Most good things must eventually run their course … and this concludes my “Best of Beau’s” series featuring the four beer in their “mix pack.” This final comer is, again, Beau’s Brewery’s play with a defining but yet less mainstream beer style: the Belgian IPA, something I didn’t know that existed as a “style” before this tasting. What I’ve since learned is that this a newcomer created in — your guessed it — Belgium. What is interesting is that this is an example of a European beer inspired by “American” IPAs … but most of these end up back across the pond on this new-world continent where “bitter is better.”
There are a few things that distinguish this sub-style and these differences are clear right off the mark in Rudolphus VI (… and don’t ask — I have no idea who is “Rudolphus the 6th” or whether he was/is a real person). First off, it pours like a dark golden version of a weissbier: cloudy. Secondly, one sip tells you that the most important tasting element in this beer is the bitters. To which you say, “Duh – it’s an IPA” to which I say “But it is only 50 IBUs,” which is half the bitter strength of their previously reviewed double-IPA, Screamin’ Beaver. However, and this is key, it tastes more bitter. Why, if the IBUs (international bitter units) are 50% less? Because the malts used impart more flavour than sweetness making this a considerably drier beer than many I’ve tasted of late. By all accounts, this is characteristic is typically “Belgian.” Three of the four hops in this beer are the same as that in Screamin’ Beaver, with the exception that this contains the Motueka varietal, a favourite among Belgian brewers … and which is, I think, what is uniquely flavouring this beer unique and giving it outstanding citrus and bitter elements.
I have to say, I love this beer … a LOT. The only thing I don’t love is the same affliction that Beau’s is falling into that also really hurt the New Zealand Renaissance trio I reviewed: too much carbonation. This is a pronounced feature in each of these bottles I’ve reviewed that had to be overcome by letting the head fade and waters still — and because of the carbonation, the taste-buds get overstimulated. In this case, however, letting the beer stand before drinking didn’t work as well. I suspect the issue of carbonation is an easy thing to fix, that Beau’s isn’t adequately accounting for the carbonation produced by the on lees (in bottle) fermentation method. Whatever the reason, though, the carbonation distracts and ‘burns’ the palette. Maybe it’s me, but someone is going to have a hard time convincing me that beer needs a tonne of carbonation anymore than pork needs to be cooked well-done.
Still, the flavours in this beer are remarkable and it is a great change from the IPAs I’ve become accustomed to drinking. This drinks like a strong beer which is strong in terms of flavour, alcohol and bitterness. For me, this is like drinking a great espresso with no sugar and the metaphor is an excellent one because a great coffee also has good bitterness that too often we hide with sweeteners because we’re used to drinking coffee with awful bitters. Get past the carbonation of the first sip and there is also a nice residual spiciness uniquely up front. Definite cloves and pepper. Through the middle are the strong malt flavours (without the malt sweetness) making this taste very European by contrast to west-coast American IPAs. Out of this emerges strong citrus peels of mandarin, lemon, even lime with a bit of a “tropical” edge that I’d say ranges from apricot to pineapple or perhaps even papaya. Some clearly don’t like the “yeastiness” that comes off the nose and even onto the tongue but the fact is, that’s the style of a bottle-fermented beer. It’s like complaining about cheddar being too salty or champagne effervescent.
In many respects, this was actually my favourite of the pack though in truth it scored 3rd as a result of how the carbonation impacts the scoring both in terms of first taste and mouthfeel. However, while it might not medal at the moment, it wins on my palette just because it conforms to it, because it surprises it, and because it is just plain bold.
Stats: Belgian IPA. 6.9% ABV. Vankleek Hill, Ontario.
Colour: Burnt-Gold (unfiltered)
Mouth Feel: Medium-high carbonation that fades but still ignites the mouth with bubbles. It is VERY clean, dry finish, very bitter, but with no lasting astringency.
Pairings: Chorizo and Quinoa Jambalaya