The Pacific Northwest is a great place to be if you love great beer, and Seattle has one of the best spots for Belgian beer that I’ve ever seen: Brouwer’s. With 25 Belgian beers on tap at any time (and literally hundreds more in bottles), you can pretty much find any style of Belgian that you please. I headed there with a few friends, and we had quite a few beers, all quite good, some delicious. Here are my reflections of my favorites (at the time, jotted down hurriedly on my hand or menu):
1. Foret Saison: I’m currently in the middle of brewing a saison myself, so I wanted to try a few authentic examples of this style. The Foret was a cloudy straw color, with a citrusy spiciness that dominated the aroma. The beer tasted of citrus and yeast on the nose, with sweet malt undertones. Towards the end, I could taste a subtle horsey funkiness coupled with moderate hop bitterness. This was an excellent beer with very distinct flavors that I thoroughly enjoyed.
2. Gulden Draak: Gulden Draak is a dark trippel that I’ve had bottled a few times, and it never fails to impress me. The color is a dark, almost opaque brown. I could smell the alcohol in the aroma – though I don’t know the exact figure, it has to be pushing 10% ABV. The taste is dominated by a malty sweetness at first, which settles a bit into notes of plum and raisin. It had a very low bitterness – the taste was mostly the molasses-like maltiness with some fruit and yeast. This is always a good beer.
3. Duchesse de Bourgogne Sour Red Ale: This was my favorite beer of the night, and one of the cheapest we tried (only $6.00! — WooHoo!). A great example of the Flanders Red Ale style, Duchesse is a brilliant dark crimson color, and has an aroma dominated by sour cherries. The taste is a little sweet with marked sourness, and tasted of cherries, apple, and a little sweet mustard. The taste finished with a slight alcoholic warmth that was most pleasant. This is one of the most wine-like beers I’ve ever had, and one I would get again and again.
4. Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek ’04: A real lambic – none of that sweetened Lindemans stuff. This lambic was a cloudy, dark red, and smelled of sour cherries and apple. The taste was initially a punchy sour, which mellowed out and gave way to a very slight sweetness. The cherry flavor lingered in the background, with the sourness and Belgian funkiness at the fore. I wouldn’t want this all the time, but I can certainly imagine being in the mood for it.
5. Koningshoeven Quadrupel: This is actually from the Netherlands, and was interesting to taste side-by-side with the Gulden Draak. A dark brown, this one smelled a little sweet, with some apples and something else (soy sauce?). The taste was moderately sweet and fruity with a low bitterness. There were toffee-like flavors from the malt mingled with apple and raisin – all around this was very pleasant.
6. Ommegang Hennepin Saison: Ommegang, actually an American company, produces quite a few excellent beers, so I was anxious to try this one. Different from the Foret, it was less bitter, with more coriander and subtler fruitiness. It may have been because this was the last beer of the evening, but the flavors seemed better blended. They are both excellent, but I prefer the Ommegang, by a nose.
Well, there you have it – there aren’t too many places you can go to have all of those beers on tap at one place, so I have to hand it to the folks at Brouwer’s. Drop by if you’re ever in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.