(This post was originally published on Vinspire and is reproduced here with their kind permission)
Sometimes you drink something and is so remarkably unusual that you just know that you are always going to remember it, and this happened to me recently. A friend who knew that I liked both whisky and Belgian beer said that he’d recently acquired a bottle of something that I would be interested in. It was a little pricey (at £10/bottle) but he assured me that I would want to try this. Well, as an intrepid drinks blogger I couldn’t really turn down such an opportunity, could I?
The name of the brewery, De Dochter van de Korenaar, means “the daughter of the ear of the corn”. According to the brewery’s website this is a tip of the cap to a reference to Emperor Charles V who it was commented preferred the “daughter of the ear of the corn” over the “blood of grapes”; in other words he was a beer man and not a wine drinker.
For this particular beer they take a dark, all-malt, 9% ale and then mature it for several months in casks that previously held Ardbeg whisky from Islay. Each cask will only be used once, to make sure that each batch gets maximum flavour impact from the barrel. The beer should be served chilled, ideally between 10 and 15 degrees.
My friend also recommended that ideally the beer should be decanted half an hour before I intended to drink it. This was a new one for me – decanting a beer! I must confess to making rather a mess of pouring the beer into my decanter, the trick is to do it very, very slowly or else it starts to foam up too much. In the end I decanted some and drank some straight from opening, to see whether or not it made much of an impact.
The beer in the glass was a rich, dark, chocolate-brown. It did, however, have a slightly ruby-red twinge to it. Next it was time to get nosing and, oh, what a smell! It was incredibly peaty and smoky, which was obviously due to its time in the Ardberg barrel. I also picked up a little sweet element that reminded me of a burnt caramel, slightly acrid but sweet at the same time. On tasting it was very smooth in the mouth, with good body. Within a second or so of the beer hitting your palette you get a sudden blast of smokiness, which if you aren’t a fan of peaty, smoky whisky could be a problem; fortunately I am!
As the smokiness subsides there is a slightly sweet and malty finish to the beer, which is remarkably pervasive. I must say that I didn’t taste much difference in the decanted beer versus the beer that I took straight after opening. This would be a difficult beer to food-match and I would suggest that it is probably best on its own, sitting in a log-cabin, after a long-day walking in the Highlands; or something like that…
According to websites that I’ve used to research this beer (their official website is a little difficult as most of it is in Flemish!) it seems that this was a limited edition batch, which makes sense as those Ardbeg barrels probably cost a few bob. However, I have found this beer from Uvinum for £10.30/bottle. Not cheap, but as I said this is a remarkable beer and certainly one that any craft ale and whisky aficionado will want to try out.