Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Belgian Beer: Give unto the Emperor..

Emperor Charles the 5th (Keizer Karel) is said to have demanded regular supplies of beers from his home turf. The ruler of most of Western Europe was born in Gent in 1500 and raised in Mechelen, which at the time was the capital of the Burgundian Netherlands.

Only right then that Mechelen brewery Het Anker pays its respect to the emperor. In a way, they do so every day with their high quality Gouden Carolus range, commemorating a coin with the Emperor's face on it. They are not alone in celebrating the man. The brewery Haacht brews its Keizer Karel (also called Charles Quint), served in very characteristic four-handled mugs.

However, the prime tribute is made once a year on the Emperor's birthday, 24 February. On this day Het Anker opens its doors to the public and brews the Cuvée van de Keizer, a strong version of the Gouden Carolus.

It is a beer that is likely to improve with age. In my Ratebeer review I recently wrote the following about a 2004 bottle:

"Deep ruby red with modest off-white head. Liquorice, caramel and bitter chocolate aroma.Soft and oily, full body. Initial sweetness is restrained by good bitterness. Lots of fruit and chocolate flavour. A truly great beer, I cannot wait to get my hands on an older "vintage"."

Luckily, I did come across the 2001 bottle, and writing this piece was a good enough excuse to open it. Three years down the road and still going strong. (Though it never was as strong as its 3 year younger brother; the Cuvée has gone from 8.5% in 2001 to a staggering 11% alcohol volume). Fruit (raisins) and chocolate still dominate the aroma and flavours. Still not exhibiting much of the aged beer madeira flavours except for becoming somewhat drier, the big champagne bottle seems to keep it well.

Aged or not aged, the Emperor would certainly have enjoyed this gift.

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