The only Dutch beer to make it back from Amsterdam was a big one; De Molen's Bommen & Granaten, a barleywine in what must surely be the truest sense of the word.
A thick and oily pour gives us a hazy red/orange beer with nothing in the head department. It seems to have traded all its bubbles for huge sticky sweet malts. If you feel like getting your nose dirty you can dig and find some grapefruit and toffee syrup in there, but the best course of action is to get this one on the tongue. Despite it's heady aroma, this beer is actually nice. It's virtually uncarbonated and still has plenty of those sticky sweet toffee malts but there's also a good expression of fruit; peach, apricot and raisins, as well a hint of residual brown sugar. There's alcohol warmth in there too, but for all its muscle, Bommen & Granaten avoids being a harsh beer, à la Louder. My only problem is that there's just not enough complexity in the flavour to justify a whopping 15.2% ABV.
The rest of the bunch are easier-to-find Belgians, but at their relatively cheap price (and lack of much else on the shelves in this particular shop) I decided to let them help fill the suitcase.
Gulden Draak is a beer I've been enamoured with for some time now. It's a strange tripel/quadrupel hybrid that works wonders with its 10% ABV, much like its fantastic stablemate Piraat, whose style is also a bit of a discrepancy. However, this Gulden Draak 9000 Quadruple wears its style on its sleeve, so there should be no misunderstandings, right?
Wrong. Because the messers at Van Steenberge are not satisfied with simply delighting our tastebuds, they also want to mess with our heads. For a quad, it pours suspiciously pale, paler than the regular Gulden Draak in fact. Still though, there's not much to worry about, seeing as this beer is absolutely gorgeous. Loads of fruit wash over the palate; candied citrus, dark forest fruits, apricot and a soft prickly tripel-like spice sit atop chewy dark toffee and chocolate malts, delivered with warming spirity heat.
This may be the best beer I've yet to have from Van Steenberge.
Saison Dupont Biologique appears to just be an unfiltered, organic version of Dupont's flagship saison (Q: Is the regular version unfiltered?), so I wasn't expecting much of anything new or different in the taste. It's a cloudy yellow beer, just like the regular saison, and produces a lovely aroma of bright, herbal stuff with a malted biscuit and wet grain backbone. I loved the suggestion of farmyardy stuff in the original saison, but there's none of that here. The palate is beautiful. A wheaty body is interspersed with lemon zest, coriander, mint and a waxy bitterness.
Probably one of the most refreshing beers on the planet.