Oh, have you not Herd? It was my understanding that everyone had Herd!

Bolero_The_Herd_My_BlogOn the docket:  Bolero Snort’s IV Anniversay, The Herd 750mL

Poured into:  Dogfish Head craft goblet with enough vigor to produce a head, but as not to disturb the yeast from the bottom of the bottle.

Sight:  A deeply gingerbread body fills the glass with a quick-forming khaki head.  As dark as it is, there’s nice evidence of carbonation, tiny, delicate bubbles well up from the base.  A few seconds later, the head dissipates to a tightly hugging ring and a storm-front mass of suds on top.  Further insepction reveals a lovely reddish hue to the body.  No lacing, but hey, it’s a 10.5% abv drink.  Taking a look at the bottle, one can observe a ring of  yeast sediment on the bottom.

Aroma:  Intense, sweet malt.  Almost rootbeer-like spicy sweetness.  Just a fleeting sense of vanilla and gentle perfume of esters and alcohol.  Molasses.  Dark purple fruit note.  Yep, the plums are there.  No hop presence.

Taste:  Much of the aroma follows through to the palate.  Malt and sugar sweetness, on the fuller side of the style.  Pleasant warmth from alcohol which keeps it from becoming too sweet.  The plum note manifests as part of a “fruitcake” sort of fruitiness, along with the yeast.

Mouthfeel:  Highly carbonated, with very fine bubbles, not sharp and biting.  Finish is moderately dry with a slight bitterness, bringing another means of balance.  Medium-full body.

Overall:  More abbey-style than Trappist, a nice New-World interpretation.  This is not your father’s Chimay.  A great way to celebrate four years… at least that’s what I herd.

Suggested food pairing(s):Mongoian beef and broccoli, port-wine cheese, filet, raspberry chocolate cheesecake

My Empire for a beer: Cuvee van de Keizer

On the docket:  750 mL cork and cage bottle of Brouwerij Het Anker’s Cuvée Van De Keizer Blauw (Blue) bottled:  2/24/2012

Poured into:  Hand-washed Maredsous stemmed goblet

S:  A luxurious raisin-brown body sits beneath a beige head that builds, then dies.  Some soapish suds hang around, plus a round bubble-peninsula formed on one side of the goblet.  Lacing left is thin and very delicate.

A:  A date-lover’s dream.  Rich aroma of dark fruit, fig, dates.  Plums.  Subtle spicy phenols, and tell-tale fruity yeast esters (plus a small hint of bubblegum).  A bouquet fit for a king (or an emperor).  The hops here are quite muted at the outset.  The alcohol too, is well integrated into the beer, as I can’t detect from sniffing this beauty that it’s 11% abv.

T:  Oh.  My.  God.  Dark notes of molasses, Belgian candi-sugar, bittersweet chocolate.  Fruit overtures of… is that raspberry?  A slightly tart and medicinal cherry.  Plums.  Dates and figs bow to the tongue.  This guy also contains port notes (not to be confused with Portnoy- an emperor in his own right).  Hey, don’t forget the light impression of leather and tobacco– that one takes a bit to show up, but it’s there.  Call me a joker, but I also get a little bit of soy sauce and yeah, I’ll go there- umami.  Just a hint of bitterness and astringency, but in a pleasant way.

F:  I don’t say this often about mouthfeel, but this beer has it all.  It possesses great carbonation, especially on the roof of the mouth.  Slick and regal, and at the same time, made deceptively light due to the aforementioned carbonation.  It’s got a long finish, and this is where the alcohol is most present.  Give it a few seconds.  A rampant lion, that booze.

O:  This Belgian Strong Dark is more than capable of expanding his empire into your mouth and subjugating your senses.  However, this is more of a friendly annexation, not a hostile-takeover.  Though I’m not truly an expert (in my head I am), I’d say it’s fair to theorize that an older bottle might have more port, and a younger bottle feels a bit hotter in the alcohol department.  4 years?  Perfect.  Though this is not Chimay Grand Reserve, this is truly a regal libation.  I could drink this for days, but it would pull me under.

S:  4  A:  4.25  T:  4.75  F:  4.5  O:  4.5

Suggested food pairing:  Korean beef barbecue, creamy and pungent cheese, fruit cakes, candied fruit

It’s Scolgian… it’s Botch? Ach… McChoufe

On the docket:  750ml bottle of Brasserie d’Achouffe’s McChouffe, bottle date:  best before end of 2015.  Seems like I’m cutting it close.

Poured into:  Etched Chimay Goblet

S:  An initial mass of beige-gray head, thick and puffy forms.  Underneath, a dark, burnt-sienna body sits, with an orange tint at the base.  Tiny bubbles snake up to the top.  Eventually, the head dies down to a thin cap on top, bubbles populating the head, sort of like soap.

A:  Fruity esters immediately wend their way into your nose, laddie.  Ef ya couple that with some yeasty bubblegum and a bit of caramelized malt, you have the knack of it.  The hops, while muted, are spicy and earthy.  It’s entertaining to smell, the sweetness being a draw factor here.

T:  Some of the aroma carries over into the taste.  The fruit here is dark and plummy, but gentle.  A spot of hay, or husk, sweet caramel, a definite melanoidin tang like that of a Scotch ale, and a bit of spice and earth from the hops.

F:  Tingly carbonation, chewy mouthfeel, fluffy.  Deceptively light bodied.  A kiss of warming alcohol on the end, more pronounced as it warms up (at 8.0%, it’s certainly prudent to exercise a dram of caution.  A finish that sticks around.

O:  Though the brewery calls this beer a brown ale, and while they’re not exactly wrong, I feel that comes up short in describing this one.  Picture the offspring of Gerard Butler and Ellen Petri (go ahead and look her up, I had to, too) in a beer, and this is much closer to the mark.  There are equal parts Scotch ale and Belgian Strong Dark in here, and they combine to make something that while new, is evident of its parents.  This is a pleasure to sip and meditate on; much like the upcoming celebration of our Lord’s birth.

S:  4  A:  4.25  T: 4.5  F:  4  O:  4.25

Suggested food pairing:  Molasses grilled barbecue ribs, beef Szechuan, sharp cheddar cheese, crème brûlée, on its own as dessert

Belgian Trifecta Part 3: Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue) Ribbon

On the docket:  11.2 oz.  Chimay Grande Réserve (blue)

Poured into:  Chimay chalice

S:  A rich, dark, barbecue sauce-like brown body sits underneath a beige head.  I poured with enough force to create a nice, inch-plus head, but it settled down to just more than half a thumbnail.  The body is so dark I cannot see the bubble activity from the base of my etched chalice.

A:  Dark, fruity, almost bubble-gum like sweetness leads the pack, followed closely by grapey-port or sherry note.  Spicy pepper and phenols trail behind, with hops in the rearview mirror.

T:  Plum, an overall fruitiness, and a definite twang of umani.  This brown-eyed girl has a bit of port in the palate.  Like its (argued) diminutive sibling, the Rouge, the Blue also boasts fruit-cake qualities, and while bitter, gives wide berth to its sweetness.  Climbing from a manageable 7% in the Rouge to cautionary 8% in the White, Blue boasts an abv just over 9%.  You can tell, the warmth from the alcohol is certainly present, but by no means “hot” or solvent-like.

F:  Dangerously light and fluffy feel courtesy of the carbonation.  Moderately long finish of dryness, and tingle from the bubbles.

O:  Regarded as Chimay’s crowning achievement.  I understand why.  Most people don’t even considering opening this masterpiece until it’s at least five years old.  I don’t have that luxury yet, so I’ll settle (right… settle) for the fresh-off the line model.  This is a libation for sitting and sipping, not shot-gunning in a contest.  Enjoyable during cold weather in front of a roaring fire and a heavy, small-print hardcover novel.

S:  4.25  A:  4.25  T:  4.75  F:  4.25  O:  4.5

Suggested food pairing:  filet with bleu cheese butter, sharp cheddar, baby-back ribs, New York style cheese cake- fruit optional