Belgian Coast IPAGreen Flash/St. Feuillien (San Diego/Le Roeulx, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: Green Flash seems to have found a friend for life in Belgium’s St. Feuillien brewery. This is the third in their collaboration series, a spirited IPA that matches fruit Belgian yeast with fragrant American hops.
Sneak Attack21st Amendment (San Francisco)
SIXPACK SEZ: A bare-chested George Washington crossing the Delaware in his skivvies during his famous Christmas night sneak attack on Trenton? Heresy! But it’s no less sacred than a brewery releasing a light-bodied, refreshing, cardamom-spiced farmhouse-style ale in the dead of winter.
Green Flash Grand CruGreen Flash (San Diego, Calif.)
Belgian-style strong ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Finally, something other than a palate-wrecking hop bomb from a San Diego brewery. This deeply warming malt monster will surely take the chill off one of those brutal 50-degree SoCal winter evenings.
Antigoon by Robert WiedmaierMusketiers (Ursel, Belgium)
Belgian pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: You can enjoy this dry, fruity ale on tap at the chef Wiedmaier’s Mussel Bar at Atlantic City’s Revel Casino, but to fully appreciate it you need to track down a bottle. Its wonderfully bloody label depicts Druon Antigoon, the Antwerp giant who was slain when a Roman soldier cut off his left hand.
ImpulseBlue Moon (Golden, Colo.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Call it truth in labeling from the Coors subsidiary that’s so often accused of misleading consumers by glomming onto the micro craze: A purple (!) wheat beer made with Cabernet Sauvignon juice that’s strong, fruity and, yes, truly an Impulse buy.
ConsecrationRussian River (Santa Rosa, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: The Catholic Church ought to dump the cheap, stale wine at the Eucharist and instead serve this outstanding ale fermented with wild yeast and aged with black currants. Nah, it won’t make anyone forget all those nasty church scandals. But if you’re going to drink the blood of Christ, this is how it should taste.
Swing Session SaisonVictory (Downingtown, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: It’s tempting to call this a light version of Victory Helios, which is itself a light version of the sadly departed V-Saison. But where the big, earthy character of those two dominated, this one is all about clean, fruity refreshment with just a touch of farmhouse funk. Yes, it’s a “session saison,” but try saying that three times fast.
Blue Sunday SourNew Holland (Holland, Mich.)
SIXPACK SEZ: I wanted this to taste like tart New Jersey blueberries, but this blend of barrel-aged beers come up a bit like sour cherries. Either way, it’s worth cellaring a bottle till the next Blue Sunday, defined as any time the Eagles give up a fourth-quarter lead.
Tribute TripelNeshaminy Creek (Croydon, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: “Neshaminy,” according to the brewery, means “place where we drink twice.” I like that spirit – especially when we’re talking about a high-alcohol Belgian ale with that classic ester fruitiness.
St. Feuillien SaisonSt. Feuillien (Le Roeulx, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: I’ve always thought of saison as the perfect beer to accompany food; it can stand up to strong flavors without overwhelming delicate dishes. And now that it’s in a can, this refreshing, slightly fruity farmhouse ale might be the perfect summer beer, too.
Liopard OirLavery (Erie, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: A light, fruity saison with a touch of Brett funk, this is one of those beers you’ll want to share with friends over a good meal. Just don’t try to explain why a French-style beer made in western Pennsylvania is named after the Gaellic phrase for “Golden Leopard.”
De KoninckDe Koninck (Antwerp, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: Despite its standing as Belgium’s largest city, Antwerp oddly lays claim to just one major brewery. But De Koninck does its beer-loving nation proud with this smooth, malt-forward, thoroughly refreshing amber ale.
La Choulette FramboiseLa Choulette (Hordain, France)
SIXPACK SEZ: Choulette, just over the Belgium border in France, is known mainly for its biere de garde. Add raspberry juice, a voila, you’ve got a dry but fruity summer refresher
Duvel Tripel HopDuvel Moortgag (Puurs, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: Duvel, now well into its second century, shows the flexibility of a youngster, adapting a classic, strong Belgian tripel to 21st-century brewing trends. Specifically, as its name implies, this fruity, yeasty ale is hopped out the wazoo, with gorgeous Sorachi Ace.
TetravisBoston Beer (Boston, Mass.)
SIXPACK SEZ: This is a quad who’s ready to be enjoyed NOW. Where some big Belgians need cellaring to take an edge off their sweetness, this dark, raisiny monster is blended with a oak-aged ale to lighten the body a notch. It’s tetra-tastic (did I just say that?).
Saison VariousHarpoon (Boston, Mass.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Harpoon doesn’t make a single saison, yet for this installment of its 100 Barrel series of one-offs it brewed four separate batches, then blended them for a solid farmhouse ale. It’s fruity with a peppery bite in the finish.
PunishmentStone (Escondido, Calif.)
Chili pepper strong ale
SIXPACK SEZ: A blatantly misnamed ale, this barrel-aged Double Bastard is flavored with incomprehensibly hot chili peppers (Morunga Scorpion, Black Naga) for a fiery assault on your tongue. A more accurate name for this beer: Masochism.
Stille NachtDe Dolle (Esen, Belgium)
Belgian strong ale
SIXPACK SEZ: You don’t have to be fluent in Dutch to understand that this beer means “Silent Night.” Polish off just one bottle of this strong, sweet masterpiece, and it’s sweet dreams, Baby Jesus.
Baudelaire IOJolly Pumpkin (Dexter, Mich.)
SIXPACK SEZ: The poet Charles Baudelaire held special contempt for Belgian beer, blaming it for “three months of continual diarrhea, broken occasionally by unbearable constipation.” Certainly he couldn’t have been referring to this tart, red saison flavored with hibiscus, rose hips and rose petals.
AsylumLeft Coast (San Clemente, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: It’s hard to know which asylum this bottle is sending me to – the safe one where its fruity body is a comforting refuge, or the nuthouse where that boozy 11 percent abv drives me into a padded cell?
Arend TripelDe Ryck (Herzele, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: A distinct pineapple aroma from its strain of Belgian yeast is a hint of this golden ale’s fruity/spicy flavor. Arend (Dutch for Eagle) is the original name of this 125-year-old family-owned brewery, now led by Anne De Ryck, one of Belgium’s few female brew masters. Arend Tripel
DraeckenierTroch (Aalst, Belgium)
Strong Belgian blond
SIXPACK SEZ: A typically lively Belgian blond with a luscious smack of tropical fruit, it takes its name from a brotherhood of happy-go-lucky Belgians known for pinning a two-cent piece to their lapels to avoid arrest as vagrants.
Spéciale BelgeBrasserie Dupont (Tourpes, Begium) with Philly Beer Week
Belgian pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Philly Beer Week’s 2012 Belgian collaboration (with Chris LaPierre of Iron Hill and Tom Peters of Monk’s Café) is dry, refreshing with dominant hops and a bit of smoked malt. But more than anything, you’ll enjoy the aroma and spirit of the classic Dupont farmhouse yeast. An outstanding tribute to Philly’s standing as America’s leading Belgian beer city.
Grumpy MonkSamuel Adams (Boston, Mass.)
SIXPACK SEZ: You know what makes a monk grumpy? When you don’t put enough hops into his India pale ale. Praise the lord, Sam Adams didn’t skimp - plus there’s enough of that devilish Belgian yeast in this bottle to give up our vow of silence.
Wildeman Farmhouse IPAFlying Dog (Frederick, Md.)
SIXPACK SEZ: What’s so wild about this funkster isn’t its Belgian yeast-influenced flavor; it’s basically a refreshingly hoppy saison. No, what’s really wild is what AdWeek called “the most inexplicable commercial for a new-beer release that you may ever see.” Don't believe it? Click the bottle.
Affligem BlondAffligem Brewery (Opwijk, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: Even as new Belgian beers flood the American market, age-old Affligem is one of those brands that always keeps me interested. While it’s somewhat sweet and fruity, it’s thoroughly refreshing. Try it as a step up from Leffe Blond.
Imper Ale Triplo MaltoTenute Collesi (Apecchio, Italy)
SIXPACK SEZ: With its own barley farm, malt house and natural spring water source, Collesi certainly deserves to be called an artisan brewery. And this big-flavored (pineapple and apricot) is evidence the Italians can make beer as good as the Belgians.
Singing Blond't Gaverhopke (Harelbeke, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: This blond is singing about six different songs at once. It’s tart, it’s bitter, it’s sweet, it’s spicy, it’s fruity, and overall it’s incredibly refreshing. It’s pricey, at $100 a case, so I’m listening to this song on my own earphones.
Fatty BoombalattyFurthemore (Spring Green Wis.)
SIXPACK SEZ: I’m dating myself, but I thought a Fatty Boombalatty was a kid who couldn’t make it through a game of hopscotch without wheezing. After downing a bottle of this outstanding spicy (coriander) Belgian-style wheat beer, all I can say is, “Drink up, kid.”
The Sixth GlassBoulevard (Kansas City, Mo.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Hans Christian Anderson wrote that, upon downing a sixth glass, one finds the Devil himself. I bailed out after three tumblers of this full-bodied, complex Belgian-style ale – a point when Hans writes I should’ve encountered a pixie who makes me “young and gay." Check back with me after I wake up.
RepentDuClaw (Bel Air, Md.)
Strong dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: The brewery urges you to “get on your knees” and repent. With its powerfully strong alcohol content and its complex spicy, fruit-like flavor, this so-called Belgian “pent” will have you wondering whatever happened to your knees.
Duvel RusticaBrewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, N.Y.)
Belgian golden ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Belgium’s Duvel brewery – the sister to New York’s Brewery Ommegang – has been known to turn out Ommegang bottles on occasion, so turnabout is fair play. This is the classic Duvel brewed with Ommegang’s house yeast, which gives the golden ale a fruitier aroma and flavor.
Ov-ralTo Øl (Frederiksberg, Denmark)
SIXPACK SEZ: This is how "Orval" comes out when you run it through Slate’s Travoltifier. But with a Danish-made version of a Belgian interpretation of an American re-invention of an English style brewed for India, you can kinda excuse the confusion. Oh, and did I mention it’s been re-fermented with Brett?
InfernoThe Lost Abbey (San Marcos, Calif.)
Belgian-style pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: With brands named 10 Commandments, Judgment Day and Serpent’s Stout, it’s clear the sinners at The Lost Abbey are fixated on the hereafter. Their salvation may be found, ironically enough, in the damnation of Inferno, a heavenly aromatic (vanilla, fruit), golden ale. Jan 2011
Monk's Blood21st Amendment (San Francisco)
SIXPACK SEZ: Possibly the most complex beer you’ll ever find in a can, this dark, abbey-style ale is brewed with cinnamon, vanilla beans and black mission figs, and aged on oak chips. Deeply malty and layered with rich fruit and caramel notes, it belongs in a chalice. (feb 2011)
Fleur de LehighPhiladelphia Brewing (Philadelphia)
Spiced pale ale/saison
SIXPACK SEZ: I can still see the broad expanse of the green, green grass of old, departed Connie Mack Stadium at 21st and Lehigh. And when I open a bottle of this wonderfully named pale ale – spiked with ginger, lemon grass and rose hips – I can smell it, too. Play ball! (feb 2011)
Garde DogFlying Dog (Frederick, Md.)
Biere de Garde
SIXPACK SEZ: The French rolled over like poodles when Flying Dog grabbed the classic Biere de Mars style and brought it to America. Don’t worry: With a touch of malt sweetness and a clean but spicy finish, it never bites. Nice doggie… (march 2011)
Ground BreakIthaca Beer Co. (Ithaca, N.Y.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Like those first buds of spring busting through the soil, the first look at this Belgian-style ale is a bit deceptive and only hints at its full character. Though it starts much clearer than a traditional saison, it unfolds with a yeasty, earthy bloom and a dry, hoppy finish. (april 2011)
HoegaardenHoegaarden (Hoegaarden, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: Yes, it’s faded in comparison to its many imitators. And, yes, now its corporate version doesn’t have quite the character of inventor Pierre Celis’s original. But this classic Belgian witbier is still refreshing with a spicy, citric zing. (may 2011)
HeliosVictory Brewing (Downingtown, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Helios is the Greek god who personifies the sun, but this ale reminds me more of the earth: the soil, the hops and the grain. A wonderfully hoppy Belgian-inspired saison that – at about $4-5 for a 22oz bomber - is one of the great values in American craft beer. (may 2011)
Abbaye D'Aulne Triple BlondeVal De Sambre (Gozée, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: Named after one of those age-old Cistercian monasteries that marauding armies (Normans, French, Nazis, etc.) destroy every other century or so. This sweet, yeasty blonde stood nobly before falling under the attack a marauding army of one (a.k.a. (Sixpack). (june 2011)
Lakefront White BeerLakefront (Milwaukee, Wis.)
SIXPACK SEZ: When The Killer sang, “What’s made Milwaukee famous has made a loser out of me,” I don’t think he was referring to a coriander-spiced Belgian-style witbier. And if he was, well, that’s better than losing her over another bottle of Schlitz. (July 2011)
MatacabrasDave's Brew Farm (Wilson, Wis.)
Belgian-style dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: This hard-to-categorize beer tastes like a cross between a malty abbey dubbel and a spicy dunkelweizen. The name, by the way, is a Spanish word for “a wind that kills goats.” In a bottle, it brings them back to life. (August 2011)
Tramp StampClown Shoes (Ipswitch, Mass.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Tropical fruit notes from the Belgian yeast ring through a fairly standard IPA whose most remarkable feature is its mildly controversial label. Personally, I prefer the German phrase for lower-back tattoos, which translates to “ass antlers.”
Baby TreePretty Things Beer & Ale Project (Cambridge, Mass.)
SIXPACK SEZ: If babies really grew on trees, would the right-to-lifers outlaw pruning? Don’t waste your time wondering – just enjoy the variety of fruity flavors (prunes, apples, raisins, cherries) that swirl in each sip of this boozy baby. (Nov. 2011)
OttoVictory Brewing (Downingtown, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: You can’t help but worry when uncorking this bottle because Belgium was overrun by Germany once before, and we all know how that turned out. But Otto is a peaceful resolution of Bamberg’s intensely smokey rauchbier and the sweet, full-bodied caramel malt of a Belgian dubbel. (Oct. 2011)
Père NoëlDe Ranke (Wevelgem, Belgium)
Strong Belgian pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: An unusually hoppy Belgian Xmas ale, spiced with a bit of licorice. As much as I love a visit from Père Noël (Father Christmas), though, I’m a bigger fan of his sidekick, evil Père Fouettard, the “whipping Father” who scares the bejabbers out of naughty boys and girls.
Delirium NoelBrouwerij Huyghe (Melle, Belgium)
Belgian strong dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: It was Jack London who first wrote of pink elephants after a particularly long night of drunken hallucinations. But it was the Belgians from Huyghe who managed to get them into a bottle them, along with this sweet, yeasty Christmas ale. (Nov. 2011)
La ChouffeBrasserie d’ Achouffe (Achouffe, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: Lightly spiced with just a touch of sweetness, this might be a Belgian version of an all-night "session” ale. Yes, its 8 percent alcohol content will leave you dented, but that’s how they roll in the Ardennes. jan 2010
Allagash WhiteAllagash Brewing (Portland, Maine)
SIXPACK SEZ: Those who were introduced to the once-rare witbier style by the likes of Hoegaarden or Blue Moon will find this bottle a bit spicier with more fruity complexity. Raise holy hell if the bartender tries to stick a lemon in it. feb 2010
Exit 4Flying Fish (Cherry Hill, N.J.)
SIXPACK SEZ: The New Jersey Turnpike – the butt of a million jokes – is the inspiration for this traffic-stopping rubber-necker. Horn-blowing hops merge with lead-footed malt, but the telltale clove and fruit notes of Belgian yeast never yield. (march 2010)
Blue MoonMolson Coors (Golden, Colorado)
SIXPACK SEZ: Coors’ version of the cloudy Belgian witbier style is wrongly dismissed as a wimpy chick beer. Honestly, I’d pay good money to see this coriander-and-orange wheat beer kick Coors Light’s ass in a street fight. (april 2010)
Saison VosSly Fox (Royersford, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: A farmhouse-style ale from the paved-over farmlands of Chester County. Though it's brewed in a suburban strip mall, Saison Vos (Fox in Flemish) has the soul and outstanding spicy, dry flavor you'd find from an authentic Belgian. (June 2011)
Merry MonksWeyerbacher (Easton, Pa)
SIXPACK SEZ: Straight from Easton, this is one of the all-time beer steals. A bracing, complex, world-class strong golden ale for about $6/750ml, equal to imports at twice the price. (June 2010)
HadesGreat Divide (Denver, Colo.)
SIXPACK SEZ: For the price, it’s a decent substitute for Duvel. But taste them next to each other, and you’ll see there’s something – the yeast, the obsessive attention to bottle conditioning – that’s lost in the translation. (June 2010)
Pike TandemPike Brewing (Seattle, Wash.)
Belgian-style strong ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Ever notice how perfectly a 22-oz bomber fits into your bike’s water bottle holder? I wouldn’t expect this dark, full-bodied ale to cool me off, but after a full day of pedaling it would be a fun way to ease out the saddle. (july 2010)
Troubadour MagmaMusketiers (Ursel, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: A Belgian interpretation of an American rendition of a classic British style named after a former colony that has no beer. It’s an intriguing mess of meager bitterness and tropical fruit salad with a blunt alcoholic pop to the noggin. (Aug. 2010)
DoesjelDrie Fonteinen (Beersel, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: The label is Dutch for “doze off,” which is only half of the story of this fine gueuze from blender Armand Debelder. After snoozing in oak barrels, one- and two-year-old batches are reawakened by fresh lambic, creating a tart, complex, if decidedly flat mouthful. (Aug. 2010)
MoatenTwo Brothers (Warrenville, Ill.)/Urthel (Ruiselede, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: A collaboration between Belgium’s Urthel and Two Brothers from Illionois (neither of whom are known for sour beers). This Flemish red is a tentative step toward the classic tart tang of Rodenbach, but without the benchmark’s telltale oaky notes.
Saison du BuffDogfish Head (Milton,Del.)/Victory (Downingtown, Pa.)/Stone (Escondido, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: The first collaboration of three Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor, this one’s the Dogfish Head version of a recipe that’s spiced with parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme. How’s it taste? Let’s just say that brewers Sam Calagione, Bill Covaleski and Greg Koch harmonize almost as well as Simon & Garfunkel. (sept. 2010)
Affligem NoelBrouwerij Affligem (Opwijk, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: Dark, brown and savory, like bread in a bottle, this one will give you visions of sugar plums dancing in your head. Worth buying a case for cellaring.
Grand Cru Winter ReserveFlying Fish (Cherry Hill, N.J.)
Belgian-style golden ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Big and warming with a powerful, tongue-snapping spiciness that's the happy result of high-temperature fermentation. Take a swallow, then bite off the head of a gingerman. (Dec. 2010)
Scaldis NoelDubuisson Freres (Pipaix, Belgium)
Belgian strong ale
SIXPACK SEZ: “Deliciously strooth” and “reassuring smong,” in the words of the brewer, this Xmas delight is dangerously drinkable thanks to the addition of balance-enhancing Saaz whole flower hops. Treat it with nicely or it’ll leave fuzzy on Christmas morning.
PranqsterNorth Coast (Fort Bragg, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: The label looks like the Sixpack residence when the in-laws show up. I keep them happy with this strong, sweet and spicy Belgian-style ale. And, bonus, it's well-priced around 10 bucks a sixer. (Feb. 2009)
HennepinBrewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, N.Y.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Paraphrasing Louis Hennepin, the 17th-century Belgian missionary who gave us the first written account of Niagara Falls, this saison thunders with “a vast and prodigious cadence” of flavor. Spicy with bright citrus aroma.
Whirlwind WitVictory (Downingtown, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: I kind of remember this beer being a bit more assertive when it was first introduced many years ago - perhaps a spicier yeast bite. No matter. For me, this is refreshing white beer is always one of the first signs that summer is on its way.
Koningshoeven BockKoningshoeven (Berkel-Enschot, Netherlands)
SIXPACK SEZ: You think of bock and naturally it's either German or American varieties that come to mind. But the Dutch have a longstanding bokbier tradition, with breweries releasing them in the fall. This one is a rare Trappist monastery lager.
Le FreakGreen Flash (Vista., Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Big, funky yeast character meets west coast imperial IPA - this is exactly the kind of beer that style facists loathe because of its blunt attack on the palate. Me? I can’t get that damn song out of my head: Aaahh… freak out! (May 2009)
Flying Fish Belgian Style DubbelFlying Fish (Cherry Hill, N.J.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Unfortunately, this is one of those beers I take for granted because it's been around for so many years. It took a medal at last year's GABF (the first for Flying Fish) to remind me of its complex, satisfying malty richness. Wonderful with grilled food. (June 2009)
Allagash Tripel ReserveAllagash (Portland, Oregon)
SIXPACK SEZ: I love all those funky, innovative, high-end gourmet beers from brewer Rob Tod as much as the next guy. But it's this strong golden ale that could be the brewery's finest. A crisp, tingling - but not over-whelming yeast character - enhances its sweet, fresh fruit-like flavor. (June 2009)
Black OrchardThe Bruery (Placentia, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: What we have here is a dark wheat beer brewed with chamomile, or what Orange County's tiny Bruery calls a black wit. Does that make this the Wanda Sykes of Belgian-style ales? (July 2009)
KarmaAvery (Boulder, Colo.)
Belgian-style pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: This quaffable amber ale suggests some kind of touchy-feely, universal New Age spirituality that might best be enjoyed while chanting, "OM... VANDE GURUNAM CARANARAVINDE." Or as we like to say in Philly, "Yo, what goes around..." (Aug. 2009)
Tripel KarmelietBosteels (Buggenhout, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: The "tripel" in this beer's name isn't just the style - it's made with three grains: barley, wheat and oats. Rich with a fruity aroma, it's remarkably soft for a tripel, yet boasts all the complexity you'd want in this style. An absolute stunner. (Nov. 2009)
OrvalBrasserie d'Orval (Abbaye de Notre-Dame d'Orval, Belgium)
Belgian pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: From the very look of its bottle to the aroma of its perfumy hops and funky Brett yeast, to its distinctively crisp yet savory flavor, this Trappist beer is gloriously incomparable. Made at possibly the most beautiful brewery in the world. (Dec. 2009)
2 Turtle DovesThe Bruery (Placentia, Calif.)
Strong Belgian-style/chocolate ale
SIXPACK SEZ: The Bruery of California is seemingly tempting fate with this hugely flavored dark ale brewed with cocoa nibs and toasted pecans. Let’s just say it has a better ending than that bird-scratching Secret Santa episode on “The Office.”
ClassiqueStillwater Artisanal Ales (Baltimore, Md.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Brewer Brian Strumke calls this “post-modern” beer, which I suppose is a wonky acknowledgement that he’s brewed a historically accurate Belgian-style farmhouse ale without funky Brettanomyces yeast, and then – in an ironic nod to his own Bal’more/Natty Boh roots - put it in a decidedly non-European can. In other words: Saison Lite. (July 2014)
Allagash ConfluenceAllagash (Portland, Maine)
Belgian-style pale ale/wild ale
ALCOHOL: 7.5 percent
SIXPACK SEZ: Start with the spicy house Belgian yeast strain, add a bit of wild Brettanomyces, dry hop with Glacier – such individually distinct flavors and aromas would seem to clash, like a mighty river crashing through rapids. Instead, some lengthy aging in steel tanks creates a smooth flow on the palate – an absorbing confluence where the sum is greater than the parts. (July 2014)
HereafterPerennial Artisan Ales (Saint Louis)
Belgian-style pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Perennial didn’t hold back on the pear or the sage in this one-off with Penrose Brewing brewed in ’13. It’s still vibrant a year later. Or, as Tyrone F. Horneye (a/k/a Arte Johnson) leered, “Do you believe in the hereafter? Then you know what I’m here after!” (July 2014)
Don de DieuUnibroue (Chambly, Canada)
Strong Belgian wheat ale
SIXPACK SEZ: In French, it means “Gift of God,” which would be accurate only if heaven is staffed by Belgian brewers. This Canadian-made strong, golden-hued wheat beer has a huge honey aroma with fruit and yeasty flavor that can rival anything from Belgium. (Aug. 2014).
Coup de GrisouBrasseurs R.J. (Montreal)
SIXPACK SEZ: Google translates this one as “gas blast,” which refers to a dangerous coal mine explosion from the buildup of methane gas. I popped the cork with oven mitts, but instead of getting burned I was treated to a bubbly witbier-ish ale made with buckwheat and flavored with coriander. (Aug. 2014)
Saison VoisinBrasserie Des Géants (Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: Geants brews just a few clicks up the road from Tourpes, home of the benchmark Saison Dupont. You can see the influence in this refreshing, spicy ale. Perfect for summer BBQs. (August 2008)
Samuel Adams Harvest SaisonBoston Beer (Boston)
SIXPACK SEZ: Yes, autumn is the season for fresh hops and pumpkin patches, but you know what else they harvest this time of the year? Grain! This full-bodied take on a Belgian farmhouse ale boasts a full-bodied malt bill featuring barley and wheat (the usual ingredients in saison), plus oats and rye. (Sept. 2014)
SIXPACK SEZ: Though this nicely hopped IPA is named after that noisy bug that shows up in North America every 17 years, it might’ve been better tagged with a honey bee. Plenty of local wildflower honey shows up in both the nose and the palate, and after two bombers I felt more than buzzed. (Oct. 2014)
Saaremaa Island AleAnchor (San Francisco)
SIXPACK SEZ: Anchor Brewmaster Mark Carpenter smuggled home some yeast from Estonia’s Saaremaa Island on the Baltic Sea to create a unique, wonderfully complex, somewhat spicy ale. I’d describe it as Belgian farmhouse meets British pale ale - not unlike Lithuanian’s equally unusual rustic country ale.(Oct. 2014).
Saison ExtraBouwerij West (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.)
SIXPACK SEZ: I picked up this bottle because of its very cool pop art cat-playing-pinball label and wasn’t disappointed in its flavor. This is a fun, usually sweet/funky, full-bodied take on the increasingly flexible saison style. (Nov. 2014)
Rude Elf's ReserveFegley's Brew Works (Allentown, Pa.)
Spiced Belgian-style ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Rude Elf’s Reserve is one of those highly spiced brews that make you think you're drinking Red Zinger tea with a kick. The ale, backed by three different Belgian yeasts, comes through nicely, though, for a festive holiday flavor. The Brew Works suggests letting the bottle warm up to about 50 degrees. Then sip it beside a fire, maybe on one foggy Christmas Eve. GABF bronze, 2009
Scaldis NoëlDubuisson Frères (Leuze-Pipaix, Belgium)
Strong Belgian dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: “We’re not about to make a light beer,” a representative from Dubuisson & Freres once told me. “It’s just not in our DNA.” And so, this family-owned Wallonian brewer proudly proclaims its ultra-strong beer is “deliciously strooth” and “reassuringly smong.” And that’s just after one bottle! Its generous batch of caramel malt gives this beer a pleasant copper-red color and the sugar kicks it into high gear. You’d expect it to be overly sweet and cloying. But the hops balance it nicely, thanks partly to an extra dose of Saaz flowers added in the final stages of fermentation. The bottom line here is that it Scaldis Noel is dangerously drinkable. You should be pouring it into a brandy snifter, sipping it slowly while contemplating the embers in your fireplace. Instead, with its Champagne-like texture, the temptation is to gulp. Look for it in unfiltered 750ml bottles, which are a bit fruitier and (maybe!) a bit higher in alcohol.
AdorationBrewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, N.Y.)
Belgian-style strong ale
SIXPACK SEZ: The Adoration of the Magi is the biblical episode in which the three kings lay down gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh in worship of baby Jesus – a sacred occasion commemorated in painting and tapestry by the likes of Botticelli, Brueghel and Rubens. Slapping the iconic image on a beer label might offend some – though this superb dark ale spiced with coriander, orange peel, mace, cardamom and grains of paradise ought to earn the brewery a bit of Christian forgiveness. (Dec. 2014)
Winter White AleBell's (Kalamazoo, Mich.)
SIXPACK SEZ: You’ll notice a preponderance of so-called Big Beers during the Christmas season: Heavy, dark, high-alcohol, richly flavored, malty monsters. I mean, why not? It’s winter, time to bulk up. And you’d be forgiven if you expected the same kind of gigantism from the likes of Larry Bell’s highly regarded brewery. After all, he bottles no fewer than 5 different stouts that are perfectly warming on a cold winter’s night. So what does Bell’s offer as a way of holiday celebration? A spritzer! Well, not exactly; this “witbier” – or white beer – is light and effervescent. But beneath that cloudy texture is the aroma of coriander and citrus. It’s made with a house blend of German hefeweizen and Belgian yeasts, which combine to produce a curious layering of flavors. No, you won’t down this in a blizzard. Think of it as an aperitif before you settle into those other Big Beers.
Baladin NoelBirrificio Le Baladin (Piozzo, Italy)
Belgian-style strong dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: A great beer from Italy? That’s a little like a fine wine from Canada, isn’t it? This is the land of Chianti and Valpolicella, not stouts and porters. Even when it turns to grain, the country typically produces innocuous industrial lagers like Moretti and Peroni. In fact, Italy might be the next, great craft beer country, thanks largely to its burgeoning slow food movement. Travel through Europe, and you’ll surely meet Italian beer hunters, looking to bring a fine ale back home. One of them, café owner Teo Musso, founded his La Baladin brewpub after spending years learning everything he could about beer from the Belgians. Today he’s one of the organizers of Union Birra, a consortium of northern Italian brewpubs. This ale is dark and deep like a Barolo, with a vast array of dried fruit, cocoa, plum and pepper flavors – much of it a product of yeast fermentation
'T Smisje KerstBrouwerij De Regenboog (Assebroek-Brugge, Belgium)
Strong Belgian dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: I can not even pretend to pronounce the name of this beer until I’ve consumed at least two bottles. Then, miraculously, I can speak fluent Flemish with one hand tied behind my back. Translated, it means The Blacksmith Christmas, which summons images of tiny elves hammering away at reindeer shoes. Or maybe not. In fact, Smisje is the name of the bus stop near brewer Johan Brandt’s home; his neighbor’s house was once a smith. Brandt’s De Regenboog (Dutch for rainbow) brewery is a small operation that produces tiny batches of oddly compelling ales flavored with the likes of mustard, raisins and calvados. Kerst is made with coriander and grains of paradise, a West African spice that looks like peppercorn but, in addition to the heat, tastes like nuts and citrus. The beer is fruity, just as you’d expect from a strong Belgian ale, but with a hint of sourness. And, then there’s all that alcohol. Drink more than two, and you’ll be positively zatlap.
Mad ElfTroegs (Hershey, Pa.)
Belgian-style strong dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Brothers John and Chris Trogner are reluctant to call this ruby-colored gem a Belgian-style ale, but that’s only because it’s almost unclassifiable. Though it’s brewed with honey and tart Pennsylvania cherries, the dominate character here is a ginger- and clove-spiciness, a product of its unique pair of Belgian yeast strains. Think of fruitcake, but not the one made by your Aunt Bertha. This one feels like it’s been aged in an apple cider cask. You’ll taste it on draft and in bottles in the Northeast, but you’ve got to be quick – it sells out every year. The ultimate Mad Elf is the corked-and-boxed 101-ounce jeroboam – ideal for long-term cellaring or a holiday party. Either in a small bottle or large, it’s worth saving in your cellar to enjoy for years later. The spice mellows nicely and you’re left with a deeply satisfying wine-like flavor. A fine example of how American microbrewers have taken old-world styles and created an entirely new – and ultimately superb – Christmas beer.
St. Feuillien Cuvée De NoëlBrasserie St. Feuillien (Le Roeulx, Belgium)
Belgian strong dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: There is nothing like showing up at a holiday party with a Salmanazar. That’s the name they give those 9-liter bottles about the size of an ICBM nosecone; believe me, you attract a lot of attention when you’ve got that much beer in your arms. Aside from the pure fun of attempting to glug-glug-glug the contents into a tiny 8-ounce goblet, there is actually a benefit to packaging beer in such a large bottle: all that liquid decreases the proportionate amount of oxygen. And oxygen is bad for beer. It gives it a stale flavor and, in a dark ale like Cuvée de Noel, turns the rich malt aroma into something more like sweetened sherry. Though you’re more likely to encounter St. Feuillien’s beautiful plum-like Christmas beer in much smaller 33cl bottles, it pays off to track down the big boys. Look for a magnum (1.5 liters), Jeroboam (3 liters), Methuselah (6 liters) or the fabled Salmanazar, which equals more than an entire case of beer in a single bottle. St. Feuillien takes its name from a martyred Irish monk who was slain by outlaws, decapitated and buried in a pig sty in Le Roeulx.
St. Bernardus Christmas AleBrouwerij St. Bernard (Watou, Belgium)
Belgian strong dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: There’s a happy monk on the label – probably a rendition of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the 12th century cleric who revived the Benedictine monastery movement. A strong, fortifying beer with this name, though, ought to be named for an even more famous St. Bernard – the guy who gave us the barrel-toting St. Bernard dog. Though he isn’t exactly a church hero, St. Bernard of Menthon is famous for establishing a monastery in the mid-10th century along a treacherous Alpine pass that was frequently traversed by pilgrims on their way to Rome. The locals trained big dogs to bound through the snow, pluck out those who’d gotten trapped and maybe give them a quick taste of whiskey. At 10 percent alcohol, this dark, chocolate-like ale would do the trick, too. It’s marvelously spicy, with a deep flavor of raisins. And what about St. Bernard of Clairvaux? He’s known notoriously for helping to launch the bloody Second Crusade in 1145… on Christmas Day.
Smuttynose Winter AleSmuttynose (Portsmouth, N.H.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Who is that woman? She’s your mom, coming home through a snowstorm with your takeout dinner. She’s a neighbor whose car battery is dead and needs a jump. Who knows? Not even the folks at Smuttynose. The photo is copyright-free clipart that the brewery just plucked from a photography archive. If you recognize her, contact Smuttynose – they might give you a free beer! But then, the mystery would be solved, and what would you be left with? Well, beneath that label you’ll find a handsome, full-flavored ale that’s a bit of a mystery itself. It’s a sweet, dark beer, much like a Belgian dubbel. But it’s nowhere near that strong. Basically, brewer David Yarrington was looking for the complex flavor of a strong ale, but without all that alcohol – something without spices that you could drink all night. He succeeds nicely with a Belgian ale yeast that produces a thoroughly enjoyable flavor of cherries, chocolate and malt.
Petrus WinterbeerBrouwerij Bavik (Harelbeke-Bavikhove, Belgium)
Belgian strong dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Somehow, the jolly old gent on this label has always reminded me of one of America’s great holiday season advertising icons: the Norelco Santa. You remember, the animated character who rode across the snowy landscape atop an electric razor. Strange. Why would a guy with a snow-white beard endorse a razor, anyway? It’s something to contemplate after cracking open a bottle of this fine, full-bodied ale. Under its thick, creamy head of foam, you’ll find a smooth, clean-tasting brew that’s a bit lighter than your standard Belgian Christmas treat. Still, it offers up that distinctive malt sweetness and warming afterglow. Petrus takes its name from the Latin name for “St. Peter,” the disciple of Jesus who Catholics believe founded the first Christian church in Rome. I don’t think he had any use for a Norelco razor, either.
La Choulette de NoelBrasserie La Choulette (Hordain, France)
Biere de garde
SIXPACK SEZ: In Northern France, near the border of Belgium, where the grapes don’t grow so easily, the farmers use the region’s barley to make a drink called biere de garde. That’s “beer to keep,” made in early spring and laid down through the hot summer months when it’s too hot to brew. Though it was originally brewed to cool off farmhands, it’s very much like a good wine and is even more enjoyable served with a wide range of foods, from stinky cheese to roasted goose. The style shares much with Belgium’s saison, including a distinctive yeast that produces fruity and herbal notes. In this version, you’ll notice the yeast sediment in the bottle; either carefully decant the bottle, or mix it into your glass. (Go ahead, it won’t bite you!) The flavor is sweet with a satisfying medium body of malt nuttiness. La Choulette is a rustic brewery, dating back to 1845. All of its styles are meticulously brewed and are proof that the French know how to make more than just wine.
La Binchoise Reserve SpecialeBrasserie La Binchoise (Binche, Belgium)
Belgian strong pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Imagine you painted a masterpiece of the Virgin Mary and her child, standing on a bed of clouds, being glorified by the saints. It is the essence of the Christmas story, a work of art that will endure for centuries, Sistine Madonna. Then, imagine some dopey greeting card designer – probably somebody working for Hallmark – clips out a pair of tiny dreamy-eyed angels from the bottom of your canvas, and suddenly they became more recognizable than anything else you ever painted. They show up on posters, boxes of candy, key rings, neckties, wallpaper, postage stamps and even this beer. They become so famous, your painting is renamed “Two Angels.” Forget about Mary, Jesus and those saints – the only thing anyone cares about are those two winged brats. Now you know how Raphael must feel like. Your only recourse: uncork this beer (called Cuvee Special Noel in Europe) and enjoy its spectacularly complex range of flavors, from sweet fruits to delicately bitter hops.
Kerst PaterBrouwerij Van den Bossche (Sint-Lievens-Esse, Belgium)
Belgian strong dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: This brand name is Dutch for “Father Christmas,” a nice, festive image. Except the “father” figure on this label from the Van Den Bossche brewery actually refers to the patron saint of the local parish: Pater Lieven a/k/a St. Livinus. Anyone familiar with the artistic works of Peter Paul Rubens knows the story of this saint is hardly one of good holiday cheer. Livinus, a monk who was bishop of Ghent, was martyred when Protestants sliced his tongue from his mouth. Legend has it that, despite its bloody end, the tongue continued preaching on its own. Rubens’ masterpiece painting of the martyrdom, however, shows one of the assailants feeding the tongue to a dog – a gruesome image that nonetheless will not prevent me from making a bad joke about this ale’s, uh, palate. Light-bodied with notes of fruit, chocolate and coffee – you can’t lick it.
Jenlain NoelBrasserie Duyck (Jenlain, France)
Biere de garde
SIXPACK SEZ: Until the 1900s, the region around this brewery called Nord-Pas De Calais drank beer, not wine. Some 2,000 breweries produced fresh, cloudy ales not unlike the saison and farmhouse ales made just to the north, in Belgium. Then the Kaiser’s armies rolled through and stripped away most of the equipment. Twenty years later, Hitler’s forces did the same thing. Today they drink Bordeaux in Lille and turn up their noses at German beer. Brasserie Duyck, one of the area’s few breweries to survive the wars, celebrates the season with its Noel, a ramped-up version of its superb flagship Ambree. More malt, more hops, but – in the tradition of many European brewers – no added price. The non-pasteurized beer is a fun, billowing foamster with lots of flowery aroma and a touch of spice and fruit.
Gouden Carolus NoelBrouwerij Het Anker (Mechelen, Belgium)
Belgian strong dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: When Charles V – a/k/a Gouden Carolus – was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire in the mid-1500s, the Het Anker brewery that makes this ale in his hometown was already nearly 200 years old. It’s well known that the emperor preferred beer over wine, and according to legend, during a visit to the nearby village of Olen, he stopped by an inn for a cold one. The innkeeper offered him a mug, holding it by the handle. The king refused to touch the stein and demanded a mug with two handles. The innkeeper returned, grasping the mug by both handles. (Even kings, apparently, have a tough time finding good help.) Frustrated, the ruler handed the server a gold coin and told him to craft a mug with a third handle. Today, you can find versions of the three-handled mug throughout Flanders – possibly the ideal glass for this kingly holiday ale. It’s dark red and spiced with herbs, with a soft, creamy body that warms you from crown to toe.
Avec Les Bons VoeuxBrasserie Dupont (Tourpes, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: La Brasserie Dupont is like much of Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium: quiet, hard-working, idyllic in a nostalgic way. It is a still a farm, with a fromagerie and boulangerie on the premises. Not much has changed since it began brewing in 1844, making a traditional ale known as saison. That’s French for “season,” which refers to summer months when the ale would slowly ferment in cool cellars, to be opened for the thirsty farm workers at harvest time. Murky with suspended yeast, Dupont’s well-known Saison is regarded by many experts as one of the finest beers in the world. Imagine, then, taking that beer and making it even more special. Avec Les Bon Voeux, that’s “With our best wishes.” The bottle was originally intended as a gift to workers – one that was too good to be kept out of the hands of adoring Dupont fans. Uncork a bottle and you’re met with a delicate perfume-like aroma of hops. It refreshes from the first sip, but slow down, enjoy it with dinner and discover layer upon layer of flavor – pepper, lemon, clove. There are no spices here, however. That’s the natural flavor of tradition.
Corsendonk Christmas AleBrouwerij Corsendonk (Oud-Turnhout, Belgium)
Belgian strong dark ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Austrian emperor Joseph II might’ve been the original Scrooge. Among other things in his rule in the late 18th century, he banned the Viennese tradition of displaying crèches during the Christmas season. Never mind that the city held what is believed to be a fragment of Christ’s actual manger – Joseph II was not a big fan of Catholic tradition. Indeed, in his anti-Vatican zeal, he started shutting down monasteries across Europe, including the famed Corsendonk priory in the lowlands outside of Antwerp. Goodbye monks, goodbye beer. A brewery that had been producing fine ales for four centuries was confiscated. Today, the Corsendonk monastery has been restored and is open to guests. The beer that takes its name, however, is made about 170 kilometers south, by Brasserie du Bocq, a well-regarded contract brewer. Its Christmas Ale might be the prototypical Belgian holiday brew – rich and dark with a spicy, chocolatey aroma and a smooth, flavorful body with a fruit-like finish. Look for corked 25-ounce bottles packaged nicely in festive tin canisters.
Raison D'ExtraDogfish Head (Milton, Del.)
Strong Belgian-style ale
ALCOHOL: 15-18% est.
SIXPACK SEZ: Strong, boozy and port-like, this amped-up version of Dogfish Head’s Raison D’Etre reached a then-world record 20.2 percent alcohol when it was introduced in 2002. The bottles of the fortified, port-like Belgian-style strong dark ale released for the winter of 2015 register a mere 15-18 percent alcohol. That’s right: they turned this unique monster into a session beer. Artwork by Mekons guitarist John Langford. (Jan. 2015)
Straffe Hendrik QuadrupelDe Halve Maan (Brugge, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: Going back more than 100 years, every generation of the Maes family of brewers has been led by a strong (or “straffe”) son named Henri or Hendrik – thus the name of this excellent strong Belgian ale. It comes right out of the bottle with the big flavor of dried fruit and coriander that’s firmly balanced with spicy hops. This is a classic quad that will impress any strong beer-loving Henry (or Henrietta). (Feb. 2015)
Tank 7Boulevard (Kansas City)
SIXPACK SEZ: Tank 7 – isn’t that what the Royals did in the final game of 2014 World Series against San Francisco? Well, unlike the tiresome Giants who celebrated with Champagne, K.C. could toast with this local favorite, a decidedly fruity/bitter farmhouse-style ale with No bad hops here. (March 2015)
Saison HoublonPike (Seattle)
SIXPACK SEZ: While many saisons lean toward dominant peppery spice flavors, this one champions les houblon – French hops. Cloudy with a honey-like malt character, it’s a farmhouse ale you’d expect from the hop heads in the Pacific Northwest. (April 2015)
Bier de MielDupont (Tourpes, Belgium)
Honey-flavored farmhouse ale
SIXPACK SEZ: With its benchmark Saison Dupont getting most of the attention, the Belgian farmhouse brewery’s other brands often go overlooked. A shame, because this bottle is a spectacular example of how beer can be enhanced by the flavor of honey without its inherent sweetness. Complex and a joy to drink with heavy meals. (April 2015)
Worker's Comp SaisonTwo Roads (Stratford, Conn.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Brewer Phil Markowski wrote the book on farmhouse ale, and when he finally got his own brewery, this was one of the first beers out of the fermenting tanks. From its tropical fruit aroma to its peppery, dry finish, this is a complex, beautifully brewed farmhouse ale. And I love the name – a nod to the fabled tradition of paying French farmworkers with endless tankards of ale made with the very ingredients they helped harvest. (May 2015)
Adriaen Brouwer Dark Gold AleRoman (Oudenaarde, Belgium)
Strong dark Belgian ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Despite his distinguished appearance (and name) on this bottle, the 17th-century Flemish painter Adrieaen Brouwer was well know as a hell-raiser in Flanders’ alehouses. Perhaps he had an opportunity to find artistic inspiration in something like this sweet, strong dark ale from the 460-year-old Roman brewery. (May 2015)
PannepotDe Struise (Oostvleteren, Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: The so-called “sturdy” brewers of Belgium evidently hang out with some fairly able-bodied anglers. This heavy-duty, spiced dark ale is described as a fisherman’s ale; god only knows what fills their nets after downing a couple of these. Look for barrel-aged, vintage bottles of “Reserva.” (June 2015)
ParadisaeidaeForest and Main (Ambler, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: Named for the colorful bird-of-paradise, this superb saison-style ale takes flight with an unusually tart flavor, a product of aging on limes and lemongrass. It’s been fermented with a “foraged” culture, which is to say the brewer scraped up something from the local Ambler landscape and encouraged it to grow. (June 2015)
Monk From The 'YunkManayunk (Philadelphia)
SIXPACK SEZ: A Belgian-style tripel in a can? If I were a believer, I’d call it a miracle. But this strong, surprisingly dry Monk is the product of good ‘ol science, in the form of an aggressive Belgian yeast strain that produces a swirl of fruit aromas and a spicy finish. (Aug. 2015)
The ReverendAvery (Boulder, Colo.)
SIXPACK SEZ: If The Right Reverend is the top guy at a monastery, who is The Wrong Reverend? Maybe the one who tries to handle this bottle himself. Its sinfully complex flavor profile (dried fruit, molasses and spicy bite) disguises a huge alcohol content (10 percent) that could have even a holy man bowing to a higher power. (Sept. 2015)
Santa!! I Know Him!Evil Genius (West Grove, Pa.)
SIXPACK SEZ: There can be no argument about the greatest Christmas movie character of all time. It’s not Santa, it’s not Scrooge, it’s not even little Natalie Wood. It is Buddy the Elf, and it’s about damn time someone brewed a beer in his honor. (Dec. 2015)
Somerset WildThe Wild Beer Co. (Evercreech, England)
Sour English ale
SIXPACK SEZ: This grown-up lemonade of a beer is the product of wild fermentation with yeast harvested from orchards in Somerset, England, not far from the brewery. Its acidic, wine-like character is a bit one-dimensional and it might’ve benefited from blending with a fuller-bodied beer. But it’s a nice stab and I’ll look for other varieties from this imaginative brewery. (Feb. '16)
Omer Traditional BlondOmer Vander Ghinste (Bellegem, Belgium)
Strong Belgian pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: It’s no surprise that a beer called Omer is a neighbor of Flanders, amirite? D’oh, that’s Flanders, Belgium. Well, regardless, this is a strong, malty, effervescent pale ale with a spicy bite and fruity aroma that I’d compare favorably with Duvel or Kwak. Let it warm a bit in a chalice and enjoy with a hunk of Roquefort cheese. (March '16)
Devil's ReachCape May Brewing (Cape May, N.J.)
Strong Belgian pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Named for a spit of land reaching into the Cape May Canal, this South Jersey ale is a nod to Belgium’s many “devil” beers. Though it’s deceptively strong with a classic spicy bite, it’s not nearly as fearsome as the label implies. (May '16)
Monsieur EdGreen Bench (Saint Petersburg, Fla.) and Saint Somewhere (Tarpon Springs, Fla.)
Wood-aged farmhouse ale
SIXPACK SEZ: I’m going to try to erase the image of Saint Somewhere brewer Bob Sylvester riding shirtless with Khris Johnson of Green Bench, and hope that Monsieur Ed is not a talking horse. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on the contents of this bottle, a collaboration by the two Florida Gulf Coast brewers. The farmhouse ale opens with a traditional herbal/citrus aroma, but then is surprisingly complemented by an unusual, full-bodied malt sweetness, creating a brew that is both satisfying and playful. A prime candidate for a year or so of cellaring. (June '16)
Saison VoisinBrasserie Des Géants (Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: Geants brews just a few clicks up the road from Tourpes, home of the benchmark Saison Dupont. You can see the influence in this refreshing, spicy ale. Perfect for summer BBQs.
Chateau JiahuDogfish Head (Delaware)
Spiced fruit ale
SIXPACK SEZ: In this collaboration between DFH & UPenn's molecular Indy Jones, Patrick McGovern, 9,000-year-old Chinese pottery dregs were analyzed and used for inspiration. The result: a barley-rice-and-grape brew spiced with Chrysanthemums, honey and hawthorne fruit, then fermented with sake yeast. Jiahu, I think, is Mandarin for "Yahoo!"
Floris FramboiseBrouwerij Huyghe (Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: It's tempting to shrug this one off as chick beer, with all that bubbly raspberry flavor. I like it the same way I enjoy Lindemans - easy to swallow, refreshing and fun, but with a slightly tarter finish. Consider it a necessary stepping stone toward Cantillon.
Gueuze Girardin 1882Brouwerij Girardin (Belgium)
SIXPACK SEZ: This funkmeister doesn't get the ink of, say, Cantillon or Boon. But this is simply a fine, typically tart (sour apples) version of Belgium's famous spontaneously fermented ale. Look for the black label - it's unfiltered.
The CannibalIron Hill (Media, Pa.)
Belgian-style strong pale ale
SIXPACK SEZ: Its bark isn't as bad as its label's bite. Fruity aromas with a sweet, warming malt flavor and a bit of yeast bite. Very hard to find in bottles, it's more likely to make appearances on tap at I.H.'s brewpubs. (December 2008).
Saison AtheneSaint Somewhere (Florida)
SIXPACK SEZ: Forget Champagne, this bottle has 10 times the character and flavor of that fizzy stuff. I got a peppery sting up front, followed by mouthful of lemony goodness. This is the first bottle I've tried from Saint Somewhere; I can't wait to try the next.
Baby TreePretty Things Beer & Ale Project (Cambridge, Mass.)
SIXPACK SEZ: If babies really grew on trees, would the right-to-lifers outlaw pruning? Don’t waste your time wondering – just enjoy the variety of fruity flavors (prunes, apples, raisins, cherries) that swirl in each sip of this boozy baby.