A Delicious Free-for-All: Eric Asimov’s Blind Belgian Taste Test

Tony Cenicola, The New York Times

A GOOD selection of Belgian-style ales is like the very best kind of buffet, offering an assortment of flavors, aromas, styles, strengths and types. You want strong ale, sour ale, sweet ale, dry ale, golden, dark, wheat, fruity and malty. When we set out to draw a stylistic standard for a planned tasting of Belgian golden ales, it seemed as if we’d taken on an impossible task. But glory does not come to those who quit easily,” writes New York Times critic Eric Asimov after recently conducting  a blind taste test of 20 Belgian beers.

Facing a wide variety of various Belgian beers, Asimov and his panel came up with brief and direct descriptions of what they felt were the best of the best.

Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza
$18
★★★ ½ (Three and a Half Stars) Dexter, Mich. 750 milliliters
Fresh, lively and softly carbonated with complex spicy, floral, fruity aromas and flavors.

De Ranke XX Bitter
$6
★★ ½ (Two and a Half Stars)
Wevelgem, Belgium 11.2 ounces
Ultra dry, ultra hoppy and very bitter, yet strangely refreshing. (Shelton Brothers, Belchertown, Mass.)

Contreras Valeir Divers
$4.65
★★★ ½ (Three and a Half Stars)
Gavere, Belgium 11.2 ounces
Dry and beautifully balanced, with toasty, complex flavors and a refreshing bitterness. (12 Percent, Brooklyn, N.Y.)

AleSmith Horny Devil
$20
★★★ ½ (Three and a Half Stars)
San Diego 750 milliliters
Breezy, spicy flavor with lots of coriander balanced by crisp hops bitterness.

Leelanau Good Harbor Golden Ale
$20
★★★ (Three Stars) Dexter, Mich. 750 milliliters
Tart, sour and beautifully funky with wild, vibrant citrus flavors and subtle sweetness.

Unibroue Maudite
$2.60
★★★ (Three Stars)
Chambly, Quebec 12 ounces
Balanced and refreshing with spicy, fruity flavors. (Unibrew U.S.A., Shelburne, Vt.)

Het Anker Lucifer
$6
★★★ (Three Stars)
Mechelen, Belgium 11.2 ounces
Complex and bright with aromas and flavors of flowers, spices and citrus. (Wetten Importers, Sterling, Va.)

Contreras Valeir Extra
$6
★★ ½ (Two and a Half Stars)
Gavere, Belgium 11.2 ounces
Flavors of spices and citrus; not complex but refreshing and balanced. (12 Percent, Brooklyn, N.Y.)

’T Gaverhopke Singing Blond
$7
★★ ½ (Two and a Half Stars)
Harelbeke, Belgium 11.2 ounces
Funky flavors of spice and citrus with a touch of sweetness. (12 Percent, Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Brooklyn Local 1
$13.50
★★ ½ (Two and a Half Stars)
Brooklyn, N.Y. 750 milliliters
Spicy and tart with a pleasing hoppy bitterness.

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