The Needle & Pin Belgian beer night, March 2017

Just moments after the inaugural dark beer night at the N&P, I was down at the bar reserving the first two spaces on the inaugural Belgian beer night (the other space for regular MOFAD drinking companion Alec). It felt like it was ages away, but time flies when you’re waiting for a Belgian beer night to arrive. Sean handed over the reins for this one to the N&P’s resident Belgian beer expert Iain, who was to guide us through the landscape of Belgian brewing past and present.

We opened with Westmalle Dubbel (7%), a rich and complex Trappist beer, which undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle. The Westmalle monastery has been brewing beer for over 150 years, and is one of only twelve monasteries allowed to carry the “Authentic Trappist Product” label on their beer. The Dubbel is a dark brown beer with aromas of dark fruits, bread, warming spices, leading to flavours of raisins and other fruits with a dry finish.

My conclusion? Dark fruits, a little sourness and some very nice carbonation. A very pleasant Dubbel indeed.

We move on to Straffe Hedrick Tripel (9%), the winner of Belgium’s Best Belgian Style Tripel at the World Beer Awards in 2016. The Maes family have been brewing in the centre of Bruges since the mid 19th century, and this beer is now the most established product of the De Halve Maan brewery. A huge white head and big carbonation bring a hoppy aroma to the nose, unusual for many Belgian beers. Fruits and grains are apparent on the palate, but the bitterness dominates.

Does it? Kind of, those golden fruits certainly come through, and again the elegance of the carbonation is reminiscent of a good sparkling wine.

On we go, with Vicaris Tripel Gueuze. This is created by brewing two beers and then joining them together in the bottle. A creamy white head billows above a honey gold beer, with a nose of tart vanilla and spice, leading to a full body and long dry finish.

This was another with very nice carbonation, some tart vanilla flavours mixing with a little spice on the palate.

We now take a break for another Belgian classic, fries and mayonnaise. An awesome way to refuel and soak up a little liquid.

These were piping hot, salty and delicious. And lovely mayonnaise too.

Off for a little fruity number next,  Kriek Boon (4.5%). The brewery in Lembeek has brewed under different ownerships since 1680, and has been owned by Frank Boon since 1975, establishing a reputation for fine Gueuze lambic beers. This is a cheery beer made by blending different aged lambics and then ageing them again over whole cherries. This gives a tart cherry beer with a hint of sweetness, and a hint of something coming from the oak casks that the beer has aged in.

I’m not a fan of cherries, but this was a nice beer, flavours of cherry juice but with the cherries fading away. Very easy drinking, perfect for a summer BBQ.

Here we deviate from the plan. We were due to finish with Rochefort 10 (11.3%) but due to logistical issues, I had to take mine and run. Look out for a separate review later.

Before the evening began, there was time for a quick bit of shopping, with a couple of Cloudwaters and a Howling Hops IPA (which will be my first from this brewery). The photo also shows the left over Rochefort and my glass to commemorate the evening.

Another great night out at the N&P – the April instalment of the event is already sold out, but look out for another Belgian event in the autumn. Pop over to Facebook to keep up to date

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