Tag Archives: tripel

An Unexpected Brewery – Central City’s Hobbit Beers

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Considering that I’m writing this post with the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack playing and a replica of the One Ring To Rule Them All hanging from a silver chain around my neck, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work. The world, the languages, the beautiful stories that go on throughout his books are nothing short of masterpieces for me. While my preference tends to lie with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s children’s book sibling, The Hobbit, has a special place in my heart as a book that I would escape to when the trials and pressures of being a Grade Fiver would get to me (not a joke, there were plenty). So when a movie trilogy based on the book was being made I was optimistic. The movies are great. They’re no Lord of the Rings (Extended OR theatrical), but they’re fantastic films all the same, that capture many of the characters, in particular the company of Dwarves, in a way that really made the fifth grader in me smile.

So it’s with that same level of optimism I had when I learned that Central City Brewers + Distillers out of Surrey, B.C. would be making a series of beers based on The Hobbit films. The beers would essentially be a Canadian version of Olympia, Washington brewer Fish Brewing Co.‘s Hobbit beers, with Central City using their recipe. So Canada would have a beer based on a movie based on a book that is based on an American beer based on a movie based on a book. The thought of adaptation in this is very interesting and I’m sure that Central City adapted as well as changed slightly to create a series of beers that is altogether unique.

I’m actually a huge fan of beers based on franchises, since the name attached tends to, not totally unlike Bilbo Baggins, get people not inclined to be adventurous with beer to try something new. However, there were a few hurdles to overcome, the big one of these being timing. Fish Brewing came out with their beers in the Fall of last year, which left Central City racing to get their beers finished and out in time for the release of the final Hobbit film. And as an Ontario resident I’d like to add my personal gripe of the beers being available in all provinces of Canada EXCEPT Ontario, with the LCBO deciding not to go with it for reasons that I can only speculate on (hooray).

But anyways! You aren’t here to read my Ontario Retail System slashfic, you came to read about these Hobbit beers! Let’s get to them!

Bolg Belgian Tripel (9.5% ABV): The albino Orc Azog is one of the primary antagonists in the Hobbit film, having killed Thorin Oakensheild’s grandfather, the king under the mountain by beheading him. Thorin managed to cut off his arm, but Azog merely retreated and was able to hunt down his nemesis Thorin with his son Bolg. But the movie actually demoted Bolg, whose father is long dead and is merely mentioned by name in the book, with his son actually being the Orc leader of the Misty Mountains and leader of the Goblins of Moria.

All that to mean that for whatever reason, Bolg’s role in The Hobbit is one of the more problematic and ill-conceived (at least in the movie version). He doesn’t totally work and, I’m afraid, the beer, a belgian tripel, doesn’t either. To its credit, it starts out with promise. Both aroma and taste have some lovely notes of honey, dried fruit, and cloves in them. But the taste falls apart at the end, when things get far, far too bitter.

The Precious Pils (5% ABV): Oooooh we likes it, Precious! We likes it! The colour is golden like the Precious! Golden, Precious! Very balanced, it is, with slight grainses and a clean finish, Precious! The dry note at the end is especially good!

*Gollum! Gollum!*

As it warms the dryness grows, but we still likes it, Precious! We likes it! All ours! Forever and ever!

*Gollum! Gollum!*

Smaug Stout (8.5 ABV): “Revenge! Revenge! The King under the Mountain is dead and where are his kin that dare seek revenge? Girion Lord of Dale is dead, and I have eaten his people like a wolf among sheep, and where are his sons’ sons that dare approach me? I kill where I wish and none dare resist. I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong, strong, Thief in the Shadows!”

With a quote like that, you would expect that a beer named after a huge, heavily armoured dragon, especially Smaug, to be pretty damn big. So it’s with no surprise whatsoever that it’s an 8.5% ABV Imperial Stout with Habanero Chilis was created to honour the Dragon who took over the Lonely Mountain.

The aroma sets up a really good expectation, as the chilis come out very prominently, followed closely with its friends cocoa and coffee. The taste is incredibly creamy and smooth. Very well-balanced. A bit disappointing, as the chili notes in the flavour was a lot more subtle than the aroma led me to think it would be, but that aside, it’s an incredibly well put together stout.

All in all, two of the three offerings blew me away. The pilsner is a thing of beauty and the Smaug Stout is an incredibly close second.

Now go gather some of your close Dwarf and Hobbit friends, pour a drink, and sing a song. Or read the book together. Whichever works.

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“Hey, ho, to the bottle I go,
To heal my heart and drown my woe!
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
But there still beeeeee many miles to go!

Sweet is the sound of the pouring rain,
And stream that falls from hill to plain!
Better than rain or rippling brook,
Is a mug of beer inside this Took!

Strange and dark is the world outside,
But in the pub we’ve naught to hide!
With lots of ale, and barley wine,
This evenin’ is surpassin’ fine!

Harvest’s in and cold without,
An’ hobbits strong are hobbits stout!
Naught to fear, and naught to think,
For hobbits nowwww have ale to drink!”

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Gateway Beers Part 3: Trappist Beers

Yes, GATEWAY BEERS.  Maybe you noticed some strange things happening with your son and/or daughter.  Leaving craft beer magazines lying around the house, starting a collection of coasters or glasses from brewpubs and microbreweries or even having a schedule of beer events happening WITH SEVERAL OF THEM CHECKED OFF OR CIRCLED. Yes, there’s no way around it.  Your kid is a Beer Fiend, a Hophead, a Malt Maniac, a Liberal, or whatever the hell kids are calling them these days. And it was all thanks to that damn Lambic!

Basically, this was inspired by the friends and family I have who have said “I don’t really drink beer, but when I do I usually drink _______.  What should I have?”.   

But you know what?  Today I feel reckless.  Today I don’t think I’m going to go with the template of “I usually drink ________”.  Today I’m going to just suggest a type of beer that you HAVE TO TRY before you die.

I am talking of the holiest of them all, the Trappist Beers. Cue the music to play along while reading this!

Trappists, also known as The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, are an order of Roman Catholic contemplative monks who follow the Rule of Saint Benedict to the letter and have taken a vow of stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience.  While they don’t go so far as to take a vow of silence, talking too much IS discouraged.  Apparently speech disturbs a disciple’s duty for quietude and receptivity, and may tempt them to exercise their own will instead of the will of God.  A special sign language was created to further discourage speech and all meals are spent quietly listening to a reading.

There are about 175 monasteries and convents in the world and most of them make stuff! Turns out the Rule of St. Benedict encourages the monks to produce stuff with all income going to the monastery! This stuff ranges from clothing to food to toys…and BEER (which works because the monks don’t abstain from alcohol or think it’s particularly wrong).

In response to breweries, clothing companies and other non-Trappist purveyors abusing the Trappist name by calling their product Trappist, the International Trappist Association was formed which put a smackdown on the fakers and set up some strict rules to determine what is worthy of getting the “Authentic Trappist Product” sticker on their product.

Because this is a beer blog, I’ll give the rules as they relate to the making of beer:

  • The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, by or under control of Trappist monks (although this has been stretched to allow outsourcing to breweries outside of the abbey as long as the ENTIRE process is overseen by the monks).
  • The brewery, the choices of brewing, and the commercial orientations must be of secondary importance within the monastery and should reflect the monastic way of life.
  • Profit is not a goal.  Money received from sales goes towards the living expenses of the monks and building and maintenance of the grounds.  The rest goes to charity.
  • Trappist breweries must be constantly monitored to ensure the best of quality.

And if any one of those rules are broken BAM, The sticker comes off and they are no longer considered Trappist.  But why is that considered a big deal? After all, There are thousands of Abbey breweries out there.  This is true…but there are only seven Trappist breweries in the entire world (six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands), so staying on that list packs a lot of prestige.

Now I’m going to go through the seven breweries and say what I can about them.  Keep in mind that, due to limited availability, there are several that I have not tried and therefore won’t be able to comment on them.  Though with that it should be said that trying all the Trappist beers is something that should be put on your bucket list.

Bières de Chimay: Comes in three different, wonderful colours.White, Red and Blue. Chimay Red Cap was actually the very first craft beer I ever tried and the complexities just blew my mind.  First brewed in 1862, Chimay Red Cap has  a lovely copper colour, sweet apricot aroma and a taste that reveals the fruit nuances and delicious malts.  These folks also put more in to advertising than any of the other breweries and with their easy availablity are often a gateway in to the world of Trappist beers.

Brasserie d’Orval: This brewery makes two beers; one for the public and one just for the monks (but can also be purchased at the monastery itself or the cafe near it). The public one, Orval, has a light cloudy colour, is somewhat high in carbonation and with a spicy, leathery aroma.  Taste is sweet with some citrusy tones and a distinct note of pear and apple.  Slight hoppiness due to dry-hopping during the three-week maturation period.  Also should be noted that the brewery uses a unique local wild yeast for fermenting.

Brasserie de Rochefort: Never tried the three beers from this brewery. Rochefort 6 is only brewed once a year and is very difficult to hunt down, Rochefort 8 is their most popular brew and Rochefort 10 packs a punch with an 11.3% ABV, which I imagine adds some lovely distinctions to the flavour.  A fun note about this brewery is that they obtain the water from a well within the walls of the monastery.

Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle: Westmalle makes three brews speculated to be based on the Holy Trinity. A Dubbel, a Tripel (the first golden strong pale ale to be called one) and Westmalle Extra, which is pretty rare.  Not going to lie here folks, when I first tried Westmalle Tripel I actually wept tears of joy.  The aroma is quite sweet, with hints of lemon zest, orange and sweet spices but the the taste is another matter. VERY creamy mouthfeel to it with such a complex flavour.  Really, nothing I can say about the flavour will do it justice.  Every time I try to do a tasting I’m just left dumbstruck.  Combinations of sweetness, bitterness and earthiness combine to form a holy trinity on its own.  For the love of all that is Holy (and these folks are pretty holy) try the Westmalle Tripel.

Brouwerij Westvleteren: These folks do absolutely no advertising, make just enough beer to support the monastery and the only official sell points are the brewery itself and a cafe across from the abbey.  Any other places you get it should be punished because once purchased the buyers are given their receipt with “DO NOT RESELL” on it.  No pubs have it either.  They have not changed the amount of beer they produce since 1946.  This kind of thing brings out the romantic in me and makes me want to go on a pilgrimage.

Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis: The smallest of the breweries, the building of which was assisted by the monks at Westmalle and Rochefort. They brew six beers, two of which are available only on tap at the Abbey, one available in bottles only at the abbey and the remaining are distributed worldwide but to quite limited availability. I regret to say that I haven’t tried any of these beers, though I have been told that Achel Extra Brune, which seems to be their most popular beer, is “what a strong ale should be”, with a creamy mouthfeel and hints of rye, caraway, molasses and cloves.

Brouwerij de Koningshoeven: More known as La Trappe.  The only one of the Trappist breweries not based in Belgium, but in the Netherlands.  While they make about seven beers plus one seasonal, in my experience the three most popular are the Dubbel, Tripel and Quadrupel.  As luck would have it, a pub right down the street from my office serves all three on tap.  The tripel  has a rich, bittersweet taste with hints of pears and coriander while the quadrupel would have to be the sweetest of them all, with strong tastes of molasses, cloves, bay leaf, vanilla and raisins, a sticky mouthfeel and a very slight bitterness that only comes from it’s alcohol content (10%).  A personal goal of mine is to try the oak aged batches of the quadrupel, which adds a whole new element to an already fantastic beer.

PHEW!  So that’s all of them.  So here you have a group of breweries with a very rich history and a way of life that is so unique.  Not to mention that by buying the beer, you know the money is going towards maintaining the monastery with the rest going to charity.  In all respects Trappist beers are feel-good beers.

So now that this post is written, I’m going to get something to eat, head down to my local pub, purchase a bottle of Orval and let out a very solemn “hallelujah!”

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Being Overwhelmed

So…I might have gotten a bit overwhelmed when I went in to my local LCBO (King/Spadina for Toronto readers) and noticed that the start of their new summer line of beers came in.  For the first time in a while I saw the shelf COMPLETELY covered with new beers I’ve never had before.  After being stuck with some of the same Pale Ales and Weissbiers, it’s probably an understatement to say that I danced a little jig in the aisle.  In fact, if we’re going to be perfectly honest, I pranced and sang a little.  You know what a four year old girl does when she has a plastic tiara, pink cape and a magic wand and is playing Fairy Princess?  Yeah.  THAT.

But I had to stop myself.  Pull in those reins.  I’m on a VERY limited budget, after all.  And some of these beers aren’t cheap.  A few were in the $11-12 mark.  I have to be cool about it and avoid the urge to get the shopping cart out and just stack up on stuff.

Normally when I find myself COMPLETELY overwhelmed with the selection and a budget of about $20ish  I go with four beers.  Two that I have tried either on tap or in a bottle before, and two that I have never tried before.

So I bought two bottles of La Trappe Tripel, a BEAUTIFULLY malty Trappist Abbey Ale from De Koningshoeven Brewery in the Netherlands (the only Trappist brewery outside of Belgium) which I drink on tap at my favorite pub. For the stuff I haven’t tried I bought a bottle of ROGUE Double Dead Guy Ale, an evolution on their wonderful Dead Guy Ale (duh) and Wells Banana Bread Beer.

The Banana Bread Beer is something I’ve been interested in trying out since I first heard that such a thing existed.  I love the idea of putting interesting and sometimes crazy things in beer and I’m looking forward to giving this one a try. And really it was either this or the ROGUE Chipotle beer, but I already got one from ROGUE.

The Double Dead Guy Ale, well…I’ll be honest.  I like the original Dead Guy Ale and am looking forward to seeing where it goes, but really…I also like the bottle design.  Simple, but wonderful.

So that’s my strategy when there’s so many beers out there you want to try but can’t pick.  Two safe beers, two new beers.

I’ll be posting reviews on these at some point.  Sadly, this weekend I’m off to the cottage where the Internet doesn’t roam as free as it does in the city.  But I have my little notebook and will be making notes for you.

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