Tag Archives: Abbey Beers

157. Abbaye des Rocs

The Threehundredbeers tour of Scotland continues. After a day out in Ellon, Aberdeenshire touring the BrewDog brewery and tasting some of their wares at the giant-dog-friendly DogTap [Edit 2022: the DogTap has been moved and enlarged], we’ll stop off for the night in Aberdeen and see what beery delights the city can offer us.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about six°north. Indeed, any bar that gets to hold a Cantillon Zwanze Day is going to be worth a little of our time. Plus it’s about 20 yards from my Premier Inn, so let’s pop in and have a look.

The Bar at six°north, Aberdeen

We’re officially in Scotland to look for Scottish beers, of course, but among six°north’s extensive menu of 313 bottles (yes, I counted them), Belgium is particularly well-represented. Here’s one I haven’t spotted on any of my trips to Brussels: a hefty 9.0% Abbey Beer from Montignies-sur-Roc, a tiny village close to the border with France.

Abbaye des Rocs at six°north, Aberdeen

We’ve already tried Abbaye dec Rocs’ Blanche des Honnelles wheat beer, but this is a very different proposition: stronger, darker and heavier, I can see the good people of Aberdeen welcoming a glass of this on a near-Arctic winter evening.

Abbaye des Rocs is a deep, rich chestnut colour, though by no means opaque. There’s very little in the way of froth, in part due to the well-trained barman’s careful pour.

The aroma is as Belgian as it gets, with those distinctive esters front and centre. Goodness me it’s rich too, and full of that roasty, bonfire toffee caramel sweetness. In fact this one probably has more in common with a Barley Wine than a typical Belgian brown.

It’s pretty easy to forget the strength, and glug away happily as the beer gets to work and keeps you warm, despite the proximity to the Arctic circle, which I haven’t actually checked on a map. But this is the furthest north that we’ve sampled any of the list so far, and it seems a fitting choice.

Good stuff then, and I can definitely recommend a visit to six°north any time you’re in town.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Brasserie de l’Abbaye des Rocs, Montignies-sur-Roc, Belgium
Style: Abbey Beers
Strength: 9.0% ABV
Found at: six°north, Littlejohn Street, Aberdeen
Serving: 330ml bottle

146. Leffe Triple

Exciting times are in store as we’re back on the road again, or at least the Eurostar, for a day trip to Lille.

While France in general doesn’t have a great reputation as a destination for the beer lover, Lille itself is very much worth a visit, as we’ll hopefully see in the next couple of posts.

As capital of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, Lille is the heart of Bière de Garde country. The proximity to the Belgian border means we won’t go short of a Belgian tipple or two either. Like this one.

Leffe Triple at Café Leffe, Lille

While it may seem a little odd to come to France to try something Belgian, where better to lay our hands on one of the less commonplace of the Leffe beers than at Café Leffe, just off the Grand Place. I used my very best French—a combination of pointing and hoping for the best—to commandeer a welcome cup of black coffee, followed by the house tartine and this, the 8.5% Leffe Triple.

Stronger and hoppier than the Blonde, which is very easy to find in the UK, the Triple is nevertheless an appealing golden honey colour. It’s a sight for sore eyes after an early start, that’s for sure.

It’s lovely stuff too. I’ve had this one in London and not been blown away, yet here, served with the correct glass at a table outside a very pleasant café, I’m convinced it tastes many times better.

Leffe Triple is in many ways a typical Belgian Tripel, the likes of which we’ve seen before. It’s sweeter perhaps, though roundedly and never cloyingly so, with those dried banana notes so characteristic of the style very much in attendance. It’s big and bitter too, but far from harsh.

That may be helped by the oranges added to the brew, while milled coriander seed adds a subtle heat, at first barely detectable yet building steadily as you work your way towards the bottom of the glass.

Leffe Triple with brunch at Café Leffe, Lille

Which seems to happen surprisingly quickly, given the strength of the stuff, but never mind. It’s now chucking it down on the Grand Place, so since I’m a very happy camper sat here on the covered and heated terrace with my beer and my crossword, I think we’ll stay a little longer.

Thus, I followed this with the dark, rich Leffe Radieuse before wandering the rapidly drying streets to see what other beery delights this town might hold for us. I wasn’t disappointed.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Leffe/AB-InBev, Belgium
Style: Abbey Beers
Strength: 8.5% ABV
Found at: Café Leffe, Place Rihour, Lille, France
Serving: 330ml bottle

142. Maredsous Bruin

Since we’re at Café Bebo already, it seems like it would be rude not to see whether there’s anything else on the menu that may be of interest to us.

There is, of course, and it’s a strong, dark Abbey Beer brewed under the supervision of the Benedictine monks of the Abbaye de Maredsous, deep within the Walloon region, some distance south of Brussels.

Maredsous Bruin at Café Bebo, Brussel

We enjoyed the even stronger Maredsous Tripel at Lowlander back in London, but there’s something nice about finding a beer in its home country.

This is quite a different beer. The deep ruby brown colour is a giveaway, of course, as is a huge peppery aroma full of caramel and sinister dark fruits.

It’s lovely stuff too: rich, warming and packed with fruity date and raisin notes. The caramel is there in the flavour, but the beer isn’t oversweet. Instead there’s a satisfying, roasty coffee-like bitterness in the finish.

Maredsous Bruin is broadly similar to a Trappist Dubbel, such as the La Trappe Dubbel, though it’s darker, fuller bodied and a little stronger. Indeed, the respectable 8% ABV strength isn’t hidden, but really doesn’t need to be. This was always going to be a beer to take your time over and savour slowly. It would make a great winter or after-dinner beer, though sat in a Brussels café on a spring afternoon was just fine too.

Café Bebo, Brussels

I think that’s all of the beers we need from Café Bebo, but that won’t stop me dropping by any time I’m in Brussels. I’m rather fond of the place, and it’s been pleasing to finally work it into the blog.

A special word of thanks must go to The Beer Boutique, a cracking beer shop in Putney, London. My minimal tasting notes from the afternoon at Café Bebo reflect the fact that 24 hours researching beer in Brussels will take its toll on a chap. The Beer Boutique kindly got this one in stock at short notice, allowing me to cobble together something resembling a blog post. My thanks to them for that.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Abbaye de Maredsous, Denée, Belgium
Strength: 8.0% ABV
Found at: Café Bebo, Place Rouppe, Brussels, Belgium
Serving: 330ml bottle

123. Maredsous Tripel

Let’s continue a rather productive visit to Lowlander by following the Paulaner Salvator with something slightly stronger.

This is the Maredsous Tripel, an Abbey Beer from Belgium. To clear up any confusion, it was formerly known as Maredsous 10, which is how it appears in The Book. I notice it’s not explicitly listed on the menu at Lowlander, but ask nicely and the staff may just be able to conjur one up.

Maredsous Tripel at Lowlander, London

This is a beer that resides very much in the same category as previous Belgian-style Tripels that we’ve seen, such as the La Trappe Tripel and perhaps the archetype for the style, the Westmalle Tripel.

By way of a recap, Tripels tend to be blonde in colour, but stronger and hoppier than a typical Belgian Blonde. They stand in contrast to the darker, fruitier Dubbel style, for example La Trappe Dubbel.

And so there are no surprises when the Maredsous pours a rich, deep yellow colour, with some light, white froth on top. It looks and smells almost honeyish.

All the expected Tripel flavours are there: subtle dried bananas, Belgian yeast and fragrant hops. At 10% ABV it’s a big old beer, and the alcohol heat isn’t hidden by any means. It’s balanced out by that honey sweetness, though, and the result is a very pleasant beer.

It improves as it warms, as butterscotch notes appear and the hop bitterness becomes more apparent, though that alcohol burn never really goes away.

I appear to have written “better than Westmalle” in my scribbled tasting notes. That’s a bold claim, and it’s one I’ll have to selflessly research rigorously before committing myself to it fully.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Abbaye de Maredsous, Denée, Belgium
Style: Abbey Beers
Strength: 10.0% ABV
Found at: Lowlander Grand Café, Drury Lane, London WC2B
Serving: 330ml bottle

71. Affligem Blond

OK, I’m a little out of my depth here guys. I ordered what I though was a fairly standard bottle of Belgian golden ale, and I seem to have been served some sort of science lab.


It turns out that there’s a great big wanky ritual to drinking Affligem Blond.

This is a bottle-conditioned beer with a hefty dose of yeasty sediment at the bottom. Fine so far, but apparently about 90% of the beer should go into the larger glass, while the yeast is deposited into the little thimble-like thing. You then have the choice of tasting the yeast separately, dumping it into your beer, or disregarding it entirely.

Having poured the beer itself, the barman poured a dose of yeasty solution into the smaller glass but left the thickest dregs of the sediment in the bottle. I wasn’t about to argue, since quite frankly I already felt like a bit of a numpty by this point.

Bear in mind I’m in a well-respected real ale pub here, and quite the locals’ place it is too. The burly gent at the next table reading The Sun over his second pint of lager is already eyeing me suspiciously. So let’s get this one done.

After all that, this tastes like a pretty run-of-the-mill Belgian golden ale or Abbey Beer. My usual point of reference for this sort of thing is Leffe Blonde, and Affligem is not a million miles away. It’s much lighter in flavour, though, and vaguely reminiscent of a saison. Still it packs a respectable 6.8% ABV wallop, and so provides a pleasant warming glow for a lunchtime. There’s a dense, sweet finish, which isn’t entirely unpalatable.

I elected to sample the yeast solution separately at first. It tasted slightly bitter and, perhaps not surprisingly, quite yeasty, but it didn’t have much going for it otherwise. So I dumped it into the rest of the beer and pressed on. It did add a little depth and body, I think, but on balance, I would still rather have had another pint of Mild instead.

I’m not sure I can show my face in the Grape & Grain again in a hurry, but in fairness that’s five beers in a row that they’ve provided for this blog, so I’m sure this won’t be the last we’ll be hearing of that particular boozer.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Affligem Brouwerij, Opwijk, Belgium
Style: Abbey Beers
Strength: 6.8% ABV
Found at: The Grape & Grain, Anerley Hill, London SE19
Serving: 330ml Bottle

65. Ommegang Abbey Ale

Since there apparently are not enough Belgian beers in the world, we now turn to an American brewery doing their best to recreate famous Trappist and other Belgian ales in a postmodern mockup monastery in Cooperstown, New York.

Brewery Ommegang was founded in 1997 by Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield, two Americans with a genuine passion for quality beer, and everything else Belgian, but primarily with a keen eye for business.

With Don and Wendy having sold their share of the company in 2003, Ommegang are now owned by the European brewing giant Duvel Moortgat.

Despite the pretensions to authenticity and Belgianness, since Ommegang’s website contact page lists an extensive roll call of Public Relations, Marketing and Accounts managers, and almost nobody remotely involved with the brewing process, it’s probably fair to assume we are not dealing with an artisanal craft brewery here.


In terms of colour, Ommegang Abbey Ale is a lovely deep ruby, turning almost golden syrup-like in the right light. There isn’t much in the way of aroma beyond a few peppery Belgian-style esters, but it certainly isn’t lacking in flavour.

From the first taste, this is an intensely flavoursome beer. It’s rich, dark and treacly, and packs in dried fruit, christmas cake and rum notes. It’s every inch the Belgian Dubbel, but with every flavour turned up to 11.

The hefty alcohol content is hidden behind a slightly cloying sweetness, and unfortunately there’s a somewhat watery finish that lets the whole ensemble down a little.

I suspect some people would absolutely love this beer, and it genuinely has enough to say for itself to justify some enthusiasm, but to me it just isn’t the finished article. It’s a good beer, but I suspect there won’t be many Trappist monks losing sleep over Ommegang’s run on their territory tonight.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY
Style: Abbey Beers
Strength: 8.2% ABV
Found at: Utobeer, Borough Market, London SE1
Serving: 355ml Bottle

8. Bosteels Karmeliet Tripel

This is the first time that 300 Beers has taken me quite so far outside my comfort zone.

I honestly don’t know what this is. All I know is that it’s brewed in Belgium, it’s named after some monks and it weighs in at a habit-trembling 8.4%.


The only bit of English on the label tells me that Karmeliet is made with three grains: wheat, oats and barley. That explains the “Tripel” name, I suppose.

It pours a light blonde colour, with a voluminous, pillowy head. It doesn’t seem to smell of a great deal, so I guess I’m going to have to try this.

It reminds me a little of Leffe Blonde, perhaps an obvious point of reference since that is also an Abbey Beer from Belgium. It’s a little more subtly flavoured than Leffe and less sweet, while the 8.4% alcohol whack is only partly hidden. There’s a pleasant enough yeasty biscuitiness to things, but I’m not sure I’m won over.

Karmeliet Tripel is probably a great example of its style, but I’m just not sure I see the use case for this type of beer. It wouldn’t work well with food, it certainly isn’t sessionable, and there’s not really enough depth to it to let it serve as a slow, fireside savouring sort of drink.

Still, there seem to be quite a few more Abbey Beers in The Book, so I’m going to have to get used to it!

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Brouwerij Bosteels, Buggenhout, Belgium
Style: Abbey Beers
Strength: 8.4% ABV
Found at: Waitrose Food Court at John Lewis, Oxford Street, London W1
Dispense: 330ml Bottle-conditioned