CwtchCwtch is a “Welsh Red Ale” from the Tiny Rebel Brewery. (A ‘cwtch’ is apparently a difficult-to-translate Welsh word meaning cuddle, hug or safe place.)

Remarkably dark for a Pale Ale, it has interesting hints of peach and pineapple, combined with the sweet caramel bitterness of burned malt.

It is an interesting combination of flavors, well worth trying at least once. But personally I think the taste tends a little too much towards the bitter. And although the label describes it as a well balanced beer, the combination of pineapple and bitter caramel never manages to achieve a good balance for me. 6/10


The Full Nelson

TheFullNelsonThe Full Nelson, is a “Maori Pale Ale” brewed by Tiny Rebel Brewery. This Welsh brewery apparently originated in a garage around 2010, but has worldwide exports now.

The name “Maori Pale Ale” is due to the use of the Nelson Sauvin hops, developed in New Sealand. The sent is of a typical peachy modern Pale Ale.

The New Sealand hops gives this Pale Ale a decidedly dry and fruity quality, like a white wine. While this is an interesting taste, it does get slightly boring after a while. Maybe just because I do not care for Pale Ale that much. 6.5/10

St. Bernardus Abt 12

St Bernardus Abt 12
St Bernardus Abt 12

St. Bernardus Abt 12, is the cheaper and much more easily obtainable version of the world-famous Westvleteren 12, brewed by the original brewery but under a different name (see: St. Bernardus Prior 8).

A barleywine with a sturdy 10% alcohol, it has a complex, fruity, sweet taste with caramel and a slight bitterness. These blend together very well to create a complex flavor.

However, unlike the St. Bernardus Prior 8; the strong taste of alcohol and the sweetness of the sugars and malts tend to dominate what is otherwise a very nice harmony of aromas. For me it does not quite reach the heights of the Prior 8. But this one still comes highly recommended. 8/10

N’Ice Chouffe

N'Ice Chouffe
N’Ice Chouffe

N’Ice Chouffe is a winter beer. You can probably guess this means it is strong, dark and has added spices and sugar. As far as I have been able to find, winter beer is mostly just a broad category of beers based on marketing.

This particular winter beer is made by the Achouffe Brewery in the Ardennes, mostly know for La Chouffe, with happy cartoon gnomes on the label.
The beer is strong and sweet, with flavors of caramel and herbs and with the orange-like aroma of curacao. Maybe the alcoholic sweetness works really well on cold winter evenings. But I am left with the impression of a beer that has been too much fortified, with some added flavors to cover that fact. Like a Gerardus Dubbel with herbs. Then again, maybe I just don’t like winter beer. 5/10

Grimbergen Tripel

Grimbergen Tripel
Grimbergen Tripel

Grimbergen Tripel, as the name implies, is a abbey style tripel. A pleasant, sweet and fruity beer, with bitter notes. Maybe even some hints of rock sugar and strawberries.

Although the monastery in Grimbergen brewed beer for centuries, it was closed following the French Revolution. The Grimbergen beers are the result of a recent cooperation between local breweries and the abbey.

So the Grimbergen beers are abbey beers only by technicality (like most, if not a all abbey beers). The result lacks the harmoneous complexity of a St. Bernardus, but it is a very drinkable if not very characteristic tripel. 7/10

Brugge Tripel

Brugge Tripel
Brugge Tripel

Brugge Tripel (used to be known as Brugse Tripel until 2004) is a tripel Gruit beer. Gruit, or grut or gruyt is a mixture of herbs used to flavour beer before the use of hops became widespread.

This one purports to be based on the historical Gruit recipe of the city of Brugge when everyone who brewed beer had to pay a Gruit tax to the ruling family of the city.

The brewers did not stick to a Medieval recipe strictly, since they did use hops, which gives it a more modern taste. Besides, strong beers like the Belgian tripel were unlikely to have been brewed in those times.

The taste is of a pretty typical Tripel, albeit with a modest but notable herbal aroma, owing to the Gruut. It is slightly sweet, a little bit bitter and generally well balanced. 7/10

Tripel d’Anvers

Tripel d'AnversTriple d’Anvers, or Tripel from Antwerp is a new Tripel-style beer from the De Koninck brewery located there, part of a line of traditional recipes with a modern twist.

Bitter hops. Fruity citrus notes. Malty sweetness. It comes across as  essentially an IPA version of a tripel. “Pale ales seems to be really popular right now, maybe we can do something with that?” It is easy to imagine the thought process behind this beer.  And why not? It does sound like an interesting combination of styles. Whether this works may depend on how your feel about IPAs.

For me, the end result is a somewhat uneven blend of the different tastes. Bitter hops, grainy barley malts and sweet inverted sugar syrup do not a harmonious beer make. In the end, I think they add up to a generally bland taste.

Still, not bad. Certainly worth a try if you run across it. Maybe you will appreciate this one more than I did. 6/10

St. Bernardus Prior 8

St.StBernardus8-small Bernardus Prior 8 is a double abbey style beer  brewed in the Belgian village of Watou: a place with less than two thousand inhabitants but with two greatly renowned breweries.

The St. Bernardus brewery (formerly called Saint. Sixtus) took over from the Saint-Sixtus abbey located in Westvleteren in 1946. On the abbey grounds, the world-famous trappist Westvleteren beers are made, based on the same recipes as St. Bernardus. Since 1992, breweries not on abbey grounds could no longer call themselves trappist, prompting the brewery to change their name but fortunately not their beer.

Much like the famous Westvleteren Prior 8 beer (but at a much lower price), this is a wonderfully complex and harmonious beer Plenty of flavor but not too sweet, not too bitter. Not too sour, not too malty. The Goldilocks of abbey beers; everything is just right and nicely balanced. Absolutely recommended, 8.5/10.

Gerardus Dubbel

GerardGerardus Dubbelus Dubbel (or “double”) is a Monastery style dark beer. According to the brewery, Gulpener, it is based on an old recipe from a monastery in the village of Wittem in the Netherlands.

Their website claims that it is “sour and powerful” and that “a true connoisseur can recognize  hints or nuts and cedar wood”. Either this is a bad case of marketing or (at least equally as likely) I am not a true connoisseur.

Unfortunately this is a opinionated review, and all it reminds me of is a fairly sweet beer with strong aromas of burned malts with hints of caramel. Not my favorite type of beer in any case, but this one really reminds me of cheap beers that have been fortified too much for heir own good. Personally I would not recommend this one. 4/10