The worlds of beer and wine are two different places, yet at the same time they have a lot in common. Both can be very representative of their places of origin and the techniques used to make them. Both are also very expressive of flavour and terroir, that allow the drinker to connect with where it has come from through taste and texture.
This is a guest post from Dublin beer expert Jonathan Boyce of Empties blog, who has picked out his top 5 recommended beers that will delight anyone that usually has a glass of vino on their hand. What do you think?
St.Bernardus abt 12. 10%
For the non beer drinker, especially one that might have only ever been acquainted with the average light lager, Belgian Abbey ales have a range of flavours that are undeniably unique. St.Bernardus 12 is a beautiful example of a Belgian quad and of Trappist ales in general. Brewed by monks at the brouwerij St.Bernardus, 12 is the biggest and arguably the most popular beer brewed by the lads in robes. A robust, complex and full-bodied beer. Full of dark fruits, plums, raisins and some sticky, almost toffee like sweetness. It almost strolls into Christmas pudding territory. The beer manages to avoid being syrupy or sickly, a big achievement for a beer this big and this malt forward. Belgian beers in general are famous for their yeast forward flavours, but here there’s only a subtle earthiness and spice that helps balance the malt. There’s a noticeable heat from the beer, which is to be expected from a quad, but at 10% the alcohol is never cloying or biting. If anything the bit of heat helps lift the flavour out of the glass. For a wine drinker looking for a full-bodied flavoursome beer that offers something out of the ordinary this would be a nice place to start. The history and mystique of a beer brewed exclusively by monks shouldn’t be lost on the average wine drinker either.
Kriek Boon 5% – Brouwerji Boon
A cherry gueze from the Boon Brewery. Created by blending 3 and 1 year old Belgian lambics. If there’s any beer worthy of being discussed with the word terroir, it’s a lambic. The world’s oldest beer style, produced by spontaneous fermentation. The unfermented beer is exposed to the unique Belgian air of the Payottenland and allowed to take in all the natural fauna that eventually turns the unfermented wort into beer. It’s literally a beer created by its environment and impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world (If you believe the traditional Belgian brewers at least.). The mixture of microorganisms gives this beer its trademark acidic sourness. Kriek is aged on cherries in oak to balance out the sharp sour finish. It shares many characteristics with wine. It’s tart, veinous and dry. It has juicy red fruits and a long finish. It’s also very unlike wine. The carbonation is high, almost that of a champagne, which only drives the acidity and fruit flavours. As it warms it has some of the musky, barnyard flavours of Brettanomyces, considered a major flaw in wine production but essential to a great lambic. Kriek boon is complex but remarkably drinkable and a great introduction to the world of lambics, guezes and sour beers in general.
Saison Dupont 6.5% – Brasserie Dupont
The beer that most modern saisons are based on. Considered a dead style for a long time with Brasserie Dupont one of the few standing strong. It’s experienced a bit of a renaissance with the huge growth of craft beer in recent years but you’d still be very hard pressed to find one as enjoyable as this. A beer characterised by the unusual flavours created by saison yeast. It’s dry, crisp and shockingly easy to drink. There are some flavours here not completely alien to white wine. It’s floral with lemon peel and some cracked black pepper. The unique esters created by the yeast are often described as clove like. The moderate hop bitterness found in the beer helps keep it refreshing and drinkable. Unfiltered and bottle conditioned, the carbonation is high. It holds a large frothy head and retains it throughout. The characteristic “Belgian lace” clings to the glass as you drink it. An interesting one for a fan of dry white wines but I can guarantee you’ll find it hard not to fly through the glass. Pick up more than one.
200 Fathoms 10% – Galway Bay Brewery
An imperial stout from the renowned Galway bay brewery, aged in Teeling whiskey casks for 6 months. While a strong stout may seem a big departure from the world of wine, I think those looking for bold flavours, a diverse complexity and a unique sensory experience should most certainly give this a go. It’s silky smooth, it clings to the mouth and the taste is long lasting. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy. Upfront there’s a lot of rich dark chocolate and a sweet, almost mocha like coffee taste. There’s a vanilla sweetness and spice from the oak ageing that should be familiar to any fan of wine. As the beer warms in the glass the malt sweetness really shines. It’s a complex beer that deserves to be treated with the same reverence as any good wine. Definitely a slow sipper. It will also age brilliantly in the bottle as previous years have proven. If you weren’t already convinced, the beer is widely regarded as one of Ireland’s best beers and is in high demand during its once a year release. The 2016 might be difficult to find at the moment (though not impossible) but the 2017 should be available early next year.
Rodenbach Grand Cru 6% – Brouwerji Rodenbach
Yes, yet another Belgian beer but for good reason. A Flanders red ale. Sometimes known as the Burgundies of Belgium. Rodenbach is without a doubt the most famous brewery producing the style. A blend of young beer and 2 year-old oak aged beer. Another Belgian sour beer but unlike the spontaneous fermented lambics of Brussels, the northern brewery uses pure cultures and blending to achieve the characteristic flavour profile. A decently malty ale with fruity notes of red currants and cherries. The beer is undeniably tart but not puckering or overbearing. It’s a clean complimentary sourness. The acidity blends with the sweet malt and fruit flavours rather than being a one-dimensional sour assault. It’s tannic but not overly bitter. The oak aging plays a large part in rounding out the beer and the flavours are dynamic.
This one might be a bit on the nose as a suggestion for a red wine drinker as the similarities are obvious and numerous, but none the less this is a fantastic beer. An excellent example of a beer that challenges the average idea of what beer can taste like.