Achel have very simple labels, continuing the bare theme which we saw in the Westvleteren yesterday. The beer is meant to do the talking, and dressing it up in superfluous artwork would be contrary to the Trappist way. Trappist beers are simple, elegant and come with a reputation for straight-to-the point class.
The difference between the Blond and the Bruin is subtle: the blonde has a white cap whereas the bruin has a sort of gold crown; the blond has a white border on the label whereas the bruin has a dark brown line around the beige label; and finally, the word difference is noted in words in the top corners of the label, with “Blond Bier/Bier Blonde” appearing on the blond, obviously, and “Briun Bier/Bier Bruine” appearing on it’s darker sibling.
The Achel label features the words “Trappist Achel” on a minimal fuss logo, on which the mark of the International Trappist Association appears at the top and in the centre. This beers status as an authentic Trappist beer is obviously all the monks really want to tell you, apart from which brewery specifically created it, what style it is and how much alcohol is in it. A very no frills approach.
Visual: Clean, light and golden, with a whisked egg-white like head. Very much like Budvar lager. Carbonation is visible throughout the body.
Nose: Spicy Belgian yeast which is typical of Abbey beers. Crisp hop-like notes like a classic Czech lager. Citrus notes and a little banana there with that typical clove smell and a slightly cereal pear-like sweetness. Slightly wheat scented, but with lots of spice and fruit too.
Taste: Peachy fruit flavours and plenty of spice – clove, nutmeg and black pepper. Faint banana hiding behind a herby orange flavour and a slight hint of alcohol. Dry, crisp finish, with just a little spicy sweetness lingering. Very malty at the end.
Mouthfeel: The carbonation matches the perfectly balanced medium body. It doesn’t feel over excited like the Westvleteren did. Crisp, light and refreshing, with an airy, dry finish and a lingering astringency.
This is a playful little blond with a perky spiciness, and it doesn’t overreach. In truth, it’s really just like a supercharged Budvar – fruit and peppery yeast notes dominate but there is an underlying malty crispness, with flavours and smells reminiscent of the Saaz hops used in Czech lagers.
Like the label, this is an understated beer. When it comes time for the liquid to do the talking, it does, and it gets straight to the point. It has those layers which provide nice complexity, from the classic lager to a more refined, luxurious and rich profile which comes with the Belgian yeast.
What I really love about this beer though is the perfect balance of flavour and mouthfeel. They go hand in hand, with the lager-like liquid just full enough to hold the larger flavours brought in an abbey beer, but it doesn’t go too far to accommodate the larger flavours. It isn’t too thick or heavy, it’s carbonation is perfectly weighted and add to the crisp flavour, and it’s very easy to drink.
Rich and subtle all at the same time, this is a very nice beer – one I’ll certainly be having again. It could quite easily be a beer for a small session, though perhaps it would be best in place of wine over dinner or just one when you want a bit of class in your chalice.
- The Brewing Monks: A Brief History of the Trappist Order and Monastic Brewing (niallthomas.wordpress.com)
- Trippel Belgian Style Ale – Brew Review (grinandbeerit.wordpress.com)
- Beer Review #1: Westvleteren 6 (barrelsofbeer.com)