Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
You might not have heard of Brasserie Grain d'Orge. I hadn't until Belgian beer subscription service BelgiBeer offered to send me one of their monthly cases to review. From the outset I was assured I'd be sent a selection of beers that didn't remotely resemble Maes, Jupiler or Duvel. Personally, I find the Belgian disregard for Duvel puzzling, for me it's one of the best beers in the world but I imagine the root of their distaste is not dissimilar to our own for say, Doom Bar. Regardless of qualms over mass-produced beers I was happy to have an opportunity to taste some beer from a brewery that had been off my radar until now.
Brasserie Grain d'Orge hail from the town of Homborg in the west of Belgium, near both the Dutch and German borders. Its beers are traditional in the best possible sense of the word. From the cartoony, caricatured labels of its blonde and brown ales, Brice and Joup, through to the more refined designs of its abbey style Dubbel and Tripel, this is a brewery creating beers that I would consider to be quintessentially Belgian.
I enjoyed Brice with its notes of honey and coriander seed but it was a little sweet in the finish for my own tastes. Joup on the other hand had all the qualities I look for in a great Belgian brown ale. That coriander was there again, as was a dollop of muscovado sugar but there was a hint of white pepper in the drying finish that for me, really rounded this beer out. It paired beautifully with a lamb shish kebab, drenched in chilli and garlic sauce, that I'd acquired from a local kebab emporium on the way home. The slight sweetness smoothed out the heat from the chilli sauce and its dry, peppery character cut through the fat in the moist chunks of lamb.
The Aubel Tripel was again a little on the sweet side for me but it looked gorgeous in the glass. Bright gold with a fluffy, fairy liquid foam head that released delicate aromas of honeysuckle and gooseberry. I found that the yeasty esters gave it an almost sparkling white wine-like quality. I think it would actually work pretty well as a dessert beer, I'd probably serve it with something like a lemon cheesecake with that sweetness being a good foil to the citrus acidity.
Finally I got stuck into La Grelotte or, The Shivering if my high school French is serving me correctly. It's a bit late in the season for a festive beer such as this but that didn't stop me from enjoying it immensely. This beautiful, deep ruby red beer smelled of over-ripe cherries, figs and allspice. It was surprisingly drinkable for its 9% ABV, with a lot of the alcohol being masked by the spicy flavours. It had a smooth, almost buttery mouthfeel and flavours of cherries and plums with an exceptionally smooth, almost grassy finish. I'm not usually a fan of festive beers such as this but La Grelotte proved to be an exception to this rule.
I was impressed with these beers to the point where I'd probably buy at least two of them if I was to come across them again. One thing I did like about the BelgiBeer selection was that, as well as plenty of box candy including a bottle opener, glass and magazine, you got two of each beer. It's always a downer when you discover a really great beer but you only picked up a single bottle.
I was sent these beers for free but I don't think that influenced my opinion of them. If you'd like to give BelgiBeer a go for yourself then you can click here and get a discount.