Paul’s Beer Travels website. There’s a third post that is nearly complete as well, and the topic behind them all is walking the North Downs Way. I’d rather neglected the site, these past couple of months, so it was definitely time to make amends, and as there is very little in any of the articles about beer, the website was definitely the home for them. There isn’t that much about beer, or pubs in this short post either, but I’d better include some small morsel, if I don’t want to include the wrath of Greengrass!
Before doing so, there’s some boring domestic stuff to get through, although I’ll keep it as short as possible. First that old perennial – some necessary maintenance on my Skoda Octavia. The water pump and timing belt need replacing every five years, and after checking in the vehicle’s service book, I discovered that the work was last carried out in December 2016.
Sunday was reserved for a pub-based adventure, but not before I spent an hour, perched up a ladder in the freezing cold, fixing in place a tarpaulin, that is protecting the shed roof. Storm Arwen had partially dislodged this temporary covering, but if that’s the worst the storm has done, we’ve escaped rather lightly compared to other areas of the country.
The other evening, I cracked open a bottle of Donker, a Belgian Quadrapel-style beer, with an 11% ABV. The beer is produced by Flemish brewers Kasteel Brouweij, of Vanhonsebrouck, who claim to possess the most modern brewery in Europe. I’m pretty certain there must be several other contenders for that title, but for the time being we’ll give the Belgians the benefit of the doubt and allow them their moment of glory.So far as I can tell, this beer came to me back in the late spring, when I was a member of FUGSCLUB – a monthly subscription beer club launched by Fuggles Beer Café as a means of seeing them, and their customers through the last, and longest of the lock-downs. I had a feeling that I’d received another Kasteel beer the previous month, and a look at my sampling history on Untappd, showed this was indeed the case.
That beer was Kasteel Nitro Noir, a 5.7% ABV Baltic Porter. Brewed at half the strength of Donker, this Nitro-Stout was in a completely different beast. My notes at the time, and taken from Untappd, described it as, “Smooth and creamy, but rather on the sweet side. Strong on chocolate flavours.”
High-octane Donker was a different beer altogether, as not
was it rather strong for my liking, it was also sweet and quite cloying. At best it could be described as an interesting experience, but that’s about it. The bottle is showing a BBE date of January 2026, which isn’t surprising for this strong and dark coloured beer, but it does lead onto when is a beer too strong to be enjoyable, and when does strength cease to be an asset, and become more of a hindrance.
I’ve drunk other beers of similar strength, both in Belgium itself, and as imports, I’ve also, of course tried strong, mass-market, UK-brewed beers such as Carlsberg Special - "Spesh" and Gold Label Barley Wine. Neither were particularly enjoyable, and tasted more of alcohol than anything else, and the same can be said of Donker.° and Rochefort 10°, spring to mind, but I am sure there are others. The occasion and quite often the location as well, has to be right in order to fully appreciate these super-strength beers.
They are definitely beers for sipping slowly, rather than quaffing, so whilst the two monastery beers hit the spot, I’m not sure about the Donker, even if it is produced at the “most modern brewery in Europe.” I would be interested to learn what others think of such beers, so please get in touch and share your thoughts.