Monday, December 22, 2008

Gulden Draak Ale review

Gulden Draak AleThis brew review came from a recommendation from an acquaintance, Shawn the Beer Philosopher. I found his recommendation on this Belgian Strong Ale and when I spotted it at my local beer store I couldn't resist picking one up. This brew is none other than Gulden Draak Ale from the Brouwerij Van Steenberge NV of Ertvelde, Belgium.

The first thing you notice about this beer is it's unique white 330ml bottle. This is actually a brown glass bottle that has been painted white and made to look like it is ceramic. On the label is an image of a Golden Dragon, hence the name of this brew. Gulden Draak is a Belgian Strong Ale and weighs in at a hefty 10.5% ABV.

This beer was decently carbonated as it gave off a nice "hiss" when I popped the cap. Gulden Draak supposedly is given a second fermentation in the bottle. It pours a dark dark crimson color. Lots of red overtones to a nearly brown beer. It left a nice bubbly 1 finger white head that lingered for just a minute or so.

Despite being having a slight bottle fermentation, I found no sediment in this small bottle. The brew appeared clear in my chalice glass. The beer was chilled considerably and I let this one breathe for several minutes before sampling as I wanted the full aroma to come out.

The first sniff I noticed a sweet malty aroma with a bit of the usual Belgian yeastiness. I could pick up a bit of the alcohol smell as well as I might expect form a strong ale. There was a fair amount of bubbles in this brew so I knew it was nicely carbonated.

The taste was a very pleasant first experience. I definitely picked out the sweet malts and detected a hint of dark fruits. This reminded me of a nice Barleywine but with a Belgian twist. Right from the start I knew this beer was going to be highly enjoyable. The 11.2 oz bottle is the perfect sampling size for this type of ale. I wish all strong brews came in a size like this.

While I was sipping this brew I was reading over the beer description on the brewer's web site (above). The brewer claims that you will pick up notes of chocolate and coffee in this beer, but I found none of that on my palate. This brew was rich and smooth and just slightly bitter. A very good mix of tastes here. I can see why BeerAdvocate readers gave this beer a solid review.

Gulden Draak is a great warming beer. The alcohol starts giving you a glow from the moment you swallow that first taste. It was perfect for sipping on a cold winter day. I highly recommend you let this beer warm up a bit and not to sample it too cold as it may mask all the flavors you'll find here.

This is a beer that could easily be aged, but the brewer warns that it is best consumed before 2 years of age. I think it was good immediately. Might be worth hiding one in the cellar for a year to see how it turns out.

After I was finished with the beer I felt that I could easily drink more of this. Perhaps next time I'll try to find a larger bottle of this brew. Gulden Draak is amazingly good. One of the better Belgians I've tried this year. I'm giving this a big Thumbs Up and a repeat buy recommendation. Go easy on this as the alcohol will sneak up on you. It's a beer that can be enjoyed any time of year.

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