It is amazing these days how many breweries outside of Belgium are making Belgian style beers. Not only because the Belgians have perhaps the greatest variety of styles than any other country, but the quality of their products is nothing less than legendary.
Out of Quebec, Tante Tricotante Tripel (8%) from Microbrasserie du Lac Saint-Jean is a very special beer. It has its own tall tulip glass that accommodates a thick, moussey head and puts on display rich, fruity aromatics. It’s bright gold, with orange hues, good legs and lacing, has excellent effervescence elevating the body on the palate, tasting lighter than it seems, hiding its strength, but showing off it’s well balanced character, hops melding with malt, herbal notes, hints of tropical fruit, a zesty yeastiness swirling through the blissful complexity of this wonderful Abbey style tripel. Fully flavourful, playful and long in the finish, a beautiful beer.
Another unique ale from la belle province is La Noblesse (8.5%) from St. Arnold in Mont-Tremblant. Also best served in a tulip glass, it is described on the bottle as a Belgian pale ale, but is strong for that style. It pours a hazy amber, with hues of orange, a bright fruit accented nose and a dense white heads that dissipates but laces well. This is an elegant brew, well balanced with tones of wood, cherry, dark sugar and chocolate running through its medium body, malty sweetness landing on the palate, its creamy texture extending its aristocratic character to a fine, long finish.
Another interesting and quite tasty brew comes from Brasseurs et Frères in Dunham, Quebec. Their Brassin 4e Anniversaire (7.5%) pours light brown with some ruby highlights, a nose of caramel malt and dried fruit, a porous off-white head that disappears quickly, some toasted malt on the palate, hints of hidden spiciness, long, smooth and malt balanced, hops being kept in their place, bready and yeasty, toffee tones all culminating in a light bodied, well carbonated brew. The brewery makes a long list of unique offerings, their anniversary beers being specialties that change every year.
Let’s now go to a bang-on Belgian brew from south of the border. Green Flash Brewing from San Diego, California make some wonderful quality brews, but this one really stands out. Rayon Vert (7%) could be the popular flagship beer of any brewer in Belgium. The challenge is poring this sucker. Stay away from the narrow topped tulip glasses, as the thick mountainous head tends to grow volcanically as you pour. Use a wider Belgian glass, allowing the dense head to sit on top and slowly sink, leaving circles of lace with each sip. So true to the Belgian pale ale style, opaque amber, classically herbal/floral bouquet, definite fruitiness, a creamy carbonation allows this beer to be so silky smooth on the palate, though layered with bittering hops, it finds good balance with a solid base of malt. For added complexity, a little Brettanomyces presents itself in the finish, rounding out the dryness and adding to the character of this amazingly Belgian brew.
To northern California now. I recently managed to pick up one my favourite beers from Russian River in Santa Rosa, California, Supplication (7%) a strong ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with cherries. This is a Flanders oud bruin style, it pours a shiny deep amber with ruby hues, with a couple of fingers of porous off white head, it’s lightly cloudy, with fruit and acidic aromatics, the sour bight circling around the malt like a shark under water, woody tones, cherry complexity, balanced and certain. Leaves nice lacing, is well carbonated mouth feel and it finishes long, tart and dry. Bottle conditioned and corked a la champagne, this beer will age well for anyone with the inclination to cellar.