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Belgium

scrapes in   decent   good   excellent   sublime

Chimay, Red Label Trappist Beer
The Trappist monastary at Chimay in the south west of Belgium has been brewing its beers and making its cheeses since 1862. Red label, at 7% ABV, is the least alcoholic of the three beers they produce. It pours with a lovely deep red colour, and tall, foaming head that is very persistent. The nose is intensely fruity, with notes of dried apricots and fig and a chocolaty background. On the palate it is smooth and silky-textured, with a luxurious mouthfeel. There is plenty of nutty, dry, but concentrated fruit character and a spicy, malty finish with plenty of bit. A great beer. 33cl. 7.0%ABV. 1.69 Peckhams, quite widely available.

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Hoegaarden Witbier
This was the big 75cl Hoegaarden, a beer from the giant Interbrew, and one of the most popular wheat beers in the UK. Subtly flavoured with Coriander and Curaçao, it pours in a swirling cloud of yeast with a pale yellow, almost putty colour and strong white head. It is intensely aromatic, with lots of lemony fruit, spices and a hint of white chocolate. There is plenty of yeasty aroma, that's quite high and floral. On the palate it is very easy-drinking, with not a lot of hop flavour, but plenty of spicebox nuances, a vaguely medicinal hint and a crisp, fruity, refreshing style. 75cl. 5.0%ABV. 2.99 Waitrose, widely available.

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Leffe Blonde
A medium gold colour and incredibly thick, creamy head. The nose is dazzling, with all sorts of estery, bright aromatics of herbs and spices, resins and fruits. There's a deep, toasty malt note too and a suggestion of mashed banana. On the palate it is thick and creamy-textured, with a lovely sour, bittersweet hoppy tang, and bags of pithy grapefruit sharpness to counteract all that sweet, fudge-like fruit. Impressive, delcious, yet I don't know if I could drink a lot of it. This "Abbey" beer upsets purists because it is blonde, not made by Trappists (but by the giant Interbrew), however I enjoyed it. 33cl. 6.6%ABV. 1.35 Waitrose, widely available.

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Leffe Brune
Leffe's dark beer pours a dark ruby/brown colour with quite a thick cream-coloured head. The nose is intensely fruity, with plenty of nutty and tobacco notes adding warming depth. On the palate there is a blast of sweetness, with masses of milky chocolate flavour and a fruity tang. This beer is about sumptuous, thick, rich flavours with malty notes drenching the palate, and a gentle grip from crisp hops and that tangy fruit to freshen up the finish. What a lovely beer, despite its multinational background. 33cl. 6.5%ABV. 1.35 Waitrose, widely available.

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Lindemans Kriek
This is a Lambic beer flavoured with fresh local black cherries. It pours an astonishingly bright, garish purple pink with a vividly pink head. The nose is suffused with the aroma of cherries, very specifically of Amerena cherries and a little edge of Bazooka Joe bubblegum. There is a hint of wheat beer sourness in the background. On the palate it is dense and full, with loads of cherry fruited sweetness. This is just a fun drink, with little beer character to speak of, and some might look for a little more bite. It is delicious in its own way however, and once of the great beer experiences everyone should try. 3.5% ABV. 37.5cl. 1.89, Oddbins.
  

Lindemans Cassis
This Lambic has a dark, vivid purple/black colour with a mauve-tinted head. On the nose there is a soaring cassis and fruit pastille character, with just a hint of something a little sour beneath. On the palate it is rich and mouthfilling, and an immediate flood of Ribena-like sweet blackcurrant washes over the tongue. This beer is noticeably heavier than the Kriek, with a weighty texture and a subtle undertow of toasty malt bread. The acidity is soft, but a suggestion of blackcurrant skin tartness does add some freshness on the finish. 3.5% ABV. 37.5cl. 2.19, Oddbins.
  

Lindemans Pecheresse
The peach-flavoured Lambic is an extraordinarily light 2.5% ABV, and pours with a lovely orangy-peach colour and white head. On the nose this is less fruity, with a distinct wheat-beer note. On the palate it is quite full and rolling, coating the palate with a sweet-edged blast of peach fruit, and a nicely sour tang of wheaty flavour and acidity. It is soft and easy to drink, but that little bite plays against the sweetness and keeps it very moreish. Because of that, I slightly preferred this to the cassis, and it would be a sensational summer-in-the-garden drink with that low alcohol. 2.5% ABV. 37.5cl. 2.15, Oddbins.
  

Palm Breweries, Rodenbach Classic
A very singular style of beer that is flooded with sweet and sour flavours, partly brought about by wild yeast fermentation, and partly by a percentage of the beer being matured in wooden casks for two years before blending with younger beer and bottling. It pours a really deep red/nut brown colour with a fawn-coloured head. The nose is sour and filled with underripe cherries and Cox's Pippin, wintery apple notes. There's a suggestion of cream or chocolate and a herbal note too in a very complex profile. On the palate this tangy, quite light-bodied beer is flooded with sour, lemony fruit and more of that cherry flavour. There's all sorts of non-fruit and non-malt stuff going on, though I detect just a hint of hollowness on the mid-palate. It finishes with tangy, lively, sour flavours. Terrific stuff, though I wonder if the Grand Cru version might fill that slight hole in the flavour profile? I also suspect this will really split drinkers into love it and hate it camps. 5.0% ABV, 25cl.

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Westmalle, Dubbel Trappist beer
This beer pours very dark, a chocolaty brown/ruby colour with a foamy, thick head. The nose is immediately fruity and spicy, with a honey and malt background and quite a bright, herb and pear note. On the palate it is surprisingly crisp and fruity rather than overtly malty and dark. There's a cherry and red berry quality, and a medium- to full-bodied texture, with quite a nice hoppy, bittersweet grip. There is a chocolate and dark, roasted element and a touch of sour cherry. What a nicely balanced beer. 33cl. 7.0%ABV. 1.50 Peckhams, Safeway, quite widely available.

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