Open It! Day 2: Brasserie d’Achouffe, La Chouffe 1997

I am aware I might have done enough on the first evening of Open It! weekend yesterday to convince MaltCim that beer is not a social drink. It had started promisingly with the AEgir Julebrygg 2009, opened and shared before and with dinner. After that, I’m afraid I spent rather too long on Twitter looking at what everybody else had dug out of their cellars. No chance of that happening on Day 2, we’re going to a  party.

I’ve bought some Fuller’s Vintage 2010 for Eric’s birthday present, but was really struggling for a proper Open It! I could take to a party. And then I found this La Chouffe a Belgian golden ale from Brasserie d’Achouffe. It’s champagne sized, according to the website, but the party air would have been completed better by a cage and cork, don’t you think? There’s no age statement on the label that I could see, but the best before date gave 1998, so I’m going for brewed in 1997.

How have I got a 13 year-old bottle of beer lying around? Well, here is the perfect example of why Open It! is needed: it was waiting for a special occasion that never happened. It might just have the alcoholic legs, at 8%, to survive 10 or more years. I remember perfectly well that it was a present from Chris, and I suppose I was thinking I might share it with him one day. Sadly, Chris is not going to be there.

We risk taking the car. After the countrywide snow of the past week, there’s been just enough thaw and the forecast is degrees in the positive overnight. Anybody would think from that we would be driving to South Shields over the Penines rather than Soutfields over the A3, but the winter driving MaltCim grew up with involves with tyres with studs. Our tyres, although legal, must seem like slicks in this weather.

Arriving, late, I am offered and accept a Bud. I think of doing a spoof tweet: “Rare Mikeller proto-collaboration with Budweiser for #openit Day 2”, but lacking mobile Photoshop skills to doctor the label appropriately, not to mention a lack of usable mobile, I decide against it. No, it’s time for the real thing.

Eric is pleased with his Vintage bottles, and as I stash them away and warn him off them for the evening, I produce the bottle of La Chouffe. I can only find plastic glasses, and imagine an apology to the Achouffe gnomes on the label who have been guarding their ale for the best part of a decade and a half. The beer is lively as it pours, and although slightly hazy from a slight lack of care in the last hour of its existence, it is a bright, old gold colour. The aroma is spicily scented, but hard to pinpoint – the breweries own tasting notes say coriander but that seems to have faded.

It tastes fresh and slightly vinous, although it has obviously not soured. The fruitiness claimed for this beer has changed in character. I suspect by now, it is stronger than 8% too. It is certainly drinkable – refreshingly so, but perhaps past it’s best. We chalk it down to “interesting”. Eric takes another Bud. I start eying the Fuller’s Vintage.

Brasserie d’Achouffe

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