I understand fully that one man’s meat is another man’s poison — what one person finds absolutely delicious might taste terrible to another — but I believe I’ve discovered the perfect beer; Hetanker Brewery’s Cuvée van de Keizer Blauw (aka: Gouden Carolus Carolus D’Or – Grand Cru Of The Emperor.)
Finding this beer was pretty serendipitous; it’s a Belgian strong dark ale, and it was being served by one of the vendors we visited at a trade show I attended in Germany this spring (I’m reasonably sure there are harsh punishments for serving anything but German beers in Germany!) The vendor — Xeikon — has their manufacturing and R&D center in Belgium, so bringing a local brew to the show was a natural thing. The sales guys invited us back to their display area for drinks after the show closed; there were two beers on tap — a light and a dark, as is the custom there — and this was the dark beer.
Another European custom is to serve a beer in glasses designed specifically for it; most every beer has its own glass. The Gouden Carolus glasses weren’t very big, but after quickly downing my first glass and getting into my second I discovered that the stuff also has a pretty potent alcohol content. Another evening after the show I found myself asking for a third glass, and I can safely say that that’s as drunk as I have been since, oh, 1984 or so.
I’ve looked high and low locally looking for this brew, and have been unsuccessful, so far. Looking has had its benefits though; one never knows how many beers there are until one starts looking. Actually, I’m just kind of guessing what beer it was, but I’m betting that I’ve found it. The beer I had in Germany was definitely brewed by Hetanker, and it was called Gouden Carolus (the glasses told that tale.) In June, having only the name “Gouden Carolus” to go by, I found Gouden Carolus Classic could be purchased online from France44.com, & ordered three bottles. I disappointed when I tried it though; it wasn’t the one. I still have two bottles left. It’s good, very good in fact, but not it.
Sioux Falls has two locally-owned stores that carry huge selections of beers — Good Spirits Fine Wind & Liquor and JJ’s Wine, Spirits & Cigars. Good Spirits carries two brews from Hetanker, but so far the owner has been unable to get his hands on any Grand Cru. I think he’s getting tired of me asking about it.
Since I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I wondered if there were other beers that were similar, so (poor me) I bought a few to give them a try. Some have been OK, some have been downright awful (they’ll go unnamed), and some have been very good, but not quite what I had in Germany. There are a couple of beers stocked by the local shops that carry the Grand Cru moniker; Abbey du Val-Dieu Grand Cru is excellent, and is thus far the closest match to what I had in Germany (a second 750mL bottle is waiting in the fridge downstairs for a special occasion!) It’s an excellent beer in its own right, and I was happy to find it. North Coast Grand Cru is another, but at $18 for a 500mL bottle, it’s hard for a cheapskate like me to justify, just to try it. The paltry 78 rating at BeerAdvocate.com doesn’t help. The Val-Dieu sells for about $9; I happily pay that, but cracking open a bottle requires a reason and a partner — once the cork is out it doesn’t go back in without a fight, and even if it does the beer won’t keep. At 10.5% ABV, there’s no way I could finish a 750mL bottle myself. Well, I could, but…
I’ve been in the process of writing this post for several weeks now, and thought I’d finish it up today. And oh happy day… Just now I went back to find the link to the page for Gouden Carolus Classic at France44.com and found that Grand Cru is in stock! So excited… I just ordered five bottles. Now, the wait… It’ll be worth it!