De Ranke Pere Noel

Brouwerij De Ranke in Dottignies, Belgium is a bit of a fairy tale story for many beer enthusiasts…started in 1994 by two best friends as a home-brewing fascination it quickly turned into more than a hobby. After a few short years they acquired weekend brew space at the historic Deca Brewery in West Flanders. After 11 years of sharing space and capacity with Deca, De Ranke built their own brewery in Dottignies, a town only a few minutes from the French border. De Ranke beers have been scarce both out of and in Belgium until their import to Alberta last year. Pere Noel is a Belgium Strong Ale (a category lacking boundaries besides being of Belgian origin)> brewed with brewers gold, hallertau hops and licorice. Unlike most Belgian Christmas beers that are rich, dark and fruity Pere Noel is spicy, sweet and bitter. At 7% ABV Pere Noel is about normal for Belgian style beers but rather low for a Christmas beer with most others hitting upwards of 9% ABV. 

Pouring out a bright golden amber Pere Noel lacks the heavy effervescent head of other De Ranke beers and settles rather quickly. A thin line of lacing foam sticks easily to the glass as the head subsides slowly to a thin layer of bright white bubbles. The nose seems a bit out of place with the style as it is predominant with citric and grassy hops, toasted caramel and bready malts, mild spiced notes and a bit of alcohol warmth. A subtle yet pervasive funky aroma sticks to the nose throughout the tasting lending a bit of intrigue to this beer. The mid palate of taste is smooth and somewhat fruity with mild citrus hop notes as well as hints of apple and pear combining well with notes of toasted wheat, caramel, cereal grains and light licorice/anise spice flavors. The finish has a moderate bitterness that lingers unexpectedly into the aftertaste leaving mild resinous notes and sweet fruity flavors. Pere Noel has a great balance overall with bitterness, spices and malts blending well and leaving a crisp, clean but bitter Belgian flavor profile. Overall, a interesting and unique twist on a Belgian Christmas beer.

Price: $12.99                                                                                               Grade: 90/100

La Guillotine

La Guillotine is a Belgian Strong brewed in the triple fermentation method to 8.5% ABV by the Belgian family brewery Huyghe in Melle, Belgium. The Brewery Huyghe is best known as the producer of Delirium Tremens which also comes in the ceramic-like painted bottles. A brewery has been in operation in Melle since 1654 but it wasn’t until 1906 when Leon Huyghe bought the brewery. In 1989 the Huyghe Brewery launched La Guillotine to celebrate the bicentennial of the French Revolution.  Within recent decades, Huyghe has bought many breweries and now brews close to 100 beers and brands. 

La Guillotine has a brazen copper toned amber appearance with a huge fluffy white head that settles at a snails pace. A few lacing rings form are short lived but the head tends to slide right off the glass. The nose has a bready malt base with spicy yeast notes and an accompanying handful of grassy vegetal hops. A definite alcohol aroma with a hint of honeyed and caramel malts. The first sip is quite sweet with big bready and light caramel toasted malt notes. Hints of lemon rind and citrus fruits with a few pinches of spices blend well in the middle. The finish has a gentle spice that lingers and a moderate hop bitterness.  The aftertaste has an impending and lingering alcohol presence that seems unrefined for a triple style beer.  After letting La Guillotine warm up to near room temperature I notice more cloves and a cracked black pepper in both the aroma and the taste. The hops have seemed to settle in well and have been covered by quite a forceful alcohol presence throughout the finish leaving a mild bitterness but quite a pungent booze filled aftertaste. Overall, a good Belgian style beer but the unrefined alcohol presence certainly draws away from its overall quality. 

Grade: 83/100                    Price: $4.49

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