When I started drinking craft beers some years ago, De Struise Brouwers were right at the top of everyone’s list. They made innovative beers that broke the Belgian mould (The Belgian Mould being Blonde, Double, Tripel, sometimes a Quadrupel).
They made a stout, a fisherman’s ale, they did barrel aging, you name it.
They even had a high end range of the more expensive barrel aging and exclusive beers, sitting around € 40 per big bottle, and some € 25 for a small bottle of Black Damnation (from the top of my head). Pricy stuff, but apparently insanely good beers.
I never had those, but what I did do was buy more of the Pannepot Reservas in different vintages for aging several years and comparing how these hold up.
Then, a week or two ago, Drinks & Gifts, my local bottle shop, had a huge amount of new releases from De Struise Brouwers, and I decided to get all nine bottles of them. There were some more, but those were the really expensive ones. I wanted the more approachable lot.
I spent two weekends trying them all, to see where De Struise Brouwers now stand on my personal list of breweries.
When trying these vintage Pannepot Reservas for a while, I found I was less and less enthusiastic about them. Aging didn’t do too much to them, and there’s a funky flavor that is unique and sort-of attractive, but also gets very one dimensional.
Unfortunately, I found that flavor in Kloeke Blonde as well. And in Xenophon’s Wine, and to lesser extent in the Ignis & Flamma, Sargasso and Blue Monk.
The Kloeke Blonde wasn’t very blond and didn’t really fit the category because it’s too rich, too funky. The Xenophon’s Wine and Sargasso are, honestly, a tad forgettable. One has a rum barrel aging that didn’t really give it that ‘barrel aged’ flavor profile that is what you want from it.
Ignis & Flamma, an IPA, was rather interesting though. I might be wrong but to me it tasted like an old fashioned English style of IPA, contrary to the hugely popular American style that every brewery makes nowadays. A bit more smooth, with a bit less focus on crispy hoppiness. I quite liked this one.
The Blue Monk is one I remember fondly from several years ago when it came out, but didn’t do anything for me this time around.
Interestingly, I did rate the beers rather highly, because they are still well made brews. They’re just not exceptional (as in, not 4+ on Untappd).
Then the second weekend rolled around and I tried these four.
I started with the Pannepot Vintage. Mind, not the Pannepot Reserva Vintage! As I found out, I vastly prefer this one at the moment. It’s more rich and chocolatey, with far less of the funky, moldy style that comes with the Reserva.
The Black Albert has always been a favorite of mine, but I’m just a huge fan of English style beers, and big stouts like this fit that bill. This one is no different, although I have gotten spoiled over the last few years, with this making somewhat less of an impact than it did before. In regards to flavor that is, because the 13% ABV is still not something to scoff at.
Kill & Destroy is an IPA again. I figure I’d have an IPA last Saturday afternoon, because who doesn’t like an IPA in the sun? Luckily I checked the label before opening it, because I had never done so before and didn’t know this one sits at EIGHTEEN % alcohol. Holy shit this is some beer. Of course, it’s a tad gimmicky at that ABV, but it’s a nice change of pace with the high ABV beers from the usual stouts and barley wines. Big flavors, with the malt and alcohol bringing some sweetness to balance out the mountain op hops that are in it.
Robert the Great closed the line, and it is yet another stout. A bit different from the Black Albert, in this being a bit more malty, and a bit more rich. Another good beer, and also, as with all these four beers, far less focused on that funky flavor that I had come to associate with De Struise Brouwers.
While they didn’t exactly fall of their pedestal, they did take a step down. I’ve grown a bit tired of such a brewery specific flavor profile that pushes a lot of styles into a confusing middle ground.
Some beers are very good still, luckily, although it seems they’re better off brewing the English style compared to the Belgian style. A mixed bag, all in all.
The ones worthy of attention:
- Robert the Great
- Black Albert
- Ignis & Flamma
The ones I’ll not be buying again:
- Kloeke Blonde (just not a very good beer)
- Sargasso (too dark and rich for a saison)
- Blue Monk (already forgotten)
- Xenophon’s Wine (already forgotten)
- Kill & Destroy (too gimmicky)