Most people generally associate Belgium with luxury chocolates or antique lace, but the poor fools are overlooking one of the nation’s best products: beer. In fact, Belgium is the world’s mecca for beer and it has traditionally been a very important part of the Belgian culture. At the turn of the century, there were more than 3,000 breweries in the country – there are sadly, somewhat less than that now – 120, to be precise.
The most recent beer on my Belgian hit-list was Maredsous 10, a strong golden ale in the abbey style which is made at the same brewery that is famous for a different strong golden ale called Duvel.
It all began when Jan-Leonard Moortgat founded the brewery in 1871, and it has always remained under the control of the same family to the present day. After World War I, Albert Moortgat came to Scotland and returned with a bottle of yeast from McEwan’s which would ensure the success of their beer. Today, the same yeast is still used.
Duvel, created in 1923 is the brewery’s flagship ale and accounts for 85% of it’s production.
Maredsous Triple-style ale is the strongest version of Moortgat’s abbey-style beers at 10%ABV.
The abbey-style of beer is different from the Trappist ales in that monks do not make the beer, but rather the abbey or monastery has leased or sold the recipe.
Tripels are a specific sub-style of abbey ale. They are strong, yeasty-malty ales but they are also pale, and have a quite high hop profile which shows up generally in the dry finish. The yeast is usually quite noticeable too, as they don’t have the dark malts which usually mask this.
Maredsous 10 pours to a slightly hazy, honey-golden colour with touches of amber. There’s lots of carbonation which leads to masses of big bubbles rising to a good-sized, rocky, off-white head that dissipates a bit at first, but never completely vanishes. Sheets of lace stick to the glass right to the end.
The aroma is powerful with very ripe fruit – oranges, pineapple and peach being kept in check by an overwhelming lemonness, and phenolic banana tones. Slightly sour but also very sweet, there’s some caramel malt and a background of flowery, perfumy aromas from the hops. it has a faint, medicinal, alcohol feel with some nutty, yeasty aromas as well.
It’s medium body with a viscous, but firm mouthfeel the initial aste is one of bitterness from the hops but it turns a little sweeter with a very dominant fruity flavour. There’s some grainy and dry nutty flavour and a touch of peppery spice. It has quite a strong phenolic kick and it’s slightly medicinal, but not overwhelming. The finish begins with a dry hoppy bitterness before the citrusy, sweet, lemon tone appears. No real aftertaste apart from a warming, alcohol sensation.
At 10% ABV, this is not a tripel to trifle with. It is very similar to Duvel in many respects although it doesn’t quite match up to the high standard of that brew. I found the aromas to be absolutely gorgeous on this but the flavour somehow left me feeling slightly disappointed. Not that it didn’t taste very good, it just didn’t match up to the aroma.
I enjoyed this with a paella and it worked very well indeed. I would suggest pairing this with delicately flavoured foods, or possibly seafood, to get the best out of it.