though, and it's a coherent beer despite the issues.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 3.75
Dark Monk
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 18.08.16 on tap
Overall:
57 / 100
(Decent)
Pours a brown colour, slightly cloudy. Head is beige, nice and foamy crown. Looks like a mid-range Belgian, so yeah, pretty much as it should.

Smells sweet, mediciney. Vanilla character and big, strong phenol without a lot of nuance. Not great.

Taste is Belgian, but it leans heavily on the wrong notes. Again vanilla upfront that grows a little herbal character towards the mid but then takes on a big medicinal character and the finish is sharply phenolic, again quite simple without much depth to the flavour. Touch of dark fruit but not enough to lift it out of the phenolic mire.

Full body, could be quite nice but the booze on the back is really very sharp.

Not a great Belgian dark. It has all the right flavours but it just feels overwhelmed in them, and I feel like some reining in to give it more balance - basically more sweetness, more dark fruit, because it's just all booze and phenols.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | drinkability: 3.25
Imperial Praline
Reviewed by Jez on 07.07.16 in bottle
Overall:
78 / 100
(Excellent)
750ml dark green champagne-style bottle, purchased from Annandale Cellars.

Pours a very dark brown colour, including the head, which is fizzy and effervescent, but almost dark chocolate black-brown when it's forming. Body is surprisingly light and fluid, and there's only limited carbonation left after the head fizzles out. It ends up looking a little dormant.

Nose is potent. It has all the characters of the original Praline, but they're all intrinsically laced and entwined into a boozy headiness, which makes them feel volatile, and lends a slight zing of metal to the mix. Still, loads of vanilla, toasted nuts and milk chocolate, with undertones of lavender and crushed rock. It's impressive.

Taste is also very good, and it's beefed up in interesting ways. All of the overt chocolate and nut notes are here again, providing a sinewy, tightly drawn sweetness on the front. But there's a noticeable booze flavour as well as heat, that gives a slight metallic cut through the centre of the palate, and a little anise and bitterness on the finish. The bitterness is slightly medicinal, but it works with the sweet notes to make it feel like high-cacao chocolate—a refined finish.

Feel is indeed a little thinner than I might have expected. But it has certainly enough weight to support the flavours, so much more and it might have felt stodgy.

Overall, I like it. It's not just an amped up version of a good beer—it takes some of the ideas and pushes them in slightly different directions to make a different, but related experience. Good work, as always, La Sirène.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
The Night Demon
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 21.09.15 in bottle
Overall:
71 / 100
(Very Good)
Winner of a homebrew comp (?) that was upscaled for a single batch. Tried from a bottle at the brewery, 20/09/15.

Pours quite pale for the style, reddish brown. Small film of bead around the edge. Decent lace. Looks heavy, could use more head. Plus quite pale.

Smells Belgian. Loads of dark, dried fruit character with a strong sweet vanilla note as well. Boozey, some phenols, loads of currant and sultana. Would love a touch more spice, but otherwise very nice.

Taste is sweet, boozey. Loads of complexity with dark sugars, treacle and fortified wine. Currants, sultanas and dried apricot. Dried mango even. Finishes a bit hot and boozey, inevitably but unfortunately. Not sure how you'd get those lovely complex sugars to get a bit longer legs. But if you did this would be spectacular.

Syrupy, fairly thick mouthfeel. Hot on the back. Not amazing.

Nice and big, complex beer. Lots of Belgian characters. Lots to like.
appearance: 3.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Noisy Minor Opium
Reviewed by Jez on 12.07.15 on tap
Overall:
59 / 100
(Decent)
Tried on-tap at GABS 2015 in Melbourne.

Pours a dusty brown colour with strong haze in the body. Body is solid although there's minimal carbonation to be seen. Head is off-white, forming a faint oily ring of pocked bubbles around the edge that still leaves some decent lacing. Looks okay.

Nose has some slight chai spice and a little bit of nutty brown malt. Together these work ok, although the cardamom character does get a bit strong after a while and move things little out of sync. Not bad though.

Front has more chai spice with cardamom and cinnamon coming through strongly, almost too much by mid-palate. The back has a bit of anise which mingles with some dark malt. Aftertaste is weak, dropping away to almost nothing very quickly.

Feel is light. It's not bad, but it doesn't have much to work with after the spices take hold.

Eh. It's not awful, but there's not a lot of interest, and what interest that there is tends either towards slightly banal or slightly unpleasant.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | drinkability: 3.5
Noisy Minor Opium
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 11.06.15 on tap
Overall:
62 / 100
(Decent)
Pours a brown colour with slight cloudiness. Head is a foamy crown of off-white bubbles. Not bad at all.

Smells sweet, with a touch of oak, some peanutty malt, notes of cocoa and sweet espresso. Could definitely use more Belgium; it just smells malty and dark.

Taste is sweet upfront - caramel notes with vanilla and some sweet spice developing towards the mid. Cinnamon is distinct before slight peppery dryness on the back. Medicinal phenolic character as well. Decent. Spicy.

Decent body but the alcohol is quite sharp as it goes down, bit too hot.

Drinks alright. Belgian, with some spice notes. Nothing amazing though.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
'na biretta Shock Wood
Reviewed by Jez on 07.01.15 in bottle
Overall:
70 / 100
(Very Good)
500ml oval-shaped, dark olive-green bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne. 2010 vintage.

Pours a subtle amber hue, deeply hazed, but also quiet and still in the glass, only forming a faint, filmy, tight ring of off-white around the edge. Minimal, insubstantial lace. Body is pretty heavy, but with a slickness to it as well—the carbonation seems still pretty energetic in the glass, despite the weight.

Nose is quite pleasant. Slight spiciness above a sweet chocolate character, giving a little cinnamon and cardamom for an aromatic journey around the world. There's a dankness to it—like the hint of a heavy spice market infested with vermin. Don't misunderstand me: I like it a lot. In fact, if anything, it's the dingy, dankness to it that enamours me the most.

Taste is more restrained, but perhaps it's impressive that it feels so soft given the ABV. There is still a broad semi-sweet chocolate note that runs through most of the palate, pricked with a muted spice of booze and aromatics. Back is long and thick, feeling a little bit flabby in fact, due to the persistent sweetness. In the very finish, there is a touch more spice, giving a very mild aromatic pepper note.

Feel is full and broad. Perhaps slightly bloating, but there is a touch of booze to it to flare up and break through the body.

Overall, it's a heavy brew. The sweetness is fairly intense, but there's also a booziness that seems to creep up, again harming the drinkability to some extent. That being said, it's fairly unapologetic, if nothing else, and there's certainly a lot to enjoy.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 3.5
Ten Commandments
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 27.11.14 in bottle
Overall:
64 / 100
(Solid)
Pours a dark reddish brown, nice colour. Head is beige, nice and dense with some decent lacing left behind in parts. Thin crown is easily revived.

Smells not as I expected. Some slight roasty notes, fair spice to it. Caramel in a big way and a bit of booziness to it as well. Vinous; brandy, some oak. Not bad characters but it doesn't smell very coherent.

Taste is similarly off-kilter. Some Belgian characters maybe, giving earthy spice, with a fair note of brown sugar and maybe a touch of lemon as well. Cherry, brandy on there, some vanillin oak notes and just quite dry and somewhat boozey on the back. Main thing it's lacking is sweetness, just feels burnt and bitter on the back, with a fair booze heat. Body is there, and texture really quite nice, but the malt doesn't show itself in flavour, and it's unbalanced as a result.

Just needs more residual sugar, or some other source of sweetness. It's a very nicely constructed beer but tastes a little dour and subdued.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | drinkability: 3.5
Ten Commandments
Reviewed by Jez on 22.11.14 in bottle
Overall:
78 / 100
(Excellent)
750ml caged and corked bottle purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco. Brought back to Sydney where, after wrestling with the obstreperous cork, I finally served it to Sam and Rich during a brewday.

Pours a hazed but pleasant deep brown colour, with a fairly frothy, full head of light crema. Body is fluid and light, but with a bit of depth to it, holding the fine carbonation well. Lacing is also excellent—although the body is fine and slick, the lacing sticks to the glass in long languid streaks. Looks very good.

Nose is pleasantly herbal, but with a leavened floral sweetness to it. There's a lilt of lavender and certainly the rosemary it's brewed with, matched with a solid base of mild malted sweetness. There's also a suggestion of honey to it, and indeed the floral tones may come from its fermentation. Overall, it's really very pleasant.

Taste is very herbal, with the rosemary and spices coming through quite strongly, especially on the front. Some resiny characters of myrrh and pine are also noticeable. But the base of this beer is a solid Belgian style. There are rummy sweet tones forming the bulk of the body, with a firm phenolic character on the back which cuts through, and accentuates some of the spicy notes with a hint of booze.

Feel is decent, light but slick, with just a buzz of carbonation to help promote the spices.

Overall, this is a really nice beer, and another good entry in Lost Abbey's repertoire. I like the spice, which integrates well and provides some unusual interest, but the beer underneath is very solid. The booze is used well, but is restrained in the flavour. Very good stuff.
appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
De Molen / Närke Goths & Vandals
Reviewed by Jez on 01.08.14 in bottle
Overall:
84 / 100
(Exceptional)
330ml brown bottle purchased from Healthy Spirits in San Francisco, CA.

Pours a definite brown colour, with a head that only forms with some persuasion. When it forms it's a fine but impersistent ring of yellowish-beige, but that's not unexpected from a beer of its strength. It ends up sitting still, dormant and oily in the glass, but pretty good overall.

Nose is deep and strong, with a pronounced oak character conflicted with a noticeable mineral note that leaves it pinging with metallic, almost salty overtones. There's a dusty, peppery tone to it as well, that's really quite pleasant. It does feel likely it's going to be very dry, but for some reason, even before I've tasted it, I know it won't be. That's an interesting conundrum.

Taste is, indeed, much richer and sweeter than the dryness on the nose anticipated. There's a chewy chocolate and plum-pudding sweetness here that gives depth and breadth to the body. Oak is also present, but it just provides an unassuming cap over the richness inherent in the beer itself. Slight booziness is noticeable towards the back—but the fact that this is 10% ABV, and I only notice a "slight" booziness is quality in itself. Finish has a moderated touch of cherry kirsch.

Feel is thick and oily, and very, very slick. It's good stuff.

Overall, yes indeed: this is a very fine beer, and possibly one of the best I've had from De Molen. There's aromatics that you may not get in another beer of this strength, but the aging and conditioning on it helps it maintain that silky richness. I liked it a whole damn lot.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.25
Gregorius
Reviewed by Jez on 08.01.14 in bottle
Overall:
70 / 100
(Very Good)
What was once briefly the newest Trappist brewery in the world had yet to cross my path, so I thought it was high time to give it a whirl. These guys are from Austria, the first Trappist brewery from that country (and first outside Belgium or the Netherlands). Since they were officially certified, a new Trappist brewery has been certified in, of all places, the USA. This was a 33cl brown bottle purchased from Oak Barrel in Sydney.

Pours a rather murky and opaque deep amber hue, with an initially over-carbonated and fizzy head of off-brown that turns into a fairly fine ring. Lots of persistent carbonation runs in tight streams up the side of the glass. No lacing. It looks okay. No more than than though.

Nose is oddly spicy: juniper and black pepper come through, with a slight medicinal overtone and aromas of marshmallow and dust. Slight sweetness as it warms gives some cherry aromas as well. It's certainly interesting.

Taste is actually pretty solid. Firm sweetness throughout, tucked in by a slight medicinal astringency that allows those spicy aromatic characters to come through a bit more. Hint of marzipan and acetone on the back linger a little bit longer than necessary, probably aided by a slightly too prominent booze note. That being said, for 9.7%, the booze is pretty well hidden, and the body still stays quite light and fluid, in the best tradition of a big Belgian style ale.

Overall, this is solid stuff, albeit not up with the best examples. It's fairly well constructed, and has some interest and complexity to it. Something I'll certainly revisit at some point.
appearance: 3.25 | aroma: 3.75 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 3.5
Mad Abbot Christmas Ale
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 09.12.13 on tap
Overall:
68 / 100
(Solid)
Pours a rich, red colour, bit of haze to it. Head is beige, nice and foamy and retaining a nice crown of bubbly lace. Looks very nice.

Smells sweet and spicy, as it should. Malty notes with a touch of sourdough but also a decent belt of caramel. Notes of cinnamon, clove and fennel which could end up on the sour side but in this case doesn't. Pleasant.

Malty upfront on the palate, touch of rye spice to it midway, then gets notes of honey, cedar wood towards the back before WHOOMP! There it is. Huge booze note on the back that makes it ultimately taste like a slug of whiskey. Yep, inevitably, it's a decent enough palate but the only word to describe it now is 'huge'.

Alcohol is sharply felt on the mouthfeel as well, although body is quite decent.

I really like the characters this beer gives off, but it's just a little on the big and boozey side for me.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Hell Of The North
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 21.08.13 on tap
Overall:
52 / 100
(OK)
Pours a vibrant red colour. Head is beige, pale, nice dense rim around the edge. Lacing is quite nice. Murray's definitely brew a good-looking ale.

Smells Belgian. Sweet, quite a lot of toffee with orange pekoe and brandy snap. Dry, though, coming through at the back; has a hangover feel to it which puts me off a bit.

Taste is sweet and strong. Toffee with, Belgian candi sugar, some brandy-soaked orange peel and cumquat. Bit strong, yet not a big complexity. Just big booziness. Tastes rather like an unnuanced maibock. Some more spice characters, either straight-up or by-products from the Belgian yeast would really make this sing.

Fluid, bit dry on the back. OK.

Can't say I love it. Would like more complexity to it.
appearance: 4.25 | aroma: 3.0 | taste: 3.0 | feel: 3.25 | drinkability: 3.0
Mad Abbot Christmas Ale
Reviewed by Jez on 05.07.13 on tap
Overall:
77 / 100
(Excellent)
Tried on-tap at the 2013 GABS festival in Melbourne.

Pours a deep, ruddy brown colour, solidly hazed and seeming to capture the light. Body is very solid, perhaps very solid even for an 11% ABV brew. Head is an orange-beige colour, intensely creamy that leaves lace in sticky streams. Awesome fine powdery effervescence when tilted. It really looks amazing.

Nose is rounded with plenty of Belgian esters and a bit of spice. Some stewed orange sweetness comes through, as does a little oily roasted note. Pepper becomes more prevalent as it warms. Nice stuff.

Mild dark entry on the palate that burgeons into a big spicy clove and orange chewy centre. Juicy dark fruit characters provide richness. The back is heavy and chewy with a slight metallic character. Aftertaste is spicy and quite heavy, lingering for a good long time.

Feel is rich and chewy like a thick Christmas cake. I love the weight of it.

Overall: this is extremely rich and extremely delicious. This is the best beer I've had from TLBC: complex, thick and gorgeous. Just lovely stuff.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.25 | drinkability: 4.25
Dasher's Envy
Reviewed by Jez on 27.04.13 in bottle
Overall:
70 / 100
(Very Good)
A "Fancy Christmas Ale" brewed with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and allspice. 330ml brown bottle purchased from Camperdown Cellars Kingston Rd.

Pours a yellow-tinged, cloudy red-brown colour, with a fluid but quite firm body, and a fine lackadaisical bead. Head forms only as a small ring around the edge of the glass. Lacing forms like surf suds and then washes away pretty quickly. Overall, it's decent without being particularly inspiring.

Nose is pleasantly sticky, sweet and spicy, with plum pudding characters coming through nicely. The spices are quite muted, but they provide some punctuation to the sweetness, which stops it from getting too heavy or too sickly. There's a slight savoury overtone as well: perhaps a little sage or a hint of lavender. It gives it another edging definition. It's quite pleasant.

Taste is light in texture, but with some pleasant spice and sweetness to drive it along. Mild spiced cherry pie, cinnamon, with a slight twang on the back: almost an acidity, but not quite. There's a slight astringency towards the end too: either booze or perhaps just residuals from the spices. Feel is smooth, but with that lingering heat and the bite on the finish.

Overall, this is a decent spiced beer. It doesn't do new and exciting things with the genre, but it would indeed make a fitting tipple for Christmas, or better yet, when it's actually cold in Australia.

appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 3.75
His Majesty 2012
Reviewed by Jez on 23.03.13 in bottle
Overall:
66 / 100
(Solid)
750ml bottle purchased from Platinum Liquor in Bellevue Hill. Bottle shared with Sam.

Pours a coppery amber colour, not particularly dark, but not particularly light. Clarity is good. Head forms a big frothy cushion at the start, but settles to a solid half centimetre, pocked with large bubbles. Lacing is superb. Carbonation is fine, and the body looks like it has some heft to it, despite flowing quite fluidly. Looks pretty good.

Nose is clear and Belgian, laced with some odd characters that don't do it any favours. There's a noticeable metallic note coming through, along with a definite apple overtone. Some vanilla works its way in as well. Minimal phenolic spicy characters, although there's a slight dirty funk. It's ok, but somewhat skewed in an odd and slightly unpleasant direction.

Taste is a little better: it's smooth and round, and rather light, with some minerally characters providing the counterpoint. Mild caramel, some phenols here (at last), and a pleasantly dry finish. It's smooth and round and yeah pleasant without being very exciting.

Feel is also smooth, perhaps a little bit too heavy, but acceptable.

Overall, it's decent, but I'm really not sold on it overall. This is the second of the Yeasties' Majesty series I've had, and the second that I've been lukewarm about. I'll try another couple to see what happens, but I'm genuinely wondering why a brewery which does such good brews otherwise doesn't excite me with these special releases.

appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Salvation
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 21.03.13 in bottle
Overall:
73 / 100
(Very Good)
Pours a vibrant red colour, hints of floaties and haze. Head is beautifully dense, foamy and nicely packed with great retention. Specks of lace left around the glass; good.

Smells quite pleasant, but a little subdued. Malty, with some peppery spice, toffee, bourbon and a slight acetyldehyde maybe. But quite sweet, yeah, hint of cinnamon, which I could use more of. What's there is nice.

Taste is quite sweet mostly, with toffee and caramel malt, a touch of tartness - just a hint - that turns it slightly fruity on the mid, then finish is a little bit toasty, and still sweet, with characters of coconut, vanilla and crême brulée, but also a hint of burntness late, like overcooked toffee. Slightly nutty, yeah, it's a mélange of flavours I like, but it doesn't quite reach the heights of sweetness, roastiness or anything, and so it seems a little directionless in some ways.

Decent body, bit of foamy texture to it, slight boozey sharpness on the back. Yeah, alright.

Quite a subtle brew in some ways, and well balanced. Yeah, everything gets a look-in here, and it's very nicely crafted. Doesn't really sing to me, and yet I feel like there's a lot of love in this beer.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Great American Challenge
Reviewed by Jez on 31.01.13 in bottle
Overall:
74 / 100
(Very Good)
330ml bottle purchased from Slowbeer. They call this a "Shiraz Barrel-Aged Funko-Trappist". I figure Belgian Strong Dark is as close as you're going to get when categorising Moon Dog beers.

Uncaps rather sullenly, pouring a deep reddish brown hue, with quite an opacity to it. Colour is very good indeed: the big deep dark character with the flashes of ruby I love in a big Belgian brew. Head is a fine film of pale beige. Some frothy bubbles around the edges. Looks thick and rich, with fine, powdery carbonation. Really good look.

Nose is rounded, but slightly spicy, and touched with a faint tartness. Some woody shiraz characters come through, lending a faint tannic berry note to the mix. Certainly some funk, and a mild sharp almost citric character: it reminds me of laundry powder. It's really very complex and pretty damn exciting.

Taste is a little more subdued, with a light and clear slightly husky malt forming the basis, mingled with some chocolate overtones. There are hints of the shiraz, giving a semi-sweet semi-tart berry note: it comes over a little like grape candy. Some flowing, rounded banana esters come through as well. Finish is dry and tannic, and it drops out rather quickly: perhaps a little disappointing, in fact.

Feel is smooth but light, spot on for the style. Such as this has a style.

It's not all that funky, so if you don't go in expecting something gueuze-level you'll have a pretty good time with this beer. Overall, I'm pretty impressed: this takes some disparate elements and plays with them in an interesting way to create a beer that works in its position left of centre. Moon Dog are notorious experimenters, and I'm pleased that this most recent experiment has paid off.

appearance: 4.25 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | drinkability: 4.25
Shangrila
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 31.01.13 on tap
Overall:
24 / 100
(Awful)
Pours a reddish amber hue, clear body with white head, nothing particularly special. Looks fluid, and very pale for the style. Not great.

Smells very phenolic, with a herbal hop aroma but an overwhelming whiff of booze as well. Slight diacetyl-ish character coming through midway, maybe just a touch too much sweetness there. Bit metallic on the back. I'm afraid it's actually unpleasant.

Malty sweet all over the palate, with some slight fruity notes upfront, raisiny sweetness. From the midpoint on it's all big booze notes though, which also dries up the potentially pleasant opening notes. Just too big. Needs so much more body here to combat the strength in the flavour. Basically all the flavour and complexity of flavour is swallowed up and sapped out by the booze.

No real texture at all either. A shame.
appearance: 3.0 | aroma: 1.5 | taste: 2.0 | feel: 2.0 | drinkability: 2.0
Torment Dark Belgian-Style Ale
Reviewed by Jez on 02.01.13 in bottle
Overall:
88 / 100
(Superb)
Big 650ml bottle to drink on my own. Purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.

Pours a pleasant russety red colour, with a very fine head of yellow-white, leaving some bubbling around the edges of the glass. Solid streaking lace. Carbonation is nice and fine, and slides smoothly through the thick but fine body. Looks very good.

Nose is round and sweet, with raisin overtones and a slight spicy tannic bite. Some preserved orange sharpness comes through, along with some vanilla and port. It's like a big, rich, boozy fruitcake. Good stuff.

Taste is smooth and rich, with plenty of fine burnt sugar sweetness, and a layered spicy overtone. Hints of spicy Shiraz and fragrant clove gives a light dancing sharpness, but the sweetness is always rich and solid enough to back it up—this gives dark caramel, gooey mud cake and young spicy port. The finish gives some chocolate and more lingering burnt sugar. Lovely stuff.

Feel is exceptionally smooth, but with a beautiful fineness to it.

Wow, this is really excellent stuff. Most of all, it's dangerous. The 10% ABV is barely noticeable apart from providing a depth and structure to the complexity, and it's really quite scary how smooth it is and how easy it goes down.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
JP (2012)
Reviewed by Jez on 02.01.13 on tap
Overall:
75 / 100
(Excellent)
500ml bottle from Slowbeer in Melbourne. Vintage 2012 and C591 printed on the bottle.

This really sits somewhere between a pale and a dark, but the standard Belgian pale is certainly a lot lighter than this, which is a deep amber colour, somewhat hazed. Head is frothy, but full: indeed it frothed very marginally over the lid when uncapped. Plenty of fine carbonation, which does a pretty reasonable job of preserving the head. Body is quite light. Looks good.

Nose is smooth and rounded, with a decent vanilla orchid note, and a light hint of sweet citrus. Some peppery notes, and a very pleasant caramel depth to it. Hints of caraway and sweet bread. It's quite complex, and very pleasant.

Taste is sharper and spicier, with a noticeable booze, and a slightly astringent character through the centre of the palate. This takes the place of the purported caramel sweetness on the nose: there's still the sharpness, the spice and the peppery characters. It even has the fragrant vanilla, but still none of the sweetness.

Slightly light and sharp mouthfeel. Pleasant enough.

It's a very decent drop: it does somewhat fall into the classic Belgian-style-not-from-Belgian trap of being too boozy and sharp for what it can support. But it has lots of complexities to explore and some very decent flavours overall. Nice stuff.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Black Elephant
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 22.12.12 on tap
Overall:
61 / 100
(Decent)
Pours a dark-brown colour with slight red tinge. Clear body, with beige head. Decent darkness, not bad.

Sweet nose, with a slight nutty edge and bit of roastiness. Warm alcohol comes through as well, and a little bit of chocolate. Not bad.

Bit boozey on the palate, with good roasty notes and a fair sweetness. Phenols come through on the back, spicy but mostly sweet. Not bad.

Bit of a syrupy texture, and mildly boozey. Bit flat which doesn't help.

Decent drop, but it needs something to cut through the booziness and maybe freshen it up. More phenolic character wouldn't go astray. This is, frankly, the sort of beer that makes you feel drunk and possibly gives you hangovers.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Shangrila
Reviewed by Jez on 13.08.12 on tap
Overall:
49 / 100
(Not Great)
On-tap at the Local Taphouse for their Italian SpecTapular.

Pours a pale amber hue, quite clear with a very light and rather insipid body. Head forms a thin ring of off-white. No lace. Overall, it looks pretty damn disappointing.

Nose is similarly disappointing. Instead of the heady array of Himalayan spices I was promised, we get weakly fermented apple cider with a touch of cinnamon as almost a throw-away afterthought. Very light on, as well, giving very little up at all.

Spicy characters on the front of the palate at least, again focussing mainly on a slightly sweet cinnamon character, that builds to a pasty cinnamon-sugar dosage on the finish. Some phenols come in mid palate to do something I don't know what. There's not a lot here for them to meld with or clash against.

Feel is light, but with a tingle from the spice.

Overall, no, it's not a bad beer, per se, but it sure is pretty dull given when it promises.

appearance: 2.5 | aroma: 3.0 | taste: 3.0 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.0
Cuvée Van De Keizer Blauw (Blue)
Reviewed by Jez on 28.07.12 in bottle
Overall:
97 / 100
(Best of the Best)
2010 vintage bottle purchased for me a year ago by @epiclurk. Shared with @tobeerornottobe and @LaitueGonflable. So around 2 years of age on it.

Pours a deep ruby red tending to brown, with a hazy, bubbly and somewhat inconsistent head of off-white. Lacing is patchy but fine and streaking. Colour is amazing, weight in the body is very pleasant. Looks really great.

Nose is deep, complex and pungent, with big dark fruit characters carrying spicier, drier notes and even a hint of acidity. Everything is smoothed by a big, slightly estery vanilla character, and a big whack of rounded Belgian yeast. Fantastic stuff: another effortless example of Belgian superiority.

Taste is phenomenal. Smooth and sweet, with a balance that somehow keeps it from being too cloying. It has a bright, slightly dry, slightly coppery feeling on the edges that stops the sweetness from overwhelming the palate. There's spicy poached oranges coming through as well: it's like the suggestion of bright fragrance, that still gets covered with brown sugar and toffeed up into subjugation. Absolutely amazing stuff. Complex, but so, so well balanced.

Feel is incredibly smooth and perfectly weighted. It aids the palate in every respect.

Absolutely fantastic stuff. Clean, balanced but also masterfully complex and deep. The alcohol is so well hidden, and hidden in a light, airy way that only the Belgians do. It makes it supremely drinkable despite its hefty ABV. Oh yes, this is a phenomenally good beer: and so effortless. Absolutely amazing.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 5.0 | feel: 5.0 | drinkability: 5.0
Black Elephant
Reviewed by Jez on 27.05.12 on tap
Overall:
74 / 100
(Very Good)
Classified as a "Black Trappist-style Ale". It's not big enough for a Quad, and too dark for a Dubbel. I've gone with the more generic Belgian Strong Dark instead. Had on-tap at GABS in Melbourne.

Pours a deep dark brown colour, seemingly opaque but with a clearness at the edge. Body is full. Head is a light mocha-coloured foam, which leaves firm, sheeting lace. Looks good.

Nose is pretty good, with a lot of the characters expected from the described style. There's a pleasant hybridisation of roasted grain, with estery Belgian notes, giving characters of currants and blackberries. Very decent.

Pleasant amalgam on the palate as well, with berry and roast characters forward on the front, with more ester characters coming through later, giving a hint of medicine, banana and a boozy heat on the finish. Aftertaste has a dryness like banana leaf. Feel is a little light. It's suitable for the style, but it has complexity that would love some more weight.

Not a bad brew all up. Tasty, relatively complex and delivering what is promised.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Noel De Calabaza
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 02.01.12 in bottle
Overall:
80 / 100
(Excellent)
Pours a metallic red colour, thinning at the edge. Head is massively fluffy, off-white, over-generous but sinks down nicely leaving uneven specks of lace. Looks a bit weird, but weird enough that it just seems naturally flawed, and natural flaws are inherently beautiful.

Smells lovely. Bretty goodness with massive funk, sourness and crisp tart notes. Cranberry, apple with a jellied apple kind of appeal. Touch of blackcurrant, fig, there's a real sweet fruitiness underlying; so much berry, but the tartness just kicks it up to the party hard level with an emphasis on getting busy with it! I could smell this forever. Yum!

Taste is similarly funky, not quite in the same league though. Lots of spice to it, with cinnamon, cumin and coriander, touch of star anise as well. Gets a faint echo of the barnyard funk late, with bretty goodness giving some cranberry, wet lucerne and green peppercorn. Touch of leather on the back and slight boozey notes back there as well. Bit heavy on the front and the funk doesn't quite speak for itself on the back, so it's not all that refreshing. But good, and mostly clean.

Not very dry, which is a good thing. Good, full body with a bit of pull, but manages to defend against over-dryness as well, which is positive.

I think there's masterpiece potential to this, but it falls clearly short. Just a couple of heavy-footed emphases where there don't need to be.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 5.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Red Hill Christmas Ale
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 02.01.12 in bottle
Overall:
66 / 100
(Solid)
Pours a dirty brown colour, very cloudy with a charming head of dense off-white foam, bubbling on the side but it goes on and on, rather like this sentence, and the lacing is alright but not very sticky. (and apologies to A.A. Milne) Steady bead keeps the head alive. Pleasant.

Smells pretty Belgian and musty. Hints of fruit with apple and pear, and some decent spice hiding behind it. Decently fruity and maybe a bit musty for my liking, but alright.

Taste is fruity and rich and pretty boozey actually. Lots of plum and sultana sweetness that then gets a bit hot and sharp, with brandy booze and some mulled wine - cinnamon and pepper and nutmeg, quite dry and smokey almost, with a bit of a sharp twang on the finish. Could use more evolution from that pleasant sweet fruit on the front. Bit off-kilter, but pleasant.

Texture is nice and simmering, with a good thick body. Like it.

Not quite my ideal beer, a bit hot but nice character overall.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Red Hill Christmas Ale
Reviewed by Jez on 27.12.11 in bottle
Overall:
63 / 100
(Solid)
2011 version, very young, had on Christmas eve.

Pours extremely effervescent and frothy, with a huge, white, fluffy head above a cloudy golden orange body. The head stays full, like a meringue, right to the bottom of the glass. Quite a lot of heft and body to the brew. Looks very good.

Nose is spicy with sharp Belgian esters, but none of the round, slightly earthy-sweet vanilla-like notes you often get. The aroma is dominated by pepper, crushed herbs and a touch of booze. Some earthy biscuit characters come through as well. Not bad.

Taste is also spicy, estery and very peppery, with a big boozy astringency. Slight bite of almond skin bitterness later in the palate, while the malt struggled vainly to make it through. It feels a bit sharp and raw. It may benefit from some age. The feel is light and the spice is angry on the palate.

Very interesting brew from Red Hill, who I find generally consistent and who make some well made beers. This needs to integrate a bit more, but I have a feeling that laying it down for 12 months until next Christmas would help.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Noel De Calabaza
Reviewed by Jez on 22.12.11 in bottle
Overall:
75 / 100
(Excellent)
Christmas Ale from Jolly Pumpkin? Sign me up! Drunk on Christmas drinks with my bro, @LaitueGonflable.

Pours a lovely deep brown colour, with an enormously frothy head of slightly orange-tinged white. Lacing is frothy and sticky, but persisting only in shallow bands. Body is pleasantly light, with the categorical brightness of a wild fermented yeast.

Nose is pleasant and bright with sharp oak characters and a pleasant slightly sweet funk. Slight crispness or green herbal character to it, which gives it a spicy lightness. Indeed, lightness seems to be the watchword of this 9% ABV winter beer, which is an unusual thing, if not an unpleasant thing.

Taste is also light and bright, with the funk and acidity coming through rather sharply towards the back. Spiciness on the back comes through rather strongly, leaving some slight clove and aniseed characters. Almost a absinthe-like wormwood bite at the back of the palate. The spice is an interesting take, but it clashes slightly more with the clean Jolly Pumpkin classicness.

Overall? It's good, but missing the mark a little more than I expect from the great Jolly Pumpkin. But to be fair, that's a high bar to meet.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Salvation
Reviewed by Jez on 10.12.11 in bottle
Overall:
74 / 100
(Very Good)
Purchased from Healthy Spirits in San Francisco, brought to Sydney and shared with @LaitueGonflable.

Pours a dusty, almost dirty brown colour, with a slight yellowish grey tone to as it enters the glass. Head persists with a little of that colour, turning out a slightly greyed-out beige colour. Not a bad look.

Nose is pleasantly Belgian, with a nice round funk and hints of sweet-savoury yeast. Under this is the very faint touch of roast, which gives it depth and interest. It's not as complex as some, but it's still quite pleasant.

Taste is also good, with the darker malts coming through to give some grainy biscuit characters, but no roasted bitterness or astringency. Finish is slightly tainted with a vague RR funk (in the best possible way, you understand), which cleans everything up, and also makes the feel much much lighter than its 9% would suggest.

Decent brew, with some interesting things going on. Not one of my absolute favourite from their range, but another solid beer, no doubt.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Hitachino Nest Extra High (XH)
Reviewed by Jez on 03.12.11 in bottle
Overall:
80 / 100
(Excellent)
Pours a very thick and rather heavy burnished red-brown colour, bright at the sides but deep in the centre. Head is filmy and pocked with large bubbles, but forms a silky slick on the top of the beer. Lacing is patchy. Body is full and thick, but doesn't hold the surprisingly large bubbled carbonation particularly well.

Nose is spicy and exciting. Big sweet nutmeg and dried ginger spices on the nose, giving aromas of brandy soaked christmas cake. This is linked with an interesting green freshness (almost like hoppiness), that probably comes from the cedar sake barrels. It's sweet but cut, complex but smooth. Very exciting.

Taste is similar, but less complex and less truly exciting than it might have been. Still, there's those big dark spice characters coming through, with the luscious sweetness lending tones of dates and raisins to the mix. Spice on the back has a slightly tannic quality to it, giving some tea and wood. There isn't the resiny, sharp and fresh flavour the cedar barrels give (say) the JCA, but there's interesting complexities to it.

Another very intriguing and interesting beer from Kiuchi. While this doesn't smack me across the face to open my eyes like the Japanese Classic Ale does, it lends some interesting twists to a genre, and delivers a fine beer-drinking experience along the way.

appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.5
Grimbergen Optimo Bruno
Reviewed by Jez on 26.11.11 in bottle
Overall:
64 / 100
(Solid)
Pours a very clear, but solid red-brown colour, with a fine but insubstantial head of white. Some patchy lacing, forming from the very fine bubbling in the head and in the carbonation. Body is light, but solid. Looks decent enough.

Nose is mild and smooth, but undertoned by Belgian characters of slight acidity and a prickle of spice. Something slightly savoury to it as well, like baked italian bread. Quite pleasant.

Taste is much lighter, and the bread character comes through as a yeasty harshness. Slight acidity to it throughout, giving it a prickle as it passes over the palate, but also lightening the palate, giving a slight olive oil character on the finish. Feel is very light, which is unsurprising for the style, but the beer doesn't quite have enough complexity to make it stand out in other ways.

It's not bad, but it's a beer not at the peak of its genre or country. What we end up with is a rather insubstantial Belgian brew that doesn't do much one way or the other.

appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Trappistes Rochefort 6
Reviewed by Jez on 13.10.11 in bottle
Overall:
74 / 100
(Very Good)
Pours a chestnut brown colour, hazed with sediment, despite a careful pour, and with a voluminous head of pale beige. The head collapses rather quickly, leaving just a millimetre or so of fine film. Fluid body, with tight, tiny carbonation. Looks good.

Nose is sweet with nutty overtones, and a hint of vinous acidity. Bready yeast characters come through as well, giving a comforting rustic quality. It doesn't have some of the plummy, dark fruit, classic trappist ale characteristics to it, but it's still very pleasant.

Taste similarly has some nutty, almost savoury characters, with hints of dark grain bread, some yeast and a very, very faint touch of acidity. It's very dry, however, and the sweetness suggested on the nose is noticeably absent. This also accentuates the fine, fizzling carbonation. Finish has some slightly spicy, almost herbal characters to it, perhaps coriander or continental parsley.

A good beer, but much the lesser of the Rochefort range, and below par in general for the brews which wear the "Authentic Trappist Product" badge.

That is, of course, a high bar.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Gouden Carolus Classic
Reviewed by Jez on 02.08.11 in bottle
Overall:
66 / 100
(Solid)
OK, not the usual review. This is a 24 year-old bottle of the Gouden Carolus (Carolus d'Or) from 1987 which had been cellared at Kulminator in Antwerp. Awesome old screen-printed bottle covered in dust, with some corrosion of the lid—hand-labelled "1987" but the Kulminator folks.

Pours... with carbonation! I almost couldn't believe it. It's a deep and quite clear red colour, with a head solid enough, formed of fine beige film. Minimal lacing, but the body looks like it's thick, and has time to thicken over the years. Holding up quite well, it seems.

Nose is definitely a little oxidised, with dust and cardboard aromas masking the smooth spice and vanilla aged characters. Quite sweet, but still with that estery spice. I'm surprised to still find it. It is extremely old, and I love that you can smell the age, but there are certainly signs that it's past its prime.

Taste is similar. Light spice, masked by a flat grape character, with a slight coppery character, and oxidised notes of leather and wet paper. Finish is quite tannic, but muffled—the light astringency has been tames over the years. Everything is muddled and blended nicely—but we're past its peak, so the characters are also flattened.

The age on this is truly fascinating, but unfortunately, this much is to the detriment of the beer. Still, it's a wonderful thing to have tried, and I'm very pleased I got the opportunity.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Outblack
Reviewed by Jez on 01.08.11 in bottle
Overall:
77 / 100
(Excellent)
Bottle at 't Wagstuuk in Antwerp.

Pours, as the name suggests, black and deep. It's a lovely colour, crisply brown at the edges. Head is foaming and frothy, a pleasant cookie brown. Lacing is maze-like and intricate. Body is heavy. Looks very good indeed.

Nose is sweet, but spicy, with big liquorice characters dominant. There's a hint of cherry to it and some dark high-cocoa chocolate. It's a lovely dark beer from Belgium—De Struise is one of the few places I'd expect to find these sort of characters; the Belgian establishment seems to shy away from them.

Taste is also good, but the feel is quite thin—maybe here the Belgian "light is better" influence is coming through. Liquorice, dark grain, a touch of charred malt, and some astringent booze again with a touch of the kriek to it—almost like kirsch. Booze is more prominent with the lighter body.

I'm starting to dislike the Belgian philosophy of putting sugar in beers to lighten the palate, which I can only assume is what happened here. A big beer like this needs weight behind it to balance the flavour.

This is still a good beer. But it went close to being a GREAT beer.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Abbaye Des Rocs [Brasserie Des Rocs Brune]
Reviewed by Jez on 01.08.11 in bottle
Overall:
83 / 100
(Exceptional)
Deep red, poured into a wide-mouthed branded goblet at 't Brugs Beertje. Body is clear and fine, quite slight bodied, but the head is full and attractive. Some sticky lacing looks more like a continuation of a subsided head. Colour is awesome, overall, it looks very pleasant indeed.

Nose is quite astringent and strong with booze and a savoury sweet character, a little like ketchup. Sweet tomato, slight spice and savoury moreishness. Full and quite lovely; before it gets too intense, there's a touch of lemon freshness to cut through. Very special and a little unique.

Taste is soft and flavoursome, with more of that savoury character and a lingering vegetative sweetness. All of this is softened with caramel, port, cream and herbal tones. Vanilla sweetness comes though, with even a hint of cherry or kirsch. Very filling, and rather finely and strongly carbonated however.

Smooth and strong, and quite full on, but nonetheless dry and respectable. Harder to drink than some; the carbonation is very high. But it's an impressive beer, no doubt.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Zeppelin (for Den Ouden Advokaat, St.Pauwels)
Reviewed by Jez on 01.08.11 in bottle
Overall:
73 / 100
(Very Good)
Seems to be the classic beer you have to have at 't Waagstuk.

Pours a lovely reddish, ruby colour. Head is intense and frothy and thick—beige coloured leaving meringue-like lacing. Really big and exciting. Body is light.

Nose is a little seltzery, with just a touch of sweet Belgian esters, but not a lot. More sharp, and slightly twinged with underripe fruit. Certainly, not a lot of darkness.

Taste is better—sweet toffee, a little dark fruit, some estery peppery spice to balance. Comes out quite balanced, if not complex. Smooth palate. Not bad.

It's a tasty enough brew, but it's rather bland compared to the other great beers at the bar. (It's also better than their 11% Waagstuk brew).

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Maracaibo Especial
Reviewed by Jez on 30.07.11 in bottle
Overall:
78 / 100
(Excellent)
A new Jolly Pumpkin beer is a joy. I hope this one is no exception to the rule. Purchased in California and brought back to Sydney to share with @LaitueGonflable.

Pours a ruddy brownish colour, like well-polished mahogany. Head is huge and frothy, even from the initial pour, leaving webby lacing and solid Jolly Pumpkin effervescent ebullience. Looks great.

Nose is... well, it's one of those brilliant experiences you always get with Jolly Pumpkin. It's never quite what you expect, but it's always unique, odd and exciting. Here, we have a savoury grainy character mingled with some classic Biere de Garde like funk that gives a mingled peppery sweetness that smells like BBQ flavoured chips. It's that odd mixture of sweet, savoury and spice, along with a little refreshing acidity. It's unique, but gorgeous.

Taste is missing some of the expected funk and acidity, but the savoury character comes through a lot more here, leaving a meaty, almost salty character with a surprisingly crisp body. Light and drinkable, with almost no sweetness and a carbonation level that suggests seltzer water. You know what, it's impressively light and drinkable, but it misses a lot of the complexity I expected from the nose.

But, as I said, every new Jolly Pumpkin is a joy, and I genuinely love the subtleties and intricacies of their different funky brews. This one ends up cleaner and way lighter than I expected on the palate, but still has the classic, exciting funk that makes every Jolly Pumpkin beer unique. There's a reason they're one of my very favourite breweries.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Raison D'etre
Reviewed by Jez on 24.07.11 in bottle
Overall:
40 / 100
(Not Great)
Accidentally stole this from the fridge of our landlady's house when we were staying in New York. I realised I hadn't reviewed it, so, the crime being done, I figured I'd give it a shot.

Pours a deep red-hued brown, almost like a light red wine, with a large-bubbled scum on the top as an excuse for a head. The colour of the beer is gorgeous, and it has some heft to the body, but the head is disappointing.

Sigh. Nose is light, but slightly fruity, and with the sweet sense of fermented sugar. Smells too raw and spiritous for its 8% ABV, and like some of DFH's other hybrid beers, it lacks the complexity that is required.

Taste is very similar, or worse, because there's very little here at all. Very light empty feel with a hint of bland spirits and a grainy but weak finish. Little complexity and almost nothing on the palate. Very bland—c'mon, even the overdone spiritous burn would be better than this.

A very lacklustre and very uninspired effort from Dogfish Head. Unfortunately, it falls into their regular trap of having a theoretically interesting idea that turns into a very pedestrian brew.

appearance: 3.0 | aroma: 3.0 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.0 | drinkability: 2.5
God Påske 2008 Vintage
Reviewed by Jez on 06.04.11 in bottle
Overall:
66 / 100
(Solid)
Happy Easter from 2008. Picked this one up from Platinum Liquor in Bellevue Hill recently, and thought it was worth cracking open to flush the unfortunate Hargreaves Hill Abbey Dubbel from my mind.

Pours an astonishingly bright red colour, almost like dark cherry juice, and brightly clear. Perhaps the other most noticeable thing about the beer is the carbonation, which is vigorous, but forms in tiny streams of bubbles all around the glass. Obviously, the body has a good deal of thickness, so it has trouble pushing through, but it's a fascinating spectacle. Head is fine, just like the carbonation, and forms a pale yellow crown to the beed, almost like the colour of an oily, hoppy IPA. Minimal lacing, but otherwise, a wonderful looking brew.

Nose is rich and sweet, but with a slight wet cardboard oxidised character, which may be explained by the three years of age on it. Still, it's holding up very nicely. Plummy tones, with lightly organic and slightly sharp Belgian phenols coming through, and a pleasant buoyant spice. Gorgeous.

Taste is much thinner, and certainly showing its age here. Light, volatile spice on the front, that disappears almost immediately to a weak, bready yeasty finish. Very thin in the feel, which, if there were richer flavours present would be a pleasant palliative, but which just accentuates the wrecked palate.

Past its prime, which is a shame, because this style brewed at this strength should hold up for quite some time. Still, it's pleasant and mellow, but I suggest it's not going to get any better.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Mooi & Meedogenloos
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 08.03.11 in bottle
Overall:
72 / 100
(Very Good)
Pours a very dark brown; just a glimmer of colour through an otherwise black body. Head is beige and quite foamy. Soft and sinky on the top, sparse bubbles around the side. Thick, and retaining beautifully. If lace were a touch stickier it would be perfect.

Smells quite roasty. Lots of slightly sour espresso notes, with a generous dash of soy sauce giving a slight salty edge. Mild spice to it with licorice and some chocolate sweetness hanging at the back. Decent, but I'd like it to head either in the more roasty or the sweeter direction; the saltiness ultimately wins out.

Taste is quite a decent duck indeed. Roasty from the get-go, with spicy roasted malt giving licorice, espresso coffee and slight charcoal flavour. Mellows to a quite sweet mid-palate with caramel and a touch of raisin, then spice immediately takes over for the finish, with a dollop of alcohol heat, some darker notes of cocoa and coffee, and a slight floral hint at the end giving a very pleasant, clean finish to a potent palate.

Good body, bit rough around the edges though where the alcomohol hits.

Drinkable? Yeah, as a sipper. That clean finish is a winner, and there's not too much going on to put you off throughout the palate.
appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Leffe Radieuse
Reviewed by Jez on 20.02.11 in bottle
Overall:
82 / 100
(Exceptional)
Bottle purchased from the local liquor store; one of the few things I hadn't reviewed there. Depressing there isn't a better liquor shop close to me, but the fact that they have this is a shining beacon.

Pours a very clear deep amber-ruby colour (no sediment here), with a thick and buoyant head of off-white suds. Lacing is pretty thick and decent, leaving nice rings as the head collapses. Body is quite light, and the bubbles that form as carbonation are large. Overall, looks very decent.

Nose is sweet and strong, with good fruity Belgian esters, and some deeper meaty elements. A little spice comes through as well to sharpen the characters and cut through the sweetness. Overall, it's a thoroughly classic, and very pleasant Belgian ale nose.

Taste is also very nice, with spice cake sweetness, a little dried fruit and peel bite, and a vanilla smoothness that progresses from the front to the back as other notes dip in and out. Almost no hint of the booze except to highlight and accentuate some of the sharper notes. This creates a lovely balance between the spice and the sweet, smooth underbelly. Delicious.

Wonderful Belgian brew, and one that balances drinkability with richness and character so pleasantly. Top notch.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Imper Ale Main Nera
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 14.01.11 in bottle
Overall:
58 / 100
(Decent)
Pours a murky dark brown, only colour is visible around the edges up to the light. Head is beige, thin but retaining a bare crown. Lace is speckled but nice and sticky. Would like more head, more lace, but not bad.

Smells quite English actually. Noticeable grain notes with barley and that slight sour note from weaker dark ales. Hint of cola and darker spice. Some brown sugar notes and cherry are very subtle, barely noticeable. Fairly nice blend though.

Taste is alright at first, but finish is oddly sour, almost distastefully. Has nice roastiness on front that then gets a bit musty. A touch of coconut flesh with some fig and peach notes that don't quite have big fruitiness but more a weak roastiness giving oddly sour notes reminiscent of fruit. Touch of wood on the back, with a slight maraschino cherry note as well, and a slight aspirin character (possibly my least favourite flavour in beer). Touch of bubblegum as well (hold the phone, I think we have a tie here), all of which makes me a bit lukewarm towards this. It's a bit mish-mashed and not quite good, either for a dark beer or for a pretending-to-be-dark beer.

Too much sizzle on the mouthfeel. Good body at first, quite full-textured, but developed a brashness on the mid-to-back.

Not overall bad; there are aspects here that I like and that I don't like. Not too intense that I can't drink, but flavours are not wonderful so I don't love it.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.0 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.5
God Påske 2008 Vintage
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 10.11.10 in bottle
Overall:
74 / 100
(Very Good)
Pours a deep earthy red-amber with delicious light beige head fed from a furious stream of carbonation. Nice and dense, sinking very slowly but retaining a nice thick layer of foam with mediocre lacing. Overall though, a pretty fine-looking brew.

Smell is nice and fruity. Very sweet with glacé cherries, raisins and dates, all mingling with a faint musty peppery yeast. Slight whisper of clove and some honey underlying it all. Pretty appealing, good spice to offset the sweetness.

Taste is quite fruity as well, bordering on tart midway. Lots of raisin sweetness with hints of apricot, pear and apple that all feels slightly underripe with a touch of acid late. Gathers more rich, earthy sweetness post-mid with a touch of molasses and a dab with that Belgian yeast-brush (excuse the clumsy metaphor; I'm drinking) that gives mild peppercorn and coriander notes at the end.

This beer is one month past its potential lifespan end and there is a whisper of that stale beer cardboard flavour, but only a faint one; overall this has held up remarkably well. Still loads of complexity, good balance and fine flavours.

Mouthfeel is slightly rough around the edges, but a good sticky body holds it in check. Not bad.

If there's anyone still holding onto a bottle of this, my advice is drink it now, as it's still a very enjoyable drop. I just can't help wondering how great this would have been six or twelve months ago.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Potteloereke
Reviewed by Jez on 02.11.10 in bottle
Overall:
77 / 100
(Excellent)

Pours a very cloudy and almost über-murky chestnut brown colour. Head is formed of reasonably large bubbled, but the body sustains a sizeable head throughout. Pretty thick lacing as well. The heavy carbonation is a bit out of character, but otherwise, a very tasty looking brew.

Nose is delicious with Belgian esters, and very flavoursome caramel malts. Slightly nutty characters, with a big sweetness coating my nostrils. It's a really lovely nose. In some ways, without the light astringency and dark notes, it smells more like a dubbel, although it's missing a little of the spice, perhaps.

Taste is also good, with those sweet malt characters throughout, leavened with a touch of light fruit. A slight phenolic astringency comes in the middle of the palate, but it dissipates pretty quickly, leaving only a sweet caramel finish with a slight hazelnut dryness. Feel is light, which helps the palate even more - stop it from getting too slick and heavy. Nice.

Yes, indeed. A very nice Belgian ale, with some lovely sweet characters, but a lightness that keeps it drinkable. Carbonation touches it a little bit too much, but that's a minor flaw in an otherwise extremely pleasant beer.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Brother Thelonious
Reviewed by Jez on 31.10.10 in bottle
Overall:
69 / 100
(Very Good)

Pours a very thick and rich deep red-brown mahogany. Head is firm and thick, a big dollop of yellow-tan bubbles that dissipate, leaving some ecstatic lacing. Body looks very deep and heavy, but despite this, there's minimal static bubbling as it's swirled. Still, looks a very decent brew. Some hazing would maybe help, but it's good nonetheless.

Nose is quite oaky, with big vinous characters coming through. Sweet hints of molasses and fresher notes of crushed leaves. Slight acidity to it as well, giving a carbonic fizz to the aroma. It's not quite right for a Belgian ale, but there are certainly pleasant characters to it.

Taste is sweet and rich, and again quite oaky, with a finish that stems from melted sugar and roasted grain. Initially, the vinous characters come through with a woody astringency, before this drops out, leaving a sweeter and softer note which extends to the finish, getting thinner and thinner as it goes. Feel is rather light, and the faint seltzer acidity doesn't help this perception, but it fits in with the finish at least.

Yeah, not a bad brew, but nothing that's going to excite you beyond redemption. I'd happily drink it again, and would probably even select it again, but maybe only if there was not a new, and potentially more exciting option available.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Leffe Vieille Cuvée
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 25.10.10 in bottle
Overall:
59 / 100
(Decent)
Pours a mediciney copper colour, quite metallic really. Head is generous, nice and fluffy, sinks slowly but leaves nice webs of lace. Clear body showing lots of light carbonation. Great head and lace; pretty decent overall.

Smell is very fruity, with apricot and plum edges, a hint of apple and that classic musty Belgian yeast overlain. Actually very jammy. Seems a bit saccharine, fruit-wise but otherwise nice.

Taste is a bit lacking really. Lots of fruity sweetness at first, with that apricot and deep rich plum but degenerates into weak sweetness late-mid after quite an earthy malt note mid-palate, with a touch of brown sugar. Feels a bit overly sweet, like it's a bit old and the non-malt characters are diminished. They're still there; just underplayed. Spice comes through on the back, quite piquant with a touch of tobacco and some spicy alcohol on the very back. Yeah, it's alright, just lacking and a bit oversweet in the critical places.

Mouthfeel is decent. Very full but a touch of carbonation texture - just a whisper, it just adds texture to an otherwise flat palate and it's thick enough to pad the tongue.

Not bad overall but I feel it could be better, could have been better, even, once, but it's not its former glorious self.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Maudite
Reviewed by Jez on 20.10.10 in bottle
Overall:
77 / 100
(Excellent)

Deep brownish amber colour, slightly hazed clarity in the body, with a full and foamy head of off-white. Lacing is sudsy and Belgianesque. Looks very decent.

Sweet and slightly woody nose, with big Belgian yeast characters and a slightly organic sawdust character. Good amount of spice and a faint citric acidity. Lots of very pleasant characters on this.

Taste is lovely. Very decent Belgian characters, giving a slightly rounded note to the slightly smoky front. Robust and full, but sweet enough to temper anything before it gets too harsh or prominent. Finish is surprisingly fresh, leaving a pleasant crushed organic character on the back. Feel is smooth and light, adding to the really charismatic aspect of this beer. I'm very surprised at how light it is for 8%.

It's a lovely drop of beer. Unibroue do some wonderful things and this is no exception.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
Grotten Brown (Pierre Celis Signature)
Reviewed by Jez on 30.04.10 in bottle
Overall:
74 / 100
(Very Good)

Pours a murky deep brown, with a crackling head of beige foam which is monumental at first, but which slips to a pillowy sludge on the top, leaving great slicks of lacing down the side of the glass. All up a pretty damn good looking Belgian.

Quite sweet on the nose. Lots of round caramel notes and a smooth lacing of vanilla. Not a huge amount of Belgian spice notes (especially as the ingredients list "épices"). Not bad though.

Similar on the palate, but perhaps a little more subdued. Vanilla again is prominent, with some round Belgian yeast notes. But it tapers out abruptly near the end, leaving very little after palate. Feels slightly too thin, or not full and complex enough. Round palate until the abrupt ending, at least.

Still, it's very drinkable and smooth, and a very decent drop of beer. Even though 6.7% is the low end of the spectrum for this style of Belgian ale, it can pack a punch, but this one stays smooth, and manageable all the way through. A very nice drop, glad I managed to try it.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.5
Abbaye De Floreffe Prima Melior
Reviewed by Jez on 18.04.10 in bottle
Overall:
68 / 100
(Solid)

Pours a deep dark black-brown, just flashing lighter at the edges, with a huge and frothy head of mild beige foam. Very rocky, and the boisterous foaminess of the head collapses after a while leaving a few globs of sticky lacing. Looks nice.

Big oaky characters on the nose, almost overpowering, with great medicinal phenols of rosewater and hot rain. A little roasted darkness flittering around the back as well, but the oak is the dominant force here. Quite intense and insane. Big. I like that.

Taste is also good, but very different from the nose. Slight roasted characters, and big, almost wheaty sweetness to it, with esters of banana and vanilla. Very smooth and very sweet, even though it feels a bit thin in the mouth, and there's just the hint of something slightly unpleasant - a bread yeast twang - on the very back.

It's a drinkable beer, no doubt, and very smooth. It confused me a bit with the disjunction between nose and mouth, but it's a tasty brew, and very smooth for its 8%.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Kuhnhenn Mayhem
Reviewed by Jez on 28.11.09 in bottle
Overall:
64 / 100
(Solid)

Bought a New Beer Distributors in New York. Being the first and only Kuhnhenn beer I've seen in my limited operations in the US.

Pours a pretty viscous and murky dark mahogany colour, with very little head - just a mashed conglomeration of large bubbles that are more likely to do with aeration during the pour than carbonation. Head is certainly disappointing, but it seems this is a pretty heavy brew - the colour is great though, and the weight in the body is quite exciting.

Huge port aromas on the nose - certainly big booze notes, and sweet rich malt or fortified wine characters. A little tannic aroma around the edges too - some leather and turned earth, almost hinting at crushed black pepper, although the spicy alcohol phenols could be responsible for this. Overall, it's a mellow and sweet but darkly captivating aroma. I approve.

Taste is initially smooth, hinting at big plummy Belgian characteristics, but this rapidly shifts to a rather potent estery heat that soon evaporates off the tongue, leaving bitter dark notes residual. The alcohol note is pronounced, leaving a solvent-like sharpness on the palate. The bottle gives no hint as to its ABV, but I'm guessing high, and what's more, it feels it. The initial sweetness is ripped away by the alcohol, leaving a beer that requires sipping, and even then requires some discipline to get through.

It's a pretty robust and confronting brew, and it does have layers of complexity. But it also has some brash and dominant characters which aren't entirely pleasant. I found it difficult to get through, although perhaps sharing a bottle with a friend or three might make the experience more enjoyable.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 2.0
Unibroue 17
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 30.10.09 in bottle
Overall:
78 / 100
(Excellent)
Pours a very burnt red-orange colour, slightly purple-tinged. Head is beige and medium thickness with nice small bubbles. Leaves some beautiful lacing that sinks quickly but still nice. Body is hazy and pleasant.

Nose is very wine-like with strong oaky characters, very dark with woody notes, some red grape tannins, plums, sour notes, yeah, some passionfruit as well. Nice, pleasant, although the wood drowns out other aromas a bit. Very good though.

Taste is very complex, with sour notes and a lot of woody characters. Sweet, rich fruit, with plums and grape tannins on there, a bit of a sour soft drink lemon kind of flavour, quite rindy actually, and very dry with the woodiness, yeah a lot of wood, oak mostly, slightly resiny as well. Some raisin characters and even some cola. A bit spicy, but alcohol is very well hidden except for a slight bite at the back. Pleasant, complex enough, very like a good red wine, really. The comparison is unavoidable.

Mouthfeel is quite viscous with good alcohol warmth, very dry on the back though which is a bit of a turnoff. Well constructed though.

Drinkable - is a red wine drinkable? Yes. Is this even better than a red wine? It's beer. Of course it fucking is.
appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.5
Unibroue 17
Reviewed by Jez on 29.10.09 in bottle
Overall:
81 / 100
(Exceptional)

Pours a pretty dark brown, very cloudy with a massively frothy head of beige bubbles. Very nice lacing. Body looks a little thin. Looks pretty good overall.

Quite a sweet nose. Lots of raisins, and quite a pungent dunkelweizen note. Quite round and full, a little bubblegum, and a hint of phenolic booze. Lots of Belgian notes in here - pretty good and true to style. Very nice.

Pleasant oaky vinous characters on the palate. Really very quite like a heavy shiraz, with lots of grapeskin tannin. Tingly with latent carbonation, and very large notes of booze. Very sharp with heat, but surprisingly smooth. A confusingly delicious beer.

This is a really top drop, and quite unusual. It really does bring an aged red wine to my mind - even the clinging dryness at the end is reminiscent. I enjoyed it a great deal, even though I found it a little challenging.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.0
N'Ice Chouffe
Reviewed by Jez on 21.10.09 in bottle
Overall:
84 / 100
(Exceptional)

Pours a very dark ruby red colour, with a very full, but loose-bubbled head of beige foam. Very nice looking, especially the colour and the clarity. Looks surprisingly light bodied for such a high gravity beer, but overall it really does look quite delightful.

Dark fruits and light boozy characters on the nose. Slightly spiced, with notes of cranberries, sultanas and a little sharp pine. Even a touch of oak or brandy. Very nice. I know this is the point, but it reminds me of the flavours of Christmas, and today in Sydney is unseasonably hot, which makes me remember a summer Christmas all the more.

Tingly on the palate, quite rich, and smooth later. Starts with a robust fortified alcohol character, that starts to permeate the sinuses, before a lovely smooth vanilla character comes in to soothe the palate. The alcohol is no doubt noticeable, but it's delicately entangles with the more subtle characters so that it blends superbly. Mouthfeel has the benefit of the light heat, and the smooth back palate. Lovely.

A lovely beer - possibly too high gravity to drink a great deal of - and the heat is so integrated into the palate that you notice every sip. But nonetheless, a truly very delectable and enjoyable brew.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Struis
Reviewed by Jez on 20.10.09 in bottle
Overall:
73 / 100
(Very Good)

Pours a cloudy deep burnished brown colour, with some upsettingly disturbed sediment chunks. Head is a voluminous mass of pocked cocoa-dust foam, which leaves some nice rings of lacing around the edge of the glass. Overall, a very decent looking beer.

Strong sweet characters on the nose, toffee, molasses, a little wood and a serving of Belgian yeast character to boot. It's the way the characters merge together that is particularly impressive, however - a really nice conglomeration of disparate notes to give a truly classic Belgian style ale nose. Delicious.

Taste is a little off for me - starts out with a pleasant round Belgian ale character, with some honey and molasses sweetness, then a little dry possibly oaky character, before there's quite a welling of rank yeast on the back palate that makes me flinch a little. This mellows the more I drink of it, but the first sip was quite offputting. Mouthfeel is slick and creamy. I'm just so disappointed about the afterpalate.

It's a very nice Belgian ale if you ignore the last five seconds or so on the palate - it's a shame that it has something so clearly out of place, because otherwise it's extremely well constructed, and very well integrated.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
La Gauloise Brune
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 25.08.09 in bottle
Overall:
66 / 100
(Solid)
Pours a dark burnished brown, red up to the light, with enormous beige head, really rather large, but sinking gradually. Leaves a complex schematic of lace around the glass and there is a nice haze and bead, with floaties - or, more appropriately, sinkies.

Nose is very sweet and malty, but with a nice floral hop aroma to go along with it. A caramel and toffee sweetness for the most part, hints of an astringent citrus character and light medicinal phenols. Quite boozy actually, but very good.

Taste is extremely malty and quite boozy, quite a bit of a nutty edge and the balance for the malt - if it is balanced - comes from a tart, fruity edge rather than any floral or particularly bitter finish.

Mouthfeel is slightly foamy, pretty slick, certainly feels full but not sticky. Quite boozey on the back with mildly biting alcohol phenols. Overall feels slightly unbalanced, with the malt having free range to bombard the palate. Sour citric character is welcome, but then overrun by boozey finish. Good character, not great structure.
appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
La Gauloise Brune
Reviewed by Jez on 22.08.09 in bottle
Overall:
80 / 100
(Excellent)

Pours a dark opaque red-brown, with a creamy thick head of yellow-white foam. Good lacing. Some floating sediment in the glass from an overenthusiastic pour. Looks pretty thick and pretty tasty.

Wonderful rich and sweet aromas on the nose. Deliciously complex, with dark cherry-chocolate, port and light oak. Even some lighter phenols and banana characters coming though. Very pleasant indeed, and bursting with complexity.

Taste is wonderfully refined, sweet, but dry with a light grain afterpalate, and lashings of roasted chocolate darkness. Some light phenolic bitterness on the very back. Light and creamy in the mouth - truly wonderful. It's not as full or complex as I expected from the nose, but it has excellent balance, and is magnificently drinkable.

A very enjoyable beer, with lots of wonderful characters that are held together in a wonderful structure. Extremely drinkable, and juicily delicious.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
McChouffe
Reviewed by Jez on 03.08.09 in bottle
Overall:
74 / 100
(Very Good)

Cloudy dark reddish brown with a huge rocky head of beige foam, that leaves some grilled sugar lacing on the sides. Very dense and thick and opaque. Looks incredibly good, but maybe not so suitable for 11am. Lovely colour.

Lots of carbonation and a light oxidation on the nose. Fair whack of sweet organic Belgian yeast as well. Hint of peppery spice, but to be honest not a lot. Some dark bread or grain character. Not bad. It's not a hugely complex nose, but it's quite pleasant.

Smooth with some spicy phenols on the palate. Start is light and a little spiky, this mellows so a smooth, dry grain character and a lingering waft of alcohol heat. Some alcohol soaked raisins perhaps mid palate. Nice. Plenty of things going on there. They don't merge into a blissful state, but there's lots of interest.

It does have a little too much of the alcohol character to be more than a sipping beer, and I think having this served to me at 11 was a really bad idea, but it's reasonably smooth, and the body is pleasantly light. Overall, a nice Belgian. I don't think it's quite as good as the better examples, but it's still very pleasant.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 3.5
McChouffe
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 03.08.09 in bottle
Overall:
57 / 100
(Decent)
Pours a hazy brown-apricot colour with really pleasant beige head, retains superbly but isn't all that thick. The sticky sheet of lace on my mistress' bed...whoops, I mean, on the glass, more than makes up for that, and very strong carbonation. Great-looking brew.

Nose is tart and resiny with a very distinct ethanol character. Fair amount of grape skins, with a hint of peach and maybe a slight banana character as well. Slightly simple, but pleasant enough.

Taste is also quite tart, with a pleasant fruity malt character on the mid, slightly tart grape characters and a hint of vinegar. Very phenolic with a distinct alcohol hit. Throughout the palate there is a lot of sweet characters though, boiled lollies and carob on the front. To be honest it doesn't sit perfectly right with the vinegar character on the back, and the overall palate feels a bit short, with not much of a finish. Pleasant enough but just lacking a bit.

Mouthfeel is very sticky and thick with a large body, not much texture but nice sticky Belgian quality.

As much as I'm not a huge fan of the flavour here, it's very drinkable and pleasant, goes down smoothly, because its tart and phenolic characters aren't quite sharp enough to make me recoil. Could disguise its alcohol better but otherwise pretty fine.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.0 | taste: 3.0 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Verboden Vrucht / Fruit Defendu (Forbidden Fruit)
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 29.07.09 in bottle
Overall:
73 / 100
(Very Good)
Pours a burnished orange colour with a lot of haze and floaties in the glass. Beige, sticky head with a few large bubbles, clings to the glass beautifully. Lacing is just as nice, maybe a bit less sticky. Powerful good.

Nose is insanely fruity with very, very sweet strawberry and blackcurrant aromas, a tangy tartness as well, almost like sherbet. A very light woodiness and a hint of grain, but it's dominated almost entirely by that fruit. Pleasant indeed, but maybe a bit too sweet. I would love my fruit bowl to smell like this instead of like rotting carbon matter and fly shit, but beer is something I like a bit more grounded.

Taste is a lot more musty, with a distinct bitterness coming through on the mid. Front is still dominated by that pleasant berry fruit, but the mid ventures into phenolic and oak resin territory, with a fair boozey character as well and a light carbolic tart edge. Lots of character throughout the palate though, with tart socialising with dank, and slightly roasted breaking bread with syrupy sweet. Overall it's a bit of a hodge-podge with no distinct profile, but it's definitely a swinger's party for flavours and I love what's nude hot-tubbing in my mouth.

Feel is slick but syrupy with a lot of texture from the yeast and a really delightful pang of alcohol just at the back. This is quite a tasty gang-bang, and I look forward to seeing the video going viral on my favourite beer-porn channel.
appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Leffe Radieuse
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 24.07.09 in bottle
Overall:
77 / 100
(Excellent)
Pours a rude crimson colour, slightly brown-tinged with voluminous cream-coloured head, sinks but retains to about a finger thickness. Fine threads of bead, lacing is pretty minimal though. Interesting and quite good.

Nose is sweet and fruity, with big hints of strawberry, sultanas and a slight buttery edge to it as well. Slight tart aspect and a mild pine wood aroma. Very Belgian, with a lot of rich, sweet aromas. Très pleasant.

Taste is very pleasant indeed with the deep, textured flavour of roasted barley providing the backbone to the palate. Elements of strawberry, light coffee characters and a nice burnt sugar edge. Finish is long and powerful and has a strong dried fruit flavour, mixed with a fresh citrus texture. Mouthfeel is nicely thick and has quite a grainy sensation to it, but leaves you really quite dessicated at the end. A lot of yeast spiciness helps with this, this has a definite savoury edge in spite of the potent sweet flavours.

Nice alcohol warmth to it as well; it permeates the palate without drawing attention to itself. This is a very pleasant beer. Doesn't scream at you or beg to be embraced, just warming and charming for its own sake. At 8.2% I'd call it eminently drinkable.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.5
Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue)
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 04.06.09 in bottle
Overall:
90 / 100
(Superb)
Now obviously I have tried Chimay Bleu twice, maybe thrice, in my formative years as a beer drinker, and never really cared for it. Drinking it today could be viewed as a pivotal point in my reviewing life, as I hereby ask the question: am I yet man enough for the blue stuff?

Pours lighter than I remember, although looks darker in the glass than it did in the stream from the bottle. An umber hue with a burnt sienna head, what a nice complement the colours make. Head starts quite voluminous but fizzes off and sinks to about a finger thickness after a minute. Fairly strong carbonation is feeding it from the bottom, and it leaves a thick, but not very sticky, beige lace residual when tilted. Phenomenal appearance.

Nose has all the dark and brooding phenols of an exquisite cognac. A very phenolic nose, with slight (perhaps too slight) hints of dark cherry, orange peel and nectarine. A suggestion of spicy Belgian yeast, and maybe a touch of white pepper. Smell is mostly sweet though, no burnt or bitter aroma at all. Complex, just slightly too subdued for me.

Taste is complex and uncompromising. Sweet yet dark, spicy and supple. Has a mid-palate full of red grape skins, overripe cherry and blood plum, while this is dusted off by the finish which is spicy in an actual fiery, burning way. A green peppercorn bite with a phenolic tang and the burn of a very mild-flavoured but potent chilli. This is all helped along the way by the alcohol sensation, which is a warming, pleasant sensation all the way down but never overpowering. The beer sizzles in the mouth thanks to that effervescent carbonation, yet the body is full and viscous and slides down the throat like a glob of heartburn medication.

This is a flaming hot crossbow bolt of a brew, explosive in potency yet calming and luxurious. It's a beer that makes you feel like a king. Superbly crafted, flavourful and playful. Simply wonderful right across the board.
appearance: 5.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5.0 | drinkability: 5.0
De Dolle Oerbier
Reviewed by Jez on 30.05.09 in bottle
Overall:
73 / 100
(Very Good)

Bought this on the recommendation of the guy from Healthy Spirits in San Francisco.

Pours a lovely, slightly hazy refined mahogany brown colour, with an initially fluffy head of yellow-white bubbles. Carbonation is pretty enthusiastic, and the lacing is good. Head collapses after a while, despite the warning that this would be a gusher, but otherwise it's a very nice looking beer.

Very pleasant vinous notes on the nose, lots of red wine cork, a little carbonic acidity and a light sweaty leather character. Even a hiding note of smoke at the very back. Pleasant. Not huge, but very pleasant.

Nice notes of roasted grains and a little dark alcohol on the palate. Lots of wine notes again, a hidden undertone of pepper-and-berries shiraz. A very long palate, without any type of drying out; it stays pretty luscious throughout. Mouthfeel is unfortunately overly carbonated, it leaves it very bloating.

A nice enough Belgian; plenty of pleasant characters to it. The 9% is hidden very well. It really doesn't have a huge profile, but it is quite drinkable.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Maudite
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 04.05.09 in bottle
Overall:
67 / 100
(Solid)
Had a bit of a froth explosion when opened, possibly it wasn't chilled enough. I left the bottle next to an open window on a cold evening. When poured, doesn't produce a lot of head - possibly due to the explosion. Pours a rich burgundy colour with light carbonation, produces nice lacing that just falls lightly. It cradles the glass but doesn't cling. Looks nice but no wow factor.

Quite phenolic nose with a deep syrupy rum kind of character fairly prevalent. Good strong hints of some sweet but tart fruits - strong raisins, some cranberries and a little citrus - possibly mandarin. Rum 'n' raisin nose, really. Smells impressive, sweet and powerful.

Taste has more of the tartness than the sweetness, with a heavy raisiny flavour punctuated by a red wine tannin kind of character. In fact, if there is a beer that is more similar to red wine in flavour and texture, I'm yet to find it. Has a lingering, earthy finish, I'd guess thanks to some Belgian style hops but the sensation is very reminiscent of dark cocoa.

Mouthfeel is very fluid, although there is enough texture to make an impression. A complex drop, this, with a very discriminating palate. It doesn't quite have the explosive delectability of a Trappist ale, but there's a lot to like. I would like someone to come and locate the 8% alc/vol though, because it sure as l'enfer ain't here. But then I've come to expect that from these Québécois geniuses.
appearance: 3.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
La Terrible
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 02.04.09 in bottle
Overall:
68 / 100
(Solid)
Pours a rock oil black which turns out to be crude oil brown when held up to the light. Latte coloured head, very generous when first poured, only a little bit left now. Lovely thick lacing.

Has an almost smokey, charcoaly aroma on that. Quite sour and root beer-esque. Sort of like a creamy coffee but there's no real burnt fragrance, it's like the acridness of smoke without the burned character. Quite potent and surprisingly sweet.

Wow, intense flavouring. Deep cherry flavour on the mid with a slightly sour aspect to it and a powerful hit of rum, or some distilled liquor on the back. Front is a bit lacking and finish is there, but not as potent as the mid-palate would suggest. It's kind of sweet 'n' sour, quite nice, but it's in the middle that this beer lives. Very strong with a full Rich flavour. Mouthfeel is smooth and delicious.

Couldn't down this, but it's pleasant and quite impressive, for a while. It's not very drinkable, but it's nice.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Trappistes Rochefort 8
Reviewed by Jez on 26.03.09 in bottle
Overall:
77 / 100
(Excellent)

Cascading out of the bottle, a wonderful thick head of yellow-white bubbles forms. Solid and toffee-like, a nice burnished brown. Good lacing. Nice melted-sugar heaviness in the body.

Deep sweet aromas on the nose; toffee, oak, organic notes of pine, tea leaves and banana leaf. Such a sophisticated, refined nose. Delicious.

Bit of oak on the palate, with a nice full continuance of light nuttiness. Thick in the body and very pleasant. There's a nice banana and Belgian yeast sweetness, which leaves a nice dessert-sweet character on the finish. Mouthfeel is very smooth and creamy.

A very sophisticated brew. Not overdone in any dimension, and it's almost impossible to detect any alcohol. It's just sweet, refined and haughty. A delicious adventure.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
Trappistes Rochefort 8
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 26.03.09 in bottle
Overall:
65 / 100
(Solid)
Gingery brown colour with delicious beige head, sticks around beautifully, very sticky. Sticky but slightly cascading lacing. Slightly cloudy appearance. Very nice.

Very hoppy nose, with a sour, dusty character. Quite nice. Has a slight sweet character, it's a caramel character actually, but it's just on the back and hidden by the hops. A lot to smell on this, and a fair amount to like.

Quite sweet on the front, with a creamy flavour, but hops kick in on the mid palate and stick around for the back. To be honest I think this is too chilled, but there's enough flavour coming through. Quite smooth and decently flavoured with a slight element of something on the palate I can't quite pick (my bad). Very drinkable, mouthfeel is very smooth and with subdued, pleasant flavours.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 3.5
La Terrible
Reviewed by Jez on 16.02.09 in bottle
Overall:
81 / 100
(Exceptional)

Opaque cloudy very dark brown, with a thick and creamy mocha head of rocky bubbles. some carbonation, but not that noticeable. Just dark and rich and heavy looking. Fabulous.

Dark raw cacao flavours on the nose, a dusty earthy character and a hint of wet leather. Dark, gritty and dirty, and that's just what I want. There's a little sweeter rum-raisin character coming through as it warms, a little hint of alcohol, but not a huge amount. Still, very pleasant indeed.

Creamy and slick mouthfeel, like melted ice-cream, it's so smooth and slippery and rich, just gorgeous. The taste is a bittersweet dark chocolate richness, with a lingering refreshing alcohol bitterness, with even a hint of citric acidity - like grand marnier or curacao. Lovely, just smooth and rich, but sweet and darkly fruity at the same time.

What a fabulous brew; a rich and full number, with a huge deal of complexity, and a superbly hidden alcohol content. It's extremely drinkable for something I know is so heavy.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 5.0 | drinkability: 4.5
Special Vintage 1999
Reviewed by Jez on 25.02.08 in bottle
Overall:
71 / 100
(Very Good)

My Dad had this one tucked away for nine years, and cracked it open just recently with me and my brother. I ironically noted that the beer was brewed before I was legally allowed to drink.

Caged and corked, it opens with a very small fizz of escaping CO2. Pours a very deep reddish-amber, with very little carbonation. A very thin ring of bubbles sits around the edge. Slightly cloudy, it looks like light has a hard time struggling through it.

Very strong on the nose, dark and rich with notes of honey laced with a hint of Vegemite. There is a dusty, potentially oxidised character as well, probably the 9 years sitting in the bottle. But it's holding up ok. Rich and heavy.

Also very strong and pungent on the palate. Hints of Vegemite again, and a rather sticky alcohol character. Good strong malt and fruit characters are reminiscent of dark Belgian ales, but it's rather subdued, and the palate is rather short. It's pretty heavy, but surprisingly not that complex. Mouthfeel is very thick and heavy, but without a real smoothness that would make it exceptional.

Still, this is a pretty decent beer, and it has come up well considering its age. Not bad at all... It's a shame we didn't have some of the 2000 vintage still sitting around too...

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Trois Pistoles
Reviewed by Jez on 23.01.06 in bottle
Overall:
89 / 100
(Superb)

Deeply opaque dark brown. Big rocky coffee-coloured head. It dissipates to a persistent film that clings to the glass.

Divine nose. Dark syrupy sweetness. Through the rich, heavy sugar comes a hint of fragrant berry-fruits. After some coaxing, there's some hints of pepper fragrance. Wow, I think you could smell this forever and keep discovering new subtleties.

Delectable taste. Starts mellow and subdues, but crescendoes with a rich sweet maltiness. Full bodied, rather heavy and smooth. Mouthfeel is velvety smooth and coating. Wonderful.

There's an alcohol spiciness on the back-palate which nicely cuts through the sweetness. Richly layered. This is a very fine beer. One I'll enjoy again and again.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5.0 | drinkability: 4.5
Trois Pistoles
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 23.01.06 in bottle
Overall:
68 / 100
(Solid)
Didn't get much head. Dark body. Looks like red wine.

Potent nose. Sorta smells like red wine as well. It's a fascinating smell, anyway.

Tastes pretty wow. It's interesting and complex. Difficult to drink, but for tasting, fascinating. It's rich and dark but drinkable. Doesn't taste like coffee. It's fruity, really. Tastes more reminiscent of a rich, dark plum. But not that fruity, cos it's also beer-y. And bitter-y. And sort of dry.

It's nice, dude, I really like it. I mean, it's not Chimay Red, cos my pants aren't white and sticky, but it's nice. Very nice. Surprising, really.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.0
Verboden Vrucht / Fruit Defendu (Forbidden Fruit)
Reviewed by Jez on 19.02.05 in bottle
Overall:
80 / 100
(Excellent)

Appearance:
Deep opaque maroony strawberry-jam colour, topped by a majestic ochre crown of foam.

Nose:
Rich mellow caramelised fruits, with a wonderful lashing of that sweet Belgian yeast.
As it warms there are hints of toffee, molasses and milk chocolate. Also a little organic mustiness like dried lucerne. Very complex and rich

Taste:
The basis of the flavour is strongly pinned on the alcohol, but it stays just as a background canvas to the other flavours. Bittersweet fruits provide the main interest, underripe plums, red grapes and feijoa.
This is a very rich and complex beer. It's almost verging on being too complex, in that there's too much to take in, resulting in an overwhelmed palate.

It's good, and certainly challenging. But not a beer for every day.
From what I read, this beer has gone severely downhill since they changed the recipe. It must have been truly magnificent in the past.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue)
Reviewed by Jez on 19.02.05 in bottle
Overall:
89 / 100
(Superb)

Deep dark brown appearance with flashes of dark blood red. Head is thick and creamy, staying sturdy right to the bottom of the glass.

Nose is rich and organic. Dark malty and intense. Unsweetened chocolate. Very little sweetness, more just deep, earthy natural flavours. Really wonderful.

More dark malt in taste, and more of that unsweetened chocolate and mocha coffee. It's just dark and mysterious.
Hints of spices, cinnamon, cumin and even some black pepper. This is a rich, sippable beer.
The mouthfeel is full and round, moving around your tongue.

Overall, it's just so intense and so rich the drinkability is reduced a little.
An impressive beer, no doubt, and certainly one to respect.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 5.0 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5.0 | drinkability: 3.5