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Belgian Ales!!

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the possum

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I had always heard wonderful things about Belgian ale, and finally got to try my first one not long ago.

I was instantly hooked. I haven't gotten to try very many kinds yet, but that will change as soon as I can find some more. A very good friend, who loves wines, etc., has been raving about the Framboise Ale from... well, I forget the brand. This stuff was so complex, unique, distinctive,...

Any fans here who could point out their favorite picks?
 

WQFTruckster

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I spent a semester abroad living in the Netherlands about a year ago, and was actually living in Maastricht very close to the Belgian border. My favorites were always the Belgian beers. I really preffered them to most of the German beers I tried. Unfortunately at the time I really didn't know what I was drinking, just that it tasted good. Prior to this trip my knowledge of beer, like many Americans, could have been summed up in two words- Bud Lite. This experience really opened my eyes to the world of real beer. This was actually one of the main things that got the idea of homebrewing planted in my head.

But to answer your question, unfortunately I don't really remember specific names or even brands. Most of my drinking experiences consisted of one of the locals handing me a drink and saying "Here try this, its from Belgium." Either that or I was too drunk to remember... I might have to email some friends over there and ask them to recommend a few to try and clone. The Framboise name you mentioned does sound familiar though.
 
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the possum

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Thanks for the reply, Truckster.
I remember the brand I was looking for-
It's one of Lindeman's Alambic ales. Last night after browsing here for a while, I was naturally thinking about good beverages and decided to check out a small local store. I had never seen any Belgians there before, so I asked the owner. As luck would have it, she had most of a case of Lindeman's Peche (peach) Lambic Ale in the back. A customer had special ordered the case, bought like 3 bottles (they're 750 ml bottles, with both a metal cap and cork) and never came back. She told me if I liked this bottle, she'd make me a deal on the rest of the case.
This stuff is really more like a complex mix between beer and wine. The ale is fermented with wild local yeasts and fresh peaches, and also aged in oak barrels.
 
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the possum

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richanne-
No, please do get started! I have only been exposed to just a couple Belgians and would love to try more. I have a lot to learn about them. If you want to wax poetic on the subject, please feel free. Are there sub categories within this genre?

Those names you mentioned- are they the brewing companies or label names from one company? Any particular brews you could recommend would help me narrow down the list to get started on.
 

WQFTruckster

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I do remember Duvel, it was excellent. Does anybody have a clone for this one?

Possum- If you are interested in Lambic style, there was a good article in BYO last month (October I think?) on Lambics with some clone recipes.
 

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To live in the Netherlands for a year did you have to go through a lot or are they pretty relax on their temp-living policies.
 

WQFTruckster

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Michael_Currie said:
To live in the Netherlands for a year did you have to go through a lot or are they pretty relax on their temp-living policies.
I was only there for about 4 months. It wasn't that difficult because I was an exchange student through my university. There were quite a few forms to fill out (some in Dutch, kind of a strange feeling to be signing things you can't read...) but everything went smoothly. Had I not been a student or if I had stayed much longer than a few months it would have been much more difficult to get all of the permits.
 

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I have been trying new beers lately, and came across Lindeman's Gueuze...a blend of different aged lambics. Wow. At $5 a bottle, it's worth every penny. I've had one or two other belgians that had a high alcohol content, which I don't like in a beer. But they had an excellent taste and complexity.
 

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Lindeman's is...OK...but you have to understand that they sweeten their lambic. As do Boon, Liefman's, and most of the others. To really taste lambic in all its greatness, get a Cantillon. They are the best lambics widely available.

Other Belgian favorites:

Rodenbach Grand Cru - it is a CRIME this brewery was shut down. One of the best beers the world has ever known.

Hoegaarden Wit - Wit is one of my favorite styles of beer. It's incredibly complex, light, clean, Celis Wit, which used to be made in Texas (are they back??) was better. The same guy, Pierre Celis, started Hoegaarden before starting Celis in Texas. Great White by Lost Coast in Eureka California is another Wit made domestically.

Hansen's lambic - more raw than Cantillon, but a great lambic for those who love the horse blanket ;) There are other rare, authentic lambics around, too. Keep your eyes peeled. There was a great Belgian bar I found in Philadelphia that had a ton of beers, including authentic SOUR lambics I had never tasted.

Chimay/Orval/trappists in general - try em all. Monks who make beer. It's a higher calling :)

Duchess de Bourgnoune - I throw this one in because I had it at the Toronado in San Francisco a while back (side note...if you love beer and are in San Francisco GO TO TORONADO ON HAIGHT STREET :D). Anyway. What a beer! Dark, malty, with a tart hint of sour lambicy flavor. Fruity sweetness. Complex, weird, unique, Belgian. It reminded me of a Rodenbach. Best beer suprise I have had in years. Anyone know anything about this one?

Cantillon, Cantillon, Cantillon - probably the best beer made in the world today. Go there if you are ever in Brussels. Buy it if you ever see it. I have a bad feeling they won't be around forever. All Cantillon lambics are world class, authentic representations of the style.

And so many many many more. There are bars in Belgium with literally thousands of beers available. Seasonals, small breweries, beers that never see anyplace outside of Belgium. Try to go there someday. I thought I would never be able to leave Bruges.

Janx
 

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Janx said:
Lindeman's is...OK...but you have to understand that they sweeten their lambic. As do Boon, Liefman's, and most of the others. To really taste lambic in all its greatness, get a Cantillon. They are the best lambics widely available.

Other Belgian favorites:

Rodenbach Grand Cru - it is a CRIME this brewery was shut down. One of the best beers the world has ever known.

Hoegaarden Wit - Wit is one of my favorite styles of beer. It's incredibly complex, light, clean, Celis Wit, which used to be made in Texas (are they back??) was better. The same guy, Pierre Celis, started Hoegaarden before starting Celis in Texas. Great White by Lost Coast in Eureka California is another Wit made domestically.

Hansen's lambic - more raw than Cantillon, but a great lambic for those who love the horse blanket ;) There are other rare, authentic lambics around, too. Keep your eyes peeled. There was a great Belgian bar I found in Philadelphia that had a ton of beers, including authentic SOUR lambics I had never tasted.

Chimay/Orval/trappists in general - try em all. Monks who make beer. It's a higher calling :)

Duchess de Bourgnoune - I throw this one in because I had it at the Toronado in San Francisco a while back (side note...if you love beer and are in San Francisco GO TO TORONADO ON HAIGHT STREET :D). Anyway. What a beer! Dark, malty, with a tart hint of sour lambicy flavor. Fruity sweetness. Complex, weird, unique, Belgian. It reminded me of a Rodenbach. Best beer suprise I have had in years. Anyone know anything about this one?

Cantillon, Cantillon, Cantillon - probably the best beer made in the world today. Go there if you are ever in Brussels. Buy it if you ever see it. I have a bad feeling they won't be around forever. All Cantillon lambics are world class, authentic representations of the style.

And so many many many more. There are bars in Belgium with literally thousands of beers available. Seasonals, small breweries, beers that never see anyplace outside of Belgium. Try to go there someday. I thought I would never be able to leave Bruges.

Janx
I found An MAREDSOUS 10 Triple Belgian abbey ale today. 10% alc/vol. Was ok and had a good smell when I opened it but was a little low in hops for me.
 
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the possum

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Well, I just checked out the website of a nearby liquor store I visit now and then. Turns out they have several Belgian beers in their lineup. In the past I've focused on their wine and spirits, so I don't know if they actually keep all these beers in inventory or just coordinate the orders online.

Janx-
You mentioned Cantillon "if you can find it", and they offer several of their brews. Check it out. beers from Belgium

If you don't mind, I'd love to hear your recommendations out of the the beers they offer. I will definitely have to try out one of those Cantillons, but right now with a newborn daughter, I'm a bit strapped for cash. In the meantime, is there anything there in the $10 range you or anyone else here could recommend? I'd really appreciate it.

thanx.
 

Janx

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Wow that's a great list! Here are a few off it in the $10 or less category:

Boon lambics - sweetened, but not as much as Lindemans, which is too sweet for me

Cantillon lambics - the Kriek is priced at $9 - a fun thing would be to get a Cantillon and a Boon of the same type (kriek is cherries, framboise is raspberries, etc) and taste them side by side. Cantillon is a much more authentic, natural lambic, though Boon is very fun too. Boon was my first lambic and I was hooked ;)

Duchesse de Bourgogne Red Ale - this stuff is SO good. I had it at the Toronado in San Francisco once randomly. It's malty, sweet, a hint of lambic sourness. Truly unique. It reminds me of the long lost Rodenbach Grand Cru, one of the best beers ever made. I believe it's a Flemish red, as Rodenbach was. I finally found it again in a store in Philly once. HIGHLY recommended.

Chimay - all fine examples of Trappist ales, made by monks. The red/Premiere is a dubbel. I think the Cinq Cents is the trippel, and the other is really dark and BIG. I like the trippel best. Trippel is a wild style...very dry and fizzy with a vapory alchohol quality. Dubbel is like a Belgian brown ale with all this wild yeast character and is also excellent. Good beers to get to know.

La Chouffe is fun, again very unique. Spices and wild yeasty character.

Oud Beersel lambics - these are out of this world, wild, rough around the edges lambics (if I'm thinking of the right one). They aren't as beautifully blended as the Cantillon (the blending of Cantillon is pure art, comparable to the best champagnes in the world), and not for everyone, but if you find you like lambic, give em a go. Very raw.

The Rochefort's are fine trappists as well, as I imagine are a lot of those trappist ales.

As far as lambics go, they are always spontaneously fermented and very sour. They are kind of like tart champagne, but in my opinion worlds better in terms of complexity. Most are sweetened. Some are not (Cantillon, Oud Beersel(again if I am remembering the right name), Hansens(?)). The sweetened ones appeal to darn near everyone, but the sugar hides the real beauty of lambic. Us real lambic lovers eventually find the unsweetened ones are the only way to go. The Boon/Cantillon taste test will really illustrate the difference. Boon is minimally sweetened, and I like it. Lindeman's is way too sweet for me.

The other amazing thing about lambic is that it is so old. 2 year old lambic is blended with 6 year old lambic (the blending is an artform and requires an amazing palette and lots of experience). This blend makes Geuze, which undergoes another secondary fermentation and naturally carbonates in the bottle. For the fruit types, whole fruit is added to the barrel, which causes a secondary fermentation. In the case of Cantillon, they leave the fruit in the barrel until it is gone. Cantillon makes kriek(cherries), framboise(raspberries), vignerrone(muscat grapes), geuze, and a number of other special ones. They may make a peche (peaches) too. And don't be fooled...these are not cheesy fruit beers. They are some of the world's best. Geuze is a good way to find out what the pure lambic flavor is all about, but all of the fruit ones Cantillon makes are excellent.

I know I have had others of those, but I can't recall details (beer drinking ya know ;) ) If you haven't experienced lambic, do yourself a favor. Same with the Trappist beers. Belgium has so much amazing diversity. I imagine you'll find something you like...or have fun trying :)
 
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the possum

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Wow. Thanks for the quick and detailed reply, Janx. Your descriptions of their different "personalities" is exactly the kind of info I was hoping for! I owe ya, man. I'm actually printing out a copy of their list, and marking the ones you suggested for further study in the futuer. Thanks.

Yeah, I was surprised by the length of that list as well. But I'll bet they do keep at least several of those in stock; their wine selection is waaay above average for this area. (99% of the places that sell beer here, you have the choice of Bud Lite, Miller Lite, or Stag) This store is only about 15 minutes east of St. Louis in Fairview Heights, IL, so if any of you are in the area, I'd suggest stopping by just to check out their tasting bar. They have a sizeable collection of various spirits and wines to try out, and I had a wonderful experience there last year.

I normally consider myself a bourbon guy, but wanted to try something different. I got to sample a couple different cognacs, and came home with a pleasant bottle of armagnac. But, I did get to try out a Meukow XO cognac, the likes of which I'd never tasted. At first, I wasn't impressed, certainly not for the $130 price tag. But within a minute, the complexity was starting to explode. I literally spent a half hour sniffing and sipping that little glass, and it kept changing with something new and exciting every moment. The day our daughter was born, my wife presented me with a bottle of it! She must've noticed the effect it had on me.
 

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Well, you can't forget St. Feuillien, Hoegaarden (the dark stuff is good, white is ick, imo), Orval, Petrus, De Koninck, Delirium Tremens, Orbier... hrmm.. to name a few. Forgive me if I mis-spelt any of these names.

Belgian beer is really good stuff. A lot of their beer comes from abbeys and such, which I think is really interesting. I keep thinking of Friar-Tuck from the Robin-Hood tales when I think about it. LOL.
 

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Yep...those are all great ones too, but I have to ask...

Hoegaarden Wit...ick? ICK?? A revival of a classic style, the second best example of its type in the world and probably the best light beer style ever in existence? Ick??

Sir, I beg to differ :D
 

seven77

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Janx said:
Yep...those are all great ones too, but I have to ask...

Hoegaarden Wit...ick? ICK?? A revival of a classic style, the second best example of its type in the world and probably the best light beer style ever in existence? Ick??

Sir, I beg to differ :D
LOL, I guess we all have our opinions. I don't like wheat beers all that much. Hoegaarden tasted like fingernail-polish remover to me.
 

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I almost got a six of Hoe-Wit today because of you guys...but I ended up getting Anchor Steam. I will have to try it though, and give my expert analysis. ;)
 

Janx

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seven77 said:
LOL, I guess we all have our opinions. I don't like wheat beers all that much. Hoegaarden tasted like fingernail-polish remover to me.
Wow, that's wild. I wonder if that's something physical in our different perceptions.

There's this thing I read about cillantro, that people who hate it often tend to think it tastes like soap. The thing I read said that was a physical difference of some sort between people who like cillantro and those who think it tastes like soap.

Who knows? More for me is all I care ;)
 

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Well, I got some Hoegaarden Witbier. At first, I tasted cinnamon or nutmeg, and wasn't sure about the overall taste. After the second one, I wanted more. I really like it. It's a new style to me, but I definately like it. Would buy it again for sure.
 

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For those of you who think Blue Moon is good wit...try Hoegaarden! One of my favorite everyday drinkers. I first tried it at a hotel in Atlanta after I notified them that their keg of Palauner was bad. :D The Hoe makes Blue Moon taste like shampoo.

The only lambic I've ever had was Bellvue Kriek, and I loved it. Having nothing to compare it to, I don't know where it stands amognst other lambics. To me it's like a beer with some dry cidery overtones. Pricey!

The only trappist I've had is Chimay. Don't know the type, but it had sort of a mauve label on it. Very nice ale, but didn't blow me away. Not worth the money to buy on a reqular basis, IMO. Maybe my hopes were too high. Also the bottle was a little dusty in the store, so it might have been a little old.
 

Janx

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Yeah there are better Trappist/abbey beers than Chimay for sure. I just had a red label Chimay (that's their dubbel) the other night. It's really a great beer, but there are certainly better examples.

I agree with you about the Hoegaarden, but if you like that check out Celis White. I think it's the best one in the world. The guy who founded Hoegaarden moved to the US and started making it here (in Austin at that time). Now it's made in Michigan. I haven't had their version, but hopefully it's awesome.

Another great Wit is Blanche de Bruges. Fantastic example.
 

SwAMi75

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Janx said:
Yeah there are better Trappist/abbey beers than Chimay for sure. I just had a red label Chimay (that's their dubbel) the other night. It's really a great beer, but there are certainly better examples.

I agree with you about the Hoegaarden, but if you like that check out Celis White. I think it's the best one in the world. The guy who founded Hoegaarden moved to the US and started making it here (in Austin at that time). Now it's made in Michigan. I haven't had their version, but hopefully it's awesome.

Another great Wit is Blanche de Bruges. Fantastic example.
Just to clarify....Celis is made in Michigan?

I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for both. Thanks for the tip!

Oh, and Franible.....I believe it's actually pronounced "who-garden". Not to burst your bubble. I still call it "hoe garden" just for S & G's...I recommend you do the same if it floats your boat. :D
 

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Being from upstate NY I would have to suggest something from Brewery Ommegang, it's brewed in Cooperstown and was started by a brewer from Belgium.
 

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I'm not much of a Belgian style ale fan with the exception of Delirium Tremens Ale brewed by the Huyghe Family Brewery in Melle/Ghent, Belgium. This is liquid nectar on hot sunny day.
 

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the possum said:
richanne-
No, please do get started! I have only been exposed to just a couple Belgians and would love to try more. I have a lot to learn about them. If you want to wax poetic on the subject, please feel free. Are there sub categories within this genre?

Those names you mentioned- are they the brewing companies or label names from one company? Any particular brews you could recommend would help me narrow down the list to get started on.

Duvel and Chimays are actual labels. Duvel is a high fermentation beer (8%)that excellent with stonger tasting cheeses. Chimay is made by monks in a small belgium town by the french border. That beer label comes in three colours; white, red and blue. Each colour indicates a stronger alcohol content (8% for the bleu label i believe). If you want to enjoy a great lager have a Leffe Blonde, you will enjoy it on its own or with some musles and fries!!
 

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I had some Chimay blue label last week....I believe this is their Grand Reserve? Whatever is was, it was 9% alcohol. After trying the red label stuff (with which I was underwhelmed), I was afraid the alcohol would really overpower it, but man was I wrong. This stuff is GREAT!! What a fine, fine beer.

Sam
 

Franiblector

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Sam75 said:
I had some Chimay blue label last week....I believe this is their Grand Reserve? Whatever is was, it was 9% alcohol. After trying the red label stuff (with which I was underwhelmed), I was afraid the alcohol would really overpower it, but man was I wrong. This stuff is GREAT!! What a fine, fine beer.

Sam
i had the chimay cinq cents last weekend.
YUM!
i think i liked the blue label the best as well. try the white though, just to see.

i love abbey/trappist ales!
 

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Michael_Currie said:
To live in the Netherlands for a year did you have to go through a lot or are they pretty relax on their temp-living policies.
I lived there for 18 months, was working for Philips in Eindhoven, but was contracted out by my company here in Dublin. My girlf came with me also and worked there too. they're pretty relaxed, you've to register with the foreign police is about all, and then you can open a bank account etc etc.
Loved it, had a great time (esp cos my apartment, flights were paid for and was getting a daily allowance also! can't beat it really!)

Anyway, my fav beers whilst there were definitely Belgians:Duvel, Delerium Tremens, La Chouffe, McChouffe, Barbar, Piraat, Chimay, La Trappe, Kasteel, Hoegaarden and many many others. There was basically a huge warehouse nearby which had hundreds of different beers for sale by the crate! loved going there of a saturday morning! :)

Oh yeah, the Dutchies put a slice of lemon in a glass of Hoegaarden which makes it even nicer!!!
 

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Sam75 said:
The only trappist I've had is Chimay. Don't know the type, but it had sort of a mauve label on it. Very nice ale, but didn't blow me away. Not worth the money to buy on a reqular basis, IMO. Maybe my hopes were too high. Also the bottle was a little dusty in the store, so it might have been a little old.

Oh man...I got one of those bottles of Chimay (red label) at the Class Six yesterday, what a beer! I really though that was something different. I was really impressed because I had never had anything like it.
I'm wondering how old that stuff is, and how light struck it is, and if its an accurate taste. Is it supposed to taste like a hefe? I noticed a fairly prominent clovy, banana taste, which I TOTALLY wasn't expecting. It reminded me of pouring half of a hefe into a darker ale. That stuff sure wasn't like anything I've ever had before, that's for sure.
 

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The banana/clove yeast character is prominent in a lot of Belgian abbey/Trappist yeast strains. It's definitely part of the profile of Chimay's dubbel. (Red)
 

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Wittekerke! Tried a few at a sushi joint in Milwaukee--GREAT.
Very dry, mellow taste, not as "yeasty" as Hoegaarden, which is probably why I really enjoyed it. If I could find it here in Virginia it would be a favorite.
Wit lovers, I'd highly recommend it.
 

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the possum said:
I had always heard wonderful things about Belgian ale, and finally got to try my first one not long ago.

I was instantly hooked. I haven't gotten to try very many kinds yet, but that will change as soon as I can find some more. A very good friend, who loves wines, etc., has been raving about the Framboise Ale from... well, I forget the brand. This stuff was so complex, unique, distinctive,...

Any fans here who could point out their favorite picks?
I'm a belgian.
I love drinking beer.
Here are some of my favorites.
Duvel-> witch you know ofcoarse
Kriek lindemans-> the best cherry beer in belgium with a low alcohol percentage
Ciney-> a tripel beer- very strong and a high percentage
Leffe brown-> sweet dark beer
Tripel van west-vleteren-> small brewery- made by monks- heavy percentage
Bush-> probalby the beer with the highest percentage. I guess it's about 14% don't drink alot of these. (nothing to do with the amercian president)
i hope i gave you some suggestions.
 

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Hi Didier,
I have a vague recollection during an all day drinking session in Antwerp of a girl telling me that Kriek is a beer for women.
Is this a theory held by many Belgians?
I like the stuff and drink it at home but I'm not sure if I should drink it in public if you know what I mean. :p

Roger.
 

Didier La Main

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RogerN said:
Hi Didier,
I have a vague recollection during an all day drinking session in Antwerp of a girl telling me that Kriek is a beer for women.
Is this a theory held by many Belgians?
I like the stuff and drink it at home but I'm not sure if I should drink it in public if you know what I mean. :p

Roger.
That is true but only in the winterseazon.
Woman drink kriek the whole year. men drink it mostly in the summer--> it's a very refreshing beer if you know what i mean.
It is not gay to drink a kriek.
But in the summer it's better if a man drinks a heavy beer. like tripel or duvel. It's a little bit more male. Just don't drink these beers in the sun. cause then they go straight to your head and that is something you don't want. I know what i'm talking about.
I have a question too. Why the belgian beers? Is it true that everybody except belgians underestimate the strong beers?

Living by the source---> just ask
 

RogerN

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I had a Brewferm Triple this afternoon sat outside in the sun.
Mad dogs and Englishmen eh :p
 

RogerN

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Oh, and I wasn't suggesting that Kriek drinkers are gay. I wouldn't want to offend anyone :)
 

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