Tag Archives: Belgian Strong Ale

Trip to Amsterdam

I’m just back home from a great and relaxing trip in Amsterdam with my girlfriend. Had some great beers during the trip, and even managed to bring back home 10 bottles. I really fell in love with De Bierkoning, a small beer shop featuring some very nice brews from around the world (they even recently got some 1 month old bottles of Pliny The Elder, which I didn’t buy since I’ve tried it before and didn’t want to pay the 15€ for the bottle). The prices were mostly nice, but the American beers were predictably quite pricey. They had a large selection of Dutch microbrews, which was really nice.

The first beer of the trip was ‘t IJ Zatte, an Abbey Tripel by Amsterdam-based craft brewers ‘t IJ.

Zatte poured with a hazy orange color and a small off-white head. It featured some caramel and some nice spicy and fruity yeast tones in the aroma. Flavor is similar with tones of yeast, citrus and coriander. The finish was quite dry, with a slight bitterness. A nice attempt on a Tripel. I had the beer while we were at blue°, a cafeteria/bar at the top of a shopping center in the middle of the town.

Next, I tried a couple of bottles I bought from Bierkoning at the hotel. First up was Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA.

This IPA was bottled 23.06.2011, so it was around 7 months old. It poured with a slightly hazy golden-orange color and a fluffy white head, which collapsed leaving some nice lacing along the glass. The aroma featured tones of caramel, resin, grass, citrus, and flowers, and was mostly hop-dominated. The flavor begins with slightly sweet caramel tones, that were joined by piney, resiny, and grapefruit tones from the hops. The beer ended with a quite dry and biting bitter finish. The beer features lots of hop flavor. This was a really crisp and smooth IPA. Overall a very nice American IPA, with some huge resiny hop flavors with a bitter finish. Would really like to try this one fresh. Score: 4/5

Next up in the hotel was The Kernel’s India Pale Ale Simcoe Centennial. The Kernel are a London-based microbrewery, that I’ve been hearing some great things about.

This IPA had a BBE of 27.07.2013, so guessing it was bottled 27.07.2011, making it about 6 months old. The beer poured with a slightly hazy golden-orange color (very similar to Jai Alai) and a slight white-colored head, that collapsed leaving minimal lacing along the glass. The aroma was very hoppy, with fruity, resiny and citrusy tones. Really liked the aroma. The flavor begins with a minimally sweet and caramelly maltiness, that is overtaken by hop tones of grapefruit, tangerine, resin and grass. The flavor ends quite dry and a nice bitterness. I thought the flavors were nicely balanced, and the hop flavors were especially nice. The beer had a smooth and medium-full body, making it easy to drink. A great American IPA, that in my opinion was slightly better than Jai Alai. Great hop flavors in a better balanced package. Simcoe and Centennial are amongst my favorites hops as well. Score 4-4.5/5


Next, it was time to head to Beer Temple, a quite small and cozy bar focusing on American craft brews, located right next to De Bierkoning. They had 30 beers on tap, with the majority being from the US (e.g. Great Divide Titan IPA, Rogue OREgasmic Ale, and Flying Dog Kujo Coffee Stout), the rest being from different European craft breweries (E.g. Mikkeller and Brewdog). They had an awesome list of bottled beer as well, and the first beer I ordered was Founders Breakfast Stout (since I brewed something similar a couple of weeks ago):

The Breakfast Stout was fantastic, and poured thick and black, with tones of coffee, chocolate and roasted malts in the aroma and flavor. Hopefully my latest homebrew inspired by this tastes at least half as good. After the stout, it was time for both an Imperial IPA and an Imperial Red Ale: Weyerbacher’s Double Simcoe IPA and Rogue’s Imperial Red Ale (from tap):

Unfortunately I only took a picture of the Weyerbacher brew. Both beers were very nice, with the Double Simcoe IPA being my favorite of the whole trip, and probably one of my favorite IPAs ever. Fantastically balanced Imperial IPA, with truckloads of resinous and tropical fruity hop flavor and aroma, and a pleasant bitter bite. The Imperial Red offered a nice combination of caramelly maltiness and citrusy hoppiness. Great beers and a great bar. Definitely worth the visit if you are after tasty beers in Amsterdam. The place got quite crowded when we visited it again on a Saturday, so come early. On the second visit I had some Brewdog/Mikkeller I Hardcore You from tap, which tasted very similar to what I remembered, but with even more hop aroma. After our first Beer Temple visit, we headed to ‘t Arendsnest, a bar serving only Dutch (craft) beer. They had tons of De Molen and Emelisse beer, and of course other beers from other nice breweries such as SNAB, ‘t IJ, and La Trappe. I played it safe and ordered a bottle of De Molen’s Tsarina Esra (Imperial Porter) and some Emelisse Triple IPA from the tap (note the fantastic drapes of lacing along the glasses):

The Tsarina Esra was a very Imperial Porter, with sweet roasted malt tones, chocolate, licorice and hops in the aroma and flavor. Really nice beer to sip on. The Triple IPA had a sweet caramelly maltiness, combined with grapefruit and resin tones. A nice Imperial IPA, but there are better beers in the style available. ‘t Arendsnest was also a cozy bar, with a great selection, and definitely worth a visit if you’re after some great local brews.


The beer selection in the largest (?) supermarket chain in Netherlands, Albert Heijn, was quite bad, but at least they had something else than bulk lagers. La Trappe Dubbel and Tripel 6-packs were available for 6 euros (which is fantastically cheap for Trappist beer), as well as Duvel, La Chouffe and Mc Chouffe for around 1.40€. I had a La Trappe Dubbel, La Trappe Tripel (sorry no picture) and La Chouffe in the hotel:


I liked the La Chouffe best of the trio, with it’s spicy and lightly hoppy finish, and really disliked the Dubbel, which in my opinion had too much alcohol presence, and an unpleasant estery fruitiness with tones of banana and raisins. The La Chouffe has recently become available at Alko as well, so you can try it out at home.


I managed to bring home some really nice beer I bought at De Bierkoning to Finland. A nice blend of Pilsner, IPA, Imperial IPA, Imperial Stouts and of course a bottle of the famed Westvletern 12:

Back row, left to right: Alesmith Yulesmith (Summer), Port Brewing 3rd Anniversary Ale, Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, Hoppin Frog DORIS the Destroyer, and De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis 666
Front row, left to right: De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis, De Molen Vuur & Vlam, De Molen Winterhop, ‘t IJ Plzen, and Westvleteren 12


Overall, it was a nice and relaxing trip. One week was a bit too long for a small city as Amsterdam, as we ran out of things to see and do after a couple of days (we were not interested in the coffee shops), but my travel companion was great, so we were never bored. For a shorter weekend trip, I would definitely recommend the city though, especially if you want to see canals, crooked houses, windmills, or want to try some nice beers.

Below are some random photos taken during the trip:

Evening with Stone Brewing and other goodies!

Olutravintola Pikkulintu have recently imported a batch of 10 different beers by Stone Brewing, and yesterday they were released at both Pikkulintu and a number of pubs around the country, including The Gallows Bird in Espoo, where I myself headed yesterday afternoon, in hopes of tasting these praised beers. The beers available are: Levitation Ale, Pale Ale, IPA, Ruination IPA, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout, Double Bastard, Old Guardian Belgo, 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA, and 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale. So yesterday, me and a group of friends headed to The Gallows Bird to try through the list of Stone beer. When we came to the bar we were informed that we would have to wait a couple of hours for the Stone beer to arrive, so I tried some Danish beer in the meanwhile.



First up was Hornbeer’s Black Magic Woman, an Imperial Stout brewed with smoked and peated malt. The beer had a pitch-black color and slight tan-colored head. The aroma was very roasty, featuring tones of burnt malt, coffee, licorice, dark chocolate, caramel and some alcohol. The flavor was similar, with tones of coffee, chocolate, ash, licorice and roasted malts dominating. The flavor ended with a slightly bitter aftertaste, and I thought the beer was quite well balanced. The beer was quite full-bodied, with medium-low carbonation and a smooth finish. I thought this was a really tasty and well balanced Imperial Stout, getting a grade of 4/5.



Next up were Evil Twin’s Yin and Yang, an Imperial Stout and Imperial IPA brewed to complement each other. The label even recommends trying a mix of them, which I also did. I began with Yang, an amber-colored beer with a fluffy off-white head. The aroma was extremely fruity, with tones of mango, passion fruit, citrus and resin. There was also some caramel in the aroma as well. The flavor began with some caramel as well, but was quickly joined by lots of tropical fruit flavor from the hops. There were tones of mango, passionfruit, grapefruit and orange. The flavor ended with a sweet and bitter aftertaste. The beer was medium bodied, with a medium-low carbonation level. I liked this a lot, even though the fruitiness was a bit over the top. This one also gets a grade of 4/5.


Yin poured with a pitch-black color and a minimal tan-colored head. The aroma was full of roasted tones, featuring coffee, chocolate and some roasted malt. The flavor is similar, with tones of chocolate, cocoa, and coffee dominating, together with some caramel and roasted malts. The beer has a smooth and full body, and a low carbonation level. I thought the beer was quite well-balanced, a overall I found the beer tasty. The chocolate and coffee tones were especially strong in this one. Yin gets a grade of 4.5/5.


Yang to the left, Yin to the right, and the mixture in the center


When the two were mixed, a dark brown beer was formed, with a fluffy cream-colored head. Lots of the fruitiness from Yang’s aroma was still left, and it was coupled by a slight roastiness. The flavor on the other hand was dominated by the chocolate and coffee tones from Yin, making for an interesting mixture. The mixture was nice, but liked the beers more on their own.



While we were drinking Yin and Yang, a courier showed up outside the bar, and boxes full of Stone’s beer were loaded into the bar, hooray! It was probably a bad idea to start the day with the strong (both in flavor and alcohol content) Danish beers, since the list of Stone beers included some ‘lighter’ ones, but we did our best to neutralize the taste-buds with some water and salty snacks. We began the Stone tasting with their Pale Ale. The beer poured with an amber-orange color, and a fluffy white head. The aroma was mostly caramel, and not at all as hoppy as I was expecting. There were some slight tones of grapefruit. The flavor began with some bready maltiness, that followed with a slight fruity and citrusy hop flavor. The aftertaste was bitter and slightly dry. The beer had a medium body and carbonation level. Overall, this was my least favorite beer of the evening, and felt it being quite bland. Maybe it was because I had such strongly flavored beers before this. Still it was a drinkable Pale Ale, just nothing special. I give this one a grade of 3-3.5/5.



Next up was Stone’s Levitation Ale, which is an Amber Ale with 4.4% ABV (you can find it in Kesko’s larger supermarkets, e.g. K-Citymarket Sello and Iso Omena, as well!). The Levitation Ale poured a dark amber color, with an off-white head. The aroma was a lot fruitier than the Pale Ale to my surprise, and it featured tones of caramel, citrus, mango, and resin. The flavor begins with some sweet malty tones and caramel, and this is joined by the citrusy and slightly resinous tones from the hops. The aftertaste is bitter, and I felt the beer is well-balanced for such a low-ABV hoppy beer. The beer has a nice medium body and a medium carbonation level. I definitely thought it was better than the Pale Ale, and overall a tasty well-balanced package. I give this one a grade of 3.5-4/5.



Then, it was time for Stone’s Oaked Arrogant Bastard, which I have reviewed earlier. The beer pours with a dark amber color and an off-white head, and the beer has a very similar appearance to Levitation Ale. The aroma has tones of wood, dark fruits, malt and some resiny hops as well. Can’t find much of the vanilla, which I remember from the last time I tried it. Also remember that there would have been slightly more hoppiness in the aroma the last time I had it. The flavor begins with tones of caramel and just a slight roasted maltiness. This is joined by an earthy, citrusy, bitter and woody flavor from the hops and oak. The aftertaste is quite bitter. Couldn’t recognize any vanilla in the flavor as well. The beer has a medium body and carbonation level. I liked it, but felt it was a bit different compared to when I tasted it the last time. The atmosphere and tasting conditions are of course very different, which probably explain the differences in taste. I give this one a grade of 4/5.



The following beer was Stone’s India Pale Ale, an American IPA featuring 70+ IBU. The beer pours with a light golden-yellow color and a fluffy white head. The aroma is hoppy and floral, with tones of grapefruit, resin, pine and mango. The flavor begins with a slight sweet maltiness, that is quickly overtaken by a resiny and citrusy hoppiness, with tones of pine and grapefruit. The flavor finished with huge bitterness. The beer has a medium-light body and a medium carbonation level. The beer is quite well balanced, with the slightly sweet malt backbone backing up the bitter hoppiness. A nice IPA, but was hoping for something ‘more special’. I give this one a grade of 3.5-4/5 (leaning towards the 4).



The following beer was one of the bigger bottles: The Vertical Epic 11.11.11. This year’s Vertical Epic is a Belgian-style Ale, brewed with Anaheim Chilies and Cinnamon. The beer pours with a hazy amber-orange color and a slight off-white head. The aroma has tones of banana and spices (cloves and a slight hint of cinnamon), together with a slight maltiness. Can’t detect much of the chili. The flavor is similar, beginning with a slight caramel maltiness, together with some spicy belgian yeast tones (cloves and pepper) and some banana. The beer has a smooth and medium-full body, and a medium-low carbonation level. Makes a great sipping beer, and I quite liked it, even though I’m not a great fan of Belgian-style ale. Couldn’t detect much of the chili though. I give this one a grade of 3.5-4/5.



Then it was time for another beer I’ve had before, Ruination IPA, which I reviewed a couple of months ago. Last time I really liked it, even though it was a bit on the bitter side. This time the beer pours a golden-yellow color with a white fluffy head. The aroma is very hoppy and floral, with tones of resin and citrus. The flavor begins with a slight maltiness, but it is evident that this is a very hoppy and bitter beer, with resiny and citrusy (grapefruit) taking over and dominating the palate. The flavor ends with a dry and huge bitter aftertaste. The beer has a medium-light body and medium carbonation level. I liked the hop flavors in this one, even though they were not as strong as I remember (could have been the tasting conditions again), but felt the beer was slightly too bitter. I give this one a grade of 4/5.



Next up is Stone’s Double Bastard, a stronger, maltier and hoppier version of Stone’s Arrogant Bastard. This beer poured with a dark amber color and a fluffy cream-colored head. The aroma is malty, with tones of caramel and dark fruits (raisins), and citrusy (from the hops). The flavor begins malt forward, with tones of caramel, bread and raisins, which is joined by a earthy, resiny and citrusy hoppiness, that ends in a sweet, spicy and bitter finish. The beer has a medium body and carbonation level, and since the flavors are very strong in this one, it seems a bit unbalanced. I liked this one, but it was a bit heavy. I give this one a grade of 4/5.



The following beer was the 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA, which is one of the first Black IPAs I’ve ever had. The beer pours a black color, with a fluffy tan head. The aroma is hoppy, with resin and citrus dominating. There is a slight caramelliness, roastiness and alcohol presence in the aroma as well. The flavor has a bit more roastiness, with some tones of coffee, but the hops are very prevalent here as well, with tones of resin and grapefruit. The aftertaste is bitter. The beer has a smooth medium body with a medium carbonation level. This was an interesting blend of an IPA and a stout, that I thought worked quite well. I give this one a grade of 4/5.



The second last beer of the evening, which was also probably my favorite of the Stone’s, Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout. This Imperial Stout has, as the name implies, been spiced with anise and oak chips, and has been brewed with a Belgian yeast strain. The beer pours with a pitch-black color, and a slight tan head is formed. The aroma is dominated by lots of licorice and anise tones, but there are some tones of coffee, roasted malts, and a slight salmiakki. The flavor is roasty, with tones of licorice, coffee, chocolate and salmiakki. There are some slight hop flavors as well, and the flavor finishes quite bitter with anise in the aftertaste. The body is full, and the carbonation level is low. Felt the beer was quite well balanced, but this was definitely a slow-sipping beer. I like licorice, so this suited me fine, but I understand that people not liking licorice would find this beer quite unpleasant. Great flavors in a nice package. I give this one a grade of 4.5/5.



The final beer of the evening is the Old Guardian Belgo, a Barleywine brewed with a Belgian yeast strain. The beer pours with a clear dark amber color, with an off-white head. The aroma is sweet, malty and has some fruity tones from the Belgian yeast. The flavor is sweet and malty, with caramel and dark fruits, and is some hop flavor present as well. There is only a slight presence of the Belgian yeast in the flavor. The flavor is slightly boozy as well, but the alcohol is quite well hidden behind the sweetness. The beer has a full body and a low carbonation level. It was a little too sweet for my taste, and a bit heavy to drink. I give this one a grade of 3.5/5.



Overall, this was a very pleasant evening, with some great tasting beers. I recommend visiting Gallows Bird, Pikkulintu, or any of the other pubs around the country offering these beers, and at least try some of them. Thanks Pia, Jonny, Rasmus, Artem, Paulina, Teemu and Kimmo for the company!

Around the World in 1 day

Last Saturday my girlfriend had organized an ‘Around the World’-themed date for me. The day included trips to a lot of bars, and I was to have a ‘local’ beer in each one. The day began with some breakfast in France at home, and after that the first stop was Belge, a Belgian-styled bar. Here I had a Poperings Hommelbier (from tap; Beer Advocate; Ratebeer), while my girlfriend had a Lindemans Cassis (bottle; Beer Advocate; Ratebeer). The Hommelbier was OK, with both fruity hop tones and spicy Belgian yeast tones, but it is not amongst my favorites. Belge is a cozy place, but a little on the expensive side. They have a (average) selection of Belgian beers on bottle and tap. We also had a waffle there that was tasty, though service was a little slow (we were one of the only customers in the bar, and it took them almost 30 minutes to prepare the waffle).


Lindemans Cassis to the left and Poperings Hommelbier to the right


After Belge, we travelled to (Bierhuis) Rotterdam, where I had a Dutch beer: Tilburg’s Dutch Brown Ale (bottle; Beer Advocate; Ratebeer). I was thinking about having a La Trappe, but since I knew it would be a long day and many beers I opted for the lower ABV beers in the first bars. My girlfriend a Magners Pear Cider, since she didn’t really find any beers she liked. The brown ale was also OK, with a taste that was malty, caramelly and slightly chocolately and roasty. Some Belgian yeast tones were detectable as well. It didn’t fit so well with the warm weather though. The label on the bottle featured a painting from “Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch. Rotterdam has a nice selection, a cozy interior, and great location, which makes it worth a visit (if you can fit in).


Tilburg’s Dutch Brown Ale in the front, Magners Pear Cider in the back.


After Holland it was time to travel to Italy. This time it wasn’t a bar, but we went to Cafe Java to have an espresso and ice latte. With some caffeine in the body we traveled to Africa, and went to Kiasma, where they had an African art exhibition. After some interesting art, we had lunch in Japan (Daruma Sushi in Kamppi). They had some tasty and reasonably priced sushi, so I can recommend the place! It is a little hidden in Kamppi, but worth the search. After Japan we traveled to China and with Nomads, when we visited Kulttuurien museo in Tennispalatsi. They had two exhibitions Värimatka Kiinaan (Colorful Travels in China) and Liikkuva Koti (Movable Home). The visit was free, and certainly interesting. After China it was time for another beer, so we traveled to nearby Australia, which meant a visit to Aussie Bar of course. Here I had a Coopers Sparkling Ale (bottle; Beer Advocate; Ratebeer). This is an Australian Pale/Golden Ale, featuring some honey and fruit tones in the aroma and flavour. Unfortunately I don’t recall anymore details on the beer (this was not because I was drunk, just because this beer wasn’t anything special). It was a good thirst quencher in the heat though.


Coopers Sparkling Ale


After Australia, it was time for a trip over the Pacific Ocean to the United States. It was a long visit in this country, as we first went to Chico’s, where we had some snacks and I had a Sierra Nevada Torpedo (you can read a review here). After this we went to William K Tennispalatsi, where I had a Victory HopDevil (taste notes here) and we played Kimble while waiting for our US comedy (Bad Teacher) to start at Finnkino Tennispalatsi.


Sierra Nevada Torpedo

Victory HopDevil


After the movie, we headed towards Spain and Bar Celona to have some Tapas, Cava and San Miguel. The beer was unfortunately, as I remembered, a quite typical and tasteless bulk-lager. Then it was time for the final destination of the journey: Siberia/North Pole/Some goddamn cold place. We ended the day with a visit to Arctic Icebar, a bar made out of ice and with an interior temperature of -5 degrees C. They had a very limited cocktail range, and it was expensive, but it certainly was a fantastic experience and a perfect end to a great ‘trip around the world’ here in Helsinki. I had a Screwdriver and a shot of Minttu Black (they had no beer, and only Absolut products), which helped warm the body up in the cold bar.





Thanks to Pia for arranging this fantastic day!