Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lying Belgian Bastards

Not entirely fair.

I was lied to by an employee of a large food-porn (i.e. fancy grocery store) operation (you know who you are). Green Flash Brewery of San Diego, California, makes a fantabulous Belgian/Cal IPA hybrid called Le Freak. A certain wild yeast smell going on along with a massive hop load on top gives this brew a flavor similar to Elliot Bay Brewery's Hop Von Boorien (which is only available at their pub, and not in bottles). This concept is based on an existing Belgian ale, La Chouffe brewery's Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel (try saying that three times fast). The fellow at the food-porn operation said that Houblon Chouffe is the real deal, the original, and therefor, better than all of those copycats.

I hate to say this, oh Belgian ale lovers, but Houblon Chouffe is sour s**t. In my opinion, the green bottle allows light to come in and sour the beer. Perhaps this stuff is wonderful in Belgium, but by the time it gets here, it stinks both literally and figuratively. Their description of a balance between hop bitterness with a fruity overlay is generous. It's more sour than bitter, and the scent is the usual kind of rotten fruit smell that I've encountered with Belgian ales in the past. Like the smell of blue cheeses and single-malt whiskey (which I like), I believe this to be an acquired taste.

I can't say Belgian ales suck, except to me. But I think they suck. And I don't understand why there is so much love for them. I have tried them over and over again, and it's like the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Definitely, Chimay tastes different from Duvel, and Duvel tastes different from Ommegang. Doesn't mean I like them.

And yet, here are at least two beers (and add to this list the Trip IV from Mulleady's) with distinctly Belgian ale flavors without the Belgian sourness. I know that Guinness tastes different in the US than it does in Ireland. I know that kegged Arrogant Bastard has a vastly better flavor than bottled Arrogant Bastard. But how is it that Belgian ales deteriorate this much?