I picked this one up sometime in March,I think, because I was so keen to get hold of one and it was the first time I'd really seen one in the wild. Well, at least at a time I could get my grubby mitts on it. Then circumstances and me being busy at work meant that I really didn't have the time to get round to drinking it. So it was stored in the dark of the understairs cupboard for a while then moved into the pantry in expectation of actually drinking it and there it stayed through the heatwave before being returned to the cupboard. Then we had a few moments, my Boy and I got back from the park and I had the time and inclination to have a beer in my garden.
I refer, of course, to that mighty ale from Belgium, in advance of having our favourite Belgian over to stay, from Huyghe that comes in the form of Delirium with all the elephants on it. Alas, not a stoneware bottle but a glass one painted to look the same. Not being stoneware may well have led to the experience, but that may just be me. Would you like to know more?
The augurs were not good. I sat in my usual spot on the purple chairs by the fence and the seat promptly broke. My Boy sat in the other seat and it broke too. Wooden plugs had become rotten from before Willow painted the whole thing and they finally gave way. Alas, the seats are now gone from use. So my Boy and I relocated to the garden table, which is a much sturdier affair and which has been painted long before the rot could set in on any of the parts, which is nice. The sunlight of the day was still present but kept being hidden by cloud and soon it looked as though rain was threatening, it would fall later, as I cradled the last of the ale and made some tea in the kitchen. On opening there was a bit of a cloud of carbon dioxide and a suspicious noise that suggested that the heatwave had done for this brew much like it had some of the others that suffered through that torrid time. The initial pour was... like a terrier having seen a rat. Yapping and making a nuisance of itself until the smell has gone away. It was in real danger of being an 'ice cream pour' and that was not a good start.
I recall that Belgian ale is supposed to be big on the head but I suspect that this was not exactly what it was supposed to be doing. A big dry aroma, like a head of straw, buzzed around the top and filled the senses much like the last shower of rain refused to budge and hung around in the heavy atmosphere. Yeast hung in that head, evidence of bad pouring, and added to the whole affair. A taste. It was dry and big, blonde and heavy. Not unexpected at 8.5% ABV but that alcohol was all too present for my tastes. I can see what this is and I can see what it was trying to do but it just didn't do it for me. Round feeling on the tongue, plenty of malt, then rolling into the middle where it takes a bit of a desertification approach, slowly turning the irrigated channels of the mouth to dust and ash before moving on to the back where it hangs around and looks a bit shifty. For a moment there is the flash of a knife blade but then it is gone and so is the ale.
Dry. It is a dry ale. Being strong means that it rapidly went to my head, my title of lightweight remains unchallenged, and it stays there. Big taste and big dryness, like an arid desert made of stone and dry wadis, this is a big ale that has the talk and the trousers. It had the burnished gold aspect and the big head and the activity one expects from a proper Belgian ale, putting me in mind of the Speciale from way back (see here) and the last ale that I shared with an actual Belgian. However, I feel this lacked the charm of the Chimay (see this finely crafted link) and rested too much on the fame of the bottle and the fact that it was painted to look like stoneware. It's still glass. Glass does not do well in my pantry and I know this. A fortnight or more in the cupboard was not enough and the fact that I have been having juicy brews and sours probably didn't help either. However, when I was cooking, this was just... not quite right.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this was awful. Far from it. In comparison to the ales that I was reviewing, say, two years ago then this is a fine ale and well worth the money you'll pay for it. In that regard, this is quality stuff. But compare it to the kind of ales that I have been reviewing since Christmas and this almost seems a tad... well, same-y. It seems a bit bland. I can see why people like it and it is clear that I have not stored it well, but it really wasn't doing the job for me. I persevered as the rain fell outside whilst I cooked and felt that it was alright but nothing to write home about. A real shame and a bit of a let down for me, because I had been really looking forward to trying it. I may try it again, chilled and well-looked after on an evening out, but it is with sadness that I report that it just didn't tick the boxes I was hoping for it to tick on this occasion.
Not to worry, an actual Belgian is due over soon and they have promised beer and so I should be able to report back with proper actual Belgian ale that is less disappointing. Even another bottle of this that has not sat in the sunlight and the heat for too long in the right setting may well do the trick. We shall see!