Friday, 23 December 2011

Bah Humbug: More Belgians, a Hefe-Dunkel, and a Winter Warmer



In honour of the holiday season, I have been festively enjoying many beers and writing less than I should.  I will, hence, catch up by posting my brief review notes for four beers: Wychwood's winter warmer, Bah Humbug, Bruegel Amber Ale, Maredsous Brune/8, and Weihenstephaner's highly praised Hefeweissbier Dunkel.


Bah Humbug: This Winter Warmer style ale is perfect for the holidays, in name, style, and flavour! It pours a thich, smooth, creamy, ever-so-slightly off-white head with a bit of lace.  The beer itself is reddish in colour.  While darker than copper, the redness means it could hardly be called brown (20 SRM I would estimate).  A bit milder on the nose than the style generally offers, Bah Humbug exudes only faint spice traces in the aroma, with a malty/fruity primacy.  Hints of clove, nutmeg, and very slight trace of cinnamon are present.  The flavour is initially a bit sweeter/fruitier than through the middle and finish when a mild hops and spicy dryness kicks in that lingers a fair while.  Ironically, it tastes/feels quite warming despite lacking the strength of some examples of this style (at 5% ABV).  It is medium bodied and lively while fairly dry, as typical of the style, if a bit less spicy and warming.  Perhaps not quintessential of the style, but enjoyable in consumption and aesthetics! Grade: B

Bruegel Amber Ale: The head from this beer is ever-so-slightly off-white while fairly thick and frothy, as one would expect.  It maintains a moderate lace, but has relatively poor head retention.  The body is a golden to light amber color with good clarity and a steady initial stream of carbonation release that diminishes fairly rapidly.  Aromas are negligible but the slight scents present are fruity ranging between pear and pineapple.  The flavor is initially fairly sweet, but finishes with a sort of acidic and acetic bitterness that doesn't so much dry out as damage the flavor and linger poorly.  It is light-bodied with a prickly carbonation (that as noted diminishes) while feeling quite thin.  This is to Belgian Ales what a "premium lager" made by a major brewery is to a craft pilsner: not as bad as it could get, but not very flattering to the potential of the style.  I didn't dislike it, but it only made me want to drink another Belgian tonight in order to redeem my faith!  Grade: C

Maredous 8 (or Maredsous Brune): Like some others, I have had this beer before, but also before I had developed the palate and vocabulary to say something sophisticated about it.  Insofar as an LCBO pack of all three Maredsous ales (plus a goblet glass) was in my stores, I figured the dubbel would redeem my faith in the Belgian.  This abbey ale pours a nice, beige, creamy yet rocky head with solid retention and thick lace (the lace possibly being the finest I have ever explicitly considered as it erodes halfway upon movement with remarkable retention of the remainder).  The beer itself is a beautiful deep red in colour.  Aromas offer hints of fruity esters, especially of cherry and banana, alongside that yeasty/malty mixture of sweetened cloves and spices, and even a faint hint of licorice.  The flavour is also sweet, but more balanced than is typical of the style with a strong dryness bordering on astringency.  Flavourwise, one gets hints of raisin and sweet malty fruitiness, alongside lesser hints of cinnamon, caramel, and earthy-ness.  It has a fairly thick body and interesting mouthfeel that mixes smooth creaminess with a prickly carbonation.  All in all, a very good beer (though far from a Rochefort 8!) Grade: B+

Weihenstephaner Weissbier Dunkel: Though not much of a fan of wheat beers generally, I do enjoy weissbier dunkels more than the standard hefeweizens, and this one typically rates so highly I couldn't pass up the chance to taste this LCBO offering when I discovered this bottle on a shelf.  It pours a thick frothy white head with a decent lace that one would expect from a good hefe.  With the body presenting a gold to light amber colour, however, the dunkel descriptor seems an ill-fit.  Respectably cloudy with a decent carbonation stream of thin bubbles, this h-d is quite aromatic with a combined yeast/wheat primacy dominated by bananas and cloves.  The flavour begins with a honey and bread thematic, though continues through to a fermented fruit and spice-laden finish that dries things out well making for a fine balance.  Medium-bodied with a substantial amount of carbonation that is quite prickly in the mouth and refreshing.  I find this to be an excellent hefeweizen, though for someone who is generally not a hefe fan this means I would give it an A+ as a hefe and, as not much of a hefe fan, would drink it rarely, but as a hefe-dunkel???  This doesn't taste like the other hefe dunkels I have had, smell like them, or look like them (and the term is an appearance descriptor, no?).  I would have it again though, if not regularly, but wouldn't imagine I'd be having a dunkel for most of my disappointment stems from there. Grade as a hefeweizen: A+; Grade as a hefeweizen dunkel: C+


Enjoy the season and some brews!  Bah humbug!

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