True story: France isn’t really known for its beer.
Gourmet cuisine? Yes. World-class wines? Yes. Art? Yes. Architecture? Yes. History? Yes. Beer? NO.
However, Flanders IS known for beer.
Not quite a country, Flanders is a geographical region consisting of parts of Belgium, France & the Netherlands.
Nord Pas-de-Calais is home of France’s only native style of beer – Bière de Garde. Bière de Garde literally translates into “beer for keeping” … or “beer for storage.” Like the saisons of Belgium, bières de garde were originally farmhouse ales brewed for the farmers and their fieldhands. However, they were vastly different in flavor profile from saisons. Whereas traditional saisons were lighter bodied and lower in ABV, traditional bières de garde were known for being intense, invigorating & strong. They are typically stored in traditional champagne bottles.
Unfortunately, this post is NOT entirely about bières de garde. Sadly, I am not in possession of a Flemish bière de garde. However, I do have a bottle of Jolly Pumpkins La Roja … an American craft beer brewed in the bière de garde style … in a box hidden in my closet somewhere. But we are not going to be tasting that beer at this time, either. FYI: La Roja is one of my FAVORITE beers and I highly recommend it.
Alas, for this post I will be tasting a French beer brewed a different style … a Belgian Strong Ale to be exact
The beer I have chosen to taste for this post is Belzebuth – a 13% ABV Belgian Strong Pale Ale. DISCLAIMER: I am fully aware of Belzebuth’s less than desirable reviews. From what I’ve read, I can deduct that the high alcohol in this beer completely overwhelms the aroma and the palate … significantly reducing its complexity.
HOWEVER, I personally have never tasted this beer. And although I have visited France, drink lots of French wine and am a big fan of most things French (esp the Riviera!) … I have yet to taste an official French beer! (Gasp!)
So regardless of the terrible reviews, I am going to subject my palate to Belzebuth … in the name of beer and research. And who knows … maybe it really isn’t that bad, right?
Ingredients used in the brew include Pale Ale, Vienne & Ambered malts as well as Flemish Brewers’ Gold, Hallertau, Aromatic & Styrian hops.
According to the brewer:
“BELZEBUTH from Brasserie Grain D’Orge is a very unique golden ale in the world at 13% alc./vol. It is top-fermented all malt filtered ale. Its pungent taste is a result of a particular variety of yeast and mixture of three different malts. No extra alcohol is added to the natural process nor water is removed to increase its strength. This golden ale has a complex aroma, which almost defies description with fullness of flavors overcoming the warming sensation of alcohol. Perfect as an aperitif or with a sinful desserts.”
With sinful desserts? As both a beer and sugar fanatic, The Wench will be a judge of that! Ha!
And without further ado … on to the tasting!
The Wench’s Tasting Notes: BELZEBUTH Blond Ale
Brewery: Brasserie Grain D’orge
Region: Flanders region of Northern France
Style: Belgian Strong “Blond” Ale
Color: Hazy burnt orange copper with an off-white head
Carbonation: Pours a thick, foamy white head. The head is lasting and the ale leaves a really decent amount of lacing on the glass. (Point for The Wench for a well-cleaned glass!)
I let the ale warm down quite a bit before attempting to review the aroma and flavor.
Aroma: The aroma is heavy with sweet malt, caramelized sugar and doughy yeast. As expected, the alcohol is extremely present and almost completely overwhelms the aroma. Every once in awhile I get hints of orange peel.
Mouthfeel: Super thick, heavy and syrupy. Warming sensation from the noticeably high ABV.
Flavor: Heavy malt – lots of brown sugar & caramel. The alcohol leaves a burning tingle on the tongue and warms the throat all the way down. As the beer warms, the warming sensation from the alcohol reduces some. Very little bitterness … and almost no acidity.
Finish: Overall, the finish is very mild. The burn from the alcohol does not last very long.
Pairings: Cheese, nuts & dried fruits. It could easily replace a fortified dessert wine, port or sherry at the end of a meal.
Interesting Fact: Belzebuth is also the name of the long-haired, white-bellied spider monkey native to Brazil.
Comments: The beer reminds me of a port – very sweet and warming. Its two strongest characteristics are 1. a high level of sweetness and 2. a noticeably high level of alcohol. I am not a fan of ports because I am not a fan of the burn that accompanies fortified wines. This ale is extremely sweet and almost too syrupy for my personal taste.
Whereas this beer does not appeal to me for everyday … or even once a year … consumption, I would seriously consider using this beer for cooking. It has potential for braises, marinades, glazes, stews and sauces.
As with all my tasting notes, I just want to remind everyone that my palate is not the end all be all. I always encourage people to give me their feedback on the beers that I review!