Friday, 14 September 2012

The Beer Chronicles: Grimbergen (Belgium)

Grimbergen (Belgium)

This is the first article in our brand new category, where we will be reviewing beers (and perhaps other drinks too!). We're going to hopefully focus on mainly some more artisan beers, rather than the big name brands unless they have a clear brewing tradition that deserves to be highlighted.

Grimbergen is an abbey beer (not to be confused with Trappist beer) taking it's name from  what is effectively a northern suburb of Brussels. This is the location I've highlighted on the map. However, it is now produced by the Belgian Alken-Maes brewery, a large-scale producer. The original beer was established in the 11th century by St Norbert (amazing name!), the founder of the Norbertine order. The glass is a chalice with a perpendicular rim.

Dubbel – 6.5%

At 6.5%, it feels slightly on the light side for a double-fermented beers. It’s dark, almost burgundy-like in colour with a slightly bread-like, cherry taste and is decidedly sweet by ale standards. I have to say I prefer my ales a bit stronger, and it’s not my favourite of the Grimbergens.

Blonde – 6.7%

This one’s amber in coloration and runs at a slightly higher percentage than the Dubbel. It tastes quite sweet and fruity, maybe a bit too much for my liking. I think it could do with a little bit more alcohol to round out those flavours. It was probably the easiest of the Grimbergens to drink though.

Tripel – 9%

This one has a similar taste and colour to the blond, but much better. I really think the higher alcohol content gives the beer the body missing in the Dubbel and Blond. The more robust alcohol level definitely allows the sweet, fruity flavor to be a bit subtler, which suits this beer very well especially when combined with its slightly hoppy bitterness.

Optimo Bruno – 10%

The highest of the percentages, and for me the best of the lot. It has a very dark brown coloration and immediately the aroma is strong and alcoholic. Even though the alcohol is strong however, it does well to round out the bitterness in the drink. I would even go as far as to say it’s quite sweet, but in the same way that fruitcake or another similar cake is sweet. It’s got a really rich, robust flavor that doesn’t really make for an easy to drink, everyday beer (I definitely wouldn’t go for this one on an empty stomach or with a light meal).

However, it does make for a potentially good digestif after a meal or an accompaniment for something heartier. Apparently it was produced by monks to enjoy at Easter, and was reknowned for being the best of their brews. For that I raise my glass…or rather, chalice to them!

From left to right: Dubbel, Blonde, Tripel, Optimo bruno


For all the history information in this post, I consulted one of my most treasured books, Michael Jackson’s (no, not that one!) Great Beers of Belgium, originaly published by Media Marketing Communications (MMV) in 1995, of which I have the fifth edition (2002).

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