Saturday, September 24, 2005


Belgian Beer: Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze 1998 - The Champagne of Beers

So the time had come for a celebration beer. Not that I could think of that much to celebrate, actually. Despite it being a shiny Saturday.

But this particular beer was made for celebration, marking the 50th anniversary of the Drie Fonteinen restaurant and geuze blender. Located in the the heart of Payottenland south-west of Brussels, known to quality beer lovers as Lambicland, in the village of Beersel, and on the web at Easy get to online as well as in the real world as Beersel is just a short train ride from the Brussels South Station.

Just called De Boeck by the friendly shop assistant of the excellent De Biertempel outlet in Brugge, which I found better organised and more spacious (and certainly less overcrowded by Japanese tourists) than their main outlet in Brussels. The nickname Boeck derived from the painting on the label ("Nightlights" by Felix de Boeck).The 75 cl champagne bottle, with the bottle date, 21 November 1998, handwritten on the back side, cost what is seen as a small fortune in the Belgian beer market, an amazing 10 Euro. What is more amazing to me is that a vintage champagne among beers cost the same (in Belgium, that is) as I had to pay at the Norwegian state liquor store today for one of their cheapest red wines. Maybe the undervaluation of world-class beers in Belgium is really what I should celebrate. And the fact that I am able to be there quite a few times every year to pick up my treats without asking for an extra credit line with my bank.

As a start, the bottle seemed to contain more than champagne-like pressure. Had I not stayed back when opening the cap, I would definitely have little to celebrate. Eventually the glass was filled with the hazy, deep golden orange-coloured beer. The head was initially huge, but quickly died down. The aroma is very acidic with notes of apples and vanilla. Initially, the flavour is sweetish, but gradually almondy bitterness takes over, ending on a rather dry note. Long aftertaste, good body and fizzy. A really special beer, proving the keeping qualities of an oude g(u)euze. If only the beer-drinker kept equally well, there would be plenty of grounds for a celebration!

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