Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beer reviews: Abbaye de Leffe

I first encountered a Leffe bottle in about 1986. I was in the Four In Hand pub in Paddington, Sydney, looked up at the beer display shelf, and there was this wonderous bottle with purple foil around the neck. I didn't even dare ask for a price, and so it went untasted.

About 13 years later, the Belgian Beer Cafe opened it's doors in Cammeray, with Leffes Blonde and Bruin available on tap, and others in bottle (including the mysterious purple-foiled Leffe Vieille Cuvée). Leffe is now de rigueur in many establishments and quality bottle shops, although not cheap.

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems 
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.

Leffe Blonde
Belgian Pale Ale 6.6%
Leffe 2-Pack GlasswareOverall: B / 3.55 look: 3.5 smell: 4 taste: 3.5 feel: 3 drink: 3.5
Pours a dark gold, pale amber colour. Heavy rocky, off-white head. Leaves a solid lace behind. Cracking the bottle gives off hop volatiles... herbal, vegetatious.... This is lost quickly, leading into heavier hop notes & toffee. Some funky sulfur, and a waxy perfume that wouldn't go out of place in a candle shop. Flavours of honeycomb, and musky, peppery spice. A slight ascorbate or citrate-like tang. Chewy, full mouthfeel. Slight dustiness, like the astringency of an old claret. Medium bitterness. And a slight cloying sweetness that would probably preclude this being a session beer.... need a lager to wash it down.
Serving type: bottle

Leffe Brune / Brown
Belgian Dark Ale 6.50%
Belgian Ale (Classic Beer Style Ser)Overall: B+ / 3.8 look: 3.5 smell: 3.5 taste: 4 feel: 4 drink: 4
Poured into a Leffe chalice. Big beige head, heavy rocky froth. Deep dark brown, with mahogany edges. Aromas of coffee, and a distinct salami-like gamey note. Chewy Belgian malts, again the gamey note which brings in a subtle briney taste. Aftertastes include some floral/vegetal hop, with a medium bitterness. Drink it with antipasto....Second mouthful, and I get a quick hint of charred steak. Some gamey caramelisation I guess. Strange but true. Drink it with BBQ beef...Big effervescence in the mouth, slight lip tingle like sherbet lolly, medium body, and semi-sweet finish.
Serving type: bottle

Leffe Radieuse
Belgian Strong Dark Ale 8.2%
Brew Like a Monk: Trappist, Abbey, and Strong Belgian Ales and How to Brew ThemOverall: B- / 3.35 look: 3.5 smell: 3.5 taste: 3 feel: 4 drink: 3.5
Poured into an old Leffe chalice that I got in a gift pack. Dense beige head, holds for a time, fades with drinking. No obvious carbonation. Colour of russet, burnt orange, chestnut... appealing. The nose is initially subtle, but picks up with the ambient temperature... fresh hops are first to come out, but then sweet candy, orange, a hint of raw steak. As it warms further, some malt becomes apparent. While no obvious carbonation, the fluid expands in the mouth, releasing the dissolved CO2. The flavour belies the nose... it's all spice. Cinnamon, musk, clove. You could marinade a pork fillet in this beer... What malt there is makes a late appearance, as the ale warms in the glass. There is a light hint of hop flavour at the finish, but by then the bitterness kicks in. With this, there are notes of fennel/anise... this seems to carry into the mouthfeel, where the bitterness is more reminiscent of absinthe or campari than the more familiar hop bitterness. An interesting drink, but I don't know exactly how to tackle it....
Serving type: bottle

Leffe Vieille Cuvée
Belgian Strong Dark Ale 8.2%
Overall: B / 3.55 look: 3.5 smell: 3.5 taste: 3.5 feel: 4 drink: 3.5
Burnt orange, brown. Beige head.
Nose first of fresh hops, then some complex malts. Even an earthy hint of mushroom or somesuch.... Flavour is spicy. Some yeasty phenolics, fruity candy hints. Lolly shop. Foamy mouthfeel, with good malt body that balances the bitterness that comes out. I reviewed this in parallel with the Radieuse... this is not as harsh, and more approachable.
Serving type: bottle

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