Apr 5, 2007

A Marathon Taste Testing

So it’s been four days since a recent trip down to Richmond to visit Craig, a good buddy of mine, and that night’s events are finally starting to solidify in my memory. As usual, when the two of us get together, good beer is likely to be had — often leaving at least one of use useless the following day. Like myself, he too is a Belgian beer nut. No matter what we are talking about at the time, it invariably ends up a discussion on the latest brew we’ve had the opportunity to sample.

Initially I was planning on keeping a running diary sort of thing through the night, but that just seemed way too damned geeky, even for myself. The following text is from memory so it’s a bit spotty, but we’ll give it a try anyways.

Here, Take My Money

After arriving a few minutes later than expected (traffic was horrendous) and helping his folks move some furniture, we scarf down our pizza reward and head on out to Corks and Kegs to get the night’s supply. There was one thing besides the pricing that bothered me about my first trip to this store. They didn’t allow you to create your own mixed six packs.

This sucked for a couple of reasons. First, they had a great selection of six packs that I would have loved to pull a bottle or two from and sample, but couldn’t. Second, I ended up spending that money and then some on too many Belgians. I know… How can a man have too many Belgians, right? Well, with Craig and I, if there’s a tasty beer present, we always seem to open it up despite all of our good intentions.

Debauchery Ensues

It didn’t really, but I figured that would get some attention. After we get back to the apartment, we decide to open up a bottle of Poperings Hommel Bier. Craig purchased that one based on advice from a coworker of his that said it was much like the Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel we both love so much. I can say right now, that it’s not like the Chouffe IPA. Yes, it’s an IPA as well, but it’s got a less sweet and much more earthier flavor to it. It’s more true to a standard IPA than the Chouffe, but lacked the characteristics of a traditional Belgian ale. That said, thinking back on the evening, it was the perfect beer to start the evening off with.

After splitting the Hommel, the next victim on the list was either the Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel (for comparison) or a Unibroue Don de Dieu. For some reason, my memory of the order of beers at this point in the evening is a bit foggy. I remember what we shared after these two, but can’t remember which of them came first. At any rate, I’ll focus on the Unibroue brew as I just recently reviewed the Houblon. Being a huge fan of Unibroue’s product I was really excited about trying this one (and another beer we had later in the evening).

The Don de Dieu was an interesting beer. I guess I was expecting something similar to Maudite or La Fin du Monde, but it was much different than it’s lighter bodied cousins. It poured a deep, rich golden brown with a nice full head. There was a bit of citrus and spice in the aroma, but the taste was more subtle. It was slightly sweet with fruit undertones and finished wonderfully with a bit of dryness.

Thai Food and Belgian Beer

Moving furniture, shopping and the first couple of beers had taken up a good portion of the day and we realized that we had better get some food in us before continuing too much further into the fridge. Craig had this great Thai restaurant with the most ridiculous beer menu for its genre of food in mind, so we headed off. The Belgian beer menu puts many larger, more specialized restaurants to shame. I saw a large number brews that I was interested in, but wanted Craig to try out the Tripel Karmeliet. I thought it would be light enough for dinner and complement the style of food well enough.

I’ve had this one in the past, but never got around to writing about it. I really should have done so earlier, and thankfully can rely on those notes for this brief review. After the waiter launched the cork into the ceiling and off the table next to us, we let the brew settle in our Delirium Tremens glasses before sampling. The beer’s aroma has an underlying sweetness and hints of pear, apple and a little something else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I remember on my first tasting of this one not being all that impressed until I had let it rest and warm a bit. Lucky for us the beer wasn’t too chilled when it came to the table. The fruits from the aroma are present in the taste, but at a nicely subtle level. This was definitely the right choice for our meal.

The Home Stretch

After the short dive back to the apartment, we relaxed for a couple of minutes before diving into Unibroue’s Trois Pistoles. This is another brew I had never had before and was really excited to try. It was definitely the darkest beer of the evening, pouring an almost black. Once we held it up to some light you could see that it was really just a dark brown with a ruby hue to the edges. It looked like a beauty sitting in my newly purchased Duvel glass.

The aroma of this beer was much different than the rest of the night’s line-up. It wasn’t as sweet smelling, but had a dominating dark fruit aroma. Man, this beer was tasty. The fig and and raisin in the aroma was also present in the taste, as was a slight hop presence. This was the most complex beer of the night and probably my favorite.

An Intermission

It was at this point in the evening, 11 PM I believe, that Zach (an old college buddy of ours) arrives with a 6 pack of Bell’s Hopslam and Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA. We took the opportunity to sort of cleanse the palette a bit with an American beer. I went with a Hopslam for it’s crispness and hoppiness. It did the job perfectly. I’m pretty sure we nursed this round for a while, preparing for our final Belgian of the evening.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Earlier in the day during our shopping trip, I purchased a large bottle of Brasserie des Rocs Grande Cru thinking it was one of their beers that I had enjoyed earlier this year. I was excited for Craig to sample it as it was a wonderful beer. After cracking it open and pouring each of us a glass, I noticed immediately that it was a different color and almost completely devoid of any sediment. I quick dash back to the kitchen to look at the bottle again, I realized that I had purchased the Grand Cru, but had sampled the Brune earlier this year.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed. I was really looking forward to the Brune. That said, one taste of the Grand Cru quickly washed away any disappointment. This is one tasty beer. There is a bit of sweetness, caramel undertones, and a mild hop bitterness in the finish. I can tell you that I will definitely be on the look out for this one again.


It was about 2AM Sunday morning that I finally decided that I couldn’t stay up any later. I had done enough damage to the beer purchase and really, really wanted to go to bed. Saying good night to Craig and Zach I made my leave and promptly passed out in the guest bedroom — dead to the world.

Final Ratings

Poperings Hommel Bier: 3.5/5
Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel: 4.5/5
Unibroue Don de Dieu: 2.5/5
Tripel Karmeliet: 3.5/5
Unibroue Trois Pistoles: 4/5
Brasserie des Rocs Grande Cru: 3.5/5