There isn’t much Belgian beer on sale in pubs in Cornwall, which is a shame, because strong, slow beers lend themselves to stormy, candlelit Sunday afternoons, of which we have plenty. Fortunately, Sharp’s head brewer, Stuart Howe, is something of a Belgophile, and has produced two beers which very neatly plug the gap.
Honey Spice Tripel (10%) is entirely convincing and delicious. Honey in beers we can take or leave but, as is usually the case when it’s employed in brewing, it’s not a very pronounced presence here. In fact, what lords it over this beer is a big, unrestrained Belgian yeast pumping out banana aroma and tongue-tingling Asian spiciness. (The Westmalle strain, right?)
The Quadrupel (10%) is apparently fermented with four strains of yeast. The overall impression, though, is that, once again, something very like the Westmalle strain won. Our impression (according to notes on one of the touchscreen devices) was of more bananas — really ripe ones — doused in rum, but it’s another one of those beers that has almost every flavour in it if you wait long enough. (Chocolate, coffee, dark fruits, Werther’s Originals, old army boots, bat’s blood…) In a blind tasting, would we rate St Bernardus Abt 12 higher? Maybe, but the freshness and swagger of this beer might tip the balance.
Final observations: it was great to see these on sale in a relatively normal pub, at a not-outrageous £5.50 a bottle, which is less than imports go for down this way, on the rare occasions they’re seen. It was even better when the barman announced, with evident pride, that they had a full supply of the attractive Belgian-style glasses in which they are supposed to be served. But… Connoisseurs’ Choice? Why not just call them Wankers’ Selection or Dickhead’s Delight? We bloggers don’t need our egos encouraging.