Confluence is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, dry hopped and fermented with Brettanomyces. The fact that it is dry-hopped does not mean this is a “hoppy” beer, and in fact, in traditional Belgian style it is the malt and yeast on display here. Even though this is a “strong” pale ale, it’s certainly on the lighter side for a Belgian, and for Allagash. The head is foamy and quite pronounced. The nose is quite faint, and has some grape and pear notes. I didn’t catch much else. In the middle are strong pear flavors and a bit of lemon. This continues into the finish with the pear fading and the lemon rising, and some pepper entering the mix to spice things up. The body is medium to heavy, and the alcohol is a reasonable 7.1% ABV. A nice, clean, very well done beer.
On the bottle, Le Freak is described as a “Belgian Imperial IPA.” The Green Flash website expands a bit, explaining that it’s a hybrid of a Belgian Tripel and an American Imperial IPA. Interesting. The head is beautiful. Big and velvety, and it lasts for minutes. The nose is distinctively Belgian, with loads of fruit. The hybrid nature comes through in the middle with something I might describe as a battle between the sweet and complex Belgian, which is definitely here in full force, and the strong bitter west-coast style IPA that Green Flash is known for, which is just as present. There are spices, cherry, plum, pine, orange and grapefruit all mingling and alternately coming to the fore. The finish has some bitter citrus rind from the IPA, but is more Belgian in character with marmalade and a bit of licorice. The body is quite full and heavy, and the alcohol is 9.2% ABV, about what you’d expect for this style of ale. It’s probably not the next big thing, but it’s a fun mix, certainly enjoyable if you like the component styles, and well executed.
Victor is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale from Maine’s Allagash Brewing. The Belgian heritage is immediately apparent with a fruity, sour wild yeast nose that promises good things to come. The middle is tart, and bursts with fruit including cherry, banana, raisins and a bit of licorice. The finish is spicy and sweet with pepper, brown sugar and sweet cherry notes. It’s a medium to full bodied beer, and an appropriate 9% ABV, which is just right for the style and well hidden, only coming through with a bit of heat in the finish. Another astoundingly good beer from Allagash.
Fluxus is an anniversary beer for Allagash, and they brew it differently every year. For 2012, it was a Belgian golden ale brewed with barley and spelt malt, and then spiced with green and pink peppercorns. The Belgian yeast is immediately apparent in the nose, which has notes of peach and apricot. The middle is fruity, with plum and grapes added to the mix. There is a hint of spice from the pepper in the finish, but it’s very mild, and it offers a pleasing contrast to the sweet fruit. Beyond the pepper, the finish is best described as buttery. The body is medium to heavy, and the alcohol is a reasonable 7.7% ABV.
Allagash Odyssey is a dark wheat beer in the Belgian Strong Dark Ale style, brewed with Belgian candi sugar and aged in oak. Another way to describe it would be “brilliant.” The nose holds promises of raisins, figs, and ginger. The middle is mellow and muted due to the wheat, with clear and refined flavors of raisins, plums, dates, and a bit of coffee. While the middle is sweet, the finish is dry and flavors that come forward are vanilla, cocoa and tobacco. The body is heavy and the alcohol is an age-able 10.4% ABV. The suggested drinking window is two years, and the example I’m drinking in February 2015 was bottled in January 2014, and it’s clearly still in its prime. My bottom line is that this beer is another long home run from Allagash.
And the hits just keep on comin’. Brouwerij RODENBACH selects a single oak cask of their Flanders Red Sour Ale that, after having matured for two years, has produced the best beer, and bottles and labels the beer that comes out of this cask as their “Vintage” for year. In the case of 2011, this is cask number 95. The nose is floral with honey and faint wild yeast, the middle is tart with cherries and strong plum flavor. The finish is sweet, with the sugars coming back to the fore and tamping down the tartness, but the flavors of cherries, plums, and green apple are still consistent and dominant. The oak is quite subtle, and I suspect is responsible more for maturing the flavors that already exist in this intensely flavored sour than for adding new flavors of its own, though there are tiny hints of vanilla in the finish. This is not a particularly big beer at 7.0% ABV, or a heavy one, but it is exceptional. It should be on every sour lovers list.
Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace is a Belgian Saison (or farmhouse ale) brewed with their own strain of Belgian yeast and the very unusual Sorachi Ace hops, developed in Japan and grown in Washington, and these add a strong lemony aroma and flavor. The head on this beer is massive and persistent. It developed into a thick sticky foam that stayed with the drink until the end. The nose as mentioned before has loads of lemon, and is a bit grassy as well. The middle is surprisingly sweet. The flavor reminds me quite a lot of a shandy. (Half beer, half lemonade.) There’s a good bit more lemon flavor here, but any sour or tart notes are entirely offset by the amount of sugar. The finish is more of the same, with a bit of the Belgian yeast showing through here. This is a very well executed beer, but too sweet for my taste.
Delirium Nocturnum is another Belgian Strong Pale Ale from the Huyghe Family Brewery, also the makers of Delirium Tremens which I’ve reviewed before. This is a fabulous Belgian brew that doesn’t have the huge rich dark fruit of many other strong dark ales. Not that it isn’t huge and rich, it just has a flavor profile that goes in a different direction. The nose is yeasty, with licorice and aniseed, and it is fruity, but the fruits are more along the lines of pear and apple rather than the plums and prunes and raisins that are typical of the style. The middle continues this theme with tart apple and sweet pear followed by a bit of herbal bitterness, and then a hint of chocolate. The finish is dry, big, boozy, and spicy with a bit peppery heat. The body is medium to heavy and the alcohol level is significant at 8.5% ABV. This is a really nice, and somewhat different example of my favorite style.
Local 2 is Brooklyn Brewery’s New York twist of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, one of my favorite styles. They’ve added local raw wildflower honey to the Belgian yeast and dark sugar to give it its signature flavor. The nose has brown sugar and dark fruits such as raisins and figs. The honey is strong in the middle with plums and a bit of grape, with hints of cocoa, caramel, banana, and spices in the finish. The body is medium and the alcohol is high at 9.0% ABV, but well hidden, only adding a slight warming right at the end. This is a well executed beer, and a very nice example of the style. Another hit from Brooklyn.
Whiplash is a spring winter* seasonal from SweetWater Brewing Company in Georgia that starts with a Belgian White Ale using Belgian yeast and wheat, then adds oats to further smooth out the malt flavor and loads of American hops to create a unique twist on an IPA. The nose is grassy, with a little bit of lemon. The middle has a generic citrus flavor that leans toward grapefruit and some sweetness from the oats. The finish has a good bit of orange, some pine, and is slightly metallic right at the end. The body is medium, with a nice weight added by the oats, and the alcohol is moderate at 6.2% ABV. This is a fun combination of a couple of really tasty styles, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit.
I give it a 4.4 out of 5.
* I was informed via Twitter by the fine folks from SweetWater that this is actually a winter, not spring seasonal. I thought I was done with the winter seasonals. I was wrong. Again.