Time for some new beers. These were bought from Marks and Spencer (colloquially known as M&S), a major British retailer. The stores have everything from a bureau de change to clothing departments, and even their own food store. I like going to M&S as I find that their alcohol section contains a variety of options not stocked in the supermarkets I normally visit. This is the case for all alcohol varieties including gin, vodka, whiskey and (most importantly) beer! I picked up two Belgian beers about three months ago; due to my craft beer obsession habit, these bottles had remained tucked away in my fridge, becoming unnoticed and eventually forgotten.
These two beers were bought primarily because of their origins, Belgian. Given my great experiences in Brussels, I find it difficult to say “no” to a new Belgian beer. The two beers were placed into my basket, along with a gin for my other half (this was the primary reason for my trip to the store… yes, I got distracted easily). I got to the self-service and then patted my pockets, “Damn! I’ve forgotten my ID”. Ninety percent of the time I am asked for proof of age when buying alcohol in spite of my 26 (nearly 27 years), so I was preparing to act cool… and grown up! Luckily, at this point I recognised the floor supervisor! The only time I see her is when I buy alcohol in the store, which is probably once every few months. Fortunately, through previous conversations with her, she knows that I’m a doctor by occupation and that I’m certainly old enough to buy alcohol. We exchanged pleasantries and I admitted to her that I had forgotten my ID – her response was “I bet you’re glad that it is me that’s working today!”. With a deep sigh of relief, bags were packed and I happily head home.
Side note – my partner loved the gin – it’s called “Malfy” and is a lemon-based Italian gin!
The brewery that these beers are from is called Huyghe Brewery (Dutch: Brouwerij Huyghe). They were founded in 1906 and are located in Melle City in East Flanders, Belgium. This brewery is known for making some fantastic beers – most notably “Delirium Tremens”, famously known for its pink elephant symbol. I previously enjoyed this fantastic beer in Delirium Village last year. Delirium Tremens was named “Best Beer in the World” at the Chicago, Illinois World Beer Championships in 2008. As such, I expected a lot from these upcoming beers.
The exclusive M&S brews were as follows;
- Belgian Wheatbeer
- Belgian Cherry Wheatbeer
Mandatory “Belgian Wheatbeer” Facts
- Untappd Rating: 3.44 (at time of writing)
- ABV: 4.5%
- Style: Witbier
- Serving: Bottle, 500ml
Upon finally deciding to have these beers, this was the first I sampled. I noticed the familiar logo of the pink elephant on the label, giving me a cheeky smile. As I poured the beer, I noticed how light it was in colour – very golden, with loads of bubbles evident. I could smell the herbs and spices of coriander and clove respectively. A moderate white-foam head formed at the top of the Erdinger glass, which is the vessel I always have to use when drinking a wheat beer that is approximately a pint in volume.
On sampling, the foam head settled slightly, but kept a fair volume in comparison to others that quickly dissipate entirely. Orange and coriander came through on tasting. The beer was light in flavour and subtly reminded me of Erdinger, which is a personal favourite and currently has the status of “par point” from which other wheat beers are graded against. This tasted like a tame version of Erdinger, but a gentle reminder of one of my favourites was welcome. Unfortunately, I have to dock marks for the amount of sediment in this beer. I frequently come across this, but within this glass there was A LOT. Hint – if you want to prevent sediment, then store your beer upright and slowly pour it into a glass.
Diagnosis: 2.75/5. “Belgian Wheatbeer” is nice enough, but I feel that this could be amplified into something bigger and better.
Mandatory “Belgian Cherry Wheatbeer” Facts
- Untappd Rating: 3.67 (at time of writing)
- ABV: 3.5%
- Style: Wheatbeer/Fruitbeer
- Serving: 330ml bottle
- Awards: Silver Award, International Beer Challenge 2014
Fruit beers can be a little ‘hit or miss’. Often, similarly to IPAs, I find citrus and stone fruit flavours are promised, but then don’t come through. I can forgive this, if the beer is still enjoyable, but if the beer is described as a “fruit beer”, then a lack of flavour cannot be tolerated (particularly when pressed griotte cherry juice is promised).
The beer label appears similar to the previous beer, though with a touch more elegance. The pink elephant logo is smaller and no longer standing on all fours – it’s actually balancing on a cherry… It looks great! The golden bottle cap was removed. Given that I have a pink elephant Delirium glass, I could hardly sample this beer and not use it! I was very impressed by the colour – a cherry red. On top of the beer sat a pink foam head, which looked glorious! Sweet cherry aromas lifted from the beer, with the pink elephant symbols on the glass looking brilliant on top of this deep, red beer. The combination was certainly a sight to behold. Prior to tasting I was cautious, questioning if cherry would really come through. I’m pleased to say that yes, it most certainly did! Smooth cherry vanilla notes coasted through the entirety of the drink. It initially started sweet, before giving way to a slightly sour finishing edge. It was very light-drinking and a great session beer, particularly for those that like a fruity variety. For those that aren’t big fans of wheatbeers due to the typical profile of cloves, spices and bananas, these flavours aren’t as present within this beer, as the fruit element dominates.
Diagnosis: 3.25/5. “Belgian Cherry Wheatbeer” definitely delivers. Cherry comes through as promised, making it perfect for mixing up your light-drinking beer varieties.
All in all, I am absolutely delighted to have found some new great Belgian beers locally. These beers are brewed exclusively for M&S. More easily accessible though is Huyghe Brewery’s headliner “Delirium Tremens”, which is available in the majority of the UK’s big supermarket stores!