Saturday, February 2, 2013

555. Hof ten Dormaal Winter 13 & UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships

We found this in Louisville, which we were visiting to attend the 2013 UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships. And while this beer is good, the racing was even better. Mud? Check! Evil climbs and tortuous tracks? Check! Beer? Check! Disgruntled Europeans? Double-check! The unexpected elements included snow (although I will admit, I did wish for it, and was happy to get it) a flooding river next to the course, which meant that all the Sunday races got bumped to Saturday. Good thing, too, as the course was flooded on Sunday.

After the racing was over, we made our way to the Louisville Beer Store. If you recall, we’ve been there before. Technically, we had tacos along the way at Taco Punk, but for the purposes of this blogpost, I am glossing that part over to speed things up. The beautiful thing about the Louisville Beer Store: you can sample beers on draft while browsing.
In this case, they had a selection of four To Øl (they’re in Denmark) beers on tap, so we got a sampler of those, which included First Frontier IPA, Final Frontier DIPA, Sans Frontiere Belgian IPA, and Goliat Coffee Imperial Stout. For more on their beers, you can see here. Good beers, and interesting, although the hop presence in the various IPA version was, not surprisingly, below American standards for the style. My favorite was the Sans Frontiere, while Elli’s was the Final Frontier. Anyway, while browsing, we came across Hof ten Dormaal Winter 13, which is described on the label as a “wet-hopped Belgian Farmhouse Ale brewed with fresh hops from the Dormaal Farm.” If you know about my fresh hop fetish, then you know I was sold at “wet-hopped.” Sure, Belgian is great, and Farmhouse is also good—my love of saisons is also well known—but I needed nothing more than the “wet-hopped” descriptor to make this purchase, even with the knowledge that it was most certainly past its prime. I mean, seriously, how hard is it to resist the idea of European fresh hop beer? Wait, don’t answer that question.

Winter 13 pours a hazy burnished gold with a creamy white head that rouses easy and hangs on well. The initial nose is phenolic and slightly plastic-y, but some swirling of the glass bleeds them off, leaving behind grassy and herbal hop aromas followed by bubblegum phenols and candy sweet malt. The Belgian flavors are front and center: candy sweet malt and bubblegum phenols to open, while the middle is slightly gummy with herbal hop flavor leading into a juicy finish that also features a fair amount of dry bitterness. The hops are not as front and center as I would have hoped, but that’s not surprising given that it is February and this is a 2012 wet hop beer (even with the generousness of labeling this a 2013 beer—i.e. following the name of the beer—these are 2012 hops). The carbonation is prickly but not quite spritzy, which balances well with the chewy and gummy mouthfeel. Overall, this is a delicious and fantastic beer; it is not quite up to par for a wet hop beer, as the Belgian yeast character takes over the remaining fresh hop characteristics still hanging around, but the Belgian malt and yeast flavors almost make up for it. As well, the 8.0% ABV does play into muting the potential delicate hop flavors. Nonetheless, I am certainly happy to see that the interest in wet-hopped beers is spreading in the Old World.

Translated from the Wikipedia Hof ten Dormaal page: “Winter 13 (2012), blond beer with an alcohol content of 8%, with the addition of fresh hops from own cultivation (Magnum and Cascade).”

I do so love Google Translate.

ABV: 8.0%


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