ABV 8.0-8.9

Brasserie d’Achouffe La Chouffe

Brasserie d'Achouffe La ChouffeBeer No. 68 – Brasserie d’Achouffe La Chouffe

Time to take a break from Andy’s beers and focus on a family favorite. Belgians of all styles are highly regarded in our household, especially Dubbels and Strong Pale Ales. Translation: Momma Bear likes em on the lighter side of strong, the lighter side of dark. So La Chouffe is always on the menu.

One of the surprising things I learned when checking the Hayward Abbey stats is that 31 percent of the readership is non-US, and that nearly 25 percent of that comes from Belgium. Belgian beer fans read this site at nearly three times the rate of Brits, 16 times more often than Germans, 30 times more often than the Japanese and infinitely more often than the subjects of Kim Jong Un.

They know that La Chouffe is a world-class brew with a milky drinkability that’s not readily apparent from its straw-like hue. Even at 8% it doesn’t bite. Drop of tequila seasoned with sea salt and pepper, nectar to balance, the poster child for liquid bread – really really good bread that’s actually beer with a crisp fruity balance.

Those who know me well know that I regret not getting the triple major when I had the chance, electing instead to coast for a year and a half with the minimum credits possible. Those who know me really really well know that I also regret my choice of majors, Economics and English, and that if I had the chance to do it over I’d go for Math (possibly Physics), Econ and Philosophy. A glutton-for-punishment courseload that has to be easier to regret about than it would have been to see through. But there it is.

The point is, the numbers – and what they mean – are sort of unrequited loves, and it will be interesting to see if Hayward Abbey’s international visitor distribution changes over time, and if so if there is anyone who can out-beer Belgium.

Beeradvocate Rating: 94

ratebeer Rating: 98

Hayward Abbey Rating: 98

Delirium Nocturnum

Delirium NocturnumBeer No. 61 – Delirium Nocturnum

Bougie thing to quaff this bougie beer from my bougie pink elephant. But I do love the glass, and the beer, it ain’t bad either, even if it is a mood brew.

STYLE: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

ABV: 8.5%

LOOK: Dark mirror. The only light in the house that’s on is the one in the dining room, that and my laptop. There’s a nice reflection from my most-stolen-in-America tulip, with credit to this dark, dark brew. Beachy thin head with a light caramel tinge. Subtle carbonation.

NOSE: Roasted raisins, molasses, sugar cookies, apple cider vinegar.

MOUTH: A recent trip to Napa clued me in to a wine secret. That some of the better wines are better enjoyed after opening up in a decanter – for up to 24 hours. I’ve done the hour-before-guests come thing, but a day, that seemed overkill. Until I tried it. It’s the same principle for some of the better Belgians, including this one. Honey, malted chocolates, plums, dried cranberries. There’s more here, obviously, but that’s not the point. Somewhere the sweet yeasts are hiding, maybe with the tucked-away ABV, and notwithstanding the complex flavor profile and top-class warming mouth, I need a touch more tartness for balance.

Beeradvocate Rating: 89

ratebeer Rating: 94

Hayward Abbey Rating: 92

Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s IPA

Beer No. 52 – Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s IPA

The canned beer re-revolution continues apace with this subdued IPA.

STYLE: American IPA

ABV: 8%

LOOK: Thinner than I remember, translucent paprika. I’m not sure body is the top priority for a brew intended to be consumed on the patio. A decent enough head that gives when you go and sways when you pull – enough, in fact, that I can steal a sip without frothing my lips.

NOSE: Back to basics in the right kind of way. Pine, orange peel, sugared grapefruit.

MOUTH: Solid, clean, and not at all sweet. Twigs, mellow grapefruit, a little too malty to pop. A wee bit light on the finish, maybe a lack of carbonation, maybe intentional.

Beeradvocate Rating: 90

ratebeer Rating: 99

Hayward Abbey Rating: 88

Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

Beer No. 49 – Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

Why I don’t drink this more often is still a mystery to me. The first time, it was ludicrous, barley pancakes and hoppy syrup. Once or twice in between, buttered flowers on toasted rye bread. Today, I’m nearly out of worthy descriptors.

I’m in my 30s now, having missed the sexting and DTF foam party generation. The silver lining, maybe, is that I get to experience the craft revolution at a time in my life when I have some bills to spare. And this Down To Quaff beer is a tastegasm worth enjoying now.

STYLE: Rye Beer

ABV: 8%

LOOK: Forest brown, copper highlights. The glass sweats, my mouth waters. It’s thick, rich, sturdy. Most importantly, it has structural integrity. A half-finger head could easily be confused with a protein shake. It moves with the beer, like pudding, without thinking. It’s just built that way – it has no choice.

NOSE: Strong hoppy nose. Herb butter, grapefruit, lemon peel, pine. Honey and subtle spices, I’m not sure what, pop in to say hello.

MOUTH: Bold statement time: It might be the most balanced beer I’ve ever had. In a different way, I think Allagash Curieux would give it a good run, and maybe prevail. But that’s another review for another time. This one, oh my. Sweet, bitter, malty, floral, distinctive. Three things happen with each sip. First, my nose swells with aroma, mostly buttered hops. Next, a soft soft blanket slowly coats the inside, then the outside, of my mouth, tongue to cheeks to lips to throat. Finally, the perfect astringent bite, a special reminder of who’s the boss. Rye, Cascade hops, and definitely DTQ.

Beeradvocate Rating: 95

ratebeer Rating: 100

Hayward Abbey Rating: 98

Troegenator Double Bock

Beer No. 44 – Troegenator Double Bock

Wiki tells me that modern brewers add “-ator” to their beer names to signal the doppelbock style, with 200 registered in the German patent office. The more you know.

STYLE: Doppelbock

ABV: 8.2%

LOOK: Heavy amber and loose. The latter says “eh, I’m probably not worth it.” Pay it no heed.

NOSE: Ripe apple cider, red wine vinegar, figs, dark rum. Fall, vinous, and strong too.

MOUTH: I’m ready to be smacked upside the head – but no. It’s more delicate. If it were less well composed it would taste like one of those chucky hard ciders. It is cidery, in a good way, but it’s also fulsome, molasses and baked fruits. Don’t think I could drink more than a single pint in any one session. That would be cloying. But do try it. It will satisfy that soft, sweetlike craving.

Beeradvocate Rating: 87

ratebeer Rating: 94

Hayward Abbey Rating: 85

Green Flash Double Stout

Beer No. 37 – Green Flash Double Stout

Very decent imperial stout. Not normally what I would consider a summertime beer, this really does it for me. A near ideal night cap.

STYLE: Double/Imperial Stout

ABV: 8.8%

LOOK: Like dessert. Car tire black with a thin darkish head. Not bubbly, not fluffy, but there. What I want from this style is something that resembles whole milk. This is richer than 2% but not quite to that standard.

NOSE: Playful. Sweet chocolate milk, peanut M&Ms, raspberries, cherries, stir of licorice. It’s the light floral scent that rounds it out for me.

MOUTH: Very clean on the front, brownie batter and vanilla and dissolved rib collagen roam purposefully through the mouth. What’s notable is a whisper of lemon-orange citrus and undefined but pleasant floral notes. It finishes crisply on the back end but lingers in the cheeks, putting the mouthfeel in rare company.

Beeradvocate Rating: 91

Hayward Abbey Rating: 90

St. Bernardus Tripel

Beer No. 33 – St. Bernardus Tripel

Historical context, like many things, can be good in moderation. I’m most definitely interested in partaking of this bottle-conditioned beaut right here, today. But I also believe it’s worth pointing out that, at least according to scholars at the brouwerij, the St. Bernardus family of beers owes its stellar foundation to ancient rainfall, buried 150 meters below ground, and the canonized tears of Jeanne d’Arc.

STYLE: Belgian Tripel

ABV: 8%

LOOK: Pours a hazy, amber-orange base that won’t win any beauty contests. Not that it really matters because the head is to die for. Literally, when the world finally tires of this beer vivant’s act, I want to be buried in this shit. It’s a two-finger foam pillow, so flat, so inviting.

NOSE: It’s Belgian, yeah, but should I be getting more? Marshmallows, yes, and some citrus rind too … maybe lemon, probably orange.

MOUTH: Fuck yeah. Powdered sugar, clove, apricot, Fruit Stripes, pineapple upside down cake. Restrained Belgian yeast. If it weren’t for the excellent head it might be a little light. But all together the weight, it’s perfect. Not to sip, not to chug, just to enjoy.

Beeradvocate Rating: 94

Hayward Abbey Rating: 94