Before we get to our review of the Belgian beer that you see in the above photo (made by a brewery that I hadn’t heard of until this beer was literally delivered to my front porch!), let’s list some facts and figures about the country of Belgium…
- Total Area: Belgium has a total area of 11,787 square miles. If Belgium were a US state, it would fall somewhere between Hawaii (10,931 square miles) and Maryland (12,407 square miles).
- Total Population: Per a 2015 census by the World Bank, Belgium has a total population of 11.29 million people (not all beer drinkers as far as I know). Based upon 2010 census data, if Belgium were a US state (which would really tick off Puerto Rico), it would fall somewhere between Michigan (9.88 million) and Ohio (11.53 million).
- Total Number of Breweries: Although I wasn’t able to get a definitive number, based upon my research (i.e. Google!), there are 160 – 180 breweries in Belgium. According to the Brewers Association, in 2016, the total number of breweries in the United States was 5,301. California was ranked 1st with 623 breweries, while Mississippi was ranked 51st with just 9 breweries. While the California number seems really high, keep in mind that California has a total area of 163,696 square miles and a total population of 37.25 million. So while California has about 370% more breweries than the entire country of Belgium, they also have 1390% more land and 330% more people. In other words, based upon population data, the number of breweries in Belgium and California is proportional (I did the math so you don’t have to! This is where you say, “Thank you, G-LO!”).
Now that you know all that, the question is, where the heck am I going with this? I’m basically trying to justify the reason why I’d never heard of the Prearis brewery. With over 5,400 breweries in Belgium and the United States, it’s impossible to be aware of every single brewery that’s out there. Do you think you can find it in your heart to forgive me?
Before we get to our review of the Prearis Grand Cru 2015 which was Cognac Barrel Aged, let’s find out a bit more about the brewery and the beer:
The Brewery: Being homebrewers for years we decided to participate in a national homebrew competition named “Brouwland Biercompetitie” who took place in April 2011. We participated with our strongest beer which is our Préaris Quadrupel (10%ABV), our version of a trappist beer. Judges were brewmasters from Brewery Dubuisson and Orval. We were crowned best craft beer (home brewed) Belgium 2011. Soon after we decided we want to sell our beers to beer lovers all over the world. Since we only have our 80L homebrew system we had to find a brewery where we could brew our beer in bigger volumes. After we visited some breweries we choose ‘Proef’Brewery to let our beer brew under license. This fully automated brewery is specifically equipped for producing beers for third parties. We started commercially in September 2011. 3 years later our beers are available in Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Bulgaria, Norway, USA, China and Thailand. In 2013 the internationally renowned beer website ratebeer.com rated us best new brewer Belgium.
The Beer: This dark, complex, and well-balanced ale is aged several months in Cognac barrels from Remi Martin. The base beer is the already delicious Quadrupel, but here the flavor imparted by the barrels brings the taste to another level. In the Grand Cru series we will also feature other barrel-aged beers: Ardberg Whisky, Makers Mark Bourbon, and Jack Daniels Bourbon. Or perhaps others as available. Every edition will be available but once a year in numbered bottles and very limited.
And now for our impressions (FYI, much like we did with the St. Feullien Blonde Ale, Limpd and I tasted these beers independently, i.e. Limpd at The Barthenon and me at The Murder Table) …
- Appearance: Cloudy, walnut brown color with not much foam to speak of.
- ABV: 10%
- Limpd: Hints of tobacco, leather, oily rags and coffee. Followed by some molasses and dried fruit (particularly the skins).
- G-LO: Very rich smelling with hints of dried fruit, sticky toffee (or at least what I imagine sticky toffee would smell like), brown sugar, and musty grapes.
- Limpd: Not as thick or as heavy as the color and aroma would suggest. This was easy drinking and quite flavorful. Almost too sweet for me at first (I wasn’t aware that was a thing), but then at mid-palate, the dried fruits and vanilla bring it back around to layer the flavors and blunt some of the sweetness. The finish, which is long and full of flavor, picks up some barley wine notes.
- G-LO: Medium bodied with a somewhat fizzy carbonation. Very rich and flavorful with dark fruit and baking spices to start things off. Butterscotch and Creme Brulee topping (by this I of course mean that blow torched sugar that you crack with the back of a spoon) in the middle. Vanilla and some mild winey notes in the finish with a toffee flavor lingering in the aftertaste.
- Limpd: I wasn’t sure what to expect when I noticed that this bottle used a synthetic cork. My first thought was, “What other corners may have been shaved in the production process?”. But then I tasted it and found this beer to be really good. Obviously at 10% ABV, you are not throwing back a number of these, but with a rich dessert or to complement a great meal, this might be the way to go. I picture a nice filet mignon (perhaps topped with lump crab meat, or just some sautéed mushrooms), a rich potato dish, and creamed spinach, and then rather than order a coffee to pair with the cheesecake or coconut cream pie, you order a bottle of the Prearis Grand Cru. That would be a meal to remember!
- G-LO: I can honestly say that I knew nothing of this beer before it landed on our doorstep, therefore, I had no idea what to expect. I really enjoyed this beer. It was rich and delicious with a comforting level of boozieness, i.e. it’s pretty easy drinking, but there’s just enough of an alcohol presence to remind you to slow your roll. The only downside to this beer is that I didn’t know about it during the colder months, which is a shame because this would be a great winter warmer. Prearis Grand Cru is a definite sipper of a Belgian Ale that would be great with a slice of cheesecake or the aforementioned Creme Brulee. Yummy stuff!
Many thanks to Artisanal Imports for sending us these very generous samples!