As I've no doubt mentioned a thousand times, I was in the Bierkoning in Amsterdam over the summer and found myself crippled by the vast selection and friendly priced-ness of the place. However, it wasn't here that I bought these two beers for the return leg. Rather it was a joint effort between Albert Heijn and the over-the-counter bottle shop in Brouwerij 't IJ.
Both of these beers are from that brewery, and both are ballsy organic 9%-ers.
Struis was described to me in the IJ bar as 'barleywine-ish', and that was good enough for me. It pours a murky brown and produces an aroma that is at once weird and beautiful. Clove and candies citrus fruit accompany squashed over-ripe banana, suggesting a sweet palate to follow. It is sweet, but nearly as much as you'd think. Banana bread and clove rocks and a surprisingly potent slab of toffee malt of almost Doppelbock proportions. Thick and syrupy dark fruits and brown sugar are the stars of he show but there's plenty of lingering bitterness in the background and finish. A nice beer, sort of like a complex steeping stone between a Tripel and a Quadrupel.
Columbus is, according to the website, an amber ale. I think. It's murky orange in the glass and the aroma is citrus fruits gone a bit sour, with even a hint of cloudy apple juice. There's no sourness to taste though, just chewy caramel malts, cereal grain, cool spices and herbs, flowery hops, green apple and pear cider. Hmm. The overall impression from that mess is of a beer that is fruity and flowery and spicy and with a lingering tingling bitterness. Great stuff, complex but very drinkable, especially considering its ABV.
I just don't know what to make of the IJ stuff. I mean, clearly the beers are wonderful and delicious, but regardless of the style designated on the label there is a common thread running through the flavours of all the beers of theirs that I've tried. Brouwerij 't IJ don't just make different types of beer, they make different types of IJ beer, as if it's a style in itself. Perhaps it's a yeast strain they use, or just a bit of brewing wizardry beyond my understanding. Regardless, the brewery is unique and as such should be celebrated. I certainly look forward to my next visit.