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

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

Chimay Sneak Preview: Red, White, and Blue

It’s not often I get to “leak” anything.  That said,  I thought it would be fun, and create a little buzz (pun fully intended) to let everyone know that I’ll be doing a 3 part series of reviews of Chimay’s flagship beers, Red, White, and Blue (likely in that order).

Stay thirsty for the first review.