Belgian beers. The easiest way to make sure I tune out. I am aware this may rub some people the wrong way (and in the past I got an earful from a Belgian Brewer’s Association representative over my podcasted views in the wake of the Mikkeller/Belgian vs gypsy brewers drama). I frankly have never written about beer to get back slaps or care about getting kicked in the balls for my views. Beer is highly subjective & emotive for me. And on a beer shopping trip, I for some reason took a fancy to picking up a tripel I came across. It had no fancy branding. It had no promise of hopped up excitement. It had no bombastic promise of being a game changer. And yet, I bought it. And no, I didn’t bang my head.
Brouwerij Straffe Hendrik hails from Bruges. You know, that place Colin Farrell & Brendan Gleeson romped around. Straffe Hendrik translates as ‘Strong Henry‘ (See? you learn stuff when you visit HopAddiktion.com). Belgian beers because of the yeasts used, & the use of brewing sugars in the higher ABV beers have almost always been a turn-off for me. I don’t like the sugary sweetness. And I just do not like the whole orange-coriander seed thing either. It’s also why wheat beers that are turned out in this bog-standard format anger the ever-loving fuck out of me. There I was with a bottle of Straffe Hendrik Tripel in hand, as I opened up the intertubes to do a quick bit of recon.
And reading about this beer before I cracked it open made me tense. Ah crap, I was in for a bottle of what I dislike. What in the heck was I thinking? Gaaaaahhhhh!!!!!!!!! Do I ‘donor’ the bottle to my one of my brothers who likes that style, or do I man up, crack it open, pour it & drink it down.I opted for the latter in the interest of this shambolic attempt for beer OpEd-bloggy-shoddy-journalism that many of you repeatedly visit & follow for reasons best known to yourselves.
Cracking it open, the sweetness comes forth. Aaaaaah, balls. Then I pour it, & the carbonation is very lively. Very, very lively. The resulting head on the beer is a veritable Belgian beer by-the-numbers show-and-tell. Double balls. Picking up the glass to hold it in better light, it’s a lazy-hazy amber colour.
I suck in some air & decide for the good of the shoddy, over-the-top, gregarious opinion that vents forth from my fingers that it’s aroma investigation time. Banana, cinnamon, Belgian yeasty boys, orange peel & some green hops. The hops were unexpected. Is it wishful thinking, or are they there? Back I go for a second honking. There’s hops in the aroma …. and some honey. Ah tripel balls. Honey. The infamous belgian brewer’s sugar is on deck.
There’s no running away at this point. It’s dive in & give it a crack. The carbonation isn’t as effervescent as it appeared in the glass, which is incredibly helpful. The first taste is alot of citrus orange and tangerine, with some apricot, lime, white grape & toffee. While sweet, it’s not overwhelming as there’s a bitter at play that balances that out before some alcohol heat appears to lay waste to it all, but not in a brash boozy manner that leaves you with whiskey mouth.
This beer’s massive orangeyness & hop-leverage helped overcome the Belgian-ness of the beer for me. I love orange & stone fruit flavours in my beers. The only discernible flavours here that told me this beer was Belgian were the flavours that the Belgian yeast imparts & the honey resulting from the brewing sugars.
I actually enjoyed this beer. Granted it wouldn’t make its way into my ‘regular beers’ list. But, I honestly think that on cold Autumn or Winter evenings, this would be a really enjoyable beer.