With the Euros going on everyday and me trying to plan a trip to Belgium, I've been pretty distracted in the past few days and in truth, I haven't drank a whole lot of beer. Sam Adams Boston Lager is still my drink of choice for sipping from the bottle while watching the matches, but I did get to retry Rochefort 10 the other night.
This was my favourite beer when I first tried it a few months ago, and it was immediately the first beer on my imaginary Top Five list. Piraat, Abt 12 and Westvleteren 12 followed soon after, but I realised recently that apart from the St Bernardus, I've only ever had each of those beers once. And in the case of the Piraat and Rochefort 10, that was before I discovered some of the really good stuff. So, I decided to re-evaluate the beers and see if they remain worthy of a glorious Seven Hells!
This Rochefort 10 pours different from the last - it's dark red, very still, and the isolated strains of fizz streaming up the side of the glass are the only indicators that you're not looking at red wine. Initially there were a few bubbles on top pretending to be a head, but even they disappeared almost instantly. Very strange, but I later realised that this was down to the lack of sediment in suspension and my relatively tame pour. This also had an effect on the nose - much fruitier than I remembered, with the usual dark fruit such as raisins and figs actually taking the back seat with cherry, raspberry, blueberry and blackberry to the fore. There may even be hints of strawberry and apple in there too. This sweetness is kept grounded by the deep and intense woody malts of chocolate, caramel and hints of cinnamon. The whole thing makes for a very nice complex aroma. The taste seems to be the other way around, with deep nutty toffee and chocolate up first, with the fruit on the follow and a nice tang of yeast at the finish. The alcohol is potent to say the least, but it doesn't take from the beer and while the heat can't be hidden (thankfully), the flavour is completely. The combination of the bubbles that become active in your mouth, the alcohol heat, and the layers of taste leave a tingling sensation on the tongue afterwards, accompanied by a long lingering malty aftertaste. The second pour (I was using my tiny Chimay tasting glass) yielded more yeast sediment and, as such, a much more substantial head.
Like the Abt 12, I can't help but think of Christmas pudding when I drink this, and I'll definitely be having a glass by the fire after the turkey. Seven Hells, it really is as good as I though!
On the subject of hell, with Ireland mauled by a rampant Spain in the Euros last week, it really was time again for some beer consolation. We already have the first half of the quarter finalists in Ireland, England, Czech Republic and Germany. For France, it's looking good, with 3 Monts, Gavroche and Belzebuth all on the table. Netherlands may also be on easy street, with the competition's only Trappist beer selection looking good to follow Germany out of the group, although Danish craft beer maestros Mikkeller are well equipped to challenge them. The range of Polish beer in my locale is far from inspiring or groundbreaking, but the shameless satisfaction of quaffing a Zywiec, Tyskie or Lech with a nice cheap curry may be enough to see them through, especially when you consider their opposition. Spain and Italy, most likely to be represented by Peroni and Estrella, are fighting it out for the revered prize of Most (Least?) Mediocre Euro Lager, and it must be said that unlike the rest of the nations up there, the eventual winner will probably just be making up the numbers. I've read that Italy is going through a sort of craft beer Renaissance at the moment, but that's yet to make an impact on Cork shelves.
Watch this space...
Watch this space...