Piraat (Brouwerij Van Steenberge)

Style: Belgian Strong Golden Ale

10.5% ABV
23 ° Plato Aroma: bittersweet and spicy

From: Ertvelde, Belgium
Brewery’s Note: “This light amber Pirate with full white head overwhelms you with an aroma of bitter, spicy, malty and alcoholic scents. Then follows a perfect combination of malty, sweet and hopbitters flavors, and you will be immersed in a very long, slightly sweet finish with bitter undertones.”

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The beer’s label is very Belgian, though restrained in the traditional Belgian clutter. I like the clipper ship logo and the simple, gradient-white background. The beer’s title font is also nice, though the other fonts are plain and crowding. I do like how the boring stuff is relegated to the back label, however. In the end, the label is a bit dated, and while it shows a classiness and a bit of foreign flair, it is still a little dull. This one could be scrapbooked, but seems a little too dull for the shelf.

 

The beer pours a rich, golden amber and sits in the glass as a dark orange. A head of off-white bubbles forms above the beer but quickly whittles to a scrim. In body the beer is dark and opaque, with hints of cloudiness swirling before the eyes. When washed against the sides of the glass, it leaves a nice set of legs. On the nose, the beer smells of musty grains, honey, fusel alcohol, and cidery fruit notes. Hints of herbal and minty hops work their way into the scent as the glass is agitated, as well as subtle sherry. The smell is not particularly strong for a 10.5% ABV beer, but is instead richly subtle and restrained. On the tongue, the beer tastes smoothly sweet with a warming, grainy, alcohol heat that builds to just before the finish. The finish splashes slight herbal hops and just a whisper of acidity and salinity, rounding the beer into a subtly complex giant. In flavor, the beer tastes of sweet cereal grains, which move into rich, silky clover honey before introducing sweet, grainy alcohol. The alcoholic heat builds into the finish of the beer, briefly skirting on cloying and then on to fusel notes, before it mellows into a minerally-sweet finish that blends the honey malts with herbal, minty hops, booze, very faint lemongrass, and a touch of salty bread. The aftertaste is of lingering honey and herbal, bitter hops that linger in the mouth for quite some time. In the mouth, the beer feels on the plus side of medium in body with a crisp, sharp, yet smooth mouthfeel, and silky carbonation. The mouth is left tingling from the alcoholic heat when the beer leaves, but is then doused in a torrent of spittle that pours from the sides of the tongue. Overall, this is a beautifully restrained Belgian Strong Golden Ale. The yeast character is soft, though subtle phenols and esters do start to sprout as the beer warms. This is a beautiful sipper, and a wonderful example of how to brew with a restrained hand (quite the opposite of most American brewers these days…). The more I drink this beer, the more flavors I unravel, which is excellent.

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