Being a new, non-traditional craft brewer in Belgium is tough. Especially, if you don’t have a company owned brewing facility.
Hailing from a land where beer brewing is almost as regulated as wine making is in France, De Struise Bouwers is turning the heads of craft beer enthusiasts all over the world.
Although the name Struise has roots in the old Flemish word for “ostrich”, it is most commonly used as a contemporary slang term meaning “sturdy” or “tough”. The preferred English translation of De Struise Bouwers is “The Sturdy Brewers.” However, the ostrich aspect to the title also plays an important role in the Struise brand. The owners also manage an ostrich farm in West Flanders and many of their labels feature ostriches.
Founded in 2003 by ambitiously creative homebrewers, De Struise Brouwers has recieved much criticism for its lack of a company brewing plant. Instead, it “hires” brewing facilities to produce its unique concoctions. Struise originally produced beers at the Caulier brewery in northern Hainaut. As of 2006, Struise has been using the Deca brewing facility in Woesten-Vleteren in West Flanders.
According to its annual members’ poll, RateBeer.com declared Struise “the best brewer in the world” for 2008. This feat should not be taken lightly.
Once upon a time, De Struise Brouwers were approached by Chris Lively, the brewery’s good friend and owner of Ebenezer’s pub in Lovell, Maine – which has been named Best Beer Pub on Planet Earth on several occasions. Chris asked the owners at Struise to brew a special beer Ebenezer Pub’s 3rd Annual Belgian Beer Festival.
For this event, De Struise Brouwers refused to brew just any old beer. They were intent on brewing a special ale for their special friends for their special event. And special they created.
Instead of merely creating a new beer, Struise decided to create a completely new style of beer in honor of the event. The result was a BELGIAN ROYAL STOUT, which they named Black Albert – referring to the beer style (blacker than black stout) and to the Belgian Crown (King Albert).
A few nights back I enjoyed an evening of fine beer drinking with some fine friends at Red Light Red Light (my favorite beer bar in Orlando). My good friend Dominick made the excellent decision to purchase a bottle of Black Albert for the group of us to taste. Naturally, I recorded our tasting notes on the BeerPad application on my iPhone.
De Struise Brouwers BLACK ALBERT
“Black Albert was brewed and crafted with a 100% Belgian ingredients. Pours a blacker than black beer with an inch of dark tan head that lingers as it cascades into itself. Nice aroma of bitter-sweet chocolate, fresh torrified coffee beans, barley, candy sugar, complex fruits, and floral hops. At the front, there is spiced baker’s chocolate, fresh mocha, caramel like barley touches, and underlying hints of dried fruits which marries the back of your palate and features a Top, and well integrated but not overbearing hop flavour. The after-taste is well balanced and shows a panorama of extreme sensations like chocolate and coffee bitters, a plum cake richness that covers the palate, and a crisp impression of hop bitters that brings elegance and freshness into this massive brew.”
Style: Belgian Royal Stout
Numbers: 100 IBU (oh hells yes) … 160 EBU (dark as night) … 13% ABV (feel the burn)
Brewery: De Struise Brouwers
Pairings: Cheese, Smoked & Dried Meats, Dessert, Game (Venison especially)
Color: Blacker than black with a caramel head.
Carbonation: Moderate carbonation. Small head that dissipates quickly. Virtually no lacing.
Aroma: Rich coffee, dark chocolate, toasted malt, caramelized brown sugar
Mouthfeel: Thick, rich, oily … very heavy. (Lighter fluid anyone?)
Flavor: Dark chocolate, bitter cacao nibs, roasted coffee beans, espresso. Slight astringency. Very bitter.
Finish: Extremely bitter finish (just the way Wenchie likes it)! The alcohol content is extremely noticeable – yet not too overwhelming. Finish is long lasting – like taking a bite of good dark chocolate.
Comments: “Theobroma without the bullshit.” – Glen
“It reminds me of a high-end espresso vodka – uber smooth, yet the alcohol is apparent.” -The Beer Wench
“If I poured this in my gas tank, my car would run.” – The Beer Wench
Following the launch of Black Albert , Chris Lively of Ebenezer’s Pub had the brilliant idea to age some of it in bourbon oak barrels. Originally the plan was to age Black Albert on “Four Roses” bourbon barrels and name the resulting product “Four Black Roses”. The barrel aging experiment was a success, but Struise was strongly advised against using the “Four Black Roses” name for its newest creation.
Before bottling, Struise allowed some professional beer sommeliers to taste the beer from the barrel. These honored few declared the bourbon barrel-aged Black Albert as a work of art. Coincidentally, the only offspring of King Albert is involved in art. And so Struise named its concoction Cuvee Delphine.
Cvuee Delphine’s launch is tentatively scheduled for the end of January 2009. Unfortunately, an export program for Cuvee Delphine is currently nonexistent. According to the label, Struise will be offering Cuvee Delphine via its web shop as well as in some specialty pubs in Belgium.
I would absolutely love to get my hands on this ale … hint hint. I will post additional information as I receive it.