Tuesday 18 December 2012

The daily grind

Windy miller: gas levels may mean
words are exchanged later
Always liked the Dutch. From their cute windmills and clogs to those nutty round cheeses and laissez-faire attitude to sex and drugs, they've often seemed rather cool from the outside. 

Being a big fan of canals and thin houses helps, I suppose. But having been to Holland an awful lot, I can't ever think of a bad time I've had there.

The only drawback seemed to be the beer selection, which to the untrained eye consisted of either Heineken or Grolsch. This freaked me out. How could a country with so much culture, history and tradition produce such bland, uninteresting beer? It just didn't make any sense. It was, ahem, double Dutch, if you will.

An old friend once summed it up pretty damningly, though. On an ill-advised carp fishing holiday in France, he'd driven down from a fairly fruitless couple of days on the dykes and declared: "Fuck the Dutch and fuck their little dogs." While somewhat unfair, it nevertheless gave me an insight into people's attitudes to the Netherlanders and certainly made me feel easier about my attitude to their beer. As well as slaying me for a good half an hour.

But as with many things, scratch the surface and there's a good deal more going on underneath. And that's definitely the case with the Netherlands' beer scene.

From Texel brewery on the island of, err, Texel off the country's north coast to the tiny De Prael brewery in Amsterdam's red light district, brewers in the flatlands are tickling their country's taste buds and creating something of a stir elsewhere too.

But no one is doing it better than De Molen. This is challenging stuff. From thick gloopy quasi stouts to unnervingly strong IPAs, this brewery from the small town of Bodegraven has been throwing down the gauntlet to the world's taste buds for some time.

Now I had hoped this beer would pop out when I'd been in a fit state to give it the review it deserved. But for one reason and another - Caught by the River and freelance Christmas party being the main ones - I appear to be slightly handicapped. But in all honesty, I'm confident this brewery can concoct something that will cut through the Kir Royales and the Prosecco I've been necking throughout the day.

Beer: De Molen Geboren & Gelogen
Strength: A thankfully piddling 4%
Colour: Flickering cat's eyes on a sleet-strewn motorway
Smell: Bovril and smoked applewood Cheddar
Tasting notes: This really shouldn't taste like this. It looks for all the world like a fairly reasonable light ale. But dear God it plays with your head. And your tongue. And no doubt your gut (more of which later). It honestly feels like you've stumbled upon a herring smoking shack on the west coast of Scotland, such is the intensity of the burnt flavour. This was totally unexpected. By rights, it should be light and fluffy, but it's heavy on the palate and hugely fruity up front. The feeling you've just licked out a hearth is never too far away, even when the marginal caramel dies down. But it's in the finish this one earns its stripes. As smoke disappears into the ether, you're left with a calming, soothing, anaesthetic cleansing wipe that primes you for the next gulp. How they pack this much complexity into a 4% beer I'll never know.
Gut reaction: Volatile and smoky. Put the roll in the fridge please, butler.
Session factor: Despite a lowly alcohol showing, I wouldn't really want to subject my  mouth to this particularly often.
Arbitrary Score: 43


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