Belgian Strong Pale Ale

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

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North Coast Pranqster

Beer No. 35 – North Coast Pranqster

My glowing and pregnant wife’s favorite beer, she might literally kill me for reviewing it before she pops. All the more so since I think I technically stole it, the two four packs undeservedly collecting dust in the back of the fridge, gifts from her baby shower and thusly for her to enjoy when she is allowed to imbibe. I love you b, but the temptation was too great … and the payoff definitely worth it.

STYLE: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

ABV: 7.6%

LOOK: Light, shimmering orange. Not nearly as pale or cloudy as expected. More interestingly, it has the appearance of heft though maybe not actually so. More on that later.

NOSE: Like a haystack filled with peppered apples. Dash of champagne vinegar and worcestershire sauce, now that’s outstanding.

MOUTH: Can I start with a critique that maybe isn’t fair? It’s so so drinkable, I hesitate to say it’s even quaffable. The latter seems to imply a sipping, or at the most moderate, pace. But for a relatively high-alcohol-content pale ale you could annihilate a few of these frat boy style without picking up much of what’s to be had. If you lack patience, that is. Slow your roll with this one. Buttery and white wine but also peppery, maybe meaty. All somehow packaged in a lighter-than-it-should be mouthfeel and soft, barely there finish.

Beeradvocate Rating: 89

Hayward Abbey Rating: 93

Unibroue Don de Dieu

Beer No. 14 – Unibroue Don de Dieu

Well-deserving of the high praise that follows. Literally a “gift of god,” it warms this atheist’s heart.

STYLE: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

ABV: 9%

LOOK: Cantaloupe orange and dark honey. Hazy copper, murky. There are clouds inside these colors.

NOSE: Belgian yeast strain, Indian spices, orange peel.

MOUTH: Toffee, seasoned butter, fresh-cut green apple, white pepper. Unsalted almonds set the stage for a chewy tap dance, belied by the thin head and thinner lacing. It’s pretty much impossible to hold that against this remarkably complex and balanced brew.

Beeradvocate Rating: 92

Hayward Abbey Rating: 96